Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Capitalism & Hunger

Capitalism and Hunger

Every year the Philadelphia Inquirer has editorials that criticize the fact that tens of millions of people in this country go to bed hungry. This year the Inquirer ran an in depth article by Alfred Lubrano titled Portrait of Hunger. The Inquirer followed this article up with another editorial and argued that, “Far too many kids go to school hungry. For many children, a free meal at school could be their only food of the day.”

These articles and editorials failed to mention the most relevant facts concerning hunger in the United States. The facts are that the food that could be used to feed 34 million hungry people in this country has already been paid for. If this is the case, then why are there hungry people in this country, and why do so-called journalists fail to mention this fact when they write about hunger in this country? In order to answer this question we need to look at the facts.

Supermarkets and restaurants routinely purchase more food than these enterprises need. This means that routinely throwing out huge quantities of food is a routine expense of doing business. Therefore feeding hungry people would not cost any additional money. If you are scratching your head after reading this, there’s more.

Food production in this country is limited in order to keep prices high. Most farmers feel that they need high prices in order to barely meet their expenses. However, the money the farmer receives is only a small percentage of the price the consumer pays at the supermarket for food. If food was produced for human needs and not for profits, the prices for food would plummet and the farmers would live better than they ever lived before.

We can also generalize and say that health care for everyone in this country has also been paid for. The facts are that the United States pays significantly more for health care per person than any other nation in the world. Yet, other countries have nationalized systems where people have a right to health care. Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the United States but spends a tiny percentage of the money that the US spends on health care per capita. Every Cuban has a lifetime right to health care.

When the newspapers argue that we are in an economic crisis, they never mention that there is no shortage of goods or workers who are willing and able to provide us with everything we need and want. In fact recessions and depressions happen because there are more commodities on the market than there are people willing to purchase those commodities. This means that in the capitalist system overproduction is the root cause of scarcity. This doesn’t mean that people have what we need. In the capitalist system, people can only have what we need when capitalists are maximizing profits.

We might also consider all of the things the government and corporations spend money on while 34 million people live in hunger.

· The city of Philadelphia has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in tax abatements. Most of these abatements enable some of the most affluent people in the region to refrain from paying taxes.

· The Philadelphia city government has given more hundreds of millions of dollars to the affluent in the form of money for sports complexes and the Convention Center.

· More millions are given away to the affluent in Philadelphia and other cities in interest payments on municipal bonds.

· The federal government under democratic and republican administrations has given away hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus money while unemployment has skyrocketed.

· Every year corporations pay out tens of trillions of dollars in advertisements in an effort to show how supposedly wonderful their commodities are.

· Every year more trillions are spent on interest to banks. This money in no way directly contributes to the production or distribution of commodities.

When corporate officers, politicians, journalists, or university professors argue that there is no money to profoundly improve the standard of living for everyone, we can recite the above information. Clearly the resources have been available for quite a long time to eliminate poverty in the world. It is clear that as long as we have governments that support the capitalist system, poverty will reside right next to those who live in opulence. Only a government of working people that believes that human needs are more important than profits can bring reason into politics. As the economic crisis deepens more and more people will be open to this kind of alternative.

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