- • Professor of social work at Columbia and Adelphi Universities • Organizer with Occupy Wall Street • Trained by Al Gore as an approved presenter of his Climate Reality Project • Blames capitalism for millions of worldwide deaths
Anthony Zenkus is a licensed social worker who holds a degree in that discipline from Adelphi University. From May 2005 to February 2018, he was the director of education for the Long Island-based Safe Center, which provides counseling and crisis-intervention services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Since February 2018, Zenkus has been the senior director of education and communications at the Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk, where he trains professionals and the general public alike on issues related to trauma, partner abuse, sexual violence, family violence, and human trafficking. In addition, Zenkus has been an adjunct professor at Adelphi University’s Graduate School of Social Work since August 2008, and an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work since August 2017.
Zenkus was once an organizer with the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. On July 8, 2012, he and a number of fellow OWS activists staged a demonstration near the Southampton, New York home of billionaire David Koch, protesting a fundraiser that Koch was holding that day to support then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “We’re here because of David Koch and his vow to purchase a president,” Zenkus told CNN.
In a 2016 presentation at Adelphi University titled “How Capitalism Negatively Affects Development,” Zenkus cited a 2008 National Institutes of Health study which had found that the brain scans of children living in poverty resembled those of adult stroke victims. “So, science was showing us that the link between low socioeconomic status and poor academic achievement had absolutely nothing to do with a lack of motivation in these kids,” said Zenkus. “It had to do with the fact that their brains had been profoundly impacted by poverty and inequality. We’ve been told for the longest time that societies based on competition, individualism, and inequality are the — the typical capitalist economies — that these are the best societies to get people to reach their fullest potential … and pull themselves up by their boot straps to make it to the middle class or beyond, but that’s just not so. In fact, more equal societies do far better on a whole range of issues, including academic achievement, but they also have less violent crime, less family violence. And these societies, people have a longer life expectancy and they live healthier and happier lives.”
In that same 2016 address, Zenkus claimed that the “inequality” inherent in capitalist societies creates a “state of chronic stress” which, in turn, “damag[es] the developing bodies and brains of these kids.” Embracing also the notion that the United States was a nation awash in white bigotry, Zenkus stated that in order to successfully “eradicate income inequality,” America would have to “end [the] systemic and institutional racism” undergirding the many forms of “privilege” routinely enjoyed by white males like himself.
In an effort to further discredit what he perceives to be America’s deep-seated racism, Zenkus proudly affirms that he is an ally of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Asserting that “we need a massive and transformational redistribution of wealth in this country,” Zenkus has proposed such remedies as a $15-per-hour national minimum wage, a federal assistance program that pays $4,000-per-child each year, and “reparations for slavery.” The money needed to fund such initiatives, says Zenkus, could be generated by taxing the wealthy or by placing a “Robin Hood tax” on all Wall Street financial transactions.
Reasoning from the premise that in capitalist economies the affluence of some necessarily results in the destitution of others, Zenkus once told an audience at Adelphi University that “you and I are part of the reason” why some people in America are homeless. In a similar vein, Zenkus has called for a wide-ranging societal “intervention” to shine a spotlight on the “compassion shortage” that he believes is emblematic of capitalism.
In January 2018, Zenkus made news headlines with his response to a tweet in which conservative journalist Elisha Krauss noted that “millions” of people had “died under socialism” since the early twentieth century. “Odd how you forget the millions who died under #capitalism,” Zenkus countered. “The two world wars, centuries of slavery and the genocide of native americans. Bet they didn’t think that was cool either.” In response to yet another Twitter user who subsequently asserted that Nazism was “a movement of the left,” Zenkus stated that “Hitler was a capitalist” who was “good friends with Henry Ford.”
Zenkus’s Twitter feed is a treasure trove of anti-capitalist rhetoric. Some additional examples:
● “There will not be peace in the world until the massive wealth inequality brought on by global #capitalism is addressed.” (April 24, 2018)
● “Happy #MayDay. Capitalism is making our kids sick. Time for a change.” (May 1, 2018)
● “It’s not Mondays you hate, It’s #Capitalism.” (May 14, 2018)
● “We need real change in this country. We need #Socialism. We need a massive and radical transfer of wealth from the monied class to the bottom 40%.” (May 21, 2018)
Aside from his activism on matters related to racial injustice and income inequality, Zenkus has also been outspoken on such issues as “climate change,” abortion rights, and militarism. For instance, former Vice President Al Gore trained Zenkus to be a presenter for Gore’s Climate Reality Project. And in January 2018, Zenkus tweeted: “To be against abortion but pro-war is inconsistent. Do our bombs magically avoid killing pregnant women and their unborn babies? Or do you only care about white, Christian fetuses?”