By Jamshed Dastur
8:22 PM PST, February 15, 2014
Not too long ago, this nation fought the bloodiest of all its wars to abolish the inhumane institution of "involuntary servitude," also known as slavery.
In its day, the protagonists for slavery justified this heinous practice as a necessary key to economic progress and the nation's well-being. And yet we currently accept in our political mainstream, and in our right-wing media, those who fly flags commemorating this inglorious past and profit from lurid reality shows.
Today, we see a morphed version of slavery, slowly creeping into our economic mainstream. I call it "voluntary servitude." The same forces that fought against the abolition of slavery have been at play over the past 30 years, pushing us inexorably toward a labor market where working men and women have little or no bargaining power left. You either work at slave wages, and no benefits, or you don't work at all.
Most human beings, particularly those with small children, choose to work rather than starve their families, even if it is a form of "voluntary servitude." The convoluted and utterly bizarre rulings by five unselected men in black robes that "corporations are people" and "money is speech" have converted a once-thriving nation from an enlightened and participative democracy to one owned and paid for by vulture capitalism.
Having run the gamut of labor-crushing policies — emasculation of collective-bargaining laws and the consequent destruction of unions, monetary incentives for corporations to export well-paying jobs overseas, privatizing profits and socializing losses, banks gambling freely and criminally with tax-payer funded guarantees, massive defunding of education — these intellectual descendants of slaveholders have come up with one more strategy to impoverish whatever remains of the middle class.
It goes by a benign term: outsourcing. This is a classic example of privatizing profits and socializing losses.
It is argued that outsourcing saves money. This comes from a group that built a $130-million, lavish City Hall for Newport Beach and spent thousands more on giant concrete bunnies. The truth is that outsourcing puts a downward drag on all salaries, and in turn a downward drag on the whole economy.
Take the example of outsourcing the city's trash-collection services. According to the city's own data, the average wage of city trash haulers is $27.73 an hour, and the average wage of the replacing outsourced haulers is $20.35, a whopping reduction of 27% in wages.
Is this what one of the richest cities in America wants? I do not begrudge the beautiful City Hall or the bunnies showcasing our rich city. But should the loyal, hardworking city employees — trash haulers, lifeguards (whomever's next) — pay for these luxuries?
I hope there are four council members in Newport Beach who will find it in their heart to say no to this willful destruction of our city before they hurry on to their next appointment in Sacramento or Washington, D.C. In the words of Pope Francis, the economy should work for the benefit of working people, not the other way round.
JAMSHED DASTUR lives on Balboa Island.