I’m not the first whiny bitch to notice that working in this country overwhelmingly sucks.
While many people out there do their best to make it look like the economy is booming, I would like to present a different sort of argument.
An argument from an actual economist, and not your Uncle Greg who has had the same job for 25 years and doesn’t know what Microsoft Excel is.
Take a walk with me. I want to ask you some big fucking questions.
If our economy is secure, why did many of our major corporations need to be bailed out after almost crashing in ‘08?
If our economy is healthy and sustainable, why did it crash in the 1930s, crash in 2008, and average a downturn every 4-7 years in between?
Why does every president run on the platform of taking us out of some kind of economic lull, if our economy is so damn skippy?
If you can do so without stabbing yourself in the fucking leg with the nearest sharp object, think back to the last presidential election. So much absurd shit happened that I 100% don’t blame you if this slipped through the cracks. I didn’t even consider it until Professor Richard D. Wolff, the “actual economist” I mentioned, brought it up.
“The world is being destroyed by individuals who are making over 350 times what their workers do, as they alone benefit off of a system which requires massive instability and inhumane inequality. “
There are a lot of narratives attached to politicians, and not all of them are true. According to the common leftist narrative, hadn’t our economy flourished since the crash under Obama? Hadn’t everything improved under him? Isn’t Obama an A+ stand up guy with an administration that didn’t sic drones on defenseless Middle Eastern children? More people weren’t being deported from America than at any time in history at all, right? Hadn’t America become safer? Our president was slow jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon. Everything was great!
Then the 2016 election came on stronger than the black fucking plague, and suddenly that narrative goes up in smoke and we’re living in some kind of jobless Hunger Games style hell with enemies on every front.
Outside of the drama, and going straight for the numbers, had things actually gotten better or worse under Obama?
No shade, no tea, how have things been going for the average American person and family in this economy?
In a word: shitty.
In a bunch of words: Over the last 10 years there has been an overall decline in the standard of living. Half of those that lost their jobs during the crash have rejoined the workforce with shittier jobs that don’t offer security, benefits, or livable pay. The other half haven’t even bothered to go back, and many have turned to illegal shit to stay afloat in this late capitalist hell world.
The median income of the vast majority of families today is lower than it was 10 years ago. Unless you are obscenely wealthy or dealing drugs, there is a good chance that your wages have stagnated.
So, in other words, capitalism is functioning exactly as it is supposed to. The rich are getting richer. Did you know that the 68 richest people on earth have as much wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion collectively? If you’re lucky, your wages are stagnating. If you’re unlucky, you’re dying of a treatable illness in the same country where Bill Gates is on his way toward becoming the world’s first trillionaire. If you’re even unluckier, you are one of the people being tortured putting his shitty computers together.
I promise, we are gonna get to how we can potentially fix this, but before we can get to the fix, we gotta understand the problem. What is at the heart of this system which enables a sort of weird reverse socialism, where corporations get bailed out over and over when they’re sick, but my mom’s first thought upon getting diagnosed with breast cancer was, “ How am I gonna keep working through chemo so I can pay bills?”
How come no one out here is calling AIG a welfare queen for taking EIGHTY-FIVE-FUCKING-BILLION DOLLARS OF TAXPAYER MONEY to stay afloat, when a single mom can’t buy fucking diapers for her kid with food stamps?
It’s because of how corporations are run.
If you’ve ever done any work for a corporate employer, whether that’s Panera Bread or Geico, you know that you do what you’re told, and that’s it. There’s a lot of decisions that are made, but depending on how big the company you work for is, you probably don’t know who’s making them. In fact, there’s a decent chance it seems like no one knows. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and the brains of the company are so far removed from the hands, that occasionally they seem to fucking slice a fingertip off out of sheer whoopsy-daisy!
What you earn isn’t decided by you, what you work on isn’t decided by you, and what is done with the money you earn isn’t decided by you. And it’s not decided by your manager. It’s not decided by the district manager. Who makes these calls?
The board of directors and the shareholders make all of those calls. Depending on the size of the corporation, that may be 10-20 people tops, making decisions that affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, with no checks or balances.
If these 10-20 people decide that they would make more money destroying the environment and destroying entire cities (LOOK AT FUCKING DETROIT MOTHERFUCKERS) by outsourcing, automating, relocating, or employing slaves, they’ll do it. They’re doing it right now. They used to shove little kids’ fingers in heavy machinery in the 1800s before a bunch of gay snowflake socialists got pissy about it and made them stop grinding up children’s hands for profit.
Unsurprisingly, despite doing none of the actual work themselves, these people continue to elect skimming more and more out of their company’s overall profits for themselves, at the expense of their workers, their country, their fellow humans, the environment, and the world itself, year after year.
The world is being destroyed by individuals who are making over 350 times what their workers do, as they alone benefit off of a system which requires massive instability and inhumane inequality.
Many Americans will tell you they live in a democratic country. Does your life and livelihood being controlled entirely, by give or take a dozen strangers, with zero accountability, sound like a fucking democracy?
So, now that I’ve confirmed that we are in fact living in a dystopian hell (chances are if you even read this far you agreed already, probably) how the fuck do we come out of this?
Is it by voting?
The uber wealthy have corrupted our government so extensively that even long after America has sunk into the polluted swell of the rising sea, Mitch McConnell will still be trying to repeal Obamacare on the behalf of his donors on that Texas-sized pacific trash island.
That will be his home. He will rule it with an iron fist.
Despite ruling the island, standing in a clam shell of discarded six pack rings like a saggy Venus, jowls quivering with desperate seafoamy froth, he will still be unable to repeal Obamacare.
Is it by armed insurrection?
If I said yes, I’d be put on a list.
They’d come for me.
What if I told you there was middle path here, between trusting the process and dismantling the process, board by board?
I mean, maybe.
It turns out, there is a whole other way to do business, where workers democratically decide what work is done, and by who, and how the profits and resources are used and distributed. The people whose lives, and families, and health depend on the decisions, get to have an active hand in making them. They aren’t decided by a coven of far removed enclaves of money obsessed sociopaths, who don’t care who dies or suffers as long as the piles of money they don’t use continue to grow.
IT’S CALLED A CO-OP.
A MOTHERFUCKING COOPERATIVE.
And if you think that’s some high falutin’ theoretical shit, a bunch of hippies decided would be nice mid orgy, but no one has ever actually managed to accomplish, YA WRONG.
SO SUCK IT ADAM SMITH YOU MOTHERFUCKER.
You might think I’m being too hype about this. Listen, I’m a dramatic bitch. But I’m a dramatic bitch because there is a whole other system by which we can conduct business and thrive, that doesn’t crash, that doesn’t burn, and that doesn’t enable the suffering of billions for the pleasure of the few.
Like, do you really buy that an unstable and inhumane economic system, that tortures most of those living under it, is the best we can do? Do you think that a way of organizing production, where billions of people are helplessly subjected to the whims of a few hundred, is the sole option?
Is that really what you want?
Let me tell you a tale of two Spains.
Spain Uno: Livin’ la vida late capitalism. You can still get an AirBnB in Barcelona for a week for the cost of a piece of cruelty free gochujang glazed soy bison in a Brooklyn pop-up bar. The country spent over a decade in economic crisis. It looks like it’s just starting to come out of it, but that’s how capitalism functions. It booms, it busts. It has casualties. Over and over again.
Spain Dos: Mondragon Corporation. This massive co-op, in the Basque region of Spain, includes industry, finance, and retail enterprises. The co-op member-workers own and direct the decisions which affect their own lives and their business. They democratically elect their representatives within the business. So instead of a boss hiring workers, MC worker-members collectively hire and fire their boss equivalents. They democratically make decisions and rules.
For example: Top paid worker-members can earn no more than 6.5 times more than the lowest paid workers.
Unlike in America, where there is no ceiling, and CEOs earn over 350 times what their lowest paid workers do.
AND THEY ARE ONLY GONNA FUCKING MAKE MORE NEXT YEAR.
Mondragon Corporation is no joke. As of their 2010 annual report, they employed 85,000 worker-members. It’s the largest corporation in the Basque region, one of the top ten largest corporations in Spain, and has grown every year since 1956, all while enabling greater stability and income equality than capitalist Spain, which hit unemployment rates as high as 25% a few years back.
And Mondragon isn’t alone. There are so many successful co-ops that you can check out a list of the top 300 most successful ones globally, if you like.
All of them are doing better than Bear Stearns.
I’m just one person, and so are you, but there are things we can do to reject capitalism that are effective without being extreme.
You don’t have to set yourself on fire. You don’t have to seek refuge in the woods and eat only what you can forage with your bare hands.
Unless you fucking want to. In that case, eat all the rocks you want, bruh.
There’s practical shit we can do to take back the power the wealthiest have taken from us. This isn’t about arguing purity or ideology or any of that shit. It’s not about neoliberal prick waving.
Here’s what we can do.
We can start co-ops, we can work for already existing ones, and we can opt to spend money at co-ops, rather than businesses with traditionally exploitative corporate structures. Most co-ops look exactly like regular businesses from the outside, so you can get the same bananas you would at your typical corporate grocery store, for example.
Do a Google search, my friend. Start small. See what is in your area and pick one thing in your life to shop co-op for. See what is within your price point and fits into your lifestyle.
It’s not gonna happen overnight, and it’s not gonna be easy, but each and every one of us doing what we can, to further a vastly more ethical alternative to capitalism, is a matter of fucking survival.
Also, the fact that co-op bought bananas are actively fucking over rich people that would step over your dead body on the way to their meeting with their hedge fund manager, makes them taste even sweeter.
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Isadora Teich is a freelance writer and traveler. They’ve written social media copy, tabloids, news, erotica, opinion pieces, quizzes, have worked on film scripts, and do some ghostwriting from time to time. Isadora lives for artistic experimentation and is working on a novel.