Slave labor part 2 – It is pretty scary that this question actually has to be raised. But yes we have gotten to this point. So carrying on from part 1…
Getting into the head of a supposedly moderate, establishment Stupidparty leader and presidential prospect who would unwittingly (being kind) put the masses on the road to economic slavery will help us analyze this trend. Thus my chosen victim, Jeb Bush, presently unable to make overtly stupid enough remarks to the attract Stupidparty base. But he still has enough time and money to buy up a new narrative, a new Jeb. I have elsewhere discussed income discrepancy trends, trickle down, lack of health care, unnecessary misery, disease and death—issues that Jeb Bush, the Bush clan, and their vast network of influence are simply not biologically equipped to resolve. All of these self-made trends just cement second-class citizenship.
But how close are we actually getting to true slave labor?
I could discuss the latest tricks many companies are pulling, like abusing the system of internships. Or, I could discuss the latest fad of younger employees in the finance sector being expected to work crazy hours six days a week, and have zero personal life. This issue is getting out of control, as the trend is to expect this period of one’s life to last for one’s entire life –logically until you fall into your grave (too expensive – your incinerator). This process is now apparently being applied more and more to Amazon employees, and thus, by extension, threatening everyone else.
Then one has to consider the forces behind getting rid of the minimum wage –Unions, regulations, eroding healthcare, education, social security by trying to profitize and cut expenses (i.e. benefits) – and then there is the trend as exemplified by Texas for employers to escape their responsibilities by sidelining Workers Compensation Insurance. That is the context as we start to drill down to specifics. Let’s get back to drawing real parallels between the Bush clan and the German labor market of circa 1940.
The Jeb!!! economic plan remains the same as that of Romney and the rest. Work harder for Us, so that we can asset-strip your labor and your benefits. Jeb!!! and Co. just cannot understand basic economic theory—that trickle up works a great deal better than trickle down.
But what Jeb!!! is probably just not smart enough to have figured out, and what no Bush is now capable of comprehending, are the side effects and social implications of their blinkered and calcified worldview. No, they do not see themselves as little fascists, not in 2015 at least, but let us just look at one trend taken to its logical conclusion that should be very unnerving to any critical thinker. First, “America the free” has a problem with its absurd incarceration rates. This is fueled by an intolerant and unjust judicial system with politicians motivated to create as many criminals as possible, happily pandering to the bloodlust of their voter base and the increasing privatization /profitization of the prison system.
The Red States plus Florida drag America down to being the worst country in the world for the number of people incarcerated per 100,000. Under Jeb!!! it just got worse. And it is still climbing, to over 150,000 in 2013.
As reported from The Sentencing Project:
Florida is a leader among states in its use of imprisonment. As of 2008, there were 98,192 people held in Florida state prisons, placing the state third in the nation in its incarcerated population, trailing only California and Texas. In addition to a high number of people incarcerated, Florida also incarcerates its citizens at a high rate. The state’s rate of incarceration of 557 people per 100,000 population is 25% higher than the national average for states of 445 per 100,000.
Florida has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of persons in prison over the last two decades. Since 1988, the total number of persons in prison in Florida has nearly tripled, growing from 33,681 to 98,192; a 192% increase (see Figure 1). This exceeds the national rate of growth of 133% during the same period. The rise in incarceration in Florida has been particularly significant in recent years. Between 2000 and 2007, Florida had the fourth highest rate of growth in the country, increasing at an annual rate of 4.7%, considerably higher than the average among the states of 1.7%.
But enough regarding fascism, now is the time to get to the point. What little fascist can resist free or cheap labor, and who better to craft laws to maximize such massive and growing resources than the odious American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC? All Americans who give a damn about their democracy should immediately get acquainted with the ALEC organization, as there are not enough adjectives to describe how truly rotten they are and the damage they have wrought.
ALEC has been the pivotal hidden hand behind the explosive growth in the prison population—pioneering brutal and absurd sentencing laws, mandatory minimums, “three strikes” sentencing, truth-in-sentencing (an Orwellian code for undermining paroles), privatizing/profitizing prisons, and overseeing the whole parole process.
Just think about the beauty of profitizing parole: every time you deny parole, you have a guaranteed repeat customer.
ALEC is sponsored in this endeavor by the Corrections Corporation of America and by Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections). Yes, you guessed it, the largest private prison firms in the country. Now, how do they make more money when, in order to avoid unfair competition between private companies, using prison labor had always been banned?
Well, it’s made easier for ALEC if you have buddies like Jeb!!! As reported by Florida Progress and others in a joint paper, ALEC’s ties to Florida are reinforced by their connection with former governor Jeb!!!’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE). (FEE is also bankrolled by many of the same hard-right foundations bent on privatizing public schools that have funded ALEC.) ALEC has taken model policies from FEE and FEE has promoted policies taken from ALEC.
FEE has been, “criticized for advancing the policies to specifically benefit FEE’s funders. In Maine, FEE came under criticism for writing executive orders issued by Governor LePage, and aiding in the advancement of ALEC model legislation to open virtual schools benefiting K12.”
Long story short, ALEC and partner Jeb!!!’s goal is to get rid of public education, replacing it with charter schools and vouchers, all to profitize education, eventually dumbing down the population to toe the “Oligarchical” party line.
So, after that short digression, back to all this readily available prison labor. Now, how do you make more money? What was banned is suddenly a new commodity. In America, money can buy you anything, as lawmakers invariably bow to their larger contributors. So in steps ALEC, with its Prison Industries Enhancements Certification Program, or PIE. Ready-made draft laws created for their paid-off legislators, who are surely too busy counting their bloody money to actually bother to come up with their own thoughts on the matter. When you hear the titles of such laws, does it make you wonder if the people who dream them up have read any books (outside what they had to study for their second-rate law degrees) other than George Orwell’s 1984? Who has even heard of ALEC? Who has even heard about PIE? Well, wake up! Whatever protections might be included today in PIE will be eroded. You know why? Because PIE was created by ALEC.
As the Nation reports:
The breaded chicken patty your child bites into at school may have been made by a worker earning twenty cents an hour, not in a faraway country, but by a member of an invisible American workforce: prisoners. At the Union Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Florida, inmates from a nearby lower-security prison manufacture tons of processed beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE), a privately held non-profit corporation that operates the state’s forty-one work programs. In addition to processed food, PRIDE’s website reveals an array of products for sale through contracts with private companies, from eyeglasses to office furniture, to be shipped from a distribution center in Florida to businesses across the US. PRIDE boasts that its work programs are “designed to provide vocational training, to improve prison security, to reduce the cost of state government, and to promote the rehabilitation of the state inmates.”
PRIDE is big in Florida.
For example, such prison labor has become one of the largest printing outfits in the state. I wonder how many Florida jobs have been outsourced into the private prison system. Florida has forty-one prison industries. This scenario is playing out in states across the country.
But we have only just begun.
Look at this list of companies getting virtual slave labor. I say slave labor because even if the workers are getting 74 cents a day, the companies are no doubt getting some sort of tax credit for social services or whatever their lobbyists might have dreamed up when they paid off the pertinent lawmakers.
Reported by U.S. Uncut and others where indicated:
- Whole Foods. The costly organic supermarket often nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” purchases artisan cheese and fish prepared by inmates who work for private companies. The inmates are paid 74 cents a day to raise tilapia that is subsequently sold for $11.99 a pound at the fashionable grocery store.
- McDonald’s. The world’s most successful fast-food franchise purchases a plethora of goods manufactured in prisons, including plastic cutlery, containers, and uniforms. The inmates who sew McDonald’s uniforms make even less money per hour than the people who wear them.
- Wal-Mart. Although their company policy clearly states that “forced or prison labor will not be tolerated by Wal-Mart,” it seems this is an empty promise. Mother Jones reports: Prisoners in for burglary, battery, drug and gun charges, and [for] escape helped build a Wal-Mart distribution center in Wisconsin in 2005, until community uproar halted the program. Wal-Mart gets produce from prison farms, where laborers are often subjected to long, arduous hours in the blazing heat without adequate sunscreen, water, or food. HuffPost enlightens: “Every year, Wal-Mart has to dispose of millions of dollars worth of customer returns, buy-backs, over-stocks, shelf-pulls, scratch-and-dent, and excess inventories. The giant retailer sells this merchandise to liquidators, who scrub the products of any Wal-Mart serial numbers and UPC bar codes, and then resell them to after-market retailers, who re-sell them to the public. “The workers used to strip these Wal-Mart products clean are often prisoner laborers, under a program made possible by the federal government. In effect, the liquidators are partially subsidized by federal taxpayers, who provide the ‘demanufacturing’ facilities, and cheap, captive labor—usually female prisoners.”
- Victoria’s Secret. Female inmates in South Carolina sew undergarments and casual-wear for the pricey lingerie company. In the late 1990s, 2 prisoners were placed in solitary confinement for telling journalists that they were hired to replace “Made in Honduras” garment tags with “Made in U.S.A.” tags. Victoria’s Secret has declined to comment.
- Aramark. This company, which also provides food to colleges, public schools and hospitals, has a monopoly on food services in about 600 prisons in the U.S. Despite this, Aramark has a history of poor food service, including a massive food shortage that caused a prison riot in Kentucky in 2009.
- AT&T. In 1993, the massive phone company laid off thousands of telephone operators—all union members—in order to increase their profits. Even though AT&T’s company policy regarding prison labor reads eerily like Wal-Mart’s, they have consistently used inmates to work in their call centers since ’93, barely paying them $2 a day.
- BP. When BP spilled 4.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf Coast, the company sent a workforce of almost exclusively African-American inmates to clean up the toxic spill while community members, many of whom were out-of-work fisherman, struggled to make ends meet. BP’s decision to use prisoners instead of hiring displaced workers outraged the Gulf community, but the oil company did nothing to reconcile the situation.
And the winner is:
- On Call: Its inmate call centers are the “best kept secret in outsourcing,” Unicor boasts. In 1994, a contractor for GOP congressional hopeful Jack Metcalf hired Washington state prisoners to call and remind voters he was pro-death penalty. Metcalf, who prevailed, said he never knew.
There is plenty more where this list comes from.
Now can you hear those echoes, those eerie echoes from the past: boots hitting the cobbled streets of Vienna, Trump supporters yelling at American citizens no less – “get out of my country,” Koch, ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) and friends looking to do away with the minimum wage, with unions, with worker safety, with the Social Security safety net, with clean energy; women told to get married; efforts to make their sex lives public, do away with food stamps; people discouraged from sex education, birth control—efforts to ban abortion. Can you hear it, that echo—the echo of a Nazi economy that ended up requiring 25 percent of its labor force to be slaves; that echo from 1860, of a Confederate economy, a culture that could not contemplate a world without slaves?
So does slavery work as an economic model? It appears that it worked for the Egyptians, with their pyramids and for the Chinese with their Wall (even though that Wall had the same strategic weakness as the French maginot line). It probably worked for Stalin – a success that made Hitler envious. So, yes, it works for someone – a very singular someone. It worked for Mao so well that every single Chinese person in China was a slave to this one man’s whims. It could work for Trump—who apparently can outdo the Chinese:
“But I would build a greater wall and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me. And I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.”
Apparently Trump wants to build the second “longest Cemetery on Earth.” Over one million people died building the Chinese wall, and Trump is even more ambitious- for his wall must actually be seen from the moon, unlike the cheap Chinese version.
I mentioned the report about the Amazon work culture. Amazon is driven by geeks. These geeks have their mathematical algorithms that dictate virtually every move. Just imagine what will happen if the Amazon model is allowed to work. Then look at UBER, every one thinks that they love UBER. They think this because UBER has unlimited funds and they can create whatever narrative they want. But what is the logical end run? It will end up with UBER dominating, always able to find new people to work for less, UBER taking a bigger slice of the pie, in an unregulated environment, until they find a group of people working at a loss- either too financially oblivious to understand the true costs of running a vehicle, or that just need to get of the house. But to be fair this scenario will likely be curtailed, because in 15-20 years cars will be self driving –impacting the taxi industry first.
The funny thing is that this convergence of technology, with the erosion of democracy simply codifies the obvious. A good little fascist does not need an algorithm to figure out the end game. Perdue chicken figured this out yonks ago. Its franchisees are much the same as slave laborers –treated almost as abysmally as the chickens that are tortured throughout their lives. So maybe it’s just all karma coming back to bite us. The 99.99 percent will become the pliable chickens of a Bush, a Trump, or any other Stupidparty candidate for that matter because, with the exception of Trump, these candidates are just the puppets of their paymasters. Trump is just that singular guy, who might well be able to outdo Putin or even Mao-assuming he gets crowned for services rendered after his eight years, assumes a Putin and allows a temporary figurehead.
Now isn’t that the ultimate Irony –unfettered capitalism of America, viewing the unfettered corruption of the Russian rulers.
“voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” George Orwell –Animal Farm.