Freedom Rider: How the billionaires rule

Predatory capitalism has driven down wages and created a dystopia for workers.

President Calvin Coolidge said, “The business of America is business.” The expression is memorable because it always rang true. But nearly 100 years later an old trite saying has taken on an ever more terrifying meaning.

The ruling class wield their power more blatantly than ever. There is little effort to conceal their determination to rule over the people and to control the politicians who are now little more than their personal minions.

When the people get a little help, as happened with additional stimulus funds for the unemployed, politicians across the country took up arms for the ruling class and turned down free money just to stay in the good graces of their bosses.

Currently 25 states out of 50 have rejected additional help for the unemployed. The money came from the federal government and didn’t impact state budgets, but politicians know who calls the shots. When called upon to help struggling people they chose to do just the opposite. They helped their exploiters and, in the process, made a mockery of what passes for democracy.

There is no labor shortage in this country. Instead, there is a shortage of jobs that pay a living wage and that is because of the power of capitalists. They have grown richer precisely because they have forced workers to live in a constant state of precarity, and now it is quite literally better to stay home than to work for a pittance.

Of course, the richest man in the world, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, is a master at coming up with new ways to subjugate workers. Any reports of job growth should be viewed with a very jaundiced eye as predatory capitalism has driven down wages and created a dystopia for workers. Bezos has mastered squeezing the most and giving the least.

Amazon warehouse workers suffer from injuries at higher rates than other employees in similar jobs but the injuries are part of the cost of doing business. It is expected that the grueling working conditions will create high turnover which is exactly what Amazon wants. A revolving door of employees serves their needs quite nicely. Bezos made a big deal about a $15 per hour starting salary but he could certainly afford to pay a lot more, a real living wage. The tight-fisted billionaire who could potentially become a trillionaire got rich the old fashioned way. He cheats workers.

Bezos also comes up with new and ingenious ways to spread the suffering. Amazon Flex delivery drivers are hired by apps and fired by algorithms. They have no interaction with human resources or any humans at all and they must pay a $200 fee to contest terminations that are rarely decided in their favor.

Even when American workers lose their jobs they are still at the mercy of corporate giants. contracts with states to provide public access to web sites such as those used for unemployment claims. Their facial recognition software doesn’t verify everyone properly and desperate people wait days and weeks for their unemployment payments to arrive. As with Amazon there is no one to speak to for help. But state governments turn over millions of dollars to in order to cheat people out of benefits they have earned. Currently 30 states contract with to make sure that the most vulnerable are kicked while they are down.

The algorithm hirings and firings and the facial recognition technology problems are not bugs in the system. They are features. They are doing precisely what they are intended to do, keep workers poor, desperate, and at the mercy of capitalists. Cruelty is the point.

One might ask who speaks for the people. Workers in several states had their unemployment saved by court decisions but those are few and far between. Politicians are as blatant as their corporate bosses and openly side with them against their constituents.

There is no way to reform this system. Democrats and republicans are equally eager to act at the behest of corporate interests. The people either vote in hopes of change that never comes or are apathetic because they see that the odds are against them.

The workers who refuse low pay under dangerous conditions are moving in the right direction. Whether they know it or not they are potentially building a new movement. A general strike is what the country needs. Of course that is why the hammer fell in an attempt to nip any resistance in the bud and get the cogs back into the machine. But the direction we must move in is clear. There is no salvation from a Biden or a Harris or any other name being floated. The people will have to move in a different direction if they are to save themselves.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at and she regularly posts on Twitter @freedomrideblog. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)

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