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  • Writer's pictureEmily Taylor

Capitalism Is a Mistake

Card — Ten of Wands (reversed)

Color — Topaz

Incense — Bay Laurel


 

Today’s card, the reversed Ten of Wands, is actually really fitting. It indicates feeling overwhelmed and stressed with a need to prioritize and delegate if possible. Now, before I get into why it’s fitting, you need MORE background information.


Aside from being a writer, I am also a homeschooling mom. Boychild is 16 now, and he has never attended a “regular” school. Homeschooling has been such a huge part of our life, and it truly is a way of life. We approach learning as a “whole life” thing. Everything is an opportunity to learn. He was interested in Bioshock, which led to discussions on Libertarianism, Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, and who Atlas was mythologically speaking. When he fell in love with Hamilton, we got him the soundtrack and the Federalist/Anti-Federalist Papers. I try to buy him primary sources when he starts talking about history or politics. And, I have explicitly said, don’t use terms unless you know and can explain what they mean. It’s also part of why I bought him Das Kapital by Karl Marx. And, in all his readings and our discussions, he tends to sigh and simply say: “Capitalism was a mistake.”


And he’s not wrong.


What brings me to this conclusion today? Grocery shopping.



As the at-home person, it is part of my job to arrange groceries every week. Since the pandemic, we don’t go in person, but I place an order online for pick-up. With the familial trauma last year, I wasn’t really paying attention to prices creeping up. I was aware of it, it made me grumpy, but there were other, more immediate things to worry about. Now, however, I am settling us back into a routine, trying to sort out what we need, and coming to the conclusion that, yes, capitalism was a mistake.


As everyone knows, food prices have been creeping up for a while. With the pandemic shortages, finding what you need on the shelves was difficult to begin with. It’s even worse now that we’re paying higher prices for smaller amounts of lower quality goods. When my daughter got married this fall, we went to the local food supply store, the place that sells big trays of food for gatherings. We were DIY-ing the wedding, so we weren’t looking for particularly fancy stuff, but filling and tasty. The main dish was going to be fried chicken, and we wanted hot sides to go with it.


I was appalled when we went looking because the trays of food, the mac and cheese you stick in the oven, the tray of mashed potatoes, all those things, were half the size they used to be, but the prices hadn’t changed a bit. And that has been a common thread throughout. Premium prices for regular stuff. And, quite honestly, it’s bullshit. Prices keep going up, but wages aren’t. The demand for better, more efficient service is always there, but no one is willing to pay the workers the wages to meet that demand.


When the kids were little, most of my husband’s paycheck went to cover child support. That left my salary, which was barely over minimum wage at the time, to cover food, rent, transportation, clothing, etc, for up to 7 people over the course of a month. We both worked really hard to get that done, and because we were always a half step away from broke, we learned how to spend as little as possible on as much as we could get. I learned how to take a literal 5 lb brick of processed ham and turn it into three different meals.



I look at the cost of those same items now, and there is no way we could do it. Even today, pricing out ground beef and the cheapest fish possible was headache inducing. The cheapest ground beef type at our store was still $4 a lb. After taxes, you have to work a full hour at minimum wage to afford ONE POUND of ground beef. We can get it cheaper elsewhere, but it requires scheduling a second trip to a different place at an inconvenient time to go get it. And I don’t blame the workers for this, I blame the system.


The system is designed to crush innovation by keeping people poor and on edge. Prices are too high, wages are too low, and we haven’t even touched on health care and health insurance yet, let alone affordable housing and child care. The common complaint right now is that “people don’t want to work.” That’s a lie. Marx acknowledged that people do not want to be idle. They want to be able to take care of themselves and their loved one with dignity though. And when a job doesn’t pay you enough to do that, when it forces you to handle unrepentant jerks while paying you less than it takes for a bare subsistence level of living, there’s a problem. The job should not exist, and the company that profits off its workers in such an underhanded way should be fined and closed.


I wish I had an answer for what should be done, but in the meantime, I agree with Bernie Sanders when he said: “We are living in a nation which worships wealth rather than caring for the poor. I don’t think that is the nation we should be living in.”


 

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