U.S. and World Politics

Income Inequality and Police Murders

By Bonnie Weinstein

Throughout the history of class society (the rule of the few over the many) the ruling classes—those who own the lands and means of production—have used armed representatives to protect their accumulated wealth. The rulers do not create wealth—they rule over those who do.

They accumulate wealth by paying workers as little as they can get away with and charging those same workers as much as they can get away with for the basic necessities of life. In order to continue this colossal swindle, they have to convince workers that it is natural for the rich and powerful minority to rule the majority.

From the cop on the beat to the military brass, the commanders of capital are at the top of the chain of command. They make the laws we must abide by and they command the forces to defend those laws and punish those who disobey them.

The more resistance to the ruling class grows, the more violent they become.

Income inequality breeds resistance

Today inequality between the income of the rich and the rest of us is staggering. The multi-billionaires at the top own literally thousands-of-times more than what the average worker makes in a year.

To put a billion dollars is in perspective: if you made a million-dollars-a-year, and, didn’t have to spend any of it, it would take you one thousand years to accumulate one billion.

According to an October 10, 2019 article in Quartz by Annalisa Merelli, titled, “The average U.S. worker would need ten-times the length of all human history to earn as much as Jeff Bezos:”1

“The average annual income of a full-time salaried worker in the United States in 2018 was $46,800. And let’s assume this average worker paid no rent, no bills, no taxes, no expenses of any kind. In fact, let’s pretend this person spends no money at all. They just make money. By the time their wealth amounted to $1 billion, more than 21,000 years would have passed. That is the amount of time it has taken human civilization to evolve from cave-dwelling to where it is today. But while a billion dollars is a ludicrous amount of money for any one person, it isn’t even close to the wealth of the richest of us all. In America, that is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. His net worth is estimated to be north of $130 billion. For America’s average worker, that equates to almost 2.8-million-years-worth of work (again, without spending anything.) That is more than ten-times longer than scientists believe Homo Sapiens have existed on Earth.”

Property vs. life

Today’s police shootings are a reflection of the growing resistance to this vast and senseless economic inequality. It is more important than ever for the capitalist class to control the people, and to strongly enforce law and order to maintain the status quo of rule by the wealthy.

George Floyd was murdered because he was suspected of trying to spend a counterfeit twenty-dollar-bill to buy cigarettes at a convenience store. His life was worth less than that $20.00.

No matter what the circumstances are, when the police are called, their job is to take control of the situation by any means necessary. They are there to enforce their power over the situation at the behest of the ruling class—to make it crystal clear that whomever they confront must obey them or die.

According to an April 17, 2021 New York Times article by John Eligon and Shawn Hubler titled, “Throughout Trial Over George Floyd’s Death, Killings by Police Mount:”2

“Since testimony in Derek Chauvin’s trial began on March 29, more than three people a day have died at the hands of law enforcement. … Just seven hours before prosecutors opened their case against Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, a Chicago officer chased down a 13-year-old boy in a West Side alley and fatally shot him as he turned with his hands up. …On every day that followed, all the way through the close of testimony, another person was killed by the police somewhere in the United States.”

Hands up! Don’t shoot!

Adam Toledo3 was the 13-year-old Mexican American boy, who was shot and killed by Chicago police officer Eric Stillman on March 29, 2021, in the Little Village neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago. He was being chased by officer Stillman who ordered Adam to turn around with his hands up. That’s exactly what Adam did, then Stillman shot him square in the chest.

On April 11, 2021, Daunte Demetrius Wright4, a 20-year-old unarmed African American man, was fatally shot by police officer Kimberly Ann Potter, 26-years on the force, during a traffic stop for expired tags and an attempted arrest for an outstanding arrest warrant in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. During the arrest, Mr. Wright was shot at close range by officer Potter. She said she meant to pull out her Taser but accidently pulled out what appeared to be a Glock revolver, which was all-black and clearly visible in the video of the shooting.

The Glock 17 is the semiautomatic pistol commonly used by the police. The Glock 17s are black and typically have a trigger safety that must be depressed when the trigger is pulled. The standard-size grip is taller than the grips on many Tasers, and the Glock’s overall weight can be several times greater. The commonly used Taser, the Taser X26P electroshock weapon, is bright yellow (or other bright, neon color) to distinguish it from the Glock.5 In the video of the actual shooting, you can see that the cop who’s standing to the right of Potter as she has her gun drawn seconds before she pulls the trigger, has his Taser on his belt on his left side with the grip facing forward. It’s bright yellow.

On April 20, about 30 minutes before a jury found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant6 was fatally shot by police officer Nicholas Reardon in Columbus, Ohio. She had called the police because she felt she was being threatened at the foster home where she and her little sister were staying. She was trying to defend herself when a scuffle broke out within the group of people who seemed to outnumber her in front of the home. Officer Reardon made no attempt to de-escalate the situation and within seconds of his arrival, shot Ma’Khia four times and killed her.

Police killings of the poor are endemic to capitalism

You don’t see the cops on Wall Street slamming a banker face-down on the ground for swindling millions of people out of their homes. You don’t see the cops handcuffing and kneeling on the neck of the pharmaceutical CEOs responsible for the deaths of millions due to overdoses of opioid pain killers that were peddled as being non-addicting in order to prescribe more and for longer periods of time so they could make more money.

Police killings are targeted at the poor

Most arrests are for crimes of poverty—theft, turf-wars, family strife most often due to family members blaming each other for financial hardship.

Some of these arrests are directly the result of poverty. The inability to pay a traffic fine, pay to register your car, or child support, can end up in a warrant for your arrest. When the police come to arrest you, you must surrender or risk death. The fines are worth more than you are.

If you get stopped by the police while driving a stolen car, you will be approached with guns drawn. The car is worth more than you.

These murders are not the result “of a few bad apples.” It’s systemic. The police murder because the capitalist class needs the imminent threat of lethal force foremost in the minds of the working class whenever they encounter the police. The police forces, organized during slavery to capture runaway slaves, are armed and trained to kill to uphold capitalist law and the chain of command.

The U.S. government and its military are responsible for tens-of-millions of deaths through war and economic sanctions that punish the masses for the alleged crimes of their governments. Then they make profitable business deals with the commanders of those governments once they’ve conquered them. That’s good business.

U.S. history is the history of conquer by military might under the command of the wealthy elite since the very first armed white man stepped foot on another land.

It’s the capitalist class that has its finger on the nuclear launch button that could destroy the planet—not the masses who created that wealth through their labor.

Capitalism vs. humanity

In order to maintain their command, the capitalist class has to convince the working class that the status quo must be maintained—that the economic structure of capitalism that places the wealth of the tiny few over the health and welfare of the entire planet is the way it has always been and will forever be.

The main underlying message they want us to believe is that we are incapable of governing ourselves peacefully, democratically, and rationally for the good of all.

They want us to believe that war between people over property, power and wealth is the natural way—and, naturally, winner takes all.

Capitalism is unnatural

We have to remind ourselves that racism and bigotry are endemic to capitalism and are not natural. It is the war on the poor and the whole working class that keeps the capitalist class on top. They win by dividing us every way they can—by race, sex, gender, education, income—because, divided we lose, together we win, because we are the overwhelming majority, and they know it.

They are nothing without the police and military to uphold their power. That’s why, for them, property is worth more than human life. Property is sacred. Human life is but cannon fodder in pursuit of the wealth and the power it affords them.

It’s they who build the deadliest weapons. It’s they who reap billions in profits from the sale and use of weapons all over the world. They profit from selling death.

Socialism is the way to reorganize the world to benefit everyone and the planet

The overwhelming majority of us driving down the road, working on the job, or walking down the street with our dog or going to the grocery store, are unarmed and are horrified at the thought of being responsible for another’s harm or death.

Most of us like to do some kind of work both mental and physical. We, as a whole, are proud to be good at our jobs. We like to gain skills, develop our interests and talents, be productive and to contribute to the wellbeing of our family, friends, our communities and the world.

Workers of the world have nothing to lose by cooperating with each other and everything to lose by fighting each other.

War benefits no one but the wealthy elite who profit from it. War and police violence are how the capitalist class not only maintains their privileged economic position, but also their command.

A socialist world is a world of unlimited possibilities

Our solidarity and cooperation with each other can rid the world of capitalist tyranny. Because we are the majority, if we are united, we have the power to disarm the capitalists so their military and police will no longer be a threat to anyone.

The vast wealth they’ve stolen can then be used to benefit the whole of human society and repair all the damage the capitalist wars and their greedy production methods have caused to the planet.

We are the majority, we do the work, and we can change the world for the better. We can end the suffering that centuries of capitalism have inflicted upon us.

Without a dictatorship of the rich over the poor, we can build a world based upon production for the needs and wants of all, and not for weapons of death and destruction to protect the private profits of the few. Capitalism isn’t good for anybody, not even the capitalists themselves.

The most practical alternative to capitalism is socialism, where the profits from our labor are not hoarded by the few but can be devoted to making sure each person can develop to their full potential and in that way, contribute to society as a whole according to their talents and abilities.

The product of our shared labor can then be devoted to giving back to each according to needs and wants and ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone and everything on this planet.

1 “The average US worker would need 10 times the length of all human history to earn as much as Jeff Bezos”

2 “Throughout Trial Over George Floyd’s Death, Killings by Police Mount”

3 “Video Is Released of Chicago Police Fatally Shooting 13-Year-Old”

4 “What to Know About the Death of Daunte Wright”

5 “How Could an Officer Mistake a Gun for a Taser?”

6 “Teenage Girl Is Fatally Shot by Police in Columbus, Officials Say”