for profit: The new slave labor
By Mike Krauss
In the decades after World
War II the American people built up the greatest and most broadly shared
prosperity the world had ever know. That immense wealth attracted admirers.
Millions wanted to be a part of it. Others wanted to own it.
Now, that wealth and the
political power that goes with it are grotesquely concentrated among an ever
smaller number of American citizens, in a way to rival the Roman aristocracy of
ancient times or the European aristocracy which the first Americans threw off.
Democracy itself is
And the soul-less predators
among the 1 percent want more, and are flexing their political muscle to get
it. Like the remorseless killer of the James Bond movies, for them, "the world
is not enough."
Their next acquisition is
the hard assets of the American people. Their siren song is "Privatization!"
The first target was
carefully chosen: prisons.
Who cares about prisons,
right? I mean, they're full of criminals. But that is not how Wall Street sees
prisons. They see a cheap and captive labor force.
And state by state, city by
city, county by county, American prisons are being privatized and the prisoners
put to work for their new owners, making an astounding array of products that
are sold into the American market, to take market share and help drive down the
wages of honest labor.
Prisoners are "paid" at
about $1.25 per hour, to be spent in the company store; like the coal miners in
the company towns of Pennsylvania and elsewhere until the mid 20th century.
Off-shoring has been done.
Now, we can in-shore cheap labor. And don't forget illegal immigrants. Wall
Street hasn't. The ones who get into the labor force drive down wages, and the
others we can round up to keep the cells full and the private prisons profitable.
Hotel rooms, airline seats,
prison cells -- same profit and loss dynamic. Keep occupancy high and costs low.
High occupancy is achieved
by (What else?) an army of lobbyists and campaign contributions, to insure ever
more draconian prison sentences for non-violent and even minor offenses. When
that fails, judges can be bribed to keep the cells full, as they have been in
Here is a how the CEO of
one of the big private prison companies might explain cost control to a manager
of one of the prisons they operate:
"You spent how much on blankets, clothing, food
and medical care? And what the hell is this Internet access learning stuff?
Rehab? These jerks aren't going anywhere. We're gonna keep "em right where they
are, filling the cells. Look, I'm not about to lose my bonus because you can't
keep costs down. You wanna' keep your job? Then get those costs down. And I
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Author of the forthcoming novel "Pursuits of Happiness," a director of the Public Banking Institute and chairman of the Pennsylvania Project. Mike is an international transportation and logisics executive with broad experience in U.S. government (more...)