In another life I will be one of the global plutocrats who hides his income in an off shore account like the people listed in the "Panama Papers". Alternatively, I would settle for being a six figure earner who maxes out his retirement contributions at a pretax level of 53,000 dollars a year. Alas, I am regular people and am doing the tedium that is my taxes today and tomorrow.
I have some essays forthcoming, and of course, the podcast tomorrow. And as always, feel free to share some links of interest, complaints about taxes, or celebrations about receiving a huge refund.
In lieu of something longer and more sustained, I thought I would share some links that put life in perspective and that remind us--to paraphrase the movie Blade Runner--if you aren't a somebody "you are little people".
The global color line is real. The plutocrats only care about money and power. Divide and conquer is a means to that end.
Writer and activist Paul Street (who I spoke with for the podcast a few weeks ago) had a recent essay at CounterPunch where he explored the global flows of capital, American empire, and the day-to-day lives of working people at a Procter and Gamble plant near Iowa City, Iowa. Street writes:
Does anyone really believe that Iowa City’s giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) plant – my low-wage, finger-wrenching workplace between from September of 2015 through February of 2016 and the origin point for many of North America’s leading hair-care products – is crawling with Congolese and Sudanese workers, along with a smattering of Central Americans, Caribbean islanders, marginal whites, Black Americans, and Africans from other states, because P&G (the nation’s 25th largest company and its top consumer packaged goods firm by far) is nobly committed to racial and ethnic diversity and a world without borders? Of course it isn’t. P&G reserves its better paid and more “skilled” and secure “career” production jobs almost completely for non-Hispanic whites . These “plant technician” jobs require no more than a GED (high school equivalency) degree and start at around $20 an hour. They are staffed by harried and serious-looking young and middle aged white men and women wearing black shirts with yellow trim. These are the people featured in the company’s promotional videos on “entry-level careers” at P&G.
You can find a small number of Black American and Latino/a people in these jobs but the plant technicians are very disproportionately Caucasian. They have difficult and sometime irritating jobs keeping production lines going around the clock (P&G runs three eight hour shifts in continuous sequence all day long and seven days a week) but the chance to make $20 with just a high school degree (or GED) is good enough to keep these workers obedient, outwardly company-loyal, and out of unions. They also enjoy some of what the left historian David Roediger has (building on the work of the great Black Marxist thinker WEB DuBois) called “the wages of whiteness”: a sense of privilege and power relative to non-white people with considerably less income and power in and beyond the workplace.Slavery still exists in the modern world. In many ways, the West's information based service economy is subsidized and supported by people who are the bonded labor of the 21st century. Buzzfeed has a harrowing and depressing story on these new American "slaves" which it describes as:
The H-2 visa program invites foreign workers to do some of the most menial labor in America. Then it leaves them at the mercy of their employers. Thousands of these workers have been abused — deprived of their fair pay, imprisoned, starved, beaten, raped, and threatened with deportation if they dare complain. And the government says it can do little to help. The H-2 visa program invites foreign workers to do some of the most menial labor in America. Then it leaves them at the mercy of their employers. Thousands of these workers have been abused — deprived of their fair pay, imprisoned, starved, beaten, raped, and threatened with deportation if they dare complain. And the government says it can do little to help.We who enjoy the fruits of exploited labor are all complicit. Will Bernie or Hillary Clinton speak truth to power on this issue?
This American Life is the gold standard of online storytelling and podcasting. Their May 2015 episode "Same Bed, Different Dreams", has a feature on Mexican laborers who share a trailer on a farm in upstate New York. After listening to their story, I have a new perspective on my overpriced and small Chicago apartment,