Victims of financial crisis or capitalism?

While investors welcome the decision by the American, Japanese and other governments to pump money into big corporations and leading banks, taxpayers are extremely concerned about these bailout packages.

The photo winning the 2008 World Press Photo of the Year Award by Anthony Suau of Time magazine 

Should workers endorse the government’s use of public money to save large corporations whose owners and CEOs had enjoyed multimillion-dollar bonuses and then pushed the world economy to the brink of collapse? They themselves are struggling with inflation, unemployment, loss of homes, and being pushed out on the streets, but no one offers them any bailout packages.

An entry posted on Laborhome.org, a forum of British workers, recently compared using taxpayers’ money to save banks and other companies to people having a big bash and asking their poor neighbors to pick up the tab.

Capitalists have only seen their profits dip but not lost personal assets due to the economic crisis. To hold on to their profits, they have cut jobs, production, and investment.

It is the working class that has lost the most -- jobs, homes, and, in extreme cases, even food. Such horror stories are coming out of the US every day.

The picture winning the 2008 World Press Photo of the Year award by Anthony Suau of Time magazine shows a police officer entering a house in Cleveland, Ohio, with a revolver to make sure its residents have moved out and there are no weapons inside following eviction after mortgage foreclosure.

It was described by the US media as reflecting the horrific nature of the credit and housing crises.

What the media did not say is that it also shows the underlying but essential nature of capitalism – greed and a lack of fellow feeling. After all, it is a system that cherishes the ideals of survival of the fittest and the devil take the hindmost.

Since the recession set it a few quarters ago, there have been no reports of company bosses killing themselves. Many, like the bosses at insurer AIG and Wall Street’s bankers, have, in fact, continued to receive millions of dollars in bonuses from taxpayers’ money.

Meanwhile, millions of workers have lost their jobs, some of them have killed others before killing themselves. Others have been evicted from their homes and now live on streets, like in the tent city in Sacramento, California.

Stories of jobless in Japan, the world’s second largest economy, who have been arrested by the police because they were unable to pay for their meals at restaurants, makes the world reflect on the basic cause of the crisis.

Economics Professor M Shahid Alam of Northeastern University, the US, wrote on www.counterpunch.org: “Millions of Americans have lost their jobs; millions are threatened with loss of their homes; millions have seen their retirement funds melt before their eyes; millions are threatened with loss of health care. As Americans on Main Street were being devastated, executives of bailed-out banks continued to receive millions in bonuses. That straw now threatens to break the back of the fabled American tolerance for the foibles of the capitalist system.

The number of residents of the "tent city" in suburban Sacramento, California, has increased since the financial crisis. (AFP Photo)

In Canada, the most impacted people are pensioners. In an article on National Union, the biggest labor union in Canada, its chief Larry Brown said: “Pensioners are forgotten victims of the economic crisis.”

The Government is focused on spending money to rescue companies but millions of retired workers have received low pensions on which they can barely subsist, he said.

On its website, the National Union calls on people to raise their voice for their interests and to be protected during the crisis.

In the UK, the jobless rate among the middle class and single people has increased alarmingly. The website RTTV.ru reported: “The common image of a homeless person in Britain is somebody who is unshaven, dirty and old, clutching a bottle of whisky on a park bench. But as the recession forces many people out of work, homeless in the UK has experienced a radical makeover, today, young, educated and middle class people increasingly make up the rank of those living on the streets”. 

The rate of unemployment and homelessness has risen so fast that the website Scoop44.com raised concern over the situation with a warning of a homeless “Prepare! Don’t turn your back on us today, because tomorrow, you’ll be living next to us.”

Even before the financial and home-foreclosure crises hit full stride, the number of homeless children in America had reached an alarming level of roughly 1.5 million, Time said in an article.
“The numbers are likely to get worse as the economy continues to decline,” it added.

President Barack Obama said "Yes" when asked on Bloomberg television on June 16 if the jobless rate, which surged to a 26-year high of 9.4 percent in May, would reach 10 percent.

AFP quoted latest figures showing the number of unemployed people as of May was 14.5 million, a figure that has risen by 7 million, or 4.5 percent, since the start of the recession in December 2007.

In Europe, Bloomberg said the unemployment rate in April was higher than predicted. In the euro zone, the number was 8.5 percent, 0.2 percent higher than predicted in February, and it is increasing to alarming levels.

All these are damning indictments of the capitalist system for which profits, rather than humans, are the main focus. But do people realize it yet?

By Viet Trung

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