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I don’t know how much of the devaluation of labor either technology or monopoly explains, in part because there has been so little discussion of what’s going on. I think it’s fair to say that the shift of income from labor to capital has not yet made it into our national discourse. Yet that shift is happening — and it has major implications. For example, there is a big, lavishly financed push to reduce corporate tax rates; is this really what we want to be doing at a time when profits are surging at workers’ expense? Or what about the push to reduce or eliminate inheritance taxes; if we’re moving back to a world in which financial capital, not skill or education, determines income, do we really want to make it even easier to inherit wealth? As I said, this is a discussion that has barely begun — but it’s time to get started, before the robots and the robber barons turn our society into something unrecognizable.
But let’s keep in mind the choice Schnatter is really offering us. By avoiding the health care reform law through paying less to his employees as a result of cutting back their hours, Schnatter is only increasing the costs that you and I pick up when his employees—having no health insurance—show up at the emergency room for basic care because they have nowhere else to go. Thus, while Mr. Schnatter is deeply distressed by the notion of taking some responsibility for the health of the very employees who make his business work so that he can earn millions, he is perfectly happy to have you and I subsidize his profits by allowing us to pick up the cost of health care for his workers because he will not.
During an April meeting, Bangladeshi suppliers reached out to retailers of their garments with a plan that would help upgrade their facilities to make them more fire-proof — other retailers approved the plan — only to have it fall through when Wal-mart and the Gap refused to pay higher prices to make such upgrades feasible.
Details of the meeting have emerged after a fire at a Bangladesh factory that made clothes for Wal-Mart and Sears Holdings Corp. killed more than 100 people last month. The blaze has renewed pressure on companies to improve working conditions in Bangladesh, where more than 700 garment workers have died since 2005, according to the International Labor Rights Forum, a Washington-based advocacy group.
At the April 2011 meeting in Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital, retailers discussed a contractually enforceable memorandum that would require them to pay Bangladesh factories prices high enough to cover costs of safety improvements. Sridevi Kalavakolanu, a Wal-Mart director of ethical sourcing, told attendees the company wouldn’t share the cost, according to Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign, who attended the gathering. Kalavakolanu and her counterpart at Gap reiterated their position in a report folded into the meeting minutes, obtained by Bloomberg News.
“Specifically to the issue of any corrections on electrical and fire safety, we are talking about 4,500 factories, and in most cases very extensive and costly modifications would need to be undertaken to some factories,” they said in the document. “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.”
Wow that is some effed-up cost/benefit analysis. I’m not sure what the correct policy response from the wealthy industrialized countries buying the output is, here. Tariffs on goods produced at factories without safety audits, possibly? Obviously there needs to be something done to fix this system but it’s hard to think of a way of doing so that would be feasible to enforce. (via jakke)
An effed-up, but not uncommon calculation. In order for goods to be cheap, human lives have to be devalued.
America’s Internet started out as No. 1 in speed. It now ranks 26th, far behind the networks in Bulgaria, Ukraine and Lithuania. Americans pay the sixth highest median price in the modern world for Internet data — 16 times the rates paid by South Koreans, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Just as serious is the problem of coverage: in France, South Korea and other modern countries a superfast Internet is or will soon be available everywhere. In America, AT&T’s fiber optic lines stop short of homes and small businesses, while Verizon plans to end its fiber-optic installation work once it reaches 18 million residences. As of now huge parts of the United States will never get on the information superhighway but will rather slog along on the digital equivalent of a country road. This presents a genuine economic threat to America: the future industries and jobs that require a universal ultra-high-speed network, after all, will most likely be developed somewhere else.