The iPhone workers in China are jumping out of buildings on purpose, taking their own lives because they can't take it anymore. These are the deleterious effects of capitalism in the world's second largest economy.
Foxconn, the company that makes the ever-popular iPhone, apparently is a fascistic company that treats its employees like dogs. Hours are too long, management is too rigid, and the assembly line too fast. Capitalism is all about making money-- and for this company, profits have been made at the expense of labor rights. Foxconn has had twelve worker suicides this year, and they've installed safety nets--yes nets--on their buildings to catch those workers who just can't take it anymore. The company has even increased wages.
But the real eye-opener was the contrived, half-baked, forced pep rally that it held in Shenzen, where 300,000 people work and most of the suicides took place. It's as if the company is telling its employees, "You'll be happy or else." Oh, what a piece of work they are.
Now, anyone can look at China's rapid economic growth and react with wonderment and awe. They have surpassed Japan, and are outranked only by the U.S.--for now. Plus, they are the largest owner of American debt at the better part of a trillion dollars. China shows what you can do with a little industrial planning, policy and guidance from the government.
But then again, many things are possible when you don't have those annoyances, those minor nuisances like environmental regulations, workplace safety, worker's rights, and democratic government. Chinese-style capitalism seems to be a purer form than its U.S. counterpart, and therefore a Republican nirvana, minus the part about government planning. And for now, we wait for a nascent labor movement to kick into gear and transform a country that responds to massive public unrest with military crackdowns.
While Chinese workers jump out of windows, Americans are dying as well. In the U.S., workers die on exploding oil rigs and in deathtrap coalmines because their regulation-hating employers want to maximize profits. And besides, they say, regulations are dumb. Consumers die from unsafe food because food companies want to cut corners. Just like the Great Depression days when people lacked a safety net, the unemployed, foreclosed and student debtor-prisoners of today are turning to suicide at an alarming rate, with an increase of calls to suicide prevention hotlines.
The jobless take their own lives at a rate two to three times higher than the general population. That could be a scary proposition in a nation that sanctions the corporate-sponsored proliferation of firearms. Meanwhile, all of this happens in a country where the chronically unemployed number as many as they ever did, yet the jobless are characterized by conservatives as lazy drug abusers that would rather have a welfare check than go to work. Let them work at McDonald's, as Glenn Beck would say.
In the face of predatory capitalism, totalitarian and other repressive regimes do not have to justify their oppressive policies to their public, and all dissidents face the barrel of a gun. But in the U.S.--which touts itself as the land of opportunity, yet ranks at the bottom of advanced nations in upward economic mobility--years of corporation-friendly policies have gutted the American middle class. The economy was transformed into a casino with no holds barred, and compulsive gamblers threw away the lives of hardworking Americans.
In the past eight years, black and Latino homeowners lost up to $93 billion and $98 billion respectively, the largest loss of wealth for people of color in this nation's history. And as 17 percent of Latino borrowers, 11 percent of blacks and 7 percent of whites either have lost their homes or are about to, there is scant distinction between poor and middle class, as we are all po' folks now. These days, it seems, everyone is having a black experience, save a relatively few lucky souls.
But there is a threat that too many of us have noticed the crisis already. So, the oligarch puppeteers just have to come up with something, anything, in order to obfuscate, change the subject, and hope that not too many people begin to truly understand the contradictions of a "free" and unequal America. Republican-owned media subsidiaries will have you fixated on the four "M"'s of Muslims, mosques, Mexicans and gay marriage as the source of all your woes.
In order to safeguard their financial interests and retain their wealth, right-wing billionaires become purveyors of ersatz populism, setting up phony-baloney Tea Parties and other front groups because "this right-wing, redneck stuff works for them."
And as the low-information voters with short attention spans fight over the trivialities and distractions--poor shlubs that they are, devoted to an Islamophobic "news" network whose Saudi co-owner funded the very mosque they repudiate- business lobbyists fight to keep those same folks poor and dumb and make the wealthy even wealthier.
Capitalism is killing us, with the exception of the handful of capitalists who thrive because they successfully pimped the system and bought the corrupt politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike. They own the system now, but it is time for new ownership.
>David A. Love is the Executive Editor of BlackCommentator.com, and a contributor to The Progressive Media Project and theGrio. He is based in Philadelphia, and is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. His blog is davidalove.com.