Has capitalism become obscene ?
Wealth and income distribution have become grotesque in our Western nations. Collusion between political and economic powers has now become obvious, and it is of public notoriety that employment is nothing more than an adjustable variable in today’s capitalism. The tacit and consensual agreement on which our prosperity has been built thus far is crumbling beneath our feet. The 1% who control the economy and in exchange created employment and growth allowing studies, healthcare and retirement have turned this social contract into a deal with the devil. Public action – even rebellion – is occurring more than ever before since growth and employment will certainly never again reach the levels that preceded the 2007-08 crisis. The breach of this pact by those same people who profited from it the most has meant that the mass public will never again live a decent life since the little growth that remains to hang them out to dry will naturally be joined by disgraceful inequalities perforated by regular shocks of financial instability.
The promotion of employment, and Research & Development, really aren’t a priority anymore for companies listed on the stock market that frantically buy back their own shares in order to ensure their share prices are always on the rise, benefitting their shareholders who have already been spoilt rotten by regular dividend payments. In a country like the US, these share buybacks will reach 1,000 billion dollars this year, an increase of nearly 50% from 2017. The wealthiest 1% possess to themselves nearly 70% of stock market capitalisation, and the least fortunate 90% possess only 6% ! Let’s not sugar coat reality, because these offensive stock market developments are both the prerequisite and the direct consequence of the shocking, and alas so familiar, inequalities of our Western landscape. As for those at the bottom, “why don’t they just eat cake”, to rehash Queen Marie-Antoinette’s famous riposte…
A McDonald’s employee could have had a yearly pay rise of $4,000 if the company hadn’t spent $21 billion on buying back its own shares between 2015 and 2017. Starbucks employees could have had $7,000 more, Home Depot employees $18,000 more, and the list goes on. This is according to a study led by the National Employment Law Project in the USA. It’s simple: between 2015 and 2017, US listed companies spent 60% of their profits in this little buybacks game, while their supreme leaders’ salaries were 127 times higher than their median salary. Over the ten years following the crisis of 2007-08, we therefore saw to the fully-fledged sabotage of a pact that had existed since Roosevelt’s “New Deal” that greatly inspired a Europe we once called “social”. This same Franklin Delano Roosevelt who in 1938 gave the warning since – he said – “History proves that dictatorships never prosper over governments that succeed”. Wise words!