Maybe it's true what they say, that the more you know... Because right now there's more excitement over capitalism in, um, Communist (not really) China than here in the unhindered free-market capital of the world, the U.S. of A.
But a new global opinion poll shows another, perhaps more serious form of damage: falling public support for capitalism. This is most marked in the country that used to epitomise free enterprise. In 2002, 80% of Americans agreed that the world's best bet was the free-market system. By 2010 that support had fallen to 59%, only a little above the 54% average for the 25 countries polled. Nominally Communist China is now one of the world's strongest supporters of capitalism, at 68%, up from 66% in 2002. Brazil scores 68% too. Germany squeaks into top place with 69%.
Who's driving this? Largely poor people, who've seen the wealthiest Americans get break after break, and who realize that they're getting...what's the politically correct term? OK, there isn't one -- they're getting screwed. And they're finally sick and tired of it.
Capitalism's waning fortunes are starkly visible among Americans earning below $20,000. Their support for the free market has dropped from 76% to 44% in just one year. The research was conducted by GlobeScan, a polling firm. Its chairman Doug Miller says American business is "close to losing its social contract" with average families.
Close? CLOSE? When you've seen the gap between the rich and the poor in this country explose since the time of Ronaldus Magnus, and watch massive corporations like General Electric get away with paying zero income taxes, and now the new plan out of Washington is to slash health care for anyone who can't afford it and "reduce the deficit" with yet another round of taz cuts for the filthy rich, we're not close.
We're there! The social contract has been shattered in this country.
This thing is, these new poll numbers -- shocking as they are -- are not what a Glenn Beck would have you believe, "The Coming Insurrection." Only a tiny handful of Americans -- even in the abused social classes -- support moving toward communism or even socialism. They just want capitalism that's fair, where the rich and the corporate oligarchs are constantly rigging the rules against the little guy.
And I think it's mainly frustration -- over the fact that no one in power is listening. I think the crisis of confidence in free markets is partly because -- well, remember what those free markets did in the fall of 2008? -- but also because many voters, especially in the lower income group cited above, voted in 2006 and 2008 for Democratic congressional candidates and for Barack Obama because they expected a real effort to redress some of the unfairness in our society. That has not happened. Obama and the Democrats voted to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich, meekly accepted budget cuts that may fall heavily upon the poor, and now people are terrified at what's coming down the pike in hacking apart Medicare, Medicaid and the rest of the safety net.