Wednesday, April 8, 2015

More US college students using food banks as billionaires multiply

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

The trillion dollar wars for global peace the US taxpayer is funding including more peace weapons to ensure the safety of Asians in the South China Sea that for some reason the Chinese consider their sphere of influence, seem to be paying off---for some anyway.

Lets just look at the results. The recently published Forbes billionaires list for 2015 points out that the world has a record 1,826 billionaires thanks to the miracle of the market. They have an aggregate net worth of $7.05 trillion up from $6.4 trillion last year.  “There’s no doubt that entrepreneurship is thriving globally.”, Forbes tells us.  And get this, 1191 members of 2015’s billionaires list are “self made” while 230 inherited their wealth and, “Another 405 inherited at least a portion but are still working to increase their fortunes.”.  See, not satisfied with inheriting wealth, some are still “working” to increase it. Overtime, long days, two or three jobs and the long ride on the bus to work, that’s what separates the men from the boys. That’s the spirit that will save the planet and what made America great.

California now has more billionaires (131) than any country in the world except the US and China. And Bill Gates bless him, starting from scratch with absolutely nothing.  The hours he put in, working at the coffee shop, to earn a few bucks to get by as he single handedly built Microsoft in to a global powerhouse. That’s what self made is about, relying only on your own sweat and blood and getting no help, no leg up from anyone.  Gates’ wealth grew $3.2 billion in a year leaving him still the richest man on the planet with $79.2 billion in the bank.

These are the heroes of the 1%, the most ruthless, those willing to crush all opposition to profit taking, those who shun honest labor.  Being a ruthless selfish individual is what is required to accumulate such wealth along with a lot of help from the start. Peter Buffet, Warren Buffet’s son who claims to have not been given much of a leg up and chartered his own course, got a $90,000 “nest egg” from his dad when he left Stanford in 1979, probably worth 10 times that in todays dollars. Donald trump got $39 million from his dad’s real estate speculation and landlordism. 

Their wealth is the product of the labor of others. Human labor power in use is the sole source of added value and capital accumulation, the primary goal of production in a system of production which is set in motion for individual profit as opposed to social needs.

The capitalist mode of production produces a few winners like the Forbes guys, but as a system of production it overwhelmingly produces losers including the environment. British colonialism produced great wealth for a minority of British families and their offspring and a layer of those in other countries who aided its rule for a share of the loot. It fostered the development of a middle class layer with relative security for a small section of the British working class, namely skilled artisans, important as a buffer layer between the majority of workers and the beneficiaries of colonial plunder.  The same is true in the US as wealth was made through what was privatization of public land and destruction of indigenous communities after the European invasion, and the brutal exploitation of human beings imported from Europe and Africa, paying no wages to the latter for 300 years or so.

Even in one of its most productive periods, the post war boom that followed World War Two, US capitalism was incapable of providing security and a decent life for millions of its citizens.  Those days, the era of the so-called American Dream, are over, gone for good.

Alongside this wealth growth at the top, the misery of the masses even in the most powerful economy in the world deepens. In California, the land of billionaires, public education that so many working class youth depended on is becoming too costly. It’s worse than that as young students are not only debt slaves but rely on food banks to get by.

Sorry, no profit in it. Get an MBA
The Wall Street Journal reports today that more than 200 U.S. colleges, “…mostly public institutions, now operate pantries, and more are on the way, even as the economy rebounds.”  Tuition at four-year public universities has risen 25% since 2007 and this has occurred during a period of high unemployment and stagnant wages or in some cases wages that have been cut in half. 

The level of the crisis in public education and services is acute.  We have students receiving full aid, but then sleeping in somebody’s car because they could not afford to pay rent,”  UC Davis Chancellor spokesperson Linda Katehi tells the Journal.

There is now a “College and University Food Bank Alliance” that has grown from 13 campuses to 183. One college, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond became a member after a survey discovered that, “….57% of students at the state institution had unwillingly gone without food at some point.”  VCU staff assumed the stigma of getting a hand out (in the US this is portrayed as a sign of weakness and failure as a human being) would keep students away but the food was snapped up faster than the pantry could stock it.

The first UC campus to start a food pantry was UCLA.  The percentage of working class and low income students has risen in recent years and nearly 20% of the students in the UC system are from families with an annual income of $26,000 the Journal reports. This is extreme poverty in California’s urban areas. This has occurred as fees have risen and my guess is this probably has to do with the unemployment rate being higher and young people prepared to make great sacrifices to get a degree that might mean a job with an income they can live on.  The other option is the military.  Unemployment and poverty is good for those that profit from the war industry.  But even that is not guaranteed and the struggle to earn a degree while working two or three jobs has a very negative affect on work and academic achievement I’m sure.  Add to that, the issue of food insecurity, the nice way of saying experiencing what we call, hunger and things are really bleak.

A staggering 300 students a week use the UC Davis food pantry.  And the massive debt of students is well documented.  It is no wonder that academic achievement is under threat in the US, unless you are looking for a business degree that is. The billionaires contributions to that subject are generous I’m sure.

Whenever I refer to the Forbes billionaires are “thugs” or unpleasant monikers like that, parasites seems to get people upset, even many workers defend them. But do we defend their equivalents under feudalism? Do we applaud Henry V111 for his execution of as many as 70,000 during his reign or hos treatment of women or the poor. He was a brutal narcissistic murderer that brutalized the poor and working class of the time as he gorged himself and his cronies on sumptuous feasts and orgy at Hampton Court. The present rulers of society, the capitalist class, overthrew those feudal wasters.

Society doesn’t applaud the slave owners of the US south as folks with initiative and a good work ethic.  The same goes for the Roman Rulers and their hedonistic and materialistic lifestyle.  So what is the difference between them and the Gates’ Buffets Mitt Romney’s, the hedge fund managers, speculators and real estate pimps like Donald Trump? They are as ruthless and as brutal, even more so than the southern plantation bourgeoisie and the British feudalists.

That less than 2000 individuals have possession of more than $7 trillion of society’s wealth is not a sign of civilization. It is Barbarism. According to Jeffrey Sachs in his book, The End of Poverty, extreme poverty worldwide could be ended in 20 years, at a cost of about $175 billion a year.

The primary policy for reducing or eliminating poverty in America has been to promote economic growth but that has obviously not worked.  The US capitalist class has trillions horded and trillions more stashed away in bank accounts avoiding taxes.  Poverty and the crisis we see in US society around education, housing, health care, youth employment and incarceration is a product of the rapacious quest for profits and so-called economic growth. Racial discrimination, gender discrimination and other forms of divide and rule are fostered to undermine the tendency for us to overcome these barriers and unite against who we see is the common enemy, those who make the Forbes 500 and their system.

Poverty here in the US or abroad where it is even more acute cannot be eradicated by the market and the capitalist mode of production. The accumulation of staggering wealth at by a small minority, is the cause of poverty not a cure for it.
--> Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, has  launched an initiative that includes assessing student hunger.  There goes another panel of experts.  Whatever you do though, don't put hungry people on it.

The only permanent cure is a democratic socialist system in which the production process is taken out of private hands and decisions about allocation of capital and what we produce as a society and world is a collective one, made by those who create the wealth and consume what we create.

The reason we starve in today’s world is not because we can’t produce enough food as I have said before, it is because people are too poor to buy it.  As Hunger Notes confirms:

“The principal problem is that many people in the world still do not have sufficient income to purchase (or land to grow) enough food.”

If it an unpopular idea to suggest the majority liberate the wealth their labor has produced from the small organized clique that have stolen it then so be it.  It is our responsibility to fight for a future for our children and a future for the planet.

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