Capitalism: The New American Plantation

“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The western capitalist system under “trickle down” economics is eerily similar to the plantation model of early America. While on the surface this may seem a rather dramatic assertion, and in-depth analysis reveals that the same dynamic that gave us slavery is alive and well today as it was in the 18th and 19th century. The numbers don’t lie.
There is no doubt that greed is a powerful motivating force and often results in success. Trickle down economics has been long touted as a justification for corporate greed. It is a bill of goods sold to the public based on the idea that if private companies experience an easing of tax burdens, they will share this windfall through higher wages and benefits paid to its workers. At least, that is how it is supposed to work.
While news programs parade a lineup of pundits and economic experts to weigh in on this concept, only rarely do we hear from the public — those who are supposed to benefit from this model of conservative thought.
After thirty years, shouldn’t we ask the American worker if the promise of “trickle down” riches has manifested as promised?
Instead, it would appear as if the subject is still up for debate, even though laborers have long since abandoned hope of anything positive and beneficial trickling down from the top.
According to the Department of Economic Affairs, wage growth of 2.7% has not kept pace with the cost of living which has grown at a rate of 2.9%. Income to the highest earners — the so-called “job creators” — has increased by a whopping 300%. This one statistic alone proves economic windfall never trickles down.
Instead of sympathetically painting corporate CEOs as providing much needed employment to millions of workers, we should call them what they are, contemporary plantation owners, or modern-day slavers.
Bear with me, this is no racial rant, but merely an economic one.
The plantation model consisted of the owner, and relatives he may have employed, supervisors that enjoyed many more benefits that the laborers for seeing that the work was being done, and the majority of the workers on the plantation who were the slaves. They had no say in the day-to-day operation of the farm, much like today’s corporate drones.
Slaves had no rights (the modern-day equivalent of the right to work), they were compensated with bare minimum to keep them alive, all while the owner reaped the rewards of their efforts. Modern day capitalism can’t even guarantee today’s workers the promise of a home and food after they work a full-time job.
Plantation supervisors (management) were given a living wage and treated with respect with the owner keeping all and exceeded profits. Like the contemporary workplace, nothing trickled down.
To better understand how we arrived in this sad state of affairs, we need to go back to the origins of worker compensation.
In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act established the minimum wage and was signed into law by Franklin Delano Roosevelt who said, “No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”
This Act, which is still on the books and has not been repealed, had the intent to establish the minimum amount paid to someone that worked full time in order to sustain a bare bones living.
Since Trickle Down Economics, the conversation has morphed into what should be paid for a “minimal skill” work under the guise that these are entry level jobs for workers still living at home who really don’t need to support themselves. Americans have bought into this lie by abandoning the belief that anyone who works a full-time jobs is entitled to be paid a living wage.
Ironically, the same people opposed to forcing corporations to pay a minimum wage also have a problem with those same workers receiving taxpayer funded assistance to bridge the gap between their earnings and what they need to survive. It would seem their argument is that the worker is at fault for not finding a better paying job, and they and their children should simply starve rather than force a multi-billion dollar corporation to pay a reasonable wage.
When individuals receive assistance, it is called a “handout”, an unearned entitlement under the guise that the worker is lazy and unmotivated. When corporations receive taxpayer money because they cannot experience the consequences of poor decision making, it is called a “subsidy.”
This needs to stop immediately. We need to redefine what it means to be a business owner in America.
The media like to call McDonald’s a “small business” even though to start one, you need over $1 million.
Business should not be defined as big or small by the number of workers, or how much those people earn. We must take into consideration the investment and the barriers to entering into an endeavor as an indication as to the scope of the enterprise. A small business should be defined as one accessible by most individuals.
A small business does not require a million dollar startup. On the off chance you have $330,000 lying around, you can make a deposit and hope to earn enough profit to pay off the rest of the money owed. The overwhelming majority of people do not have the down payment for a franchise, so let us quit calling McDonald’s a small business, once and for all.
Let us call it what it is. McDonald’s, like so many other franchises and corporations, is the contemporary plantation.
In most circumstances, McDonald’s only hires managers for full time positions so as to avoid paying benefits to its workers. The company promotes the idea that someone who flips burgers for a living should earn a living wage because it is a “minimal skilled” job.
You should take note that “minimal skilled” does not mean “minimal effort.”
On the plantations, slaves worked minimal skill jobs picking cotton, tobacco, corn or whatever crop was growing for harvest. Yet the plantation owner reaped bountiful profits off minimal labor skills and the slaves’ maximum effort. This is why working harder only makes the business richer, not the employees who produced the profits.
I ask you to ponder the question, should minimal skill jobs produce billions of dollars in profit while many of the workers are eligible for taxpayer funded assistance because they are not paid a living wage? McDonald’s makes, not earns, over five billion for profit dollars annually. Do you want to help support their employees basic living expenses with your tax dollars? This same question needs to be posed to WalMart and Amazon as well.
Not every franchise has startup cost this ridiculous, but if you investigate the nearest fast food restaurant near you, you will find it is owned by a corporation and not an individual. And most other large corporations mimic this model.
We need to stop accepting these false ideas from pundits and the media and start calling capitalism for what it is. . . a failed system which exploits workers and leaves too many Americans in poverty. We need to stop expecting politicians, greedy corporations, and their CEOs to do what is right by the American worker.
Remember, it took the longest and bloodiest war in the history of the United States to end slavery. The plantation model will not go quietly.

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Gene Smith

Gene Smith is a Chief Campaign Strategist living in Arizona. He is a Juris Doctor, and host of the podcast "Hanging With Uncle"

1 Comment

  1. […] who rake in 90% of this nation’s wealth. They fight for slavery by using Capitalism as the modern day plantation, by paying wages that are less than people can live with in […]

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