Growing up, a fox named Robin Hood stole from the rich and the powerful who found protection in the likes Prince John, a lion, and the Sheriff of Nottingham, a wolf. The Disney film used stereotypes of animals to portray the central aspect of the characters’ role in the plot and to show the young audience a lesson. Robin Hood runs afoul with the law but the cause is just. His theft from the well to do, while unlawful, is just because it attempts to ease societal unrest and the correct the wrongs done by terrible leaders.
Today, Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham exist in the presence of Wall Street and the ever capitulating Congress. No real person or entity could claim to be Robin Hood but the National Nurses United union comes close. They are demanding a financial transaction tax on Wall Street.
Nurses around the country rallied last week as a modern day Prince John dictated his thoughts to his sheriffs… Wait… Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase, testified to Congress. Yeah, that’s it.
Dimon’s company ran afoul last month when a trade cost the company $2 billion (and now could be upwards of $8 billion). Instead of testifying under oath like most people do, Dimon faced softball questions from people that depend upon the generosity of the likes of Dimon. They believe they must have the financial support of Wall Street types to run and win their re-election campaigns… badgering Dimon would harm their chances in November. I think some people call this “biting the hand that feeds you.”
Robin Hood’s crime was not one of stealing. The powers that be had already done that. The powers that be in today’s world readily steal from the working class each and every day. They’ve abused foreclosure laws to steal people’s homes. They’ve abused workers’ rights to steal people’s hard earned wages. And over the last few decades the process went nearly unnoticed and resulted in the greatest income inequality seen since the Great Depression.
The real crime of Robin Hood came because he dared to challenge the powers, he attempted to fix the ills of his community, and he did so in a way that embarrassed Prince John to no end.
A Robin Hood like character could be of great value today. Corporate powers turned our democracy into a mere symbol and took away the reality of rule by and for the people. We could see a shift of power if we implemented the financial transaction tax, as proposed by the nurses union.
The tax would raise about $350 billion a year and help curb speculative trading that drives up the price of gas at the pump for everyday consumers.
“In cities and towns across the country and around the globe, people are hurting,” said Matt Kavanaugh of Health GAP in a statement. “Millions have been pushed into poverty, our social safety net has been shredded, and the winnable fights to end AIDS, food insecurity, and environmental destruction lack the resources to succeed. By adopting the Robin Hood Tax in America, we could go a long way towards solving our nation’s, and our planet’s, most pressing concerns.”
Sadly, the Robin Hood tax would require the Sheriffs of Nottingham to buck their Prince John. It would endanger their campaign funds, crush their hopes of an even more lucrative job after leaving Congress, and harm their current standing.
Ultimately, it was King Richard’s return that saved Robin Hood and restored order for the people. Who could be King Richard in this modern day? The people? What would happen if we returned to our democracy by fully engaging in the process. Not just a few phone calls for a candidate or a small donation. I am speaking of a larger electorate taking part in this thing we call democracy. It may have started with the activism from the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street… but it will take masses calling for justice and accountability.
Our democracy will not be safe from Prince John and a corrupt Sheriff until King Richard returns… you know what I mean.
I am about to take off for a nationwide action by the National Nurses United union that calls for a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street. The events in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other major cities coincide with J.P. Morgan Chase’s CEO, Jamie Dimon testifying in front of Congress. The tax is a measly half a percentage point on trades but would have a huge impact on our country.
Check out the video below that features hard working nurses, actor Mark Ruffalo, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and more!
This past week my partner and I had to deal with possible bedbug problem. We discovered a few bites that resembled the one’s left by bedbugs – after a long day of an unscheduled spring cleaning we felt better. But the stress and anxiety certainly took a toll on both of us.
For those that visit or see us face-to-face – we do not have bedbugs and our apartment is really clean now!!
The whole thing started after I visited a few residents of an Austin neighborhood apartment complex. A local community organization brought the occupants together to force the company fix the deplorable conditions of the building. They include bedbugs, rats, cockroaches, weak flooring and only a few other complaints. One resident collected some of the bedbugs they must deal with and threatened to send the bottle to the property manager and the bank that is in the process of foreclosing on the building. No one wants to be held responsible for the conditions and thus no one will uphold their legally obligated duties to take care of the place.
The residents, many of whom recently moved in under false promises, already struggle to make ends meet. Austin, on the west side of Chicago, is already a poor neighborhood and anyone who has moved can attest to the fact that it is a costly venture – in both time and money.
Janelle Teague, a new resident, says she was not told of any of these potential problems. Weak spots in her hardwood floor were painted over. A spot just at her front door feels like I might fall right through when I place a little of my body weight on it. The picture below shows an out of order sign taped to the floor. Yes, the floor is apparently out of order but not enough to have it fixed in a timely fashion.
“We will not go quietly into the night,” says Teague. “We will not go without a fight; I have six children and cannot allow them to live in such conditions, while the people who run Peak Properties and BMO/Harris Bank live in the lap of luxury.”
Pamela Johnson, another newer resident, claims the property manager promised changes before she moved in. On her move in date she found her apartment without a refrigerator and a adjacent apartment flooding because of stolen piping.
“I have to stay up at night to make sure the rats don’t come out of the walls and bite my kids,” said Johnson. The baseboards in her apartment do not reach the floor leaving a large enough gap for bugs and rats to come in at will.
Both BMO and Peak Properties did not return calls for comment. A four year resident, Danny Barnes, says neither company wants to pay for the fixes. Barnes says the problems have only grown worse in the last two years, as a result he collected the bedbugs in a bottle. He plans to collect more in order to send them to the BMO/Harris Bank, Peak Properties, and the property manager.
These residents have little to no way to find justice. Moving out is monetarily impossible for many and merely leaves the problem for future residents, the court system tends to be slow and even more costly. The only way for them to see a resolution comes through the power of organizing. With the residents on one side, a community organization in an assisting role, and public support can give them enough leverage to force the bank and the property manager into action.
Luckily for us, we won’t have to experience anything like that (unless a series of unfortunate events strikes us down the road). We have a privilege of a middle class family. If our situation became dire we could count on either one of our families for help. We would have the resources to move. We have access (and will in future apartments) to a landlord that cares about our living conditions.
The legal system is supposed to level out those types of privileges but it sadly finds itself overwhelmed in its caseload and dependent upon having money for proper representation.
A new front of activism seems to have taken hold in recent weeks. Grassroots organizations that traditionally advocate for legislative goals and hold newsworthy protests in front of tax dodging corporations. Lately, the organizations teamed up to confront the global one percent on their own turf: during the annual shareholder meetings.
Faith leaders took the frontline at General Electric and a couple other meetings that I had the opportunity to witness.
Have you ever discussed economics with a libertarian? I once did and they argued back that everything is fair because both parties say thank you at the end of a transaction, resulting in a benefit for all. Such a simplistic viewpoint.
I am sure we have all experienced a regretful purchase or negotiation process. You might have felt the other party took advantage… you got shafted. While it happens and for the most part we learn from our mistake but it does not take away from the fact another person screwed you. They acted from a position of leverage and sometimes this leverage needs to be taken away through proper regulation and laws.
The complaint alleges the contractor took the workers to a squalid, overcrowded labor camp, where they were supplied with decrepit housing, illegal drugs and credit to make drug and other camp purchases at interest rates of up to 100 percent. When the workers received their pay each week from Bulls-Hit, money was taken from their wages to pay for their rent, food and weekly debts. As a result, the workers were left in a constant state of destitution, indebtedness and undue dependency on their employers. Workers were afraid for their safety if they tried to leave while still indebted and were effectively indentured to their work for Bulls-Hit.
Sounds like something out of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Sadly, for the workers involved, it added to the hell of their lives.
Ronald Uzzle, allegedly, made deals with men from homeless shelters in Jacksonville, Florida to provide them with drugs, housing, and money in exchange for their work on the Bull-Hit’s potato farm.
In the original piece Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice, is quoted:
This lawsuit exposes deeply disturbing labor practices that should have no place in modern agriculture, but that all too sadly are still employed by the most unscrupulous employers.
Both the contractor and the company could be held liable if the lawsuit is successful. They held the power in their hands and preyed upon fellow human beings that needed proper help. Not squalid living conditions, access to drugs, and forced indentured service.
The libertarian could argue both sides benefited and that maybe the drug part of the deal should be looked into. But this is not a deal between two parties in proper states of mind. It came from a place of coercion and desperation. The predatory aspect of the free market that they worship has no place in a country promising life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It’s a handout!
Tax from the hard working people and you give it to the lazy ones!
It’s my money! I earned it!
In the fight on taxes and federal spending, conservatives often throw these quick one-liners out into the argument. They skew the debate into something that they believe to believe theirs. Think of a child not wanting to share a toy.
Right now Democrats are trying to push for the Buffett Rule, setting a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on millionaires, yet Republicans want to cry socialism, theft, and anything that might stop it. Ugh! Hell, I hear the refrain – life’s not fair – thrown around as though that should justify the likes of Mitt Romney paying in less taxes than middle class Americans.
If you do well in America you should do well by America. Taxes are the price we pay for success in this country. If I made one million dollars I would happily pay 30 percent in taxes. I’d still have $700,000. It makes more sense then forcing working class people to pay 30 percent on a $30,000 income.
The argument about taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor should fall flat once you start thinking about it. This is not what happens. Mitt Romney’s tax bill did not get dispersed at the local unemployment office. It went towards education, roads, military, and many other functions of the federal government. Plus, paying taxes works. It keeps the economy moving because the public sector cannot stop functioning. The private sector causes the financial collapse and froze up lending for small businesses. The federal government kept people afloat with unemployment and food stamps.
Look at the latest study on the nation’s food stamp program. It reduced the poverty rate by nearly eight percent in 2009. It helps families of four making $22,000 or less in a year. The number varies depending on the size of the household but the program serves 46 million people.
Enrollment in the food stamp program grew substantially during the recession and immediately after, rising by 45 percent from January of 2009 to January of this year, according to monthly figures on the U.S.D.A.
The study, which examined nine years of data, tried to measure the program’s effects on people whose incomes remained below the poverty threshold. The program lifted the average poor person’s income up about six percent closer to the line over the length of the study, making poverty less severe. When the benefits were included in the income of families with children, the result was that children below the threshold moved about 11 percent closer to the line.
Positive movement. We should look at this and think about doing more, not less. Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum actually wanted to cut the program because of the nation’s obesity rates. Reality though, shows a different picture. This!
SNAP is not a welfare program. It is a wage supplement for people in our low wage economy and a nutritional supplement as well. Almost all the people who receive it are children, families and seniors. The program was designed to work with the economic cycle. When the economy, employment and wages go down, the number of recipients goes up. When the economy recovers and unemployment recedes, the number of people on the program goes down. It has always worked that way and is working very well now.
Foxconn workers endure long shifts, harsh working conditions, and no recourse to address these issues. You already know that if you read some of the news articles that have been written in the new year. All of it comes after 150 workers threaten suicide if conditions did not improve.
Shifts as long as 36-hours, rare access to bathrooms, no talking or sitting while working, and living quarters with at least a half dozen strangers. No wonder they are suicidal. It is no wonder why my Apple products, which I proudly tout, were more than likely touched by a suicidal worker in the manufacturing process.
One must ask if the CEO of Foxconn if he even cares about these workers when he calls them animals.
“Hon Hai has a workforce of over one million and as human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache,” said Terry Gou, chairman of Taiwan’s Hon Hai, the parent company of Foxconn.
This is not something lost in translation but part of a larger attitude towards replaceable parts in his company. Hon invited the director of the Tapei Zoo, Chin Shin-Chien, to speak and take part in the company’s annual review. General managers were required to listen to Chin’s advice on managing different animals with Gou’s support.
While Foxconn employees around a million people, the techniques to manage such a large workforce does not require advice from a zookeeper. Well, with Foxconn’s practices it might be true with the way they treat fellow human beings.
One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
The stuff dormitories are the cages while the assembly lines are the display areas for visitors. It is where the company makes the money. Here is what they would need to match.
The facility has 230,000 employees, many working six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks and many workers earn less than $17 a day. When one Apple executive arrived during a shift change, his car was stuck in a river of employees streaming past. “The scale is unimaginable,” he said.
Foxconn employs nearly 300 guards to direct foot traffic so workers are not crushed in doorway bottlenecks. The facility’s central kitchen cooks an average of three tons of pork and 13 tons of rice a day.
Foxconn Technology has dozens of facilities in Asia and Eastern Europe, and in Mexico and Brazil, and it assembles an estimated 40 percent of the world’s consumer electronics for customers like Amazon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung and Sony.
“They could hire 3,000 people overnight,” said [a former Apple employee]. “What U.S. plant can find 3,000 people overnight and convince them to live in dorms?”
The numbers, staggering; the conditions, horrifying. Factories like Foxconn struggle with a high turnover rate that can surpass 10 percent a month. All of this gives the factory, as well as the larger system enabling it, a license to abuse and mistreat people.
Gou would have been better served bringing in a manager of a factory farmer. He could learn how they breed and raise cattle, pigs, and chickens in tight spaces. They are pumped full of growth hormones to reach their weight goals and then led off to slaughter.
Granted, the workers are not slaughtered by Hon, general managers, or by anyone else. Their souls are beaten and bloodied until the will to live no longer exists. Each year the workforce turnover provides enough people to start fresh. The veteran employees leave maimed and marred by the experience.
All for cheaper products to sell us for higher profits. Apple currently sits on $80 billion in cash and garners $400,000 of profit per employee, not including the 700,000 Chinese workers who work for companies that Apple contracts with.
I don’t write this to bash just Apple or to highlight my hypocrisy. I write it to be a larger point of the consequences of globalization. When we fail to implement regulations in trade agreements we inevitably set up a system to harm the voiceless.
That’s the lesson I want to stress and I hope you can take away from this writing.
Workers more than likely received their first paycheck of the new year by now. Minimum wage earners’ first check was an astounding $26 higher, on average. At least in eight states. The other 42 were not as lucky.
More than a million minimum-wage earners in eight states saw an increase in their checks compared to the last one representing 2011. They are not going to get rich overnight but the increase will provide a small boost to the economy and provide them with a buffer when compared to last year.
Arizona ($7.65), Montana ($7.65), Ohio ($7.70) and Oregon ($8.80) bumped up the wages by 30 cents per hour. Full-time workers will receive an additional $624 over the course of the year. The Rocky Mountain state went up 28 cents to $7.64 for a $582 raise. Vermont saw a 31 cent bump to $8.46, meaning an increase of $645. Retirees may populate Florida but the minimum wage service workers received a 36 cent boost to $7.67. These workers will be spending an additional $749 this year.
Critics of minimum wage laws often cite concern of small business profits. Those in Washington will be paying an additional $770 a year for full-time workers. The 37 cent wage increase brings the minimum to $9.04.
These eight states currently outpace the federal law that sits at a measly $7.25 an hour. When adjusted to inflation, the 1968 wage was more than 33 percent higher than today, a full $2.60.
The increases, as of January 1st, comes from laws requiring the increase either by specific legislation or by indexing wages to inflation.
Even at Washington’s rate a full-time worker would be hard pressed to get by. Working year-round at 40 hours per week brings in just $18,803. Take out payroll taxes and the struggle ot make ends meet becomes even harder.
Before you say something about the wage being for teens or part-timers, allow me to throw out some facts. Just 14.4 percent work less than 20 hours a week. Full-time employees comprise 56.7 percent and 83.4 percent are at least 20 years old.
These are adults and people with families. These are people who rely upon their job to survive. These are people!
Increasing the minimum wage in the eight states mentioned above is a good start. But it is just that, a start.
© Aaron Krager 2008-2013 | Have any questions? Send me an email.