Friday, October 30, 2009

The Rape of America

If you're like me, you sorta do and you sorta don't understand why Wall Street and significant parts of corporate America are implicated in the destruction of the American middle class. You sorta get what all these high-level finance shell games have to do with unemployment, home foreclosures, closed schools and hospitals, but you couldn't really point to anything to explain it. Well, rejoice. Voila la explanation.

This should clarify a few things, and scare the hell out of you.

(Shortly after reading it, I sent $25 to Alternet for its fall fundraising campaign. Reason why? I don't recall seeing this story in the NY Times or the WS Journal or the Washington Post. And it occurs to me--again--that our ignorance is corporate America's bliss. I beg you to go and do likewise or better.)

It starts here, with cheap money (Greenspan's trademark low-interest policies):

In 2006, Pilgrim's Pride, then the second-largest chicken processor in the world, made a huge gamble that will seem familiar to anyone who's been following the financial crash: the company borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars, leveraging itself well beyond its means, in order to acquire a rival company and become the nation's No. 1 chicken processor, slaughtering 45 million chickens per week.

That might have given the executives a nice, big hard-on, but it also meant they would have to come up with more money to pay for all that debt. So the company did do what every post-Reagan company has done and gotten away with: it made the workforce pay for the executives' bonuses.

That meant squeezing lower-middle-class workers for more work for less pay, or in Pilgrim's case, more work for no pay: In August 2007, the U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Pilgrim's Pride accusing it of grossly undercompensating its employees. That same year, 10,000 Pilgrim's Pride employees launched a class-action lawsuit demanding compensation for their work.

The damage extended well beyond Pilgrim's Pride's plants. With bankruptcy came huge unpaid local tax bills, leading to further layoffs and reduced services for the already-beleaguered locals
But don't stop there. This is just the beginning.

The tale told here is straight out of The Shock Doctrine: political corruption, deregulation, leveraged debt, corporate bankruptcy, foreign ownership, and plant closings, all driven by insane greed--enable corporate and finance elites and a few billionaire families to plunder ordinary people to the point of destitution.

Only, guess what. The buzzard has come home to roost. This is in America, not Chile, or Venezuela, or the Pacific Rim.

This is a blow-by-blow script for how Pilgrim's Pride and Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase and Gold Kist and Merrill Lynch others executed a scorched earth profiteering scheme that has made Armageddon of two Alabama counties (see also AR and LA), and made billionaires of Bo Pilgrim and others like him.

Read it for your own survival. It's a true story about the rape of America, and it's coming to a town near you.