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We've seen what capitalism can do, but it's possible we ain't seen nothing yet. (Photo: Jörg Kantel/flickr/cc)

How Capitalism Kills... And May Be Getting Deadlier

Paul Buchheit

In each of the following areas of our lives, capitalism has been a deadly force in the past, and prospects for the future seem even worse with Donald Trump's Cabinet picks.

1. Medications

In 1996 Purdue Pharma began marketing its painkiller Oxycontin with a promotional campaign unlike any other seen before. As noted in the American Journal of Public Health, "The high availability of OxyContin correlated with increased abuse, diversion, and addiction, and by 2004 OxyContin had become a leading drug of abuse in the United States."

About 75% of heroin addicts used prescription opioids before turning to heroin. Deaths related to heroin have more than tripled since 2010, and a dramatic surge in overdoses has occurred among children. Opioid use is also triggering a rise in hepatitis C, which kills 19,000 people every year, most of whom can't get treatment because the drug manufacturer Gilead Sciences charges $84,000 for pills that cost less than $300 to produce. In Kentucky in 2016, for every 100 people with hepatitis C only THREE were able to receive treatment.

Donald Trump's rumored candidate for the FDA is staunch libertarian Jim O'Neill, who said about drugs: "Let’s prove efficacy after they’ve been legalized."

2. Jobs

Numerous studies show that the suicide rate is linked to unemployment and deteriorating work conditions and declining wealth. The rate has accelerated since the 2008 recession. Too many black people, especially, can't find living-wage jobs, and a lot of it is due to racism. A recent study found that job applicants were about 50 percent more likely to be called back if they had "white" names. A hiring analysis study found that white job applicants with criminal records were called back more often than blacks without criminal records.

Donald Trump's reported choice for Labor Secretary is Andrew Pudzer, who opposes a minimum wage increase and favors robots over workers: "They’re always polite...they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s age, sex or race discrimination case."

3. Environment

The World Health Organization, the United Nations, cooperating governments, and independent research groups all agree that human-induced climate change is killing people, with up to 400,000 annual deaths "due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries," and up to 7 million deaths caused by air pollution, over a half-million of them children under the age of five.

Denial starts with Exxon, which has covered up its own climate research for 40 years, and continues through multi-million dollar lobbying efforts by Amoco, the US Chamber of Commerce, General Motors, and other corporations to dismantle the Kyoto Protocol against global warming. And, perhaps most disturbingly, well over half of the members of Congress deny or question human-caused climate change.

The Trump nominee to head the EPA is Scott Pruitt, a man who has been "fighting the very agency he is being nominated to lead." Trump's reported choice for Secretary of State is Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who criticized fracking regulations for "holding back the American economic recovery," and then protested when a fracking water tower was to be built near his home.

4. Health Care

Incredibly, males in the poorest 1% live, on average, nearly 15 years less than males in the richest 1%. For women it's a 10-year difference.

Because of skyrocketing drug costs, annual medication expenses are reaching $100,000 for many Americans. According to the Milliman Medical Index, the cost of healthcare in 2016 for a typical American family of four covered by a PPO was $25,826 -- nearly half the median household income, and about $11,000 of which is a cost borne directly by the family. Many Americans can't afford this. Many of them will not survive. A Harvard study confirmed that uninsured people are more likely to die than those with insurance.

The Trump nominee for Health and Human Services, Tom Price, wants to dismantle the health care program that has provided insurance for millions of Americans.

5. Housing

The 2008 housing crash devastated Americans, and it's gotten even worse since then. The number of families spending more than half their incomes on rent -- the 'severely' cost-burdened renters -- has surged from 7.5 million to 11.4 million in the last decade, over a 50 percent increase. Blackstone and Goldman Sachs have figured out how to take money from former homeowners, by buying houses and holding them to force prices up, charging high rents with little or no maintenance, and often packaging the deals as rental-backed securities with artificially high-grade ratings.

Donald Trump's nominee for Housing is Ben Carson, who according to The Nation "has zero experience in housing or urban development and appears to oppose Fair Housing laws." Goldman Sachs alumni are likely to hold the top two economic policy jobs.

6. Racial Justice

The infant mortality rate for African-Americans is more than double that for white children. Almost half of black children under the age of six are living in poverty. And, shockingly, over the past 20 years the suicide rate for black children nearly doubled, while decreasing significantly for white children.

Low-income people of color breathe dirtier air and live amidst toxic waste, and they are less likely to have health insurance. Low-income individuals are three times more likely to be victimized by crime.

Donald Trump's nominee to head the Department of Justice is Jeff Sessions, who once criticized civil rights groups as "un-American."

Deadliest of All? The Military-Industrial Complex

Henry Giroux sums it up in his usual uncompromising style: "Thus far, Trump has appointed three generals to join his cabinet...[John] Kelly is infamous for defending the force-feeding of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay...Retired General [James] Mattis, whose nickname is 'Mad Dog,' stated in 2003, the year that Iraq was invaded, that 'It’s fun to shoot some people, you know, it’s a hell of a hoot.' He once told marines under his command 'Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everybody you meet.' As difficult as it is to imagine it gets worse. Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security advisor considers Islam, with its population of 1.3 billion, a terrorist threat."

Capitalism kills, inequality kills, the military kills. The next four years may be the deadliest era for America and the world.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at)

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