We are told we live in the land of the free. In reality, freedom in the U.S. means the freedom to go hungry, freedom to go without a job and freedom to live on the street no matter how hard you work. This reality has become even more pronounced in the current economic recession as the cost of living continues to rise while the majority of new jobs created are low-wage service-sector jobs.
Those most impacted are college-age adults. A recent New York Times article states that “tens of thousands of underemployed and jobless young people, many with college credits or work histories, are struggling to house themselves in the wake of the recession, which has left workers between the ages of 18 and 24 with the highest unemployment rate of all adults.” More than half of recent college grads are either unemployed or severely underemployed—around 1.5 million—in addition to facing lifelong student debt, which has surpassed credit card debt at $1 trillion nationally.
This crisis of an entire generation has repercussions not only on their lives today but also on their economic stability in the future and that of the next generation as well. Many college grads, with parents unable to support them, face no option other than the inadequate welfare and shelter system and risk of chronic homelessness.
Studies predict that this trend of under- and unemployed college grads will only worsen as more midlevel jobs continue to be eliminated due to technological advances. As Karl Marx explained in 1867 on the nature of capitalism, “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole. …” We can see this play out in an ever-increasing pattern since the financial collapse of 2008.
These are not just problems inherent to the U.S. system. These are symptoms of the capitalist system itself as demonstrated in the high numbers of unemployed youth worldwide in Europe, Canada and elsewhere as austerity measures are imposed. Capitalism is an anarchic system and as it develops cannot adjust to social needs. In a planned socialist economy, job creation and education are based on the needs of society not left to randomness and the whim of the market. We need more teachers, health care workers, and environmental planners and scientists to solve the crisis of sustainability and halt climate change. We need to rebuild the infrastructure and create a free and effective mental health system to address the growing violence in our society. Under a planned economy, everyone could work and contribute to the progress of a society to benefit all.
In Cuba, as was the case in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, education from pre-school through higher education is free for everyone. Only a small fraction of a person’s income is spent on rent and a job is a right. Homelessness is a completely alien concept in Cuba.
When over 3 million people—a third of them children—are allowed to be homeless in a country where the 400 richest people own more wealth than the poorest 3 billion people in the world, it is clear we need a new system. And it is clear that system is socialism, a humane system where all benefit from the wealth that we create.