Globalization's New Freedom for America: The Freedom To Starve
I recommend you read this article by Vi Ransel ... and weep. I did. It tells all. Too many fresh hells listed but I will cite some of the most compelling passages for me. I know I went quote crazy, but as I was reading and note-taking I knew I couldn't paraphrase it well enough to do it justice. I bolded some sentences I found most infuriating.
BTW, the quote in title from the following passage:
"America touts itself as the land of the free, but the number one freedom you and I have is the freedom to enter into a subservient role in the workplace. Once you exercise this freedom, you've lost all control over what you do, what is produced, and how it is produced. And in the end, the product doesn't belong to you. The only way you can avoid bosses and jobs is if you don't care about making a living, which leads to the second freedom: the freedom to starve." - Tom Morella
Since 1980, the richest Americans have seen their incomes quadruple, while for the "lowest" 90% of us, incomes fell. The average wage is lower today than it was in the 1970s, while productivity has risen almost 50%. (2) In 1983 middle class debt held at 67% of income. In 2007, middle class debt had gone over the falls to 157% of income. (3) In 1950 the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's was about 30 to 1. Since 2000 that average has ranged from 300 to 500 to one. (4)
"As of late 2009, the number of billionaires soared from 793 to 1,011, and their total fortunes from $2.4 trillion to $3.6 trillion. ...Despite the crisis, the list of billionaires has grown by 200 people and their aggregate capital has expanded by 50%. This may seem paradoxical but only at first glance. This result was predictable, if we recall how governments all over the world have dealt with the economic crisis." (5)
This is the result of a deliberate strategy, one Washington has executed many, many times, though usually in "Third" World nations, by using "Free" Trade Agreements (FTAs) and its front groups, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. Purchased politicians plunge their countries into unsustainable debt. Under Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), national industries are sold to transnational corporations and privatized. Social programs are cut to the bone or eliminated altogether. Interest rates are ratcheted up and the economy collapses on itself like the World Trade Center while banks and corporate buzzards fight each other to pick the carcass clean.
And I thought I couldn't resent Thomas Friedman any greater after his non-apology about Iraq:
But the New York Times' Thomas Friedman says “...we’ve just had our 70 fat years in America…" and "...leadership… has largely been about giving things away…" He cites Michael Mandelbaum of John Hopkins University saying "...the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people," and adds that "...to lead now is to trim, to fire or to downsize services, programs or personnel.” He then compares Americans to locusts that have eaten “the prosperity that was bequeathed us.”
But the New York State comptroller's report has outted the real profligates. Wall Street bonuses rose to $20.3 billion in 2009, while New York Stock Exchange broker-dealer firms raked in more than $55 billion in profits, about three times their previous record. And pay packages at the biggest Wall Street banks shot up 31%.
Between 1978 and 2008, almost 35% of America's total income growth went to the top one-tenth of one percent of "us." (6) And according to economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, two-thirds of income increases between 2002 and 2007 went to the wealthiest 1% of society, a higher share of income than at any time since 1928.
The average income of the top-earning 400 US families quintupled from $16 million to $87 million between 1992 and 2007. The rest of us averaged a 13% loss before the financial crisis. And since then millions more of us have plunged over the falls into joblessness, poverty, homelessness and hunger. These are the conditions Friedman tells us must be drastically driven down.
And both the White House and Congress concur. In order to balance the budget they tell us, social programs must be cut because this "profligate" safety net created to promote the general welfare of the majority of the American people has bankrupted the federal government.
But in fact, just the opposite is true. The rich, aided and abetted by the two wings of the Money Party, have bankrupted the government. The economic crisis is pulling back the curtain of democratic pretense to expose the brick wall of a callous system that ignores social needs to satisfy the whims of a parasitic "opulent minority."
And while "...Wall Street has extracted $13 trillion in bailouts just since October 2008, the thought of raising taxes on wealth to pay just $1 trillion over an entire decade for Social Security or health insurance is deemed a crisis that would lead Wall Street to shut down the economy." (7) Wall Street is demanding that governments around the world makeup for the profligacy of the financial sector by taking what little they left to their victims through higher taxes and slashing or eliminating social programs. This is the basis of the global financial "crisis."
It's the mechanism of corporate colonization coming home to roost. This time the US is the economic colony du jour. The middle class in America is being crushed and brushed off the economic banquet table like crumbs, while wealth continues to shift to the "opulent minority" waiting at the top of the wealth pyramid, calmly sipping mint juleps as they arrange all the repression they'll need to put down potential unrest. Deja vu. We're right back where we were when King George III and the British East India Company were in charge.
Disney paid Haitian workers 28 cents an hour to make children's pajamas. Wal-Mart pays Nicaraguans $1.50 a day to make blue jeans. In the US the average Wal-Mart worker earns $12,000, making one-half of the total workforce of 720,000 eligible for food stamps. This saves Wal-Mart about $432 million dollars in wages it doesn't have to pay every year.
Do the math. If 360,000 Wal-Mart workers each receive just $100 in food stamps every month, that's $36 million Wal-Mart doesn't have to pay in wages every month, or $432 million each year. The American people make up for these unpaid wages with their taxes to supply Wal-Mart workers with food stamps to feed their families in lieu of wages. That's going on half a billion dollars every year.
Collectively, Walton heirs have $65 billion and own over 1.7 billion shares, or 43% of Wal-Mart stock. They received another $29 billion from the rise in share prices from November 2007 to June, 2008 alone. (12) If you made $50,000 a year, it would take you 20,000 - that's 20,000 - years to make one billion dollars. And as for the trillions in taxpayer dollars transferred no questions asked to the banks, if you made one million dollars a day every day since the birth of Christ, you still wouldn't have even one trillion dollars.
In the meantime, corporations such as these have left the US with no industrial or economic base, while tax policy continues to divert money from workers and their children to the ridiculously wealthy. Jobs have been shipped out of the US to low wage platforms constructed on desperate people by the largest, most "efficient" and profitable corporations, which are now trying to drive US wages down even further by importing "indentured servants" on H1-B visas who will do high tech jobs at much less than the going rate in America.
And as for illegal immigration, successive administrations have never actually wanted to stop it, which may have been the point of NAFTA in the first place. By driving a flood of impoverished workers across the border to take jobs at the very corporations that wouldn't be able to exist without such "illegal" labor, the cost of US wages could be driven down across the board.
"For the first time since the Great Depression, the United States experienced zero job growth in a decade. Zero. And zero is actually worse than it sounds since none of the preceding six decades registered job growth of less than 20%. By comparison, the 1970s, which are often bemoaned as a time of economic stagflation and political malaise, registered a 27% increase in jobs." (13)
The White House Council of Economic Advisors released its Economic Report to the President on Feb. 12, but despite its projection that mass unemployment will continue for years, its "...projections in fact are optimistic. They are based on the assumption that real GDP will grow by 3.0 percent this year (4th quarter to 4th quarter), and 4.3 percent in 2011. This compares to real GDP growth of minus 1.9 percent in 2008 and minus 0.5 percent in 2009." (14)
Spending can't resume until workers are paid enough to be able to consume. Money in workers' hands is spent immediately into the economy. In the US such spending has been responsible for 70% of GDP, but jobless workers can't sustain demand for consumer goods, and thus can no longer generate that 70%. Still this administration has not lifted a finger to put people back to work and restart the demand mechanism.
The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, in effect, makes the government a collection agency for credit card corporations that make "bad judgments" about credit risks (often on purpose). In a real free market, those who make bad loans risk losing money. This law does away with that risk, charging government with following debtors for decades, and bailing out reckless credit card corporations.
In 2008 the US Census showed 47.4 million of us were living under the official poverty line. For a family of four it's just $22,000, or $4,400 per person per year. Can you live on $4,400 a year? In 2008 the USDA reported that 49.1 million of us had no dependable access to food. Food charities saw demand rise 30% between the summer of 2008 and the summer of 2009. On December 11, 2009, the USDA reported that a record 37.2 million of us were eating thanks to food stamps, or one out of every eight. On January 13, 2010, the New York Times reported that six million of us were living on no income other than $100-$200 in food stamps.
And since 1996 the number of people with no income at all has been rising. Clinton and a Republican Congress ended welfare, the federal relief program instituted in the 30s. Pledging to "end the cycle of dependency," the Democrats joined the Republicans to impose lifetime limits on benefits, drastically reduce cash assistance, and place restrictive "workfare" and other requirements on further aid. And in spite of our current need for relief, the Obama Administration opposes any additional funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), all that's left of the welfare program. (20)
But the "opulent minority" of corporate shareholders prefer their workers poor, the poorer the better. Desperately poor people work harder and faster for less, afraid not to take what they're grudgingly offered. And the poorer they are, the less able they are to defend themselves against the abuse doled out by the corporations these shareholders own. "It is easier to control those who are struggling for survival than...those who are striving for improvement." - Dennis Kaiser
And further, we're supposed to be in debt. Consumer debt has been the engine of the American economy since wages leveled off and began to drop in the 70s. Employers paid less in order to raise their profit margins. The financial sector extended credit, aka debt, as a way for workers to continue to consume while receiving less wages. This also had the effect of increasing the financial sector's profit from the interest on that debt. This credit/debt kept the engine going as the employer-corporations and the financial sector profited while American worker-consumers were beginning to drown in that very same debt/credit.
But if no one was in debt and everyone was saving money, the economy wouldn't be performing as well as it should. Alan Greenspan, former Fed Chairman, believes consumer debt is "a very potent and very desirable financial institution" (July 25, 2005) and that pay raises are inflationary. Keeping people poor and using those debt-created income streams, e.g. the monthly interest payments, for collateral allows Wall Street to borrow against that debt in order to take out loans to finance investments/risks/bets and boost the stock market.
"Despite the fact that its charter starts off by directing it to promote full employment and stable prices, the Fed is anti-labor in practice. Alan Greenspan famously bragged that what has caused quiescence among labor union members when it comes to striking for higher wages or even for better working conditions is the fear of being fired and being unable to meet their mortgage and credit card payments. One paycheck away from homelessness, or a downgraded credit rating leading to soaring interest charges has become a formula for labor management." (35)
Our economy is designed to "increase injustice, inequality and exploitation," in order to perpetuate the dominion of the "opulent minority" over us. And the deregulation of every sector of the US market was a deliberate policy decision by these stunningly insane, sociopathic, genocidal maniacs, who kept our economy alive by creating more debt/credit in order to enrich themselves with the interest payments. Now the economy is getting intravenous bailouts of taxpayer money while it languishes on life support.
Are you ready for this?
And how low can they go? Check this out. "The United States is one of the few countries that allow the sale of human blood plasma for profits. Across the country, countless workers are selling the yellowy substance found in their blood to the pharmaceutical giants of Wall Street." (36)
"Cerberus Capital, one of Wall Street's most notoriously ruthless leveraged-buyout firms recently made a $1.8 billion killing in their human plasma investment...by paying peanuts to their impoverished human plasma donors..., jacking up the price of plasma by restricting supply,...then selling the refined products to the most desperately ill..." Despite the billions Wall Street makes off plasma, donors get $30 for an hour spent hooked to a blood-sucking machine. Plasma profiteers set up franchises all along the Texas-Mexico border and plastered the Mexican side with ads promising easy cash. They even have special plasma-farm buses on the American side just waiting to haul their human cattle to their milking stations. (37)
We have a deficit with every part of the world. We're dependent on imports of food, drink, industrial supplies and materials. We can't even produce our own cars and trucks. We depend more on imports of manufactured consumer goods than on imported oil. We can't make our own clothes, shoes, appliances, machinery, electric generation or telecommunications equipment. We don't even own our own roads. (39) Soon imported goods will be priced out of reach and anything still made or grown here will be exported to wealthier consumers overseas.
On 11/17/09 Robert Parry reported that Bernanke, in an address to the Economic Club of New York, gave "Americans a glimpse of the ugly truth about their future job prospects. Simply put, companies have found that they can shed workers and rely on technological advances and overseas factories to operate with a lot fewer employees." They've "found longer-lasting, efficiency-enhancing changes that allowed them to reduce their workforces..." Also, "employers have reduced hours for the workers they have retained... these data suggest that the excess supply of labor is even greater than indicated by the unemployment rate alone..." Employers have "...been able to retain all the workers they need with minimal wage increase, or even with wage cuts..." (emphasis added)
But Fed Chair Ben Bernanke says at least the recession is over. Ben is the mouthpiece for "an offshore banking cartel" that predicts precisely the amount of "I.O.U. paper " it can print and circulate without disrupting the Ponzi scheme of fractional reserve banking. And now that Ben's officially declared the end to the recession, "well, hallelujah! We can quit rolling our own and buy ready mades and run recklessly through the Dollar Store scooping up dented canned goods and cheap Chinese tube socks... It is over for the most important members of a capitalist society, the oligarchs and banksters who have made fortunes off this recession, thanks to our unique economic system, and may now return to their standard garden variety usury." (Joe Bageant) (38)
The Highest Productivity at the Lowest Possible Wage equals Maximum Profit. When the supply of labor (that's us) exceeds demand, the price of labor (wages) falls because too many of us are competing for too few jobs. This is the reason for minimum wages, maximum hours, and the elimination of child labor. The fewer workers there are, the higher the wage. But with the globalization of work, transnational corporations have the entire workforce of the world to choose from, and some of the most desperately poor people on earth to employ/exploit.
In Bangladesh, a garment worker makes 22 cents an hour. The wage in Cambodia is 33 cents an hour; in Pakistan, 37 cents an hour; in Vietnam, 38 cents; in Sri Lanka, 43 cents; Indonesia, 44 cents; India, 55 cents; China, 86 cents; the Philippines, $1.07; and Malaysia, $1.18. This is the marketplace for labor in which we must compete. (40)
Why would a US transnational corporation pay you minimum wage, approximately $7.25 an hour, when they can get the same work for from six to 35 times cheaper, leave the ownership and maintenance of the production facility to an overseas subcontractor, ship the manufactured goods into the US with no tariff imposed, and keep the profits offshore to avoid paying income tax? The only way it would be profitable for that transnational corporation to hire you is if you "agreed" to work for less. Could you live on less than 22 cents an hour? Do I have to ask?