Monday, December 08, 2014

The Cost Shifting of Negative Externalities Lands Mostly on Those Least Able to Afford It

Photo from the LA Times
From a heart-wrenching LA Times story on Mexican farm laborers, here's the rest of the price of the cheap food--the part you're not paying:
  • Many farm laborers are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply. 
  • Some camp bosses illegally withhold wages to prevent workers from leaving during peak harvest periods. 
  • Laborers often go deep in debt paying inflated prices for necessities at company stores. Some are reduced to scavenging for food when their credit is cut off. It’s common for laborers to head home penniless at the end of a harvest. 
  • Those who seek to escape their debts and miserable living conditions have to contend with guards, barbed-wire fences and sometimes threats of violence from camp supervisors. 
  • Major U.S. companies have done little to enforce social responsibility guidelines that call for basic worker protections such as clean housing and fair pay practices.
Erik Loomis has an answer:
If wages are stolen, workers threatened, bathing facilities not provided, etc., then workers should have the right to sue for recompense in American courts. Subway, Safeway, McDonald’s, etc., must be held legally responsible for the conditions of work when people labor in growing food for them to sell.
If the food is cheap, someone paid something along the way--a subsidy paid by someone--that made it cheap. Either someone got underpaid, or had to work in horrible conditions, or some pollution went into the environment that causes someone illness or death. If we don't allow that to happen in this country, then why do we allow it to happen in some other country if that other country is shipping the product to us?

Next time someone tries to sell you one of these so-called free trade pacts, ask them about the cost shifting. If you're not paying, someone is.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Romans Spent Years Building, Nero Spent a Few Hours Fiddling

A different kind of crumbling being ignored by the GOP.
I'm sure Nero's fiddling sounded something like this:
"[Obama has] the worst record of any president when it comes to putting America deeper in debt.”--Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus
Steve Benen does his usual great job chipping through that old outcropping of bullshit.
...just last week, congressional Republicans pushed for a package of tax breaks that would cost $440 billion over the next decade. How would GOP lawmakers pay for this? They wouldn’t... 
President Obama has overseen the fastest deficit reduction seen in the United States since the end of World War II. For that matter, nearly all of the president’s agenda – Affordable Care Act, immigration reform, etc. – would actually improve the nation’s finances. 
...turned a massive surplus into a massive deficit, putting two wars, two tax breaks, Medicare expansion, and a Wall Street bailout on the national charge card, leaving the bill for future generations. 
...public debt grew under Reagan – who promised as a candidate to balance the federal budget – by 186%. 
...H.W. Bush increased the debt by 55%, Clinton by 37% (he’s the only modern president to see surpluses), W. Bush by 86%, and Obama by 59%.
Benen doesn't even mention that most of the debt accumulation under Obama can be laid squarely at the feet of GW Bush, as shown by this well-known-outside-the-conservative-bubble chart.

So, at a time when Republicans' precious free markets are screaming at us to invest in infrastructure (low fuel, materials, labor, and borrowing costs), we are, instead of borrowing and spending on infrastructure that more than pays for itself like any good CEO would do now, watching little corporate piss ants like Reince Preibus give millions of wingnuts a talking point to drop like a bomb while they run away from the real fight.

But the frame is set that Democrats are free spenders, so the GOP looks thrifty while the country literally crumbles.