The first time I read ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ I was sitting in 10th grade English class. But there is one image that stays with me. The description of crops going unharvested even as workers are eager and willing to pick the food. He writes:
The works of the roots of the vines, of the trees, must be destroyed to keep up the price, and this is the saddest, bitterest thing of all. Carloads of oranges dumped on the ground. The people came for miles to take the fruit, but this could not be. How would they buy oranges at twenty cents a dozen if they could drive out and pick them up? And men with hoses squirt kerosene on the oranges, and they are angry at the time, angry at the people who have come to take the fruit. A million people hungry, needing the fruit—and kerosene sprayed over the golden mountains.
And the smell of rot fills the country.
He wrote those words more than 70 years ago, yet the conditions he describes still ring true for 50 million Americans living in food insecure households today… . Hungry families do not have enough food… [but] not because of scarcity. Every year 40% of food produced goes uneaten. That’s 20 pounds of food per person per day. And that is the twisted irony of hunger in America today. What Steinbeck called that crime that goes beyond denunciation, landfills brimming with rotting food while 15% of households don’t have enough to eat.
The chief executives of McDonald’s and Starbucks earn more than $9,200 an hour, which is at least 1,000 times the hourly wages of their sales associates, according to a new report by the personal finance website NerdWallet.
The report highlights fast food and retail companies with some of the biggest gaps between CEO pay and hourly wages paid to associates.
McDonald’s, Starbucks and Dollar General top the list, followed by Gap, TJ Maxx, Target, Wal-Mart, CVS Caremark, Best Buy and AT&T Wireless.
Out of those 10 companies, median CEO pay on an hourly basis was calculated as $7,334, compared to $8.73 for sales associates. NerdWallet reviewed 100 companies for the report and selected the 10 that had the highest annual CEO pay to compare the disparities.
CEO pay was calculated by dividing each chief executive’s total compensation (as reported in the company’s annual proxy statement) by 60 hours a week times 50 weeks per year. Sales associates’ wage information was obtained from Glassdoor.com.
The centralized corporate economy depends for its existence on a shipping price system which is artificially distorted by government intervention. To fully grasp how dependent the corporate economy is on socializing transportation and communications costs, imagine what would happen if truck and aircraft fuel were taxed enough to pay the full cost of maintenance and new building costs on highways and airports; and if fossil fuels depletion allowances were removed. The result would be a massive increase in shipping costs. Does anyone seriously believe that Wal-Mart could continue to undersell local retailers, or corporate agribusiness could destroy the family farm?
University of Missouri economic historian and former Wall Street economist Michael Hudson explains one of the best-kept and most pernicious secrets of contemporary capitalism: Unless the financial scheme underpinning society is restructured, the bulk of debts owed by working and poor Americans can’t and won’t be repaid. The result is an ever-growing class of permanent debt slaves.
The clip below comes from a 2011 documentary called “Surviving Progress.” In it, Hudson states that the problem originates with the privatization of finance. “Every society in history for the last 4,000 years has found that the debts grow more rapidly than people can pay,” he says. “The problem is a small oligarchy of 10 percent of the population at the top to whom all of these net debts are owed to. You want to annual the debts to the top 10 percent. That’s what they’re not going to do. The oligarchy is running things. They would rather annul the bottom 90 percent right to live than to annul the money that’s due to them. They would rather strip the planet and shrink the population and be paid rather than give up their claims. That’s the political fight of the 21st century.”
Hudson’s belief that the problem cannot be solved without a radical reorganization of finance comes from his experience on Wall Street. “My job on Wall Street was to be balance and payments economist for Chase Manhattan bank in the 1960s. My first job there was to calculate how much debt could third world countries pay, and the answer was ‘Well, how much do they earn?’ And whatever they earned, that’s what they could afford to pay in interest. And our objective was to take the entire earnings of a third world country and say ‘Ideally, that would be all paid as interest to us.’ ”
In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.
Peter Joseph | Post Debate Review | Peter Joseph & Stefan Molyneux
I didn’t want to like this because Joseph comes off as such a snarky, know-it-all dickbag, but he raises some fair objections to the voluntaryist/free market/anarcho-capitalist perspective. Namely, in a system of competition (free market), competitors will always seek an advantage, be it through creating the State, or something else like it. Second, his points about efficiency, sustainability, scarcity, and the number of jobs vs. mechanization/technology are all left out of free market/economic debates, because they’re “externalities”.
At first I didn’t understand his argument that trade is coercive, but now I do, and it makes sense. The Western construction of reality is inherently competitive, and it doesn’t need to be. That’s his point. It’s structural violence and aggression. Property rights, the foundation of trade/free markets, are aggressive. What makes that property yours? Your threat of force against any who would claim otherwise. Ownership is inherently violent. Nobody actually owns anything. You can physically hold something and defend it, you can use the government and its monopoly on force to grant you ownership of things through laws, but ultimately, it’s all just made up bullshit masking that fact that violence is going to be used to secure property. We’re all a bunch of toddlers at daycare saying “mine mine mine” and trying to grab all the toys. We’re taught as kids to get along and share, but somewhere along the line it becomes OK to stop getting along, to stop sharing, and to just be greedy, selfish cunts. What a wonderful world.
“We’re a self-managed bakery. There are no bosses here, we work as colleagues and hold an assembly every two weeks to decide what we’re going to do. We all earn the same salary of 1,350 euros ($1,780) a month and have the same share of the profits,” Pierre Pawin, the promoter of this particular kind of cooperative, told Efe.
Towards the end of World War Two, when it became obvious that the allies were going to win and dictate the post war environment, the major world economic powers met at Bretton Woods, a luxury resort in New Hampshire in July of 1944, and hammered out the Bretton Woods agreement for international finance. The British Pound lost its position as the global trade and reserve currency to the US dollar (part of the price demanded by Roosevelt in exchange for the US entry into the war). Absent the economic advantages of being the world’s “go-to” currency, Britain was forced to nationalize the Bank of England in 1946. The Bretton Woods agreement, ratified in 1945, in addition to making the dollar the global reserve and trade currency, obligated the signatory nations to tie their currencies to the dollar. The nations that ratified Bretton Woods did so on two conditions. The first was that the Federal Reserve would refrain from over-printing the dollar as a means to loot real products and produce from other nations in exchange for ink and paper; basically an imperial tax. That assurance was backed up by the second requirement, which was that the US dollar would always be convertible to gold at $35 per ounce.
Of course, the Federal Reserve, being a private bank and not answerable to the US Government, did start overprinting paper dollars, and much of the perceived prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s was the result of foreign nations’ obligations to accept the paper notes as being worth gold at the rate of $35 an ounce. Then in 1970, France looked at the huge pile of paper notes sitting in their vaults, for which real French products like wine and cheese had been traded, and notified the United States government that they would exercise their option under Bretton Woods to return the paper notes for gold at the $35 per ounce exchange rate. Of course, the United States had nowhere near the gold to redeem the paper notes, so on August 15th, 1971, Richard Nixon “temporarily” suspended the gold convertibility of the US Federal Reserve Notes. This “Nixon shock” effectively ended Bretton Woods and many global currencies started to delink from the US dollar. Worse, since the United States had collateralized their loans with the nation’s gold reserves, it quickly became apparent that the US Government did not in fact have enough gold to cover the outstanding debts. Foreign nations began to get very nervous about their loans to the US and understandably were reluctant to loan any additional money to the United States without some form of collateral. So Richard Nixon started the environmental movement, with the EPA and its various programs such as “wilderness zones”, Roadless areas”, Heritage rivers”, “Wetlands”, all of which took vast areas of public lands and made them off limits to the American people who were technically the owners of those lands. But Nixon had little concern for the environment and the real purpose of this land grab under the guise of the environment was to pledge those pristine lands and their vast mineral resources as collateral on the national debt. The plethora of different programs was simply to conceal the true scale of how much American land was being pledged to foreign lenders as collateral on the government’s debts; eventually almost 25% of the nation itself.