We are supposed to believe that ‘economic growth,’ measured by a rise in GDP or success in the stock market, is the appropriate measure of how well our economy is doing. More strongly, we are told that helping corporations be profitable is the way to create jobs, meet needs, put food on the table. We should be grateful, we are told, because while everyone has equal opportunity, some of us are too lazy to work and to short-sighted to save—while working and saving of course are the source of wealth and riches. Not everyone has that ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ for innovation that improves our daily lives, and so, we are told, we should be so thankful for the time these selfless, angelic entrepreneurs spend working so hard to solve our problems, saving and not spending any of the money their hard work so deservedly earns. If we are poor, it is because we are too hedonistic and lazy to work, or too stupid to have a good idea, and the riches are, then, their own justification, being the result of a decent, moral human being. If we rearrange society to benefit these good human beings, they will earn enough money to expand, and they will so generously create more jobs in the process (for us lazy, stupid, selfish folk). Or so we are told. This capitalist ideology, embedded in Republican logic as well as many Democrats since Clinton, is as widespread as it is taught to the trusting . . . but is it true?

It has been reported by Bloomberg News that most of the S&P 500 have gained a combined $1.18 trillion in the last year—$518 billion more than the year before, and have spent 43% less on job-building capital expenditures. In other words, profits have skyrocketed, but companies have simply sat on it, rather than creating jobs, and around 8.4 million jobs have been lost since December 2007. It seems that the best thing we can say about capitalism is that there is no correlation between profits and job creation. Further evidence pending, such statistics seem to show something much stronger: maybe Marx was right, and capitalism specifically thrives off unemployment.

But what about the claim about hard work being the source of wealth? As of 2003, the wealthiest 1% owned 33.5% of all corporate stock, and the next 9% owned 43.4%—in other words, the richest 10% in the country owned 76.9% of corporate stock, meaning that the higher the income of an American citizen, the lower the percentage of their income comes from work, rather than their property ownership. Certainly some of those with high incomes do work—but most of those jobs involve constant efforts to make their company more money, rather than some socially valuable goal. Profit under capitalism is the money a company receives from the labor its workers perform over what it has paid for their labor and the tools and resources they used. In short (so far), the wealthiest in America own the majority of stock in companies, and the percentage of their income derived from actual work decreases as they go up in income. Beyond this, what work they do is ultimately designed only to increase profit, and successful increases in profit are truthfully derived from increasing the amount of money that employees work for but don’t receive. One becomes rich under capitalism by not working, and by getting others to work for you, without being paid the full value of what they’ve earned. On the other hand, a recent report by the Working Poor Families Project has shown that adults in low-income working families worked on average 49 hours per week in 2006, roughly the equivalent of one and a quarter full time jobs.

I think its time we set the record straight—capitalism does not create jobs, nor does it reward ‘hard work,’ selflessness, or goodness. Capitalism requires people to spend their days trying to increase the money they or the company they work for receives, through increasing the amount of money they contractually steal from their employees, betting on the stock market, or charging interest on loans, and the like. Moral activity, selflessness, altruism, the ability to do what work you want, or choose how much work to do—all these suffer under the endless demand to spend human activity making some capitalist money. Capitalist apologists try to justify prioritizing profits over people by acting as though profits are earned from morally praiseworthy hard work—but we are the source of social wealth. Let us tell the truth—our bosses are obsolete. Let us create our own jobs, field our own candidates for every office from President to dog catcher, create our own entertainment expressing our real values and dreams, rather than being told our dreams lie on the corporate ladder and in the shopping mall. We’ve been creating our world in their image for millennia—it’s about time we start creating it in ours.

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