Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Globalization of Poverty

Poverty has always been found anywhere there is civilization. What do I mean by globalization? I’m talking about using the working poor of one country as a bargaining point in salary negotiations world-wide.

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 Related story here.

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At 8:59 AM, Blogger concerned citizen said...

So the Salvation Army is criticizing Planet Aid?
Perhaps, the Salvation Army has some vested interest in doing so?
It is as much or more of a corporation as Planet Aid.

Poverty has been around forever. Or should we say the concept of impoverishment.
People who are not or have never been "disenfranchised" have no real zeal for intellectual freedom.
This is the power of the poor. call them needy individuals maybe...but it is ideas not money that ultimately moves mankind.

It is bullshit to think that money is most powerful.

At 5:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Planet aid is unabashedly commercial, taking the lions share of the proceeds - over 70%, and handing it over to a private concern, Tvind which has 860 million in assets. Less than 25% makes it to the charities they say they support.See here:

Yeah, it sounds like a great charity to me....


At 1:53 PM, Blogger Rev. Barky said...

There are no figures available for the SA - they are exempt from reporting what they do with their money, but since they are a religious org. they got to be all good, right?
It's amazing how much propaganda the SA puts out. Makes you wonder what's under the rug. I'm waiting for an expose'.

I think about this issue often. The corps just want to erase all the borders and pick out the lowliest workers they can get their grubby hands on. Upton Sinclair is spinning in his grave. The exponential rate of population will ensure a planet full of misery and horrific exploitation until it collapses on itself. I still think "Soylent Green" was a prophecy.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Romeo Morningwood said...

In Jared Diamond's book/series, Guns, Germs, and Steel, he comes to the conclusion that the Humans who got a leg up owe it all to Geographic Luck.

The Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia had all of the right ingredients: native species of herbivores that produced milk, meat,and leather and natural grains such as wheat and barley that were nutritious and storable.

Other humans in various parts of the world were equally intelligent but they just didn't have the resources that freed them up from a less productive nomadic, hunter gatherer way of Life. We needed flora and fauna slaves to get to the next stage!

If the West was to relocate all of "those poor people" where would we send them? They would have to vacate most of Africa.

In Guns, Germs, & Steel, Diamond showed how the Boer Settlers met their 'Waterloo' when they and their Temperate Zone (4 seasons)Animals and Crops tried to move North and into the (2 season) Tropics.

I wonder if we manage to move every human being into the Temperate Zones?

The global Corporations are taking full advantage of the sitch and you did a marvelous job of explaining your position. Sixty years later it is high time that we started REALLY helping them and slowing down their birthrate so that they have a chance to start catching up.

In a hundred years maybe the Kalhari Bushmen will be fortunate enough to build Las Vegas style towns in the middle of the desert and live in waterfront Garage-Centric Homes in the swanky new Suburbs.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

Concerned Citizen:

Um? Ideas like greed, that overextend institutions and overheat economies time and time again? Aw hell, we can always start a war, boost the economy and syphon off the cannon fodder at the same time. Can't see it from my back yard! What motivates ideas? What motivates bad ideas showing poor judgment?

Anon: The truth is out there.

rev barking nonsequitor: The pot might be calling the kettle black, but the fact remains, they're both black. Most of these religious organizations seem to troll for members among those at the end of their rope, with nothing to lose. In other words, the easy marks.

homo escapeons: There is a lot to be said for geographic advantage, but there is no such thing as luck. Geographic advantage can also lead to decadence, a false sense of entitlement, or just taking things for granted. That's why so many American success stories start with a matriarch or patriarch escaping from some other hell hole with 36 cents in their pocket.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger concerned citizen said...

What motivates ideas? I know this is going to sound disgustingly optimistic but I choose to believe it's hope & the desire for truth. & I suppose hope could be boiled down to just some kind of self preservation.

What motivates bad ideas showing poor judgment? misguided ideas of self-preservation.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger breakerslion said...

Concerned Citizen: Optimistic maybe, but not disgusting. Unfortunately, the quest for truth is one of those higher ideals, like the quest for equity or justice. These ideals go out the window when the preservation of self is threatened, or perceived to be threatened. This is how all manner of ideas get rationalized as being for "the greater good".

I will have to ponder your second statement a while. I think you might be on to something. "Self preservation" is a state of mind, in some cases. In recent events, OJ's robbery can be said to have been motivated by a perception of self that he was attempting to preserve.... Hmmm....

At 1:06 PM, Blogger concerned citizen said...

The "greater good" always dilutes the more concentrated individual idea. Believe it or not I learned this principal when I was a Christian. I asked our Minister who also a friend of mine to justify why the Sunday sermon was so shallow & often down right silly compared to some of our own conversations. He said it was because it had to appeal to a broader audience, a wide range of intellects & levels of understanding. I realized it basically had to cater to the lowest common denominator. That's when I decided I was better off thinking on my own.

Self preservation should not be a bad thing. It is perceived that way in most religious philosophies, though, when it makes the human being into an intrinsically flawed or sinful organism.

The problem with the O.J. saga is that it is difficult to see beyond the media hype...he has in a sense been created. I have a feeling he can't see beyond that himself. But of course there is a basic human being buried in there, as there is in all mythical heroes & villains. Television is just an extension of the Greek stage in this case.
So what is he preserving? The perpetration of a myth.

At 3:25 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

Concerned Citizen:

I couldn't have said it better.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Delta said...

This is a very nicely done post breakerslion, kudos.

What happens when the Chinese workers develop the demand for luxury goods and disposable income?

I don't think it's an issue of the Chinese workers developing the demand, it's them overcoming the obstacles that the ruling 'Communist' Party has put in their way. Currently the country is running in a capitalistic dreamworld where foreign companies can come in and completely exploit the workers and the workers are not able to organize themselves into independent unions as a response. This is due to the CCP claim that the Chinese live in a country where the government is 'ruled in the interests of the working class' and therefore there's no reason for them to organize themselves into unions, at least outside the official CCP-controlled ACFTU.


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