Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth! Millions of families visit the theme park every year to enjoy the magical place of rides, spectacular shows and cheerful cartoon figures. Everything is clean, perfect and joyful. Unless … you realize that Cinderella might actually be homeless. That’s right, 10% of Disneyland’s employees are actually homeless, many more are on food stamps, and 75% struggle to make ends meet.
Does this ring familiar? Think of America. Behind the façade of being the greatest country on Earth with the largest GDP and the wealthiest billionaires, there are tens of millions of Americans who are left behind just like Disney’s employees.
This neo-feudalistic model isn’t isolated to Disney or Walmart, it’s systemic. For example, the bus driver at Apple – which has $280 billion in cash – is forced to sleep in a van because he can’t afford the Silicon Valley rent; Facebook’s cafeteria workers live in a garage; and thousands of American Airlines’ employees are forced to depend on food stamps.
America is being eaten alive by corporate greed; and Disneyland has been taken over by Scrooge.
Let’s look at some Disney Inc. statistics.
Total profit per year: $9 billion
Total employees: 200,000
Notice that the profit reflects what’s left after all the expenses, including the salaries, have been paid. So, in a utopian world, the Disney management will do the math ($9 billion / 200,000 = $45,000) and send a check for $45K to every employee, Mickey included. That kind of profit-sharing would really make Disneyland the happiest place on Earth. Does that happen? No way!
Does Cinderella get a check for perhaps $20K, $10K, $5K or even $1K? Nope, nope, nope, nope. Cinderella gets nada, zero, zilch. She should be content with the $12/hour salary and must smile happily for the kids.
In Disneyland, Cinderella never gets to meet her prince.
Disney’s CEO gets paid $46 million a year, which translates to $23,000 an hour. Imagine Disney’s CEO coming to work on Jan 2nd. He wishes a few people “happy new year,” orders coffee, sits on his desk, makes a few phone calls … and he has already made more money than what Ariel would make during the rest of the year.
Of course, the CEO should get paid more, but does he deserve a salary that’s equivalent to 2,000 Disney employees? If the CEO doesn’t show up for work for a day, Disneyland will continue running. If 2,000 employees take a day off, the park would be shut down.
In the 1960s, the CEO-to-worker salary ratio was 25. Today it’s often 600 or more, sometimes even more than 1000 (for example, at Walmart). Much of the executive compensation comes in the form of stock options and bonuses based on stock performance. In a rational and unrigged world, the CEOs would increase their revenues and profits to get bonuses. Not anymore.
Now, the CEOs simply use a no-brainer solution to boost the stock prices – it’s called stock buybacks or share repurchases. This involves a firm using corporate profits (or even borrowed money) to buy its own stocks. BTW, this used to be illegal until the 1980s.
Since 2007, US corporations have spent trillions of dollars on stock buybacks. In 2018 alone, they will spend $800 billion on this financial engineering tool (which has also led to a massive stock market bubble). They won’t use the billions to hire Americans, boost wages or innovate new products. Instead, the CEOs will buy yachts and tell you that Chinese or Mexicans stole your jobs.
Do the low-wage employees of Disneyland get any shares or stock options? A silly question, indeed.
Thus we have a situation where American employers ruthlessly exploit American workers. This isn’t a good model for a country. China and Mexico don’t make us poor; predatory capitalism does.
Paying good wages to hardworking employees is not socialism or communism. Henry Ford understood this when he more than doubled the wages of his workers in 1914.
However, hundred years later, maximizing profit has become a fundamentalist dogma. You can imagine a conversation among the factory-farming executives:
Guy #1: Why the heck are these chickens roaming out in the farms? We would save so much money if we lock them up in cages.
Guy #2: Brilliant idea! Let’s lock up five chickens in a cage. We will save more. More is always better.
Guy #3: I really don’t understand why we feed them expensive salads and healthy stuff. Let’s feed them cheap GMO corn and GMO soy from my friends at Monsanto.
Guy #4: Experts tell me that if we give them caffeine and anti-depressants, the chickens will stay awake longer, eat more, and get fatter.
Guy #5: And when they get sick, load them up with antibiotics and steroids.
Guy #5: These stupid chickens are also so small. Let’s drug them with some growth hormones. I am getting a lot of pressure from the private equity funds about profits per chicken.
Apart from being inhumane and psychopathic, this system forgets or ignores the fact that we have to eat these chickens. Sick chicken = sick people. Call it Karma or “revenge of the chickens.”
Similarly, poor workers = poor country. And you can imagine a similar conversation among corporate executives regarding workers – “cut their wages and benefits”, “make them work overtime”, “hire part-time employees rather than full-time” and so on.
You can’t grow the economy if American workers don’t get paid enough, especially by profitable multi-billion dollar corporations. 2/3rd of our GDP is based on consumer spending. It’s no wonder that in the last ten years, the US economy cumulatively grew only by a dismal 35%. Compare that to China, which grew by an astounding 200% during that same period.
And it’s not a coincidence that China’s average wages have more than doubled in the same period:
The solution for low wages primarily lies in the hands of corporate elites. Labor unions are almost non-existent in the private sector these days; and the government doesn’t have much control over corporate America – in fact, corporations control the U.S. political system. Free market doesn’t have to translate to cancerous greed and extreme exploitation. Free market also means that corporations are free to share their profits with their employees. Finally, free market can and must also incorporate patriotism, responsibility to the society and strategies for sustainable prosperity.
About the Author
Chris Kanthan is the author of a new book, Deconstructing the Syrian War. Chris lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, has traveled to 35 countries, and writes about world affairs, politics, economy and health. His other book is Deconstructing Monsanto. Follow him on Twitter: @GMOChannel
By Paul Craig Roberts | SOURCE
Americans live a never-never-land existance. The politicians and presstitutes make sure of that.
Consider something as simple as the unemployment rate. The US is said to have full employment with a January 2018 unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, down from 9.8 percent in January 2010. https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000
However, the low rate of unemployment is contradicted by the long-term decline in the labor force participation rate. After a long rise during the Reagan 1980s, the labor force participation rate peaked in January 1990 at 66.8 percent, more or less holding to that rate for another decade until 2001 when decline set in accelerating in September 2008. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CIVPART/
Today the labor force participation rate is the lowest since February 1978, reversing all of the gains of the Reagan years.
Allegedly, the current unemployment rate of 4.1 percent is the result of the long recovery that allegedly began in June 2009. However, normally, employment opportunities created by economic recovery cause an increase in the labor force participation rate as people join the work force to take advantage of employment opportunities. A fall in the participation rate is associated with recession or stagnation, not with economic recovery.
How can this contradiction be reconciled? The answer lies in the measurement of unemployment. If you have not looked for a job in the last four weeks, you are not counted as being unemployed, because you are not counted as being part of the work force. When there are no jobs to be found, job seekers become discouraged and cease looking for jobs. In other words, the 4.1 percent unemployment rate does not count discouraged workers who cannot find jobs.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has a second measure of unemployment that includes workers who have been discouraged and out of the labor force for less than one year. This rate of unemployment is 8.2 percent, double the 4.1 percent reported rate. https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS13327709
The US government no longer tracks unemployment among discouraged workers who have been out of the work force for more than one year. However, John Williams of shadowstats.com continues to estimate this rate and places it at 22 or 23 percent, a far cry from 4.1 percent.
In other words, the 4.1 percent unemployment rate does not count the unemployed who do show up in the declining labor force participation rate.
If the US had a print and TV media instead of the propaganda ministry that it has, the financial press would not tolerate the deception of the public about employment in America.
Junk economists, of which the US has an over-supply, claim that the decline in the labor force participation rate merely reflects people who prefer to live on welfare than to work for a living and the current generation of young people who prefer life at home with parents paying the bills. This explanation from junk economists does not explain why suddenly Americans discovered welfare and became lazy in 2001 and turned their back on job opportunities. The junk economists also do not explain why, if the economy is at full employment, competition for workers is not driving up wages.
The reason Americans cannot find jobs and have left the labor force is that US corporations have offshored millions of American jobs in order to raise profits, share prices, and executive bonuses by lowering labor costs. Many American industrial and manufacturing cities have been devastated by the relocation abroad of production for the American consumer market, by the movement abroad of IT and software engineering jobs, and by importing lower paid foreign workers on H1-B and other work visas to take the jobs of Americans. In my book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism, I give examples and document the devastating impact jobs offshoring has had on communities, cities, pension funds, and consumer purchasing power. http://www.claritypress.com/RobertsCapitalism.html and
John Williams of shadowstats.com questions whether there has been any real growth in the US economy since the 2008 crisis that resulted from the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Williams believes that the GDP growth rate is an illusion resulting from the understatement of inflation. Just as unemployment is under-counted, so is inflation.
Two “reforms” were introduced that result in the under-measurement of inflation. One is the substitution principle. When the price of an item in the basket of goods used to measure inflation goes up, that item is thrown out and a cheaper substitute is put in its place. The “reformers” argue that consumers themselves behave in this way. Thus, they claim this practice is reasonable. However, the old way of measuring inflation measured the cost of a constant standard of living. The new way measures the cost of a falling standard of living.
The other reform is to classify some price rises as quality improvements rather than as inflation. The consumer has to pay the higher price, but he is said to be getting a better product, and so it is not inflation. There is some truth to this, but it appears it is over-used in order to report low inflation rates. Both of these reforms are suspected of being motivated by holding down Social Security costs by denying cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments to Social Security recipients
If inflation is under-measured, the use of the measure to deflate nominal GDP in order to arrive at real GDP leaves some price rises in the GDP measure. Therefore, price rises or inflation are counted as increases in real goods and services. John Williams suspects that most of the GDP growth reported since the alleged recovery is simply price rises, not increases in real goods and services.
The historically high stock averages are another feature of make-believe America. The high price/earnings ratios do not reflect strong fundamentals, such as high rates of business investment, strong growth in real retail sales fueled by strong growth in consumer incomes. The Federal Reserve has used an increase in consumer debt to fill in for the missing growth in consumer income for so long that consumers have no more room to take on more debt. Without growth in wages and salaries or in consumer debt, consumer demand cannot drive the economy and business profits.
What explains the high stock prices? The answer is the trillions of dollars the Federal Reserve has created in order to stabilize the large “banks too big to fail” and bail out their extremely poor investment decisions. All of this liquidity found its way into the financial sector where it drove up the prices of stocks and bonds, enriching equity owners and denying retirees any interest income on their savings. The values of financial instruments are supported by money creation, not by underlying fundamentals. Yet, the stock averages are treated as proof of economic recovery and America’s first place in the world.
As I said, it is never-never-land in which we live.
About the Author
Paul Craig Roberts has had careers in scholarship and academia, journalism, public service, and business. He is chairman of The Institute for Political Economy.
My website is committed to giving you the counter-narrative to the official BS you get from the presstitutes and the junk economists. Truth is hard to come by and is getting harder. If you support my website, I will continue to give you my best effort. donate: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/pages/donate/