As in Britain, millions of Americans have been battered by the economic crisis, suffering from low-paid jobs and falling living standards. As in Britain, despite the crisis, there are grotesque and rising levels of wealth and income concentrated just in the hands of America’s billionaire elite.
[Editorial of Socialist Appeal (Britain)]
The Walton family, which owns Wal-Mart, controls wealth equivalent to the combined wealth of the bottom 40% of US families. Yet Wal-Mart pays their employees so little that its workforce represents the largest single bloc of welfare recipients in the USA.
“So I say to the Walton family: get off of welfare, pay your workers a living wage”, says Bernie Sanders, the socialist candidate now fighting to be on the ballot paper for this November’s presidential election.
Working people are searching for real change everywhere. They are sick and tired of the corrupt politicians and the stinking hypocrisy of the corporate Establishment. The anti-establishment mood now sweeping the United States is going from strength to strength. In the words of a Sanders’ supporter, “Just like 1776, Americans are saying, enough is enough!” That is why Bernie Sanders’ radical message is resonating with millions, especially the youth.
Millions agree with his attacks on the out-of-control greed of corporate America and Wall Street. “We are going to create an economy together that works for working families, not just the 1%”, says Sanders. “They have endless supplies of money and power, but at the end of the day, we have something they don’t have. We have the people.”
“In order to bring about the changes that the American people want, we need a political revolution.”
Domination by the rich
As everywhere else, big business money is dominating politics but no more so than in the United States. The Republican candidates are backed by billionaire interests. Donald Trump is himself already a billionaire. Another billionaire, Michael Bloomberg is now thinking about entering the race.
For millions, this reflects a sham democracy. It represents the rule of an unelected Oligarchy, which, through its power and wealth buys judges, newspapers, officials and politicians.
Christopher Anderson, who describes himself an independent voter, correctly said of Bloomberg: “I don’t care for him. There’s not much difference between him and Hillary — they’re all in bed with Wall Street and big corporations.”
Hillary Clinton, the other Democrat challenger, is very much part of this corporate political Establishment. This is not surprising given that the Democrats are the party of Big Business. She received over $675,000 alone from Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street bankers. That is why few believe her mealy-mouthed promises to rein in “corporate greed”, while she pockets corporate handouts.
The wolves of Wall Street, as with their counterparts in the City of London, are rich beyond their wildest dreams, while the working class is facing a nightmare of exploitation and endless stress. It is the working class who produces the real wealth of society from the sweat of their labour but it is the parasitic ruling class that creams off the profits.
Now their so-called free market system is “broken” and in terminal decline. It can no longer provide the reforms of the past. In fact, counter-reforms are on the order of the day. Such is the depth of the crisis, there has been no real recovery anywhere from the deep slump of 2008.
As in Britain, wages are being driven down everywhere. Real median hourly wages in the United States fell an annual 0.3 per cent from 2007-14, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The jobs on offer are low-paid insecure ones. Student debt has gone through the roof. Five million people have lost their homes since the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Nearly 30 million men, women and children still have no healthcare insurance.
At the same time, Wall Street is making billions of dollars. The “American Dream” has turned sour. The effect of this capitalist crisis has caused a profound radicalisation in the United States, as in Britain and elsewhere. Sander’s’ argument that “the business model of Wall Street is fraud” is finding a massive echo, as is the anti-austerity message of Corbyn in Britain.
“What does it mean?” asks commentator Paul Mason. “Quite simply that the radical progressive sentiment that’s swept Greece, Spain, Scotland and the British Labour movement has now hit America.”
The Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell was forced to admit that the current generation, to which she belongs, “love Sanders not despite his socialism, but because of it… Many of us also entered the job market just as unbridled capitalism appeared to blow up the world economy.”
The stunning victory of Sanders in New Hampshire has also served to put socialism back on the agenda in the USA. This is an unheard of development in a country that has traditionally rejected such ideas. As elsewhere in the world, this socialist revival has especially affected the youth, who have become the bedrock of Sanders’ support.
Bernie Sanders’ call to create 13 million new jobs, universal healthcare, paid parental leave, the scraping of tuition fees, a $15 per hour minimum wage, and a “political revolution” against the billionaire class, is enthusing millions of ordinary folk who have been alienated by professional politicians.
Socialist policies needed
To pay for his programme Sanders promises to tax the rich, who, as in Britain, are stashing away their billions in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens. They have been getting away with murder.
While we support forcing big business to pay its taxes, this will not be sufficient to solve the problem. With their fancy corporate lawyers, they will simply create new loopholes.
As long as they have the power and wealth in their hands, there can be no solution.
As we have explained many times, you can’t plan what you don’t control and you can’t control what you don’t own. Rather than simply taxing the rich, the real solution would be to bring into public ownership the major corporations and banks that control the economy and place them under democratic workers’ control and management. To carry this out would mean a break with the Democrats and the formation of a party of labour.
Such measures would allow the drawing up of a democratic socialist plan of production, giving everyone a decent job, cutting the working week, increasing wages and pensions and dramatically increasing the living standards of the overwhelming majority.
This would constitute a genuine “revolution” that would once and for all end the rule of Wall Street, the City of London and with it the billionaire dictatorship over our lives. For the first time in history, it would take the power to decide our future out of the hands of the rich and place it in the hands of ordinary people.
Whatever happens, the present upheaval means that the United States will never be the same again. Forces have been unleashed that cannot be contained any longer. The coming world slump will further intensify the struggle. The genie is now out of the bottle. Whatever happens next, fundamental change is certainly back on the agenda everywhere.