Friday, October 24, 2008

This Land Is Their Land

This Land Is Their Land, by Barbara Ehrenreich
$16.32 in the Hansisgreat Gift Shop
ISBN: 0805088407
Worldwide economic crisis brought on by corporate greed makes this a very timely and relevant new book by the distinguished author of Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America. It asks some very poignant questions about the excesses of capitalism and how, in a fair economy, someone can make an $800 million salary as CEO of a company that pays its employees less than $10 an hour. What's the story behind America's concentration of wealth in the hands of 2% of the population?
For example, Robert Nardelli was CEO of Home Depot during a period when the company's stock price fell from $50 per share to $41. Stores were closed, employees were laid off, and Nardelli was given a $300 million bonus in addition to his $64 million a year salary. As the company tanks, those at the top are getting richer than they'd ever been before.
Several of the people on Forbes list of the richest Americans are from the Walton family which owns Wal-Mart, boasting a combined 
fortune of over $65 billion while breaking up unions and paying employees $7-10 per hour. These are second and third generation Waltons who inherited their money and played little to no part in Wal-Mart's growth, yet they have more money than the poorest third of the country combined.
Ehrenreich also gives examples of how the wealthy elite gouges the poor. For example, a routine appendectomy costs insurance provider AIG $6,783. Don't have insurance? The same operation costs you $29,000; four times the cost to the insurance giant which was recently bailed out by the government days before the executives took a $400,000 spa vacation. Meanwhile 18,000 Americans die each year without health insurance. That's 9/11 times six.
The super-rich are absorbing an ever larger share of our national income while the companies they run fall into ruin. This flouts the very principle of capitalist exchange, that what you get paid should in some way reflect the work that you've done or the "value added".
There's been a lot of talk in the media lately about corporate greed. Ehrenreich did a lot of research for this book, but leaves the reader to reach their own conclusions once the facts are stated. This Land is Their Land is deeply relevant to our time, highly informative, and even quite entertaining. Prepare to be outraged.

No comments: