‘Wealth creators’ are robbing our most productive workers of profits from productive work

‘Wealth creators’ are robbing our most productive workers of profits from productive work

George Monbiot

Lives are being trashed by klepto-remuneration: theft through excess rewards to rapacious bosses, instead of productive workers.

Carly Fiorina
‘The former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina, features prominently on lists of the USA’s worst bosses. Where is she now? About to launch her campaign as presidential candidate for the Republican party.’ Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

There is an inverse relationship between utility and reward. The most lucrative, prestigious jobs tend to cause the greatest harm. The most useful productive workers tend to be paid least and treated worst.

I was reminded of this while listening last week to a care worker describing her job. Carole’s company gives her a rota of, er, three half-hour visits an hour. It takes no account of the time required to travel between jobs, and doesn’t pay her for it either, which means she makes less than the minimum wage. During the few minutes she spends with a client, she may have to get them out of bed, help them on the toilet, wash them, dress them, make breakfast and give them their medicines. If she ever gets a break, she told the BBC radio program You and Yours, she spends it with her clients. For some, she is the only person they see all day.

Her experience is unexceptional. A report by the Resolution Foundation reveals that two-thirds of frontline care workers receive less than the living wage. Ten percent, like Carole, are illegally paid less than the minimum wage. This abuse is not confined to the UK: in the US, 27% of care workers who make home visits are paid less than the legal minimum.

Let’s imagine the lives of those who own or run the company. We have to imagine it because, for good reasons, neither the care worker’s real name nor the company she works for were revealed. The more costs and corners they cut, the more profitable their business will be. In other words, the less they care, the better they will do. The perfect chief executive, from the point of view of shareholders, is a fully fledged sociopath.

Such people will soon become very rich. They will be praised by the government as wealth creators. If they donate enough money to party funds, they have a high chance of becoming peers of the realm. Gushing profiles in the press will commend their entrepreneurial chutzpah and flair.

They’ll acquire a wide investment portfolio, perhaps including a few properties, so that – even if they cease to do anything resembling work – they can continue living off the labour

oligarchs economic power elite overlords

Economic Power Elite

of people such as Carole as she struggles to pay extortionate rents. Their descendants, perhaps for many generations, need never take a job of the kind she does.

Care workers function as a human loom, shuttling from one home to another, stitching the social fabric back together while many of their employers and shareholders, and government ministers, slash blindly at the cloth, downsizing, outsourcing and deregulating in the cause of profit.

It doesn’t matter how many times the myth of meritocracy is debunked. It keeps re-emerging, as you can see in the current election campaign. How else, after all, can the government justify stupendous inequality?

One of the most painful lessons a young adult learns is that the wrong traits are rewarded. We celebrate originality and courage, but those who rise to the top are often conformists and sycophants. We are taught that cheats never prosper, yet the country is run by spivs. A study testing British senior managers and chief executives found that on certain indicators of psychopathy their scores exceeded those of patients diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders in the Broadmoor special hospital.

If you possess the one indispensable skill – battering and blustering your way to the top – incompetence in other areas is no impediment. The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina features prominently on lists of the worst US bosses: quite an achievement when you consider the competition. She fired 30,000 workers in the name of efficiency yet oversaw a halving of the company’s stock price. Morale and communication became so bad that she was booed at company meetings. She was forced out, with a $42m severance package. Where is she now? About to launch her campaign as presidential candidate for the Republican party, where, apparently, she is considered a serious contender. It’s the Mitt Romney story all over again.

The inverse relationship doesn’t always hold. There are plenty of useless, badly paid jobs, and a few useful, well-paid jobs. But surgeons and film directors are greatly outnumbered by corporate lawyers, lobbyists, advertisers, management consultants, financiers and parasitic bosses consuming the utility their workers provide. As the pay gap widens – chief executives in the UK took 60 times as much as the average worker in the 1990s and 180 times as much today – the uselessness ratio is going through the roof I propose a name for this phenomenon: klepto-remuneration.

There is no end to this theft except robust government intervention: a redistribution of wages through maximum ratios and enhanced taxation. But this won’t happen until we challenge the infrastructure of justification, built so carefully by politicians and the press. Our lives are damaged not by the undeserving poor but by the undeserving rich.

reprinted here from The Guardian, in London.

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Farmers Dump GMO Crops

Aug. 09- 2015 article reprinted here  Farmers and GMO crops

Five years ago, Dan Beyers took his farm in a new direction. Or, rather, back in an old direction.

The Pana, Ill.-area farmer had been using corn and soybean seeds genetically modified to work with glyphosate — the generic name for Monsanto’s signature Roundup herbicide. But he reached a point at which he said it no longer made sense from a dollars standpoint.

So he turned his back on GMO crops.

“As they added more traits, we didn’t really see a yield advantage. And every time they added a trait, they added cost,” said Beyers, who also worries that GMO seeds could be damaging his soil.

Clearly the world of farming is still dominated by seeds that have been genetically altered to help them deal with drought, insects and weeds. But there’s anecdotal evidence suggesting that more farmers are considering the path Beyers has chosen.

Several factors are in play, including the premium prices that non-GMO crops — particularly soybeans — can fetch at the market. But also there is growing concern about the decreasing effectiveness of glyphosate, with farmers increasingly running into weeds that have developed resistance to the herbicide that revolutionized modern farming.

“Roundup isn’t cleaning up the fields the way it used to,” Beyers said.

Regardless, GMO seeds are in no danger of being pushed out of the market, with recent acreage surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing they account for more than 92 percent of our corn and soybeans. And there are new seed-herbicide combinations — using Dicamba and 2,4-D — on the way to help farmers deal with the weakening powers of glyphosate.

“There’s very little change for the country as a whole,” said Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri.

Monsanto, based in Creve Coeur, agrees.

The company’s large seed portfolio is dominated by GMOs, but it does produce a range of conventional corn, soybean and cotton seeds. They represent a small percentage of the company’s U.S. sales, and there has been no spike in demand, a spokeswoman said.

“Most farmers look to Monsanto for the innovation and trait packages we offer,” spokeswoman Danielle Stuart said in an email.

Yet companies such as eMerge, an Iowa-based firm specializing in non-GMO seeds, say they’ve experienced modest increases in demand for their products, particularly with market prices for soybeans and corn falling rapidly in the wake of consecutive bumper harvests.

“With the price of grain dropping, guys are looking for more economic seeds to plant,” said Johnny Millwood, a district sales manager for the Midwest-focused company, which was founded in 2009.

Conventional seeds certainly cost less, lacking the need to recoup the large research and development costs behind their genetically altered counterparts. A bag of non-GMO soybeans — which covers roughly one acre — costs about $20 less than a similar bag of seeds designed to work with glyphosate, Millwood said.

But those non-GMO crops also are more valuable when it’s time to sell.

While corn draws an anemic 25 cents extra per bushel, food-grade soybeans are commanding an extra $2 per bushel.

That’s driven largely by overseas markets, with countries including Japan and South Korea providing steady demand for non-GMO soybeans, said Kellee James, chief executive of Mercaris, a market data service for non-GMO and organic commodities.

But ongoing debates over GMO labeling suggest there could soon be greater domestic demand for non-GMO grains.

“What’s driving this cycle is the consumer’s desire for more information about their food,” James said. “I don’t think that’s going away.”

The premium prices, however, do come with their own set of problems.

One of the bigger tasks facing conventional farmers is the need to keep that grain separate after it’s harvested. Only small amounts of GMO contamination (generally less than 1 percent) are allowed.

It’s particularly challenging for farmers growing both GMO and non-GMO crops. They have to take greater care in cleaning equipment and storage facilities when moving between the two types of crops.

“It does involve a little bit more effort and more cost,” said Nathan Fields, director of biotechnology for the National Corn Growers Association.

There is also the matter of operating in a world in which almost everyone around you is using glyphosate.

It’s a situation that Mike York has been dealing with for years on the land he works southeast of Mt. Vernon, Ill.

He used to lose plants along the edges of his fields after neighbors sprayed their crops on adjacent land. And there was an incident a few years back when a mix-up resulted in a sprayer’s covering one of York’s smaller fields with glyphosate, wiping out much of the crop.

But these days, neighbors have become more careful when spraying near his fields.

“As a matter of fact, a farmer just called yesterday to ask if I was still doing non-GMO,” York said.

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