Much to the chagrin and disappointment of many people I know, I have long advocated making it illegal to sell off our factories to countries overseas, as well as making it illegal to outsource employees to other countries, or allowing nationals of countries which do not allow non-citizens to purchase property to buy property in the U.S. “In the global economy, this is just not feasible” is a common argument. Yes, we do live in a global economy, but there is something fundamentally wrong about hiring people on the other side of the world to work graveyard shifts when the jobs can be done by Americans here at home.
Economically, the U.S. has moved away from being a country which manufactures, allowing employees to earn a decent living, to one which provides services. Service jobs are often low-paying, back-breaking, and provide little in the arena of personal growth and achievement. Essentially, many are a form of modern slavery, without the dirty word attached to it. Temp agencies hire and fire multitudes of people, working them in conditions which seem similar to those found in the German concentration camps, but instead of sending them to gas chambers, the employees get written up and fired. Demoralization of the individual appears to be the norm. Here are some links about life in the giant warehouses sprawling over the country:
- Jonathan Kay: What the gruelling lives of e-commerce warehouse workers tell us about capitalism’s crisis
- I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave
- A Visit to the Warehouse of Soul-Crushing Sadness
- Inside Amazon’s Warehouse: Lehigh Valley workers tell of brutal heat, dizzying pace at online retailer
- The Secret Lives of Amazon’s Elves
- The New Blue Collar: Temporary Work, Lasting Poverty and the American Warehouse
And lest you think that European employers carry the same standards to the US as they have in Europe, consider the Ikea workers:
On the other hand, with cutbacks hitting national and state parks, this is something to consider:
To my American eyes, the benefits provided citizens of many countries appear very good. Health care is a primary example. Here, if you have money or insurance (good or bad), you can get care, but it can cost you an awful lot. If you are poor, it may be available, but the wait can be long and often far away. People decry Obama’s healthcare, and voted away the Clinton administration’s plans, yet we have workers who are not able to afford healthcare, despite working 40 or more hours a week, and who are on welfare and getting public assistance. These same workers are worse off than they were five years ago, but are told they are societal leeches for not finding work. However, the vast amount of temporary workers keeps unionization from easily happening because of the turnover rate of employees.
Can we afford these changes? I don’t think so. However, the fact is, the world is changing, but does it mean we are going to become a big, nameless blob of ants and worker bees, and trample one another in the rush to get a job which destroys all we have to offer? This is something to ponder. I cannot but wonder about the overall condition of the average American worker.
In addition to abusing workers and taking advantage of high unemployment rates, we also have other capitalists who prey on the suffering by usury – that old-fashioned, Biblical term – of high interest rates for short-term loans. Predatory lenders are capitalists in a niche market, and pay-day corner stores are becoming very common.
Well, there are my thoughts for the day. I spent the morning walking in the shoes of the warehouse employee. My ostrich-self does not like to see this in my country, or elsewhere in the world, but this is the reality I avoid. This is one reason why I don’t like traveling to really poor countries – I have such a sense of guilt, and know there is little I can do to help others in need. I rant, but do not take action. I contribute to all this because I am a modern consumer, and my own wants create sweatshop conditions and modern slavery. My microcosm is safe and clean, but even it has its perils.