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Inside Story Americas

Has capitalism proven its durability?

We ask if falling US unemployment rates and increased profits for large companies show capitalism can adapt and endure.
Last Modified: 29 Dec 2012 11:50

As unemployment in the US decreases and large companies expand their profit margins, has the capitalist system once and for all proven its ability to endure and adapt?

The jobless rate in the US has dropped to its lowest level in four years. And the economy, which in 2008 appeared to be on the brink of collapse, is said to be recovering.

"There are no impediments left to corporate capitalism and there is no way ultimately to fight back …. There is no protection anymore for the working class …. It is a world of masters and serfs."

- Chris Hedges, a journalist and author

But a closer look reveals the damage that has been left behind. According to a recent study by the National Employment Project, most of those who lost their jobs during the recession were in mid-wage occupations. But most of the jobs that have been created during what has been called the recovery are in low-wage occupations, such as retail and food preparation.
 
Meanwhile, the wealth gap is expanding even further. The richest are becoming richer, and banks like JP Morgan and Wells Fargo, who helped spark the economic crisis, are making record profits.
 
So will capitalism endure? Or should Americans be considering an alternative economic system?

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by: Chris Hedges, a journalist and co-author of the book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, and Richard Wolff, an economist and author of the book Democracy at Work: A Cure of Capitalism.

"This was not a crisis that was expected or supposed to happen. The government of the United States was supposed to be equipped with monetary and fiscal policy to prevent such events and to cure them quickly if they occurred. Neither of those proved possible. And here we are at the end of five years of an unanticipated and unmanaged crisis still not even half way back [to previous unemployment levels]. I would say that raises more questions about the durability of capitalism than anything else."

Richard Wolff, an economist

THE US ECONOMY: 

  • The US unemployment rate is now at the lowest level since December 2008
  • US workers dropping out of the labour force accounts for the drop in the unemployment rate
  • The US department of labour says many workers have stopped looking for jobs
  • 12 million Americans were unemployed in November 2012
  • The richest one percent of Americans now control 40 percent of the country's wealth
  • The richest one percent takes home a quarter of the national income
  • Average Americans' net worth fell by 39 percent between 2007 and 2010
  • According to Roll Call, the net worth of members of congress rose to $2.04bn in 2012
  • Between 2007 and 2010, median US income declined by five to nine percent
  • Unemployment benefits for two million Americans will run out in December
  • The US congress is unlikely to renew extended unemployment benefits
  • According to the University of Zurich, 147 companies control 40 percent of global wealth
  • JP Morgan and Wells Fargo reported record profits in October 2012
  • The UN named 2012 the 'international year of co-operatives' and worker-owned co-operatives are the fastest growing business model in the world

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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