The Globalization of Poverty
For the sake of this discussion, I am going to differentiate between four broad categories of financially poor people. There are the disenfranchised, those without opportunity for one reason or another. These are the people who, for reasons of mental illness, lack of nearby resources and/or education, unstable government, etc., have no ability or opportunity to work. The next two subcategories comprise the Working Poor. Some of the Working poor are so far below the poverty line that they have no ability to support themselves, or to have any real discretionary income. This group requires some form of aid to supplement their income to the level of a basic living wage. The mechanisms are different in Capitalistic and Communistic societies, but the end result is the same: assisted living, medical, food. The rest of the Working Poor are making it on their own. They might not have enough discretionary income to buy everything they want, but the basic needs are covered, and with careful planning, mentoring, and cooperation, their children will have an opportunity at a better life than that of their parents. The last category of poor people are the self-sufficient. This is a broad group, ranging from those that live off the land in tribal fashion to those that live in a way that employs direct barter, and therefore have little need of money.
In a hierarchical system, each successive tier requires a lower tier to support it. There is something of a “carrot and stick” relationship that exists between the levels, and there is an element of mutual support, so the pyramid analogy is not completely accurate. The carrot that flows from the top down can be in the form of opportunity, like contracts, or salaried employment opportunities, or lower down the pyramid, charity. The stick is the example of the less-fortunate lower tiers. In order for a higher tier to exploit the one below, there has to be a successively lower tier to provide consequences of non-compliance. This is the real, non-altruistic reason behind some of those charity drives out there. We are coerced into supporting people who, as Sam Kinnison pointed out, live in non-viable places. Charitable support insures that they will breed another generation of needy individuals. The coercion is framed as a requirement to help those less fortunate because somehow, we should feel guilty for being more fortunate. Perhaps that is true in a way, if we pay our dues into a corrupt system that created this inequity in the first place. Ask yourself this: why can’t we send them U-Hauls instead of food as Sam Kinnison suggested? What corrupt mutual admiration society of governments and socially manufactured prejudices exist to prevent these people from leaving the hell-holes they are in? Hats off to Spain, by the way (/sarcasm). Nobody said this stuff was easy. The reaction of the Spanish Government and the EU to these asylum-seekers is both predictable and expected, as is the reaction of the US to Central and South American refugees. Why is that?
The United States has experienced outsourcing of unskilled, semi-skilled, and manufacturing jobs, first to Mexico, then to China. At home, some jobs have been depressed below the poverty line. Independent home and office cleaners, janitorial staff, and landscapers to name a few, have been replaced or “outsourced” to corporate firms. These companies hire untrained, and in some cases unreported workers at low wages and without benefits. These jobs are part-time, and advertised as “second jobs”, because they will not support an individual, let alone a family. The corporations that field such workers attempt to replace quality with quantity and speed. Everything sinks to the minimum acceptable level, including salaries. These are the “jobs no one wants”, because they are no longer compensated adequately for the workers’ time. Enter the “undocumented foreigner”. He can leave his family back home in squalor, live in barracks conditions with his peers, and still send enough money back home to make this lifestyle more attractive than slowly starving to death. Same pattern holds true in the case of factory workers in developing countries. In this way, for developed countries like the US, the lowest levels on the prosperity pyramid, those that have been all but wiped out domestically, go from being strict charity cases, or someone else’s problem, to being the ultimate exploitable bargaining chip in management’s arsenal against organized labor.
What happens when the Chinese workers develop the demand for luxury goods and disposable income? Well, then there’s the underdeveloped countries of Africa. Just as a farmer will keep one field fallow to increase its future production, the poor nations of Africa are being “kept” in an undeveloped state. Used goods, especially clothing, are being dumped there at an astonishing rate by scam charity organizations like Planet Aid. Local industry cannot compete. These countries are being kept undeveloped until the corporate powers-that-be are damned good and ready to exploit them. Every pyramid needs a bottom.
Next week: The Story of the Buffalo
Image from Spiegel.de. Related story here.