Spending most of the weekend away from the computer, but I came across this absolute must-read and couldn’t resist passing it along.
(h/t Naked Capitalism)
Locking down an American workforce
by Steve Fraser and Joshua B. Freeman
27 April 2012
Prison labor as the past — and future — of American “free-market” capitalism
Sweatshop labor is back with a vengeance. It can be found across broad stretches of the American economy and around the world. Penitentiaries have become a niche market for such work. The privatization of prisons in recent years has meant the creation of a small army of workers too coerced and right-less to complain…
…Today, we are being reassured by the president, the mainstream media, and economic experts that the Great Recession is over, that we are in “recovery” even though most of the recovering patients haven’t actually noticed significant improvement in their condition. For those announcing its arrival, “recovery” means that the mega-banks are no longer on the brink of bankruptcy, the stock market has made up lost ground, corporate profits are improving, and notoriously unreliable employment numbers have improved by several tenths of a percent.
What accounts for that peculiarly narrow view of recovery, however, is that the general costs of doing business are falling off a cliff as the economy eats itself alive. The recovery being celebrated owes thanks to local, state, and Federal austerity budgets, the starving of the social welfare system and public services, rampant anti-union campaigns in the public and private sector, the spread of sweatshop labor, the coercion of desperate unemployed or underemployed workers to accept lower wages, part-time work, and temporary work, as well as the relinquishing of healthcare benefits and a financially secure retirement — in short, to surrender the hope that is supposed to come with the American franchise.
Such a recovery, resting on the stripping away of the hard won material and cultural achievements of the past century, suggests a new world in which the prison-labor archipelago could indeed become a vast gulag of the downwardly mobile.
Well, I guess this is one way to take care of our jobless nightmare! Can’t pay your bills? End up in jail with a “job”…with “single-payer,” all-inclusive health insurance, too!
Something tells me that I don’t think this is what most people are thinking when they hear the terms: “creative capitalism,” and “American ingenuity.”
Then again, I'm waiting for someone to write about this story with the headline: "Breaking: Millions of New Jobs with Free, Comprehensive Healthcare and Housing!" Uh, huh...