Ok, maybe not the real end, such as the Mayan Calender running out so we’re all going to go “pfft!” some day, but interesting national stories that do show that, essentially, we as individuals have little real power to protect ourselves against the corporate masters increasingly turning themselves into feudal lords.
Consider this story in the NYTimes (click!) about a woman who had a “angus select” hamburger and was paralyzed by the resulting e-coli which, the story makes clear, even following FDA food preparations guidelines might not have prevented because the stuff is so dangerous.
I was struck by several things in the story — the comparisons to practices in Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” are inevitable and reasonably accurate. The statements by the head of the FDA that he can’t require better testing because it might make things hard for the industry, and he can’t do that, of course. Which raises the question, who’s on our side if our own govenrment doesn’t put our safety first?
One thing the story doesn’t say out loud, but should, is the fraudulent use of the word “angus” to describe that meat — Angus cattle allegedly taste better, and you see it hyped all over, with “angus burgers” costing more than regular ones, although I can’t tell any difference. As we see in this story, so-called “angus” cattle are never mentioned in the supply line, and who can tell the breed of all those scaps and leavings they mix together, dose with amonia and then package up all pretty?
Makes one swear off hamburger – or at least only buy hamburger from a butcher who makes it himself.
Another story is this one also in the NYTimes, about the Simmons Mattress company and its fate, facing bankruptcy, after being the subject of 20 years of financial manipulation by the captains of the financial world.
Essentially, the company was bought and sold by a series of investment firms who piled the company with the debt they’d used to buy it, then turned around and sold it to someone else who also piled on more debt to buy it — a mirror of the housing market, using the same idiotic assumption that value would always go up so it was Ok to keep milking the process.
The victims in all this were the employees who actually made the product, of course. All these managers managed to make the company look good on paper, for a while, and they lined their own pockets. It was all a Ponzi scheme, however, that broke down the minute the housing bubble burst and all the paper profits inflating everything disappeared.
What does this mean for us? Newspapers around the country were bought and sold in a similar process that has now left them so loaded with debt that they can’t react to lean times the way a company could if it were properly managed with an eye to protecting not only the stockholders but the employees. Housing market? We all know how that went, and is going.
The entire nation went on a borrow-and-spend bender, and these are all just symptoms. Getting back to responsible financial practices is going to take time and dicipline. Meanwhile, as this story makes clear, the captains of industry are already trying to find other ways to mile Simmons of more money. And, heck, why not? The process worked for them. It’s only workers who lose jobs, and who cares about them?