Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Peter Smirniotopoulos Headshot

It's Up to the 99% to Insist Upon a Better Form of Capitalism

Posted: Updated:

I am neither an Anarchist nor a Communist. I'm not even a Socialist; not remotely close.

I believe in Capitalism and the power of the free market system. However, as I've blogged here, written in published articles, Tweeted, and posted ad nauseum on Facebook, the United States does not have a free market system; we don't have a level playing field where anyone and everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed; we don't practice the kind of "Capitalism" so frequently held up for all to see, particularly by GOP politicians and talking heads of late, as the foundation of America's greatness and "Exceptionalism."

I have posted a series of entries in this blog on the topic of American capitalism, focused on things said and done by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In "American Corporations Owe Nothing to American Workers, and That's a Big Part of the Problem," posted on November 14, 2011, I endeavored to explain the frequent disconnect between corporate profitability and domestic job-creation by U.S.-based companies, suggesting:

... only an increase in demand for a corporation's product or service will justify hiring one additional person under Friedman's profit maximization theory of why corporations exist. Giving corporations greater freedom to deploy their capital will neither assure that capital will be invested in the United States nor that the economic conditions will later exist to warrant increasing employment costs, by adding new employees (i.e. creating jobs). Furthermore, inasmuch as fully loaded employment costs (salaries, wages, benefits and allocable share of administrative costs) is oftentimes the largest component of Cost of Goods Sold, adding employees by definition directly reduces profitability.

On January 12th, in "Finally, Newt Gingrich Gets Two Things Right" I tried to draw a stark contrast between the cannibalistic Capitalism Mitt Romney practiced as founder and principal at Bain Capital with the kind of productive Capitalism most Americans associate with the Unites States of Opportunity, stating in relevant part:

There is no 'level playing field' because the largest corporations -- not the small businesses that account for the majority of jobs created in this country -- have an unfair competitive advantage over everyone else; only they can afford to pay hundreds of millions of dollars annually to lobbyists who write laws worth billions of dollars to them in revenue, and then get them passed through a corrupt legislative system where money talks. The 'Capitalism' that's practiced in this country is more like crony capitalism on the way up (where those with money, power or some combination of both reap the largest rewards through their undue influence over legislation and regulation), and Socialism on the way down (where the rich and powerful get the elected leaders in their back pockets to foist losses off onto the American people through bail-outs, new tax loopholes, and less regulation).

And finally, three weeks ago, I concluded this trilogy about what's wrong with the state of our capitalistic system with "It's the Inequality, Stupid': Mitt Romney's Failure to Comprehend the Plight of the 99%." In that January 20th blog entry I stated, among other things:

It's the Inequality, Stupid. As has been suggested in my last two blog posts, the GOP appears to be girding its collective loins to defend Capitalism to the death (the death of the 99%, of course; not their own) as their main response to every attack on Romney as being a rich, out-of-touch elitist whose wealth is a windfall from Bain's track record of engaging in Cannibal Capitalism; making extraordinary profits without regard to whether they were actually strengthening the companies in which they invested or not. [Emphasis added.]

And while I suspect I am not nearly done going after candidate Romney and his growing legion of GOP establishment surrogates and supporters on this issue, I have to acknowledge that he's far too easy of a target to keep this an intellectually stimulating endeavor. So this particular blog entry has nothing to do with the Bain Capital founder: It's about what the 99% can and should do to bring about the kind of Capitalism that made this country what it used to be. Much like my recent Capitalism trilogy then, this is the first in a series of three blog entries about how the 99% can, and should, work to change the system; to influence better outcomes for all. This is my Call to Action:

The fact of the matter is, the 99% account for the vast majority (but not proportionately so, of course) of domestic consumption in this country, yet the 99% exercise that consumptive power with little to no regard for the consequences of our purchases when either the means of production or the distribution of the profits are considered.

American consumers buy gas seemingly without regard to its price (as economists would say, gasoline is "price inelastic," at least to a point); without regard to the excessive profitability that rapidly rising prices create for Big Oil; without regard to the extent that unbridled consumption of gasoline fouls of air quality because we drive places to which we might have easily walked or taken public transportation.

NFL and collegiate football fans pay $300.00 for "authentic" Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles jerseys, without regard to Vick's heinous killing and torture of dozens and dozens of dogs, through his Bad Newz Kennels dog-fighting business (presumably, in Romney's world, a successful, entrepreneurial enterprise,... until it was shut-down by authorities).

American consumers of pop-culture make pseudo-celebrities out of people like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, who's only talents seem to be the possession of wealth or aspirations to acquire and display opulently the trappings of wealth, when there are real heroes like the men and women who've served in the U.S. military or important researchers and writers like Jeff D. Sachs and Mike Daisey (more on each of them in future blog entries), who receive an infinitesimally small fraction of the attention garnered by these pseudo-celebrities, despite the underlying merits of the former's daily endeavors.

American consumers love music and music videos, and often deify (or at least glorify) the bands and artists who write and perform the music they covet; nonetheless these same consumers routinely cheat their musical idols out of the fruits of their labor by not paying for the music they routinely download from "sharing" sites that facilitate the piracy of intellectual property.

And American consumers buy, in record numbers each year, new products like the iPhone4S and iPad2, without any regard whatsoever for how these products are produced or what this system of global production means for the workers and residents of the countries in which cheap labor means somewhat less-expensive U.S. products or for the larger, adverse consequences to our own economy.

The irony here then, is no matter how much others and I might decry, in the name of the 99%, the moneyed-maneuvering and influence-purchasing of those who practice variants of Capitalism predicated on gaming the system in their favor, only the 99% have the opportunity to fundamentally change these unpleasant outcomes.

So, it's time for the 99% to put up or shut up; time to "vote with our wallets and pocketbooks"; time to act as much like the "good global citizens" our rhetoric suggests we want everyone else in the world to be. This is my Call to Action: Watch this space.