Capitalism’s Criminal Neglect
A report released recently by the Chicago Urban League has shed a new and blinding light on the failures of capitalism to provide for working people, particularly those of color. The report revealed that the unemployment rate of black male teenagers in the city of Chicago is at an astounding 92%. This means that only about one in thirteen black males aged sixteen to nineteen hold some form of legal employment, even if it’s employment with few hours and low pay.
An equally appalling released in this study highlights the similarly dire situation for this demographic nationwide, with 83% of black males aged sixteen to nineteen being unemployed. Indeed, there are fewer jobs for these teenagers to fill as more and more adults with families, often with four-year college degrees, seek out “teenager jobs” in food service, retail, and hospitality due to the lack of jobs in their own traditional fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2013 that the number of college graduates working minimum-wage jobs in 2012 was 71% more than in 2002, and more than twice as many as had been in 2006, before the Great Recession.
Shortly after the release of the report, a Fox News affiliate in Chicago interviewed an eighteen-year-old black male that happened to have two jobs, asking him his thoughts on the situation. It was noted that these two jobs combined earned the young man less than $1,000 in the previous year.
Bearing this statistic in mind, along with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to close fifty public schools in 2013, it is not hard to understand the skyrocketing violence within Chicago’s poor black neighborhoods. Increasingly, youth of color are compelled to turn to violent activity in a desperate hope for economic survival as opportunities for gainful employment and education are denied to them. With the trend of public school closings in major cities across the country—public schools located almost exclusively in poor minority neighborhoods—we are witnessing the end of the school-to-prison pipeline for a more efficient system: a straight-to-prison pipeline.
Furthermore, recovery from the recession beginning nearly six years ago has come at a snail’s pace, precisely because of the lack of jobs even today; working people cannot afford even some of the basic necessities for survival, much less any luxuries.
These problems could have been fixed, for a start, by creating a massive green jobs program to cut our dependence on outdated energy sources, a public works program to repair the many crumbling bridges built during the FDR administration—and not repaired since—and by subsidizing education for students from low-income families. Instead Presidents Bush and Obama both spent trillions of taxpayer dollars—several times what would have been needed to achieve the above—rewarding the wanton and reckless actions of Wall Street CEOs and investors, who continued to see record-high profits, annual salaries, and year-end bonuses throughout the recession.
What we see here is not only a resounding indictment of the Democratic administrations of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and President Barack Obama, but an indictment of capitalism as a whole. The Great Recession is only the latest crisis in a cyclical series of crises that have affected the United States at least once per decade over the past five decades. As long as capitalism reigns, the needs of working people and people of color will be a distant second priority to the profit motive. As a rule, the capitalist elite will not employ every individual seeking employment, in part to leverage workers that seek better conditions with the constant threat of being fired and replaced with someone who will work for scraps.
People of color, historically and presently an underclass in the American economy, suffer most of all from this arrangement. Since the rise of the labor unions at the turn of the 20th century, unemployed black people have been used as strikebreakers to destroy union campaigns, keep wages low, and promote race hatred among the workers. This tactic never ceased, though the unions are significantly weaker than in the past, and the racial component is less visible.
The only real solution to the abandonment of the working class, the placement of profit over people, and the cyclical crises of capitalism is to bring an end to capitalism once and for all. We cannot solve these problems by reforming or “fixing” capitalism, for they are inherent to capitalism. We can only fix capitalism by seeking a socialist future – where the working class exercises public ownership of the top 500 corporations and democratic management of the economy.