Read an Excerpt
THE END OF CAPITALISMDESTRUCTIVE FORCES OF AN ECONOMY OUT OF CONTROL
By ROBERT H. PARKS
Prometheus BooksCopyright © 2011 Robert H. Parks, PhD.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE PLAGUE OF GUN VIOLENCE ACROSS AMERICA
For everyone across America who's ever been counted out but refused to be knocked out, and for everyone who has stumbled but stood right back up, and for everyone who works hard but never gives up, this [message] is for you. —Senator Hillary Clinton, on the campaign trail
Senator Clinton's words persuaded one reader to write, "That message resonates with voters who, when they are not bitterly clinging to their guns and religion, are having trouble ... with their mortgage payments. The wisdom of these comments as they pertain to guns, religion, and mortgage payments caught my attention.
This chapter deals with the plague of gun violence and the systemic nature of firearms deaths that continue to occur across America. Chapters 2 and 3 (the latter on the threat and reality of war) are logical extensions of a mentality that prompts political and religious leaders to ascend their proverbial soapboxes to persuade millions of people to fight and die as soldiers in often cruel and unjust wars. A mindset of cowboylike bravado concerning the use of guns feeds into a reckless and bellicose penchant to pick a fight. Uncontrolled gun slaughter and preemptive and illegal wars are just two of the deadly forces that can be found in an economy as it spirals out of control. And with the help of special interests that would benefit greatly from an influx of military spending, America's capitalist system took one more huge step toward a frightening financial meltdown and a major recession.
Today, many millions of desperate Americans have lost their homes, their savings, their jobs, and even their hopes for a brighter future. The US economy is now hollowed out and seriously weakened by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars coupled with wasteful domestic spending on pork-barrel projects put in place not only by the administration of George W. Bush but by many previous administrations, as well as the earmarks of many a congressperson and senator. Huge opportunity costs show up in deteriorating bridges, potholed roads, shortages of good schools, a lack of modern hospitals, and less safe and efficient transit systems. The list of critical needs is endless and it will only grow so long as our resources are spent on wars that either should not have been started in the first place or appear to have no end in sight.
Deep Economic Slumps and High Suicide Rates
As confidence in the economy and hope for the future decline amid lost jobs, foreclosed homes, and failed businesses, the resulting atmosphere of despair give way to crime, family quarrels and shootings, mental depression, exhaustion, and a worrisome jump in murders and suicides as the unemployment rate continues to soar in a collapsing economy. The National Prevention Lifeline and other suicide-prevention groups have reported dramatically higher numbers of calls to their hotlines from anxious and desperate people who feel they have nowhere to turn. As I drive across the Tappan Zee Bridge in Westchester, New York, I see signs that say "Life Is Worth Living," yet people ignore these pleas and jump to their deaths into the Hudson River.
Multiple Self-Destructive Forces Imperil US Capitalism
Economic collapse, crime, murders, wars, and suicides are all linked. So are the forces of poverty, homelessness, acute inequalities of wealth, and the impact of an extreme laissez-faire doctrine. During the 2000 presidential election some right-wing Washington think tanks urged that the future administration of George W. Bush should emphasize loyalty to the commander and chief over experience when making key appointments. The predictable result was an abundance of unqualified hacks in office.
In the 1980s President Ronald Reagan declared, "Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem." That kind of philosophy was directly germane to my forecast of the 1981-82 "maxirecession." Runaway and extreme monetary and fiscal stimulus measures that featured major tax cuts led to a giant overinvestment boom that ultimately collapsed along with megabubble (speculative buying that drives up the price) stock gauges that crumbled. The resulting recession was easy to predict, at least for me. Deception and lying by federal officials contradicted their own beliefs. The same ludicrous right-wing and deceitful policies were carried out by George W. Bush. His bumbling ways made it easy for me to forecast the present financial meltdown and its economic implosion. In sum, all of these closely interlinked forces now work to speed the downfall of US capitalism.
The Out-of-Control Gun Plague
Our discussion here of out-of-control gun violence in the United States is illustrative of an equally out-of-control economy, though it is not sufficient in and of itself to foretell total economic collapse. Many other destructive forces are at work simultaneously to destroy capitalism. They include selfishness, lying, arrogance, violence and murder, and a rightwing ideology that despises the idea that America needs a strong government to solve the many problems facing us.
I will try to document how an extreme conservative ideology feeds into gun horror, systemic shooting deaths, and injuries from gunshot wounds that maim or incapacitate innocent bystanders for the rest of their lives. Since the most seriously wounded often suffer constant pain, their exit strategy is sometimes suicide. Even the killers often choose suicide after they have murdered their wife, husband, and/or children; their schoolmates; or their own parent(s).
Shooters often kill dozens of people in what are officially called gun massacres, and then shoot themselves as their final gruesome act. The many millions of easily available and loosely controlled guns for sale in this country make this litany of horror all so easy. Needless and terrible carnage brought on by out-of-control gun availability grows worse by the day.
The National Rifle Association (NRA): Propaganda versus Truth
Let's look first to the National Rifle Association (NRA) as one source of this plague of gun deaths. The NRA sees itself as a powerful and benevolent force. Yes, it is powerful but it can hardly be viewed as benevolent, and in my opinion it is seldom truthful. For example, the NRA insists that it promotes public safety through programs geared toward personal protection and gun safety for all who wish to participate. It glowingly describes itself in countless pamphlets and press releases as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of the Second Amendment of our Constitution's Bill of Rights, which it believes safeguards an individual's right to own guns.
The NRA defends the right to own firearms and is an unceasing advocate for marksmanship, firearms safety, and the protection of hunting, as well as the right to individual self-defense with the use of a gun. That being said, the group's strong objections to effective and meaningful gun control and the use of its considerable resources through lobbying efforts to defeat any legislation that would enact such controls is couched in words that describe such laws as daggers aimed at the heart of the Second Amendment. However, it is precisely the proliferation of guns, the pitifully weak controls over these weapons, and the absurd pro-gun propaganda of the NRA and other gun-advocacy groups that helps to explain the growing number of horrible incidents that take place at the hands of gun-wielding individuals who seek their fifteen minutes of fame (notoriety) or who desire to settle some imagined score against those they believe have harmed them, or just against society at large by endangering whoever happens to be in their path at the time. Headline news reports every week tell us of the many injuries, deaths, and massacres that occur as a result of our gun culture.
The NRA is recognized as one of the most powerful political lobbies in the country. No doubt that's true but surely it is unfortunate for most Americans. Its lobbying is always at the expense of effective controls to stop gun violence. Gun ownership, it declares, is a civil liberty protected by the Second Amendment. That's debatable, but in any case the NRA does nothing to curb the plague of gun deaths across America. Its own website glorifies the assertion that its membership is over four million strong. Again, in my opinion, this is a fact that is extremely unfortunate for all those each day who are killed, whether intentionally or unintentionally, by someone brandishing a firearm.
Many Americans would be alive and well today if they had not been the victims of accidents or violence in which guns played a major role. It is my personal view—and I hope I am not alone in this—that the people of the United States would be far safer if the NRA and similar likeminded organizations were to become extinct. Oftentimes one sees flyers, bumper stickers, or ads that claim: "Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People." This preposterous slogan is at once false and dangerous.
The Unholy Alliance
The truth, of course, is that guns plus people kill people. We often hear ourselves saying that "It takes two to tango." Well, it is also true that easily available guns end up in the hands of violent people, and all too often they are in the possession of criminals. Wide-ranging gun ownership rights coupled with few meaningful controls, or little or no enforcement of the gun controls that do exist, is a perfect recipe for widespread injury and death. Thanks to gun advocacy groups and their supporters in the Congress who defeat meaningful regulations, the executive branch in many administrations who have been reluctant to confront powerful lobbies, as well as many state and local governments, even criminals find it possible to carry concealed guns outside their homes, and they use these weapons to rob and kill with little fear.
But criminals are not the only ones running wild with guns. We have a pervasive gun culture in this nation, populated with cowboy-style advocates of individual freedom and self-defense who consider restrictions on gun ownership, the elimination or restricting of various types of guns, and other related regulations as gross violations of basic rights granted to us by our Constitution. Gun massacres in our schools and on our streets are now headline grabbers in the news each day. In this chapter I will show how out-of-control gun violence is closely linked to an economy on the edge of collapse. My emphasis will be both on the NRA's twisted and fallacious logic but also the terrifying data on how gun violence generates widespread injuries and deaths that cultivate a crippling attitude of fear in America.
Dissenting Comments of the AMA and the Brady Center
I am hardly alone in my caustic criticisms of the NRA. I believe its pitch is nothing more than self-glorification with no evidence to support its claims for superpatriot status. As Detective Joe Friday would say on the once popular television show Dragnet, "Please give me the facts, Sir." Yes, that's my task in this chapter.
But first let's hear briefly from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and from the American Medical Association. They are my allies against gun terror. These two organizations accept none of the NRA's half-truths and absurd slogans that I document. Nor should they.
The Brady Center
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has long tracked gun-related violence and deaths. It also takes legal action in our courts to protect Americans from gun-toting killers. Here are just three recent instances it cites in its effort to ward off gun violence. First, it documents that law enforcement agencies and communities in general are less safe since the September 2004 expiration of the ban on oversized and extremely lethal rifles, often known as assault weapons, that are frequently used in shootouts with police. It says that the availability of assault weapons has changed the balance of power between law enforcement and criminals. At least fifteen police officers have been killed and twenty-three wounded since the gun ban expired.
In a second case, the Brady Center hails a court ruling blocking domestic abusers from obtaining guns. Such abusers anywhere throughout the country are prevented from buying guns because they would have to go through a mandatory background check, which would flag their convictions for abuse. A variety of persons are excluded from buying guns in the seven-day waiting period for background checks. But many still find guns illegally and there are few if any restrictions on buying guns by mail, on the Internet, or at the many gun shows that take place throughout the country.
In a third case the center brought a successful lawsuit against a gun dealer for supplying a rifle to a criminal who then used it to commit a murder. The family of the victim sued the gun dealer because the killer, a fugitive from justice and a methamphetamine user, was prohibited from buying or possessing guns. Yet he was able to purchase a rifle without the mandatory background check. Two days later he used the same gun to kill his victim. The Brady Center lawsuit contended that the gun dealer was liable for the victim's death because the dealer negligently and illegally provided the gun to the shooter. There are many gun deaths and crippling gun injuries such as this that I address in this chapter.
The American Medical Association (AMA)
In 1997 the AMA concluded that gunshots caused almost 32,000 thousand fatal injuries and 100,000 nonfatal injuries in the United States. In addition to the enormous human toll from gun violence, the AMA calculated the average cost from gunshot injuries that included acute care and follow-up treatment costs. It estimated the average medical cost per injury at roughly $17,000. Its lengthy and complex mathematical set of confidence levels suggested, however, that the $17,000 estimate might be far too low.
School-Related Shooting Deaths
The term "school-related shootings" refers to gun violence in educational institutions, including any mass murder or spree killing that involves any educational institution. These shootings are perpetrated by any number of persons: those who are mentally unbalanced, those with a known mental disorder, expelled students, alumni, faculty members, outsiders, and even regular students who never seem to pose a problem to their classmates or to their teachers. Such shootings frequently involve numerous victims, some of whom may have been targeted, but often the actual victims are random individuals who are just in the shooter's path. Many of the killers commit suicide after their rampages.
The most frequently mentioned school killing is that which took place at Columbine High School, in Columbine, Colorado, on Tuesday, April 20, 1999, involving the murderous acts of students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. But the most deadly shooting, labeled a massacre, took place on the campus of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Virginia, on April 16, 2007. The shooting spree consisted of two separate attacks occurring two hours apart. The perpetrator, Seung-Hui Cho, killed thirty-two people and wounded many others. The massacre stands as the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in US history, on or off a school campus.
The Disguised Santa Claus Shooter
It seems that even a disguised Santa Claus can unleash a bloodbath with guns. In news reports around the globe, a Santa Claus killing spree got under way about 11:30 P.M. on Christmas Eve 2008 in Covina California. When an eight-year-old girl attending a Christmas Eve party answered a knock at her door, she admitted a man dressed as Santa who was carrying what was thought to be a present but turned out to be a handgun instead. He shot the little girl in the face, and then began shooting indiscriminately as partygoers tried to flee. Police said the shooter was Bruce Pardo who had just reached a settlement with his ex-wife. Pardo's ex-wife and her parents were listed among those killed. The gift-wrapped box Pardo carried was a pressurized container he used to set fire to the house. The body of the ninth victim was found the next morning. Pardo committed suicide with a bullet to his head, which is typical of mad or deranged killers who have easy and cheap access to guns.
Excerpted from THE END OF CAPITALISM by ROBERT H. PARKS Copyright © 2011 by Robert H. Parks, PhD.. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.