Free market capitalism: Fortune 500 companies and privatized prisons have brought back ‘convict leasing’

Or you could call it prison labor, modern chain gangs, or even corporate slavery. You have to read this entire Salon article. It’s long but it’s so interesting and very disturbing.

Did you know,

The Corrections Corporation of America and G4S (formerly Wackenhut), two prison privatizers, sell inmate labor at subminimum wages to Fortune 500 corporations like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T and IBM.

These companies can, in most states, lease factories in prisons or prisoners to work on the outside.  All told, nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses or manufacturing textiles, shoes and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day.

First, it’s interesting that it’s Fortune 500 companies leasing this prison labor at ‘subprime wages’ because it was recently reported (I posted about it below) that in 2011, Fortune 500 CEOs made 380 times more than the average worker. 380 times more!

And secondly, guess who isn’t making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses or manufacturing textiles, shoes and clothing? All the Americans who are unemployed. All the high-school and college kids who can’t find a job. Everyone who doesn’t have a job won’t be getting any of these jobs, because Fortune 500 companies want to pay subminimum wages to prisoners. And naturally these corporations then compete with OTHER companies and small businesses with their ‘slight’ subminimum wage advantage. The article describes what happened the first time capitalists tried using prison labor exclusively — this is a small excerpt:

[...] In the North, the prison abolition movement went viral, embracing not only workers’ organizations, sympathetic rural insurgents and prisoners, but also widening circles of middle-class reformers.  The newly created American Federation of Labor denounced the system as “contract slavery.”  It also demanded the banning of any imports from abroad made with convict labor and the exclusion from the open market of goods produced domestically by prisoners, whether in state-run or private workshops.  In Chicago, the construction unions refused to work with materials made by prisoners.

By the latter part of the century, in state after state penal servitude was on its way to extinction.  New York, where the “industry” was born and was largest, killed it by the late 1880s….

Here’s the thing — private prisons, like any corporation, are in business to make money. More prisoners, more money. And as this article explains, private prisons make money in two ways: from the state for warehousing the prisoner, but they’re also making profits by ‘leasing’ the prisoner to corporations who want to pay dirt cheap wages right here on U.S. soil. And as this article points out, America has the largest captive population on Earth to draw from:

[...] On the supply side, the U.S. holds captive 25 percent of all the prisoners on the planet: 2.3 million people.  It has the highest incarceration rate in the world as well, a figure that began skyrocketing in 1980 as Ronald Reagan became president.  As for the demand for labor, since the 1970s American industrial corporations have found it increasingly unprofitable to invest in domestic production.  Instead, they have sought out the hundreds of millions of people abroad who are willing to, or can be pressed into, working for far less than American workers.

As a consequence, those back home — disproportionately African-American workers — who found themselves living in economic exile, scrabbling to get by,  began showing up in similarly disproportionate numbers in the country’s rapidly expanding prison archipelago. It didn’t take long for corporate America to come to view this as another potential foreign country, full of cheap and subservient labor — and better yet, close by.

What began in the 1970s as an end run around the laws prohibiting convict leasing by private interests has now become an industrial sector in its own right, employing more people than any Fortune 500 corporation and operating in 37 states.  And here’s the ultimate irony: Our ancestors found convict labor obnoxious in part because it seemed to prefigure a new and more universal form of enslavement.  Could its rebirth foreshadow a future ever more unnervingly like those past nightmares?

Read: 21st century chain gangs

This country is going straight to Hell. There’s just no other way to say it. How many people’s lives might have been different if these Fortune 500 companies decided their overpaid CEOs really didn’t earn or deserve 380 times more than average workers, and instead invested some of that money into actually creating jobs for this country? Real jobs, with a living wage. Maybe our economy would be better. Maybe fewer people would wind up in prison. What if all the work that prisoners are doing right now for subminimum wages would have been available to them as a job to apply for, that they could have hoped to be hired for? Isn’t there a chance that their lives could have been different and the lives of all the people around them and, ultimately, all of our futures because of that?

Prisons shouldn’t be privatized, they shouldn’t be run for profit. They should be government run. Think about what a bad idea this is: setting up corporate prisons for profit (the more prisoners, the better!), then allowing those corporations to sell the labor of their prisoners to other corporations to make a bigger profit.

And you think I’m joking about the corporate-sponsored work camps we’ll all be living in some day, circled around blazing garbage barrels for warmth, eating our daily ration of Soylent Green.


An honest GOP campaign slogan for 2012: The United States of Corporate Power PROGRESS: Several of the 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls have laid out economic platforms that would include huge cuts in the corporate tax rate:

  • Enter Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann (R), now calling for a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 9 percent, with giant tax reductions for the rich (zero out capital gains, death tax, etc), as well as a tax increase on the working poor.

Clearly, Bachmann wants to be appointed the Official Queen and Representative of the Corporate Takeover of America.©

As Pat Garofalo points out, only the wealthiest 1 percent would be the beneficiaries of zeroing out capital gains and estate taxes. And “cutting the corporate tax rate to 9 percent …would cost more than $2 trillion over ten years.”

Shouldn’t we ask Romney, Pawlenty and Bachmann what federal programs would have to END to meet the costs of giving more money to corporations while taking in less revenue?

But here’s the real problem:

The richest one percent of the country currently earn nearly one quarter of the income, and therefore pay the lion’s share of the income tax. Bachmann would raise taxes on those who have seen their incomes stagnate or even drop over the last ten years, even as she cuts taxes on the ultra-wealthy.

Like Bill Maher said, “Fascism is when corporations become the government.” Thanks to the GOP, we’ll get there one way or another.

Further reading:

Reid and Pelosi: calling the Teaparty Republicans bluff

Harry Reid would like his fellow Senators who do and do not support Paul Ryan’s Path to Poverty / Soylent Green for Everyone Budget to stand up and be counted:

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will hold a Senate vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) controversial budget plan, Raw Story has confirmed.

The plan, recently approved by the House, has virtually no chance of passing the Democratic-led Senate. The vote would serve to put Senate Republicans on the record in favor of slashing taxes on the rich while replacing Medicare with a voucher program.

“There will be an opportunity in the Senate to vote on the Ryan budget to see if Republican senators like the Ryan budget as much as the House did,” Reid told reporters on a conference call. “Without going into the Ryan budget we will see how much the Republicans like it here in the Senate.”

Nancy Pelosi would like those in Congress who do and do not support stripping highly profitable oil companies of their tax breaks to  to stand up and be counted as well:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pressed Speaker John Boehner to call for a vote on stripping tax breaks for oil companies, after the Ohio Republican signaled openness to the idea.

“House Democrats have long advocated eliminating outdated and costly taxpayer subsidies that provide billions of dollars to highly profitable oil companies,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to the Speaker sent Tuesday night. “I am writing to request that you schedule a vote on ending these tax breaks on the House floor upon our return to Washington next week.”

She added that “we have had several votes on this subject in the House, and have been disappointed that these proposals have not been supported by the Republican leadership.”

What do the Teaparty Republican voters think of these issues? Would they be FOR Ryan’s Path to Poverty (ending Medicare) and FOR subsidizing Big Oil? Or do they never have to deal with such concerns since Fox “News” concentrates on things like birth certificates and the “War” on Easter…

h/t BobCesca

Screw You: Me, Myself and I — The Life & Death of Ayn Rand

That should really be the title of Atlas Shrugged, Part II.

So now we know that Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand’s biggest fanboi and author of the “2012 Path to Poverty: Soylent Green for Everyone” budget plan, went to college on Social Security benefits he received after his father’s death. And that’s fine — for HIM. He just doesn’t want you or your children to be able to do the same.

No wonder Ryan worships at the shrine of Saint Ayn:  Rand constantly railed against government help as something that turned people into morally weak  parasites who fed off society.  WELL.  When the time came for Rand to sign up for Social Security and Medicare, she did so — but under the name Ann O’Connor. If she was willing be a morally weak parasite on the ‘dole’ of the United States government, apparently she wanted to keep it a secret. (Emphasis below is mine):

Michael Ford: [I]t was revealed in the recent “Oral History of Ayn Rand” by Scott McConnell (founder of the media department at the Ayn Rand Institute) that in the end Ayn was a vip-dipper as well. An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand’s law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand’s behalf she secured Rand’s Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O’Connor (husband Frank O’Connor).

As Pryor said, “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out” without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn “despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently… She didn’t feel that an individual should take help.”

But alas she did and said it was wrong for everyone else to do so. Apart from the strong implication that those who take the help are morally weak, it is also a philosophic point that such help dulls the will to work, to save and government assistance is said to dull the entrepreneurial spirit.

In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite but she could never be faulted for failing to act in her own self-interest.

And that last statement, in a nutshell, is what this movement, Objectivism, is all about. Remember that when you listen to Paul Ryan’s or Rand Paul’s “ideas.”

Ayn Rand quote:

I think it’s a monstrous thing — the whole progression of everything they’re doing — to feature, or answer, or favor the incompetent, the retarded, the handicapped, including, you know, the kneeling buses and all kinds of impossible expenses. I do not think that the retarded should be ~allowed~ to come ~near~ children. Children cannot deal, and should not have to deal, with the very tragic spectacle of a handicapped human being. When they grow up, they may give it some attention, if they’re interested, but it should never be presented to them in childhood, and certainly not as an example of something ~they~ have to live down to.

Ayn Rand, The Age of Mediocrity, Q & A Ford Hall Forum, April, 1981

How to fund even larger tax cuts for the wealthy: cut programs and services for everyone else

“What [Brooks] doesn’t mention is that Ryan’s proposal also includes dropping the top tax rate for rich people from 35 percent to 25 percent. All by itself, that one change means that the government would be collecting over $4 trillion less over the next ten years. Since Brooks himself is talking about Ryan’s plan cutting $4 trillion over the next ten years (some say that number is higher), what we’re really talking about here is an ambitious program to cut taxes for people like… well, people like me and David Brooks, and paying for it by “consolidating job-training programs” and forcing old people to accept reduced Medicare benefits.”

Tax Cuts for the Rich on the Backs of the Middle Class; or, Paul Ryan Has Balls | Rolling Stone Politics | Matt Taibbi

Paul Ryan’s “2012 Path to Poverty / Discounted Soylent Green For All” budget proposal

The very loud tea party Republican base won’t pay attention to the details of Ryan’s budget proposal or try to investigate it  for themselves — Fox News and Rush Limbaugh will tell them everything they need to know. That’s how the very loud tea party Republican base will continue to support and vote for even more corporate wealth and power, ending the middle-class as we know it, all because of extreme CONSERVATIVE SOCIAL ISSUES.

Tea party Republicans claim to be all about the size of government and government spending and NOT about social issues. However, this latest fight over the 2011 budget and the extreme social conservative riders that their representatives in the House tried (and failed) to enact betrayed them. They screamed “Shut it down!” rather than compromise on items that really had nothing to do with spending and a budget. The GOP knows the chain they can always pull with this base is going to be variations of God, guns, and gays.

Mike Lux at C&L has a good summary of Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal, but begins with some common sense suggestions for reducing our deficit (emphasis mine):

I can get to a balanced budget a lot faster than that, and do it without dismantling Medicare and Medicaid, and without taking an axe to Pell Grants, Head Start, and meals for shut-in seniors and hungry children. Heck, Jan Schakowsky’s plan balances the entire budget except for interest payments on the national debt in five years. You can easily balance the budget in less than 10 years, even including those interest payments, simply by cutting the waste in military spending, reforming the government contracting procedures, ending tax loopholes for investment bankers and offshore companies, ending subsidies to oil companies and big agribusinesses, taxing speculative financial trades, and having millionaires pay taxes at the same rate they did under Ronald Reagan.

The Ryan budget has nothing — not a single frickin’ thing — to do with cutting the federal deficit. It is all about income redistribution, simple as that. If you take away the budget savings Ryan claims from projecting that the wars we are in will wind down soon, he has $4.3 trillion in budget cuts and $4.2 trillion in tax cuts. And I bet you can guess which fact comes next: the budget cuts are targeted almost 100 percent at programs that help low-income families and the working middle class, while the tax cuts are almost entirely directed toward the wealthiest 10 percent. Continue reading

This should tell you everything you need to know about Ryan’s 2012 Soylent Green budget proposal


Identifying the Enemy in Paul Ryan’s “Soylent Green” 2012 Budget: Federal Employees

From Ed O’Keefe | WaPo:

The budget outline unveiled Tuesday by House Republicans seeks to freeze federal salary schedules through 2015, reduces the federal workforce by 10 percent, and requires employees to pay more toward their retirement benefits.

The document, an early step in writing a federal budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, further seeks to reduce spending on non-security agencies to the levels of 2008, while accepting savings the Pentagon has proposed in its budget.

“The federal government’s responsibilities are dependent on a strong federal workforce. Federal workers deserve to be compensated for their important work but pay levels, pay increases and benefit packages need to be reformed to be in line with the private-sector,” says the report released by committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Pay levels need to be “in line with the private-sector?” Like Walmart or McDonalds employees? Tea Party justice!

House Republican – Teaparty’s “2012 Soylent Green for Everyone” Budget Proposals

Yep, the extremist wing of the ‘new’ Republican Party is now fully out of the closet for 2012 (emphasis mine):

If anything will make it easier for House conservatives to back off on shutting down the government this week, it’s the prospect of a different, and much larger fight over the federally funded social safety net. House Republicans are preparing to introduce a 10-year budget Tuesday that will eliminate Medicare and replace it with a private insurance system that closely resembles the new health care law, and end Medicaid as an entitlement program all together.

[...] Ryan’s plan will also propose tax reforms that lower corporate and upper-income tax rates, while eliminating certain loopholes. The details of that part of his plan are unclear, but if they adhere to his Roadmap for America’s Future, the GOP budget will propose to overhaul the tax code in a way that reduces the burden on the wealthy and increases it on the poor and middle classes.

More tax cuts for the wealthy, which will be funded by all the services taken away from the poor, elderly and middle-class. Same GOP game plan, different year.

These are the lawmakers that Democrats hope to compromise with by tomorrow night to avoid a government shutdown.

FL Gov. Rick Scott’s budget plans: cut corporate taxes, turn the disabled into Soylent Green

Because this is exactly how the Republican-Teaparty operates today: cut taxes by $2 Billion for your buddies and corporate benefactors, and make the poor, disabled, and middle-class pay for it. (Emphasis mine below.)


Wall Street Journal:

The 2012 spending plan reflects cuts of $4.6 billion over the fiscal 2011 budget, and Mr. Scott outlined more cuts for fiscal 2013. Ahead of Monday’s announcement, the Republican governor discussed slashing $5 billion from the budget, while cutting property and corporate income taxes by about $2 billion.

Orlando Sentinel:

…Scott ordered deep cuts Thursday to programs that serve tens of thousands of residents with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other developmental disabilities.

Though a range of state services face cuts from this year’s Legislature, the governor invoked his emergency powers to order the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities to immediately roll back payments to group homes and social workers by 15 percent — an amount providers say could put them out of business and threaten their clients’ safety.

[...] But the governor said the Agency for Persons with Disabilities’ ongoing budget deficit — currently at $170 million — had reached a critical point and needed to be addressed immediately.

The cuts go into effect Friday and last at least through the fiscal year, which ends June 30. Lawmakers are currently debating what will happen after that.

Providers had not been informed of the cuts.

For Gov. Scott, $170 MILLION is way too much to throw at care for the disabled (they probably didn’t even donate to his campaign). Especially when you’re trying to cut property / corporate taxes by $2 BILLION. Don’t you wonder what services wouldn’t have to be slashed if Gov. Scott didn’t give the wealthy and corporations $2B in tax cuts?

This is an excellent example of the extremists who call themselves Republicans today.

Soylent Green is Mary Ellen!!