"This is a war on the middle class", an American Axle worker said, "People are losing their homes, while the banks and the rich are getting more profits. They preach they are creating more jobs—but what kind of pay are these jobs?"
The jobs that the striking American Axle worker referred to pay $14 an hour, down from the $28 an hour that the American Axle parts workers had been formerly paid. As peoples’ mortgages, car payments, kids’ college tuition and health care went down the drain when the strike was lost, American Axle CEO Richard Dauch was rewarded with an 8.5 million dollar bonus for his brave service in the battle against the American middle class.
If the American Axle Board of Directors had been authorized to give out medals, I’m sure he would have received the Medal of Honor, The Victoria Cross, Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur and many more. American Axle has gone international you see and as another American Axle worker said,"It is part of a global conspiracy to cut wages worldwide that seeks to use workers all over the world as cheap labor."
But it’s not only a war on the middle class, it’s also a war on the poor. Apparently knocking wages down to near-poverty levels is not satisfactory. Driving then down to slave labor levels may be the ultimate goal. Just ask the people who put food on our tables.
The workers who pick tomatoes in Florida for our fast food giants like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King typically work 10-12 hours a day earning about 45 cents per bucket. By the end of a long day in the merciless Florida sun, the average worker has picked and hauled 2 tons of tomatoes and can earn as little as $80 for a 7 day week. This is the average worker. Because an estimated 80% of Florida’s migrant farmworkers are in the country illegally, they can be even be enslaved and paid less because they fear deportation.
Oh, you think I’m exaggerating? Well dear reader, just between you and me, the US Justice Department has prosecuted several cases of slavery in Florida. This is the Bush administration Justice Department remember, the one who’s coziness with big business is the stuff of Washington legend.
Florida’s tomato workers have organized into the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and after a long protest campaign succeeded in persuading Taco Bell and MacDonald’s to raise the wages of the workers who supply them their tomatoes a 1 penny more a pound. But Burger King refused to go along, which encouraged the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (the growers organization) to threaten a $100,000 fine on any of its members who paid the 1 cent a pound agreed to by Taco Bell and MacDonald’s.
"Florida growers have a right to run their businesses how they see fit," a Burger King spokesman told The St. Petersburg Times. Burger King even suggested that if Florida’s farmworkers needed more money, they should apply to work in Burger King’s restaurants (known of course for their fabulously extravagant wages).
Much of the Burger King stock is owned by Goldman Sachs Capital Partners. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein was awarded 67.9 million dollars in 2007. He could have financed the entire Florida farmworkers pay raise out of his executive compensation and still had enough left over to buy several more mansions and luxury yachts.
Finally after another long public protest campaign, Burger King signed a settlement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and agreed to the 1 cent a pound raise. However the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange is still threatening to sabotage the agreement. The Exchange cited concerns, "…over federal and state laws related to antitrust, labor and racketeering"
How the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange managed to confuse immigrant farmworkers with the characters in Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Godfather was not explained.
Making war on the middle class and the poor is one thing, but making war on the U.S. military takes a serious amount of moxie. And who would have such an amount of pure, unadulterated moxie? Why Halliburton, that division of Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) whose antics have made headlines from post-invasion Baghdad to post-Katrina New Orleans.
Although Halliburton may have pure unadulterated moxie in its business practices, the same purity did not apply to the water it delivered to the troops at Camp Ar Ramadi in Iraq. Army Captain Michelle Callahan, MD of the 101st Sustainment Brigade told a congressional committee via e-mail how Halliburton was recycling waste water containing human fecal material back into the tanks that were used for showering, brushing teeth, washing clothes and preparing food and coffee. When Captain Callahan first raised the water issue, Halliburton officials claimed that,"There’s no problem with it," and later stated that "This was the way KBR always treated the water." In a Halliburton document leaked by a Halliburton water quality manager the employee warned:
"No disinfection to non-potable water was occurring [at Camp Ar Ramadi] for water designated for showering purposes. This caused an unknown population to be exposed to potentially harmful water for an undetermined amount of time."
"This event should be considered a ‘NEAR MISS,’" the Halliburton report warned, "as the consequences of these actions could have been VERY SEVERE resulting in mass sickness or death" (emphasis in the original). The report added, "The deficiencies of the camp where the event occurred is (sic) not exclusive to that camp; meaning that country-wide, all camps suffer to some extent from all or some of the deficiencies noted."
The report laments that, "The likelihood of a similar event is considered high if no actions to correct widespread program deficiencies are taken."
Halliburton has stonewalled investigations into its efforts to sneak sewage into the bodies of U.S. soldiers. Fouling wells and forcing besieged populations to succumb to disease caused by bad sanitation is a military tactic that dates back thousands of years. It’s called biological warfare.
Call me crazy, but waging biological warfare on the US military sounds like treason to me. The death penalty for treason was removed in 1990, so Halliburton officials were in no danger taking a long walk to the gallows, only taking a long walk to a cell block. Instead, Halliburton took a long walk to the bank, laughing all the way while the Army brass helped to cover it up.
When the entire US Army surrenders to a major corporation without firing a shot, you know some serious clout is involved. The former CEO of Halliburton is Dick Cheney, a man whose clout is like Halliburton moxie, pure, unadulterated and in copious supply. Cheney, the only vice-president to have shot his best friend in the face, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Whoa Nelly! That’s just three examples of our widespread American corporate misbehavior. Lots of capitalistic countries don’t get the constant barrage of malfeasance like we do. What could possibly explain this orgy of greedy narcissism? I thought about this for a long time and finally realized that I had experienced life with totally selfish individuals before. You see, I am a parent.
Anyone who has lived with babies knows that in addition to being amazingly cute, they are the most selfish, demanding and relentless beings one can ever encounter. When a baby wants something, you’d better deliver it on time and to their their liking, night or day, no matter how tired or sick you may be. No excuses are allowed and negotiations with an infant are useless. Babies are the perfect tyrants.
Of course, as babies mature and we apply our love and parenting skills, they slowly develop social awareness. Other adults and older children are also crucial to this process. It is a societal task with schools, government, religious institutions and other organizations lending a hand. Eventually most babies mature into adults who function in society without making constant excessive and noisy demands on those around them. Most babies do…but not all babies.
Then it struck me. Corporate behavior like I have described is infantile behavior. It’s the product of people who have limited social skills and unlimited egotism. Babies have a reason for being demanding little narcissists. They are virtually helpless as a result of a long complex evolutionary process. But our corporate cry babies are the product of something else. I’m not speaking of the parenting they received. That varies from individual to individual. They have been spoiled rotten by a society that gave them every advantage and demanded very little in return. No wonder they turn into amoral vicious bullies.
But how did we coddle them to the point where they became overpaid and overly powerful spoiled brats?
Think about it.
Our corporate crybabies screeched that they needed to be liberated from government regulation and then we would all share in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. So we eliminated virtually all the effective government regulation that evolved out of the wisdom gained from the Great Depression. And what happened? Think Enron, Countrywide, Bear Stearns, IndyMac and whoever else goes belly up on the day you read this. If you fire the bank guards and throw away the security alarms, you are going to attract bank robbers. I don’t think that’s too hard to understand.
And of course don’t forget who lines up for multi-million dollar government handouts to "stabilize" the markets when bankruptcy strikes. Hint: it ain’t the single mom down the street with three kids and a bad divorce.
Our corporate crybabies sniveled that unions are bad and we had to get rid of them or they would take their companies far, far away and we’d all lose our jobs. So we let them smash a union legacy that took decades to build and allowed them keep some of the worst labor laws in the Americas. Well you know what? We now have some of the weakest unions in the so-called "developed world" and they moved their companies far, far, away anyhow.
Our corporate crybabies bawled their eyes out and whimpered that affirmative action was evil; that we were now a colorblind society and that the glass ceiling for women was a myth concocted by evil harpies from NOW. Really? Then why do the incomes of people of color consistently lag behind whites and the incomes of females consistently lag behind males? You can go look up the statistics. They’re not exactly locked away in a vault. And don’t give me that bullshit that it’s because "they don’t want to work". Every time some sweatshop or big box store announces they are hiring, people of all colors and genders line up for blocks even in subfreezing weather. Some show up days before and live in tents so they’ll be first in line to get applications.
The funny thing is, even though females and people of color are still at the back of the economic bus, white male workers aren’t exactly riding the gravy train. Incomes have been stagnant or declining for working class white males for quite a while. These racial and gender inequalities have impoverished and divided us so badly that we can’t even discuss the problem without screaming insults at each other. The ugly election year we’re having should be proof enough of that. Maybe that’s what the corporate cry babies wanted for us all along.
Our corporate crybabies wailed that their taxes were too high, that innovation was being strangled and investment was mired in excessive government spending. So we cut their taxes…and cut them again…and cut them some more…ad nauseum. Now levees fail, bridges tumble into rivers, trains run off the tracks, sewage systems leak waste, hospitals turn away sick people and some schools can’t even afford toilet paper. As we dodge potholes on our battered bicycles or in our second-hand cars, we’re supposed to be grateful for a tax rebate that wouldn’t even buy an evening in the fancy private clubs where our corporate crybabies go for escape.
Admit it people, we gave them the keys to the economy and they went on a late nite joy ride and wrapped it around a tree. It’s time to take away the keys and institute some adult supervision. I won’t lie to you. I’m a socialist. I think everyone should be middle class and that the productive wealth of a society should be owned by working people. I also know that most Americans think that’s crazy, impractical and downright un-American. So for now, let’s compromise. Here are a few stop-gap ideas.
How about we pass some strict laws to regulate our so-called "free market" so that greed stays within reason. In baseball you’re not supposed to run around the bases knocking down the infielders with your bat. Games need rules and umpires. So do markets. Lets give some real enforcement power to those Washington regulatory agencies that our corporate crybabies have been evading like an NFL wide receiver. Let’s bring our labor and civil rights laws and their enforcement into the 21st century so we can raise living standards and equalize the racial and gender gaps.
As for taxation, we need to raise taxes to levels similar to what they were when Elvis first burst on the scene and people wore "I Like Ike" buttons while spinning hula hoops around their hips. Corporations survived the high taxes of the Republican 1950′s just fine.
All of us should organize into unions at our workplaces, not only to improve working conditions and get some real political clout, but to become watchdogs sniffing out the corporate shenanigans that may be happening in our own backyard. Organize, learn to trust one another and apply some adult supervision starting right at your own workplace. Discipline begins at home right? Unions are also a good place to hash out our racial and gender differences."Solidarity Forever" needs to be more than just a slogan or the corporate crybabies of the next generation will be back in their hi-chairs running this country into the ground.
Finally our corporate crybabies have convinced us that we need to invade other peoples’ countries, steal their resources and treat their citizens as cheap disposable labor— all for the benefit of—- guess who? We send our largely working class military to do the dirty work as America falls apart and soldiers come back in body bags and wheelchairs. No way. Never again. Seriously, when is the last time you saw a corporate crybaby struggling through painful rehab at one of our understaffed and overcrowded VA hospitals?
Not only do we have to take away their keys to the economy, we have to take away their guns as well. Our military personnel are not the private security guards for Big Oil, Big Whatever or any other corporate crybaby. Reorganizing our military so it defends our country and not our corporate crybabies would save a lot of lives and a serious amount of money.
It’s up to us. Working class people need to use their political rights to get some say over how the economy is run. We’re the majority in this "free market" and its about time we started acting like one. No one else is going to apply the adult supervision needed in this country. It’s even possible that with enough discipline and a lot less coddling, some corporate crybabies might even learn to be mature productive responsible individuals. Miracles do happen.