Voice From The Back
“Bored with life on his family’s South Carolina horse farm, Willard McCormick decided that military service was the right plan for his future. And when the Army dangled its new, $20,000 recruiting bonus in front of him, the decision got a lot easier. ‘I wasn’t going to go right away, but I heard about the bonus and decided to jump on it,’ McCormick, 19, said a couple of days after signing up. … Since the bonus was unveiled in July, more than 6,200 recruits have signed up to begin basic training before Oct. 1, a move that boosts end-of-fiscal year recruiting numbers, Army officials said. ‘People are calling here saying $20,000 is more than they’ve made in the past two years,’ said Staff Sgt. Brent Feltner, 27, commander of a strip-mall recruiting station in this central South Carolina town . . .The Army’s offer stands out to many in a state where the unemployment level is fourth highest in the country, at 5.9 percent in July, up from 5.5 percent in June. It was 6.2 percent in July a year ago.” (Yahoo News, 1 September) Poverty is still capitalism’s most successful recruiting agent.
Ain’t Science Wonderful?
“Benefit claimants and job seekers could be forced to take lie detector tests as early as next year after an early review of a pilot scheme exposed 126 benefit cheats in just three months, saving one local authority £110,000 . . . The technology is being tested on people claiming housing or council tax benefit but will be extended at Harrow Jobcentre for other benefits this year . . . Experts in America, where the most comprehensive scrutiny of the technology has taken place, warn that the technology is far from failsafe. David Ashe, chief deputy of the Virginia Board for Professional and Occupational Regulation, said, ‘The experience of being tested, or of claiming a benefit and being told that your voice is being checked for lies, is inherently stressful. Lie detector tests have a tendency to pass people for whom deception is a way of life and fail those who are scrupulously honest.’” (Observer, 2 September) We wonder if it would be possible to ask members of the capitalist class if they think they deserve their immense wealth while others starve, but what would be the point as the expert said there is a tendency to pass those “for whom deception is a way of life”.
A recent review of the business world and ethics was somewhat critical of the pharmaceutical industry. “There has been a number of scandals including the disastrous ‘Elephant Men’ trial for new drug TGN 1412, which caused massive immune reactions in six healthy volunteers. TeGenero, the firm that developed the drug, went bust after the catastrophe. GlaxoSmithKline has been embroiled in a scandal over anti-depressant Seroxat: it has been accused of hiding critical data showing the drug is linked to suicide in teenagers. GSK has also seen millions of sales wiped out after its Avandia diabetes treatment was linked to increased risk of heart attack and strokes.” (Observer, 2 September) The truth is of course that capitalist business practice has nothing to do with ethics and everything to do with profits.
Class Divided Britain
Anyone with any doubts about the class division in Britain today should look at the following. “Britain may appear to be a richer country than a decade ago but the gap between the rich and poor has reached levels not seen for more than 40 years. The highest earners are being dubbed ‘the new Victorians’ as they take an ever-greater slice of the wealth pie, leaving mere employees and white-collar workers sharing the crumbs. Government statistics show that the richest 10 per cent of the population control more than half the wealth (53 per cent) of the country, with the 1 per cent jet-set elite controlling no less than 21 per cent.” (Independent, 2 September)
Expert Wants Revolution
“A revolution of society on a scale never witnessed in peacetime is needed if climate change is to be tackled successfully, the head of a major business grouping has warned. Bjorn Stigson, the head of the Geneva-based World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), predicted governments would be unable to reach agreement on a framework for reducing carbon emissions at either a US-sponsored meeting in Washington later this month or at a United Nations climate summit in Indonesia in December.” (Financial Times, 7 September) Mr Stigson may be on to something important here. Because capitalism pollutes and destroys the planet maybe we need a revolution – a complete transformation of society.
Behind all the advertiser’s glib spiels about the consumer satisfaction of buy, buy, buy lurks the nasty reality that many workers find themselves in a nightmare of debt. “Record numbers are visiting the Citizens Advice Bureau because their finances have spiralled out of control. Debt is the most common reason for attending a CAB, overtaking benefit problems. The charity said it had seen a 20 per cent rise in those struggling with borrowing, handling 1.7 million cases last year. Debt accounts for one in three of inquiries at the CAB, with advisers in England and Wales dealing with more than 6,6000 such problems every working day.” (Daily Telegraph, 12 September)
Loads Of Money
Millions of workers survive on less than $5 a day. What a contrast with these parasites: “What price exclusivity? If you ask Lamborghini, one million euros ($1.4 million) should do it — before tax, of course. In a bid to add more prestige to what it already has, the Italian maker of super luxury sports car unveiled the Reventon at Frankfurt’s international autoshow, a very limited edition car that looks more like an arrow than anything on four wheels. With the six-figure price tag, it is the most expensive car that it has ever built. Needless to say, Lamborghini has already sold the 20 cars that it plans to build. ‘As soon as the word got out, we sold out in four days,’ Chief Executive Stephan Winkelmann told Reuters, adding that they could have easily sold another 20.” (Yahoo News, 12 September)