Voice From the Back

Hungry kids in the USA

Poverty is usually associated with countries in Africa and Asia not the highly developed USA, but here are the facts. ‘about 16 million kids relied on the US government supplemental nutrition assistance program according to census bureau data released Wednesday, up from 15.6 million a year earlier’ (Huffington Post, 28 January). Capitalism is a world-wide system and it has world-wide problems.

Kobani carnage

‘The Kurdish forces’ unexpected victory in this north Syrian town marked a huge strategic and propaganda loss for Isis, which once seemed unstoppable in their rampage across the region’ (Observer, 1 February). There is no sense of triumph for these troops as Kobani is completely destroyed. Thousands massacred, all that remains is a bombed-out shell. In the yawning craters left by US air strikes buildings have vanished during months of heavy shelling. One side street is blocked by the bodies of Isis fighters, rotting where they fell – a pile of bones marked only by a foul smell. This is the inevitable product of capitalism’s rivalries.

A strange communism

According to the Hurun Global Rich List 2015 the world now has a record 2,089 billionaires – and for the first time, India has more of them than Britain or Russia. ‘The list charts every dollar billionaire currently living in the world. It shows an additional 222 billionaires were created last year, almost a third of whom were in China. The US still holds the crown for most mega-wealthy residents, at 537. But China conditions are not far behind with 430, having acquired 72 new billionaires in 2014’ (Daily Telegraph, 5 February). Somewhat comically the Chinese government still claims to be communist.

A fortune in stamps

Capitalism is a crazy system that can condemn working men and women and their families to starvation for the want of a few pounds while this madness occurs. ‘a few stamps which lay together in a cigar box in a dusty attic for a century are set to fetch £250,000 when next auctioned’ (Sunday Express, 8 February). Scraps of paper worth more than human existence. Crazy.

An obvious statement

It hardly needed a high-powered business survey to tell us the following. ‘Big UK firms face a ‘crisis of trust’ and the next government must prioritise better ethics, a lobby group has said. In a survey, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) found that over three-quarters of respondents think big firms put profits before ethical standards’ (BBC News, 9 February). Tax avoidance, treatment of suppliers, and late payment were all areas of concern we can easily understand that the poll of 2,000 people found, but business putting profits before ethics? Wow, what a surprise!

Crime and capitalism

TV programmes and the national press are fond of depicting the police as dealing successfully with the problem of crime, alas that is a complete fallacy. The advent of cheap heroin in Chicago has led to an increase in crime undreamt of by Al Capone and his contemporaries. ‘In the 1920s, 227 gangsters were said to have been killed in the city in the space of four years. Last year there were 424 murders in Chicago, most of them said to be gang-related’ (Times, 9 February), an increase of almost double in a quarter of the time. Some progress.

Profit and pollution

Details released at the annual meeting of theAmerican Association for the Advancement of Scienceshow that about eight million tonnes of plastic waste find their way into the world’s oceans each year. ‘The new study is said to be the best effort yet to quantify just how much of this debris is being dumped, blown or simply washed out to sea. Eight million tonnes is like covering an area 34 times the size of New York’s Manhattan Island to ankle depth’ (BBC News, 12 February). In the battle between profit and pollution there is a clear winner.

Desperate workers

According to the UN at least 300 migrants are feared to have drowned after attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa this week in rough seas. ‘UNHCT official Vincent Cochetel said it was a ‘tragedy on an enormous scale’. Survivors brought to the Italian island of Lampedusa said they were forced to risk the bad weather on ill-equipped vessels by human traffickers in Libya’ (BBC News, 11 February). Desperate workers are prepared to take enormous risks just to get a job.

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