Many of our problems have a single root cause. Capitalism. Let us consider a couple of examples, which happen to be related.
Private prisons: As long as prisons are a profit-making venture for capitalists and by extension their stooges in government, then we have an incentive to criminalize an ever-increasing range of human behavior, not because it’s necessarily damaging to society, but because it’s profitable. The “War on Drugs” is a perfect example. You will not find a more wretched cesspool of government waste and skewed priorities anywhere in the federal budget. Despite billions wasted, millions imprisoned, mostly for being the wrong race or having the wrong form of a particular substance (crack vs powdered cocaine, as is well documented,) or simply for having these generally unhealthy but not particularly threatening substances in their possession, and the considerable amount of military activities devoted to stopping the production of these substances abroad, we see now the end results. Namely the creation of hugely powerful and violent drug “gangs,” our own prisons stuffed full of people who probably shouldn’t be there at tremendous cost to the budget and to society, and virtually no real change in the percentage of drug users and addicts among the general population. Congratulations on your dramatic failure.
Funny thing is, we’ve been here before. Prohibition was removed largely because of public horror at the violent nature of the alcohol-smuggling business. Prohibition virtually created the modern Mafia, and it took us another fifty years to bring it under some kind of control.
In the government’s privatization mania of the last two decades, private prisons seemed attractive, as long as one ignored privatization’s atrocious track record of higher costs, shitty services and lack of accountability or transparency (as Kevin Carson from C4SS.org, so eloquently put it, privatization is “the same old statism with an extra layer of parasites to feed.”) Despite the evidence, the myth of privatization being a panacea for providing social services, like prisons, persisted. The prison “industry” grew, and there were of course examples of abuse and corruption. Turns out the prison tycoons were greedily watching another situation unfold that they were soon to turn to their advantage in Arizona….
NAFTA: This piece-of-shit treaty (which Noam Chomsky rightly observes has only two accurate words, namely “North American”) gets passed largely behind closed doors and within a few years transformed a sovereign nation (one with problems, to be sure) into what is essentially a Wall $treet controlled labor camp. As American jobs are moved south-of-the-border by the millions, many Mexicans were forced into exploitative factory work, being paid much less than the Americans they replaced. Having been stripped of their right to land that was previously enshrined in Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, those who lived in more remote areas saw their community-held land sold out form under them, with no good options for making a living. Thus, even more grinding poverty for many Mexicans, who in increasing numbers seek better conditions in the US.
This influx, in turn, becomes easy fodder for corporatist pundits and racists to incite “nativist” sentiment among increasingly vulnerable and impoverished US workers, which generates more public support for legislation like SB1070, whose corporate prison operating authors stand to profit greatly.
Thus Neoliberal Capitalism, via it’s direct control over the policies of the US “gummint” (thus my nickname for this unholy combine; “GovCorp”) has created a positive feedback loop of profits using the political system and taking advantage of social misery in North America. Free enterprise, baby, just free enough to screw everyone with the government’s blessing and assistance. Makes me proud, damn proud, to be a citizen of the good-ole’ U-S-of-A! (flag waves.)