Richard D. Wolff, professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008 and is currently a visiting professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City, wrote an article that appeared in Truthout, “Beyond the Minimum Wage Debate: Let’s Move Toward a System That Works for All.”
In his article, he addresses the debate dealing with raising the minimum wage. Wolff points out that those against raising the minimum wage claim that employers would be forced to employ fewer workers, while those who support raising the minimum wage claim that workers will have more money to spend which would increase the need to employ more workers. Thus the increase in market activity would compensate for the increase in employers’ costs when raising the minimum wage.
The reality is that the economic system we now embrace, capitalism, has resulted in the obnoxious, unjustifiable inequality of income and wealth between the capitalists and the workers. The CEOs and their top administration staff earn between 300 and 400 times the earnings of their workers.
This debate about wages, whether minimum wages or higher level wages, is ongoing and never destined to be resolved. Why? Because it is the nature of capitalism to seek the lowest costs in producing their goods or offering their services in order to enjoy the highest profits possible.
If the capitalist surmises that wages are too high in the location he/she operates from, then there is no reluctance or hesitancy in packing up and moving to another location where labor costs are cheaper. This always leaves the community that has been rejected economically devastated.
“Our” government or elected officials, who are under the employ of the capitalist class, facilitated the movement of jobs out of the US and to other sites, like Mexico, where labor costs are significantly lower. Tens of thousands of jobs were lost to US workers.
“Our” so-called progressive president, Barack Obama, during his administration, attempted to add insult to injury by promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which would have exacerbated the problem of job loss for the US workers. Fortunately, there were enough people who rose up against this treaty and caused it to fall apart.
Now, I’m not angry with the folks who are constantly screwing the American worker. They are merely capitalists doing what capitalists do . . . looking for the greatest possible profit by any means necessary. Like any predator, he/she will devour the weak.
Recognizing the true nature of this capitalist system should make us aware of the fact that fighting for an increase in wages, or for affordable housing, or for health care for all, or for affordable medications, or whatever benefits the working class needs is, in itself, a dead end.
History shows that we have fought these fights over and over again. Sometimes we get concessions from the ruling class and most times we don’t. Even when we “win,” it is most often temporary and after a short period of time we have to go to battle again on the same issues.
On Friday, as an example, the Senate rejected the healthcare bill sponsored and supported by Trump and most Republicans. People are rejoicing . . .”we won, we won.” DO NOT FOR ONE MOMENT THINK THAT THE FIGHT IS OVER. They will find other ways to get their agenda fulfilled and they will insist they are doing this for the American people while millions of American people will lose their healthcare coverage or pay significantly higher premiums.
Richard Wolff suggests that we look for an alternative economic system, one that will ensure full employment, livable incomes, and support for those who cannot work.
Yet, Dr. Wolff avoids using the word socialism, long considered a dirty word, with the ruling class portraying it as an oppressive, undemocratic system that will steal our freedom.
It is true, socialism does restrict or disallow the freedom of the capitalist class to exploit the labor of the working class. It is true, socialism does not include the freedom of individuals to attain great wealth at the expense of their community.
Is there anyone who finds living within a socialist system that provides jobs for all, affordable housing for all, healthcare for all, education through college for all, and provides an adequate safety net for those in need, objectionable?
Is having a system that provides goods and services according to human need rather than individual profit, objectionable?
Is making decisions that will protect our air and water rather than protect the profit margin, objectionable?
I agree with Dr. Wolff’s conclusion, we need such an alternative. And I will proudly call it what it is . . . SOCIALISM!
Socialism or barbarism . . . that is the choice we now face.
Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.