profit

25 Aug

How Capitalism Is Like a Ponzi Scheme

By Walter

In the Ponzi and Madoff schemes, participants were promised a generous monetary return on their monetary investments. In the capitalist version, the investment is not money, but labor. As individuals invest their labor in the production and distribution of goods and services, they are paid wages that enable them to purchase and consume the goods and services they themselves produce. Fair enough. This sounds like the standard description of the bedrock elements of an economic system. And it is the promise of a bountiful return on the investment of honest labor, presented in glorious high-definition color and high-fidelity Dolby sound, that drives the capitalist dream machine. In reality, however, the dream has become a nightmare.

The defenders of the capitalist Ponzi scheme can turn themselves inside out in an effort to explain and defend the indefensible, but in the end, the essence of the scam comes down to the following: The capitalist schemers who pay wages to the workers when they are producers are the same schemers who charge the workers when they become consumers, and they charge them more when they consume a product than they pay them when they produce the same product, the difference being a little something called profit.

In 2009, gross domestic product in the United States was valued at $14.5 trillion. Of that amount, $13 trillion, or 90 per cent, went to the workers who created it, while corporations who produced nothing of value themselves racked up profits of $1.5 trillion, or 10 per cent. Workers are paid $9 to make a widget and then charged $10 to buy it. It doesn’t take rocket science to see the flaw in this arrangement. With corporations annually skimming 10 per cent off the top, an amount equal to $5,000 for every man, woman and child, or $13,000 for the average American family, it should be obvious that a game based on such a formula would have a limited life expectancy. As time goes by, workers must inevitably fall further and further behind.

Sooner or later, underpaid workers/overcharged consumers will find it impossible to keep buying what they produce, thus setting in motion a downward spiral in economic activity. If the demand for automobiles declines, so does the need for workers to make them. The result: unemployment, leading to a further decline in sales, then more unemployment, and so on.
Such a situation represents a serious challenge to a system that, like Ponzi’s and Madoff’s schemes, requires continuous and endless growth. Like all Ponzi schemes, the capitalist scheme must grow or it too will collapse. There is no provision for a sustainable equilibrium. That is why the slightest decrease in the growth rate of gross domestic product evokes a panicked hysteria on the part of the schemers, raising the fear that the economic engine might actually slow to a halt and then start to drift backward into a recession.

Under those circumstances, what are the capitalist schemers to do? How do they keep the economic cycle going forward when individuals, as well as entire countries, begin to run short of money and can no longer maintain an ever-increasing level of spending?

Credit.

Without the concept of credit, which, like money, has been around a long time, this capitalist Ponzi scheme would have collapsed a long time ago.

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16 Apr

And the Squeeze Goes On

By Walter

As the world’s political and financial leaders seek to reinvigorate economic activity, it is no surprise that the greatest sacrifices and the largest contributions are being demanded from the workers, the laborers who actually produce stuff. As the economy begins to lurch forward in one sector or another, lack of confidence in the sustainability of the recovery is causing employers to delay hiring more workers to satisfy increasing demand. Instead, as reported in the Financial Times, “manufacturers have found that they are able to increase productivity by getting their employees to work harder or more efficiently.” If you are not squeezed out of your job, more work is squeezed out of you.

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25 Mar

Meet GE, Corporate Citizen

By Walter

Allow me to introduce you to General Electric, labeled by the NY Times this morning as “the nation’s largest corporation.” On second thought, let’s let GE introduce itself. Here, on its website, is how it describes its role as a corporate citizen:

“GE’s approach to corporate citizenship and to business are[sic] driven by a common understanding of the role we can play in helping to solve the world’s toughest problems. Our goals are to make money (strong, sustained economic performance), make it ethically (rigorous compliance with financial and legal rules), and make a difference (ethical actions, beyond formal requirements, to advance GE’s reputation and long-term health).”

Journalist David Kocieniewski presents quite a different picture, beginning with the fact that GE made a profit of more than $5 billion in the US last year (and a total of $14.2 billion worldwide), and paid not one cent in taxes.

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