Tuesday, April 05, 2016

capitalism's peak crisis?

Time |  Voters know at a gut level that our system of global capitalism is working mainly for the 1 %, not the 99 %. That’s a large part of why both Sanders and Trump have done well, because they tap into that truth, albeit in different ways. The Panama Papers illuminate a key aspect of why the system isn’t working–because globalization has allowed the capital and assets of the 1 % (be they individuals or corporations) to travel freely, while those of the 99 % cannot. Globalization is supposed to be about the free movement of people, goods, and capital. But in fact, the system is set up to enable that mobility mainly for the rich (or for large corporations). The result is global tax evasion, the offshoring of labor, and an elite that flies 35,000 feet over the problems of nation states and the tax payers within them.

Where do we go from here? I think we’re heading towards a root to branch re-evaluation of how our market system works–and doesn’t work. The debate over free trade is part of that re-evaluation. The calls for a global campaign against tax evasion are, too. I think there will also be intense scrutiny about the ease with which financial capital can move around the world – we’ve already seen that with the hoopla over tax inversions, but we’ll see a lot more backlash, in new areas.

“I expect that the populist backlash will be intense and will impact everything from high-end real estate to PACs (effectively political shell companies),” says one of my favorite sources, Peter Atwater, a behavioral economist. “Voters are increasingly angry at the seeming transience of the financial/corporate/political elite. The 1% can move anywhere they want—and profit handsomely from the relocation, but the 99% can’t. Worse, the 99% are left with the aftermath—the empty buildings of a deserted Detroit, the toxic waste from chemical plants in West Virginia or the unsustainable tax liabilities of Puerto Rico.”