American’s pride themselves on the economic freedom that comes with capitalism. What’s not to love? It brings efficiency, innovation, economic growth and more. While it is ingrained in every American that capitalism is the best economic system -indeed, it’s proven to be the engine of our modern society- its downsides are too often ignored.
We all love capitalism, until we get hurt by it. Many don’t recognize that this economic system only helps a small percentage of the population. During this pandemic, many families were hit hard with 13% of Americans unemployed; however, the 660 billionaires of the United States experienced a 38.6% gain in their cumulative net worth. Their money now totals $4.1 trillion according to Forbes. How is it that we are indifferent to the rich having experienced such a massive gain in wealth while so many families are losing jobs?
Our current state of capitalism no longer works. From the 1980s to current day, the bottom 60 percent’s household’s real income has not seen true growth. The top 40% of earners have increased their real household incomes by over 40,000 dollars. In the 1970s, over 80% of 30-year-olds earned more than their parents. The present day number is only 50% according to the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance. The top 5 percent’s real wage gain has doubled since 1970, while the lowest fifth’s has stayed stagnant. Clearly this system no longer works like it used to. If it does work, it is only for the wealthy.
While I am critical of this economic system, it can be saved. According to Ray Dalio, a well respected businessman and economist, “everything must evolve or die, and … these principles now apply to capitalism.” Our system rewards innovations in technologies, but hurts the workers replaced by them. We now go overseas for cheaper production and leave American workers behind. The wealthy Americans compound their wealth because they can easily get loans, while the poorer Americans can’t because banks don’t trust them. It’s an endless cycle that only benefits the well off. As stated by Neil Irwin from the New York Times, “capitalism can save the day — but only when the government exercises its power to guide the economy.” If our industries and government continue innovation without getting rid of the workforce, bring production back to the US, and allow the less affluent to gain wealth, this system can work for all. Granted, the wealthy might take a hit during this process, but most of them have enough money to last generations. This system can be saved, but Americans have to be willing to save it.
Darya Pahlavan is a junior at Rio Americano High School.