Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's Not About "Sharing the Wealth," Stupid! (How To Tell Whom Your Friends Are At Voting Time ) Glenn Beck Death Ad & Hershey Slaves Arise!

Do you still think the rich are to be trusted in defending the working people of this country?

The poor people in this country at least are doing a bang-up job of making the rich very much richer! If you don't believe me and can't be convinced, don't waste your time reading today's essay.

One very rich guy writes his views (financial catastrophe worsened by President Obama saying mean things about the wealthy) and some prestigious newspaper publishes it? This is news?

Very wealthy people are not smarter than regular people, and wealth or financial acumen does not magically create expertise on other issues. Steve Schwarzman knows as much about politics and economics as any schmo who reads the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which is to say he believes a bunch of convenient lies. If Schwarzman wrote a column on what the Boston Red Sox need to do to reverse their slump would Sports Illustrated publish it, or would he have to put it on his blog like a regular self-appointed sports expert?
Perhaps you've already been a witness to this "outbreak of candor" from very rich, connected people? I, myself, have already read a few Larry "Summerisms" since he left government that give lie to his so-called progressive leanings. (If anyone believed that after his Bob Rubin tutelage in the first place.)

Political and Financial Masters of the Universe Make It Clear Who "Matters" - And It's Not the American People

A revealing outbreak of candor
(Reuters/Hyungwon Kang)

Larry Summers

If honesty is contagious, then we may be experiencing a brief outbreak right now as America's political and business elite seem momentarily intent on acknowledging oligarchic reality.

On Sunday, as previously noted, the New York Times quoted Tom Watkins, a top business consultant, admitting that corporate education reformers are hoping the recession continues so that nobody notices their scheme to convert public schools into high-tech companies' private profit-making machines.

Two other similarly frank declarations from our political and financial Masters of the Universe provide candid, if brutal, insights into how the elite see the economy and democracy.

First up was Larry Summers, the hedge funder-turned-architect of the Obama administration's economic program. In a little-noticed speech he revealed a reason the Obama administration may not have been nearly as focused on creating American jobs as many had hoped:

"There are those today who would resist the process of international integration; that is a prescription for a more contentious and less prosperous world," stated Summers. "We should not oppose offshoring or outsourcing." (emphasis added)
Before departing his White House perch, Summers was the Obama official who led the administration's successful fight against congressional Democrats' proposed "Buy American" provisions. Those provisions, which would have mandated stimulus funds actually be spent in the United States, were needed to prevent what Businessweek called "leakage," i.e., stimulus money heading overseas to subsidize offshoring.

Thanks to Summers, though, the "Buy American" proposals in the stimulus were gutted. Now we know why: because, as he made clear in his recent speech, he's against any effort to halt the flow of American jobs offshore, even during a massive unemployment crisis. (Considering how closely this tracks to the Bush administration's position on outsourcing, we can add Summers' revelation to the long and growing list of similarities between the Obama and Bush White Houses.)

Then came the New Republic's Jonathan Chait, who (true to his signature contrarian form) penned a screed in the New York Times criticizing the American left for daring to question President Obama about the gap between campaign promises and governmental actions. In the process of lambasting those who had presciently argued for a bigger stimulus program, Chait exposed how he and most of his fellow elites in Washington see the general public:

"At the time, Obama’s $800 billion stimulus was seen by Congress, pundits and business leaders - that is to say, just about everybody who mattered - as mind-bogglingly large." (emphasis added)
In declaring who "matters" and who doesn't, Chait took a cue from Dick ("Public Opinion Doesn't Matter") Cheney, who famously  insisted that the American people are insignificant serfs. Only, in this case, Chait shows us the obverse of the Cheney-ism - he tells us the only people who supposedly do "matter." In the nation's capital, that's Washington politicians, Washington pundits and corporate executives. Everyone else - tens of millions of Americans who think differently - are of little concern.

Give Watkins, Summers and Chait some credit for giving the public a rare glimpse into the true motives that forge elite consensus. Often, those shadowy forces are buried under platitudes and poll-tested buzzwords. So when openly expressed, these statements help us understand how seemingly haphazard Washington policymaking actually expresses a cogent ideology.
The trouble, of course, is that ideology runs counter to what most Americans want: a government that defends their interests.

(Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now.)

 Want to know the deep, dark and universally unknown secret behind all those wealthy industrialists' desire to reform education?

As Brill and most other education correspondents tell it, those most aggressively trying to privatize public schools and focus education around standardized tests just "happen to be" Wall Streeters - as if that's merely a random, inconsequential coincidence. Somehow, we are to assume that these same Wall Streeters who make millions off of "parasitic"schemes to leech public institutions for private profit couldn't have ulterior motives when it comes to public schools.

No, in the standard fairy tale sold as education journalism, these "reformers" are presented as having had an honest, entirely altruistic "epiphany" that led them to discover that "the reforms that are necessary" (ie., only the policies Wall Street deems acceptable) comprise "the civil rights issue of this era."
In this framing, millionaires and billionaires trying to eviscerate traditional public education from their Manhattan office suites are the new Martin Luther Kings - even though the  empirical data tell us that their schemes to charter-ize and privatize schools have been a systemic failure, often further disadvantaging the most economically challenged students of all (one example: see Stanford's landmark study showing more than a third of kids whom reformers ushered into charter schools were educationally harmed by the move).
The truth, of course, is that for all the denialist agitprop to the contrary, corporate education "reformers" are motivated by self-interest, too. In a sense, these "reformers" are akin to the Bush administration neoconservatives when it came to Iraq. Some of them wanted to invade for oil, some wanted to invade to create a new sphere of influence, some wanted to invade to further isolate Iran, and still others wanted to invade to "spread democracy." But as  Paul Wolfowitz famously said, they "settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction" as the public rationale for war.
Same thing for those who fund corporate education "reform": they have a lot of different self-interests, but they've settled on schools as a political target that unifies them all.
So, then, what are those self-interests? Here are three of the biggest ones that go almost entirely unmentioned in the ongoing coverage of the education "reform" debate.
Self-Interest No. 1: Pure Profit
First and foremost, there's a ton of money to be made in the education "reforms" that Big Money interests are advocating.
As the Texas Observer  recently reported in its exposé of one school-focused mega-corporation, "in the past two decades, an education-reform movement has swept the country, pushing for more standardized testing and accountability and for more alternatives to the traditional classroom - most of it supplied by private companies."
A straightforward example of how this part of the profit-making scheme works arose just a few months ago in New York City. There, Rupert Murdoch dumped $1 million into a corporate "reform" movement pushing to both implement more standardized testing and divert money for education fundamentals (hiring teachers, buying textbooks, maintaining school buildings, etc.) into testing-assessment technology. At the same time, Murdoch was buying an educational technology company called Wireless Generation, which had just signed a lucrative contract with New York City's school system (a sweetheart deal inked by New York City school official Joel Klein, who immediately went to work for Murdoch).
. . . At the same time, major banks are reaping a windfall from "reformers'" successful efforts to take public money out of public schools and put it into privately administered charter schools.
Self-Interest No. 2: Changing the Subject From Poverty and Inequality
You don't have to believe me to know that the need is there; just listen to the corporate education "reformers'" own much-celebrated hero, Harlem Children’s Zone's Geoffrey Canada, who insists schools in high-poverty areas "can’t succeed ... without substantially increased investments in wraparound social services," reports the New York Times.  But since those are investments that probably require tax increases, they aren't the thrust of the corporate "reform" movement's agenda.
In the bait-and-switch of the "Great Education Myth," then, the corporate "reformers" get to pretend that they care about poor people and brag that they are benevolently leading "the civil rights issue of this era," when what they are really doing is making sure America doesn't talk about the macroeconomic policies that make Wall Streeters so much money, and impoverish so many others in the process.
Self-interest No. 3: New Front in the War on Unions
Teachers unions' self-interest means advocating for better teacher salaries and job security - an agenda item that would, among other things, allow the teaching profession (as in other nations) to financially compete for society's "best and brightest" and in the process help kids. The unions' self-interest also means advocating for decent workplace facilities, which undeniably benefits not only the teacher, but also students. And it means pressing for curricular latitude that doesn't force educators to teach to a standardized test, a notion that would help actually educate students to think critically, rather than train them to be test-taking robots.
Corporate education "reformers'" self-interest, by contrast, means advocating for policies that help private corporations profit off of public schools, diverting public attention from an anti-poverty economic agenda, and busting unions that prevent total oligarchical control of America's political system. In short, it's about the profit, stupid.
Read it all, please.

Did you ever wonder if those clever, brilliant, vicious people helping the 9/11 events to transpire ever considered the damage done to a generation of people - let alone the world (and not just the money and power to be accrued)?

The media likes to talk about kids growing up in the "shadow of 9/11," the idea that this generation has inherited a sense of impending doom. It's an idea held up by studies showing a hyper-awareness of danger and a sense of hopelessness among American children and teenagers. According to a 2008 survey in the Journal of Adolescent Health, many U.S. youth ages 14 to 22 expect to die before age 30.
But "living in the shadow of 9/11" means something very different to at least 16 children who grew up in Lower Manhattan. It means being engulfed in the "shadow" of the dust cloud, then watching it hover over your home for months (if your home wasn't destroyed). It means standing in the "shadow" of your apartment building whose entire north side had been burned off, allowing you to look directly into people's apartments. It means living in the "shadow" of your health that's been compromised from breathing toxic fumes. It means living in the "shadow" of the person you could have been, which was more than just interrupted.

Thomas Panevino, then 11, was the first child to be picked up from I.S.89. On his way home to Gateway Plaza almost directly underneath the towers, he looked up to see a woman in a blue dress holding hands with two men as they jumped to their death, splattering down onto the pavement in front of him. He turned to see another woman half melted away by jet fuel lying in a pool of blood on the sidewalk. He and his father soon found themselves crawling under benches as the first tower fell, debris blowing across his face in the darkness. After the second tower collapsed, the police frantically warned everyone that the entire island was going to blow up, and Thomas and his father joined thousands of others swarming boats that ferried survivors to New Jersey. His boat nearly capsized under the weight of the crowd. As he looked behind him, he saw the smoke spread over the city. Thomas' mother went for coffee every morning with her friend at a cafe in the World Trade Center. He did not know if she was alive or dead.

Now, when he hears the term "9/11 generation" bandied about, he wonders, "Who are these other people? A generation of what? A generation of whom? For me and others who lost everything on that Tuesday morning, 9/11 isn't a generation; it is my life. It is my every day. The idea of this simply being a generational movement seems to hint at the idea that there will be a definite ending to all that we have endured, and that will never be the case."

A grand total of two studies have been done on the effects of that day on children who were there. They have not found anything substantial and were only conducted with grade school children. The World Trade Center Health Registry is just now starting to collect data on young adults. But I can tell you from talking to my classmates that we have wounds that were left untreated, and we became worse because of it. It was as if we all just became invisible.

Now, it's time to be seen.

(Helaina Hovitz graduated from the New School in May with a BA in journalism. She is an experienced journalist who has written for the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, among other publications. She is currently working on her book, "Recovery Effort," about 16 children living and going to school in Lower Manhattan and growing up in the aftermath of 9/11.)

Michael Moore's new book will be out on February 19, 2011. And it's another eye opener. Except for what we've learned since Fahrenheit 9/11, it's almost unbelievable.

'I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it … No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out [of him]. Is this wrong? I stopped wearing my 'What Would Jesus Do?' band, and I've lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, 'Yeah, I'd kill Michael Moore', and then I'd see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I'd realise, 'Oh, you wouldn't kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn't choke him to death.' And you know, well, I'm not sure."

Glenn Beck, live on the Glenn Beck show, 17 May 2005
The hate mail after the Oscar speech was so voluminous, it almost seemed as if Hallmark had opened a new division where greeting card writers were assigned the task of penning odes to my passing. ("For a Special Motherfucker …" "Get Well Soon from Your Mysterious Car Accident!" "Here's to a Happy Stroke!")
The phone calls to my house were actually creepier. It's a whole different fright machine when a human voice is attached to the madness and you think: "This person literally risked arrest to say this over a phone line!" You had to admire the balls – or insanity – of that.
But the worst moments were when people came on to our property. These individuals would just walk down the driveway, always looking like rejects from the cast of Night of the Living Dead, never moving very fast, but always advancing with singleminded purposefulness. Few were actual haters; most were just crazy. We kept the sheriff's deputies busy until they finally suggested we might want to get our own security, or perhaps our own police force. Which we did.
We met with the head of the top security agency in the country, an elite outfit that did not hire ex-cops, nor any "tough guys" or bouncer-types. They preferred to use only Navy Seals and other ex–Special Forces. Guys who had a cool head and who could take you out with a piece of dental floss in a matter of nanoseconds. By the end of the year, due to the alarming increase of threats and attempts on me, I had nine ex-Seals surrounding me, round-the-clock.
Fahrenheit 9/11: The Fightback
After the Oscar riot and the resulting persona-non-grata status I held as the most hated man in America, I decided to do what anyone in my position would do: make a movie suggesting the president of the United States is a war criminal.
I mean, why take the easy road? It was already over for me, anyway. The studio that had promised to fund my next film had called up after the Oscar speech and said that they were backing out of their signed contract with me – if I didn't like it, I could go fuck myself. Fortunately, another studio picked up the deal but cautioned that perhaps I should be careful not to piss off the ticket-buying public. The owner of the studio had backed the invasion of Iraq. I told him I had already pissed off the ticket-buying public, so why don't we just make the best movie possible, straight from the heart – and, well, if nobody liked that, there was always straight-to-video.
In the midst of all this turmoil I began shooting Fahrenheit 9/11. I told everyone on my crew to operate as if this was going to be the last job we were ever going to have in the movie business. This wasn't meant to be an inspirational speech – I really believed that this was going to be it. And so we spent the next 11 months putting together our cinematic indictment of an administration and a country gone mad.
The release of the film in 2004, just a little more than a year after the start of the war, came at a time when the vast majority of Americans still backed the war. We premiered it at the Cannes film festival, where we were awarded the top prize, the Palme d'Or, by an international jury headed by Quentin Tarantino. It was the first time in nearly 50 years a documentary had won the prize.
This initial overwhelming response to Fahrenheit 9/11 spooked the Bush White House, convincing those in charge of his re-election campaign that a movie could be the tipping point that might bring them down. They hired a pollster to find out the effect the film would have on voters. After screening the movie with three different audiences in three separate cities, the news Karl Rove received was not good. The movie was not only giving a much-needed boost to the Democratic base (who were wild about the film), it was, oddly, having a distinct effect also on female Republican voters.
The studio's own polling had already confirmed that an amazing one-third of Republican voters – after watching the movie – said they would recommend the film to other people. But the White House pollster reported something even more dangerous – 10% of Republican females said that after watching Fahrenheit 9/11, they had decided to either vote for John Kerry or to just stay home. In an election that could be decided by only a few percentage points, this was devastating news.

. . . When Glenn Beck said that he was thinking of killing me, he was neither fined by the broadcasting regulator nor arrested by the NYPD. He was, essentially, making a call to have me killed, and no one in the media at that time reported it.
And then a man trespassed on our property and left something outside our bedroom window when I wasn't home. It terrorised my wife. He even videotaped himself doing this.
When the police investigated, he said he was making a "documentary". He called it Shooting Michael Moore. And when you went to his website, and the words Shooting Michael Moore came on the screen, the sound of a gunshot went off. The media ate it up, and he was asked to appear on many TV shows (such as Fox News host Sean Hannity's). "Coming up next – he's giving Michael Moore a taste of his own medicine! Moore now has somebody after him!" (Cue SFX: KA-BOOM!) He then provided video and maps of how to illegally get on to our property.
I will not share with you the impact this had, at that time, on my personal life, but suffice it to say I would not wish this on anyone. More than once I have asked myself if all this work was really worth it. And, if I had it to do over again, would I? If I could take back that Oscar speech and just walk up on the stage and thank my agent and tuxedo designer and get off without another word, would I? If it meant that my family would not have to worry about their safety and that I would not be living in constant danger – well, I ask you, what would you do? You know what you would do.
Read the whole essay. It's a good intro to the new book.

Does anyone remember after the financial deluge (for the banks anyway) of 2008 how important it seemed to be to get our financial house in order? Anyone remember the Congressional bills that were introduced to do so? That went down in a hail of "Hell, Noes!"?

From the knowledgeable and prescient Matt Taibbi:

May 7, 2010

Death of Brown/Kaufman a Huge Blow

So the Senate voted yesterday evening. It went down by 61-33. That is frankly a crushing defeat.
The roll call has its interesting moments, notably that Alabama Republican Richard Shelby voted for it. Shelby is the leading GOP negotiator on the bill. Two other GOPers also backed it.
The Democrats split 30 for, and 27 against. Looking at those groupings will give you a pretty good idea of the nature of the divide within the Senate Democratic caucus.
via Michael Tomasky: The limits of liberalism in the Senate
As recently as last night I still had some hopes that this Financial Regulatory Reform bill might turn into something real. I was in DC watching the debate on the Senate floor yesterday and aside from being amused by the utterly schizophrenic Republican strategy for attacking the bill (several Republican Senators yesterday veered into discussions of how the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency would harm, of all people, orthodontists) there was little to the naked eye that suggested the whole thing was a farce.
In general I got the sense that many of the members on both sides of the aisle were genuinely freaked out by the snowballing corruption on Wall Street and wanted to sink at least one real fang or two into the problem, though they differed on how to get there.
This is different than the health care debate, which throughout to me felt like a gigantic mountain of posturing and back-room money-dealing smothering the genuinely passionate advocacy of a tiny legislative minority that really wanted to fix the health care problem. In the FinReg business I talked to more members and aides who believed there was real room for something genuine to happen, if only because the political/financial situation in Europe (and the serendipitous timing of the Goldman case) is putting wind at the back of previously dead or dormant reform proposals.
Then last night came to pass, or not pass, as it were.
To me there are three really big parts of the bill. There’s resolution authority/Too-Big-To-Fail, addressing how to deal with systemically ginormous companies like AIG when they go belly up and threaten the survival of the planet.
There’s the derivatives portion, which covers a more or less completely unregulated $600 trillion market.
And there’s the Volcker Rule stuff, trying to bring back Glass-Steagall, preventing banks from turbo-gambling on their prop trading desks while simultaneously acting as ostensibly safe depository institutions. An amendment by Carl Levin and Jeff Merkley is the route for dealing with that last part.
A bill that included strong reform on one of those three counts would be at least passably significant. Two out of three would still be woefully inadequate, but a good start. And none out of three would officially reduce all this to a dog-and-pony show.
Well, the count is 0 and 1. Last night the Too-Big-To-Fail amendment, a strong proposal put forward by Delaware’s Ted Kaufman and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, got pulverized in a late-night vote. An amazing 27 Democrats voted against the bill, which would have put hard caps on the size and risk profiles of financial companies.
In a wittily insulting footnote to this massacre, Alabaman Obfuscation King Richard Shelby, the guy who has been leading the transparently lobbyist-driven and shockingly (even by DC standards) cynical Republican filibusters of this bill,  actually voted for the Brown/Kaufman amendment. I have no idea if this was Shelby’s idea of a joke or what, but somehow seeing this bloated old hack cast a quixotic Yea for this urgently necessary measure while 27 Democrats slithered back into the lobbyist camp to cast Nay votes was the most obnoxious part of this whole sordid affair.
That Brown/Kaufman got beat even worse than Shelby’s own pathetic substitute amendment on the Consumer Financial Protection stuff — the Shelby amendment that got 38 Yeas to Brown/Kaufman’s 31 was a proposal to surgically excise the Consumer Protection aspect of the bill — pretty much tells you everything you need to know about how hard it is to get real reforms passed in this Senate.
Brown/Kaufman was an obvious and logical response to the great cancer of our financial system, the rapid consolidation of power and market share in the hands of a few banks. The measure would have mandated the breakup of companies that grew beyond strictly prescribed limits, and it seems to me that it failed precisely because was a real law with no loopholes.
The Shelby amendment, on the other hand, was an open proposal to do nothing. And again, it got beat, too, but it didn’t get beat as badly as Brown/Kaufman, especially when one considers that the Democrats could have carried Brown/Kaufman all by themselves.
There’s a lot of ugly legislative backstory to all these maneuvers and if Levin/Merkley and some of the other key measures suffer the same fate as Brown/Kaufman, the Democrats and the Republicans will both come out of this wearing a lot of shame. More on this later — I also have a piece on the bill coming out in Rolling Stone in a few weeks.

And on the balance question? Yes, it's history, but still current:
May 8, 2010

Balance in the Washington Post
Lawmakers from both parties have been eager to excoriate Wall Street. But industry lobbyists warn that populist proposals to shrink, break up or otherwise shackle some of the giants of the financial world could do more harm than good to the economy. These advocates say that stiff regulation could stifle the flow of credit, undermine American competitiveness in global markets and cost jobs.
Among the terms that lobbyists used to describe elements of the legislation: “Draconian.” “Crazy.” “Insanely unproductive.”
via Lobbyists fret over legislation to reshape financial system.
Not sure if anyone saw this piece, but the Washington Post’s Brady Dennis fired off one of the weirder pieces of journalism I’ve seen of late in a news daily on the financial crisis.
The essence of his piece was that Wall Street lobbyists had been banking on the Financial Regulatory Reform bill getting pared down behind closed doors as it got closer to a vote. Over the course of 900 words or so Dennis quoted one lobbyist after another talking about how politicians were getting too emotional about this whole ruined-economy thing, and were proceeding with “crazy” and “insanely unproductive” proposals.
Dennis does this, but he never explains what’s so “crazy” about any of these proposals, and in fact only vaguely even hints at what they are. We get that proposals to cap the size of banks and limit prop trading desks are among the things he’s talking about, but we’re apparently supposed to assume automatically that we understand why those things are “crazy” and “unproductive,” which is very odd given the events of the last two years.
The other thing he doesn’t do is ask anyone on the other side of the deal to comment on the rank silliness of these lobbyists’ claims. Maybe that’s because he couldn’t find anyone on the other side.
There are about 1800 financial lobbyists wandering DC these days — I was physically bumping into these guys in DC this week in the halls of Hart and Dirksen — while the leading reform groups (like Americans for Financial Reform) have few if any. (AFR, as far as I understand, has no paid lobbyists and just a few dozen volunteers).
This kind of rhetoric is something you normally see a lot of in campaign journalism. You’ll see whole pieces about how X or Y candidate is “strong on immigration” or “has a good record on defense issues” or “frightens voters with his radical stance on the environment,” but the writer won’t elaborate on what those positions actually are/were. You’re supposed to move straight past the details and just swallow the reporter’s characterizations. It makes it easier to cartoonize stories, which is a big plus especially during campaign season and is also proving useful during a detail-laden behemoth of a story like this FinReg bill.
I suppose there’s a way to read this piece that’s just a bust on all these overpaid lobbyists whining about how much harder than usual it suddenly is to bribe the congress away from real action — that was my first reaction to it — but to a reader who doesn’t know the particulars of this story it still comes across like the Post is saying that the politicians proposing reforms might be out of control and getting carried away by emotion.
Which is odd. In general, the amount of rhetoric against this bill that sidesteps its actual content is growing to the point of absurdity.

The sold-out foreign students win over Hersheys!

Democracy Now: Alleging Captive Labor, Foreign Students Walk Out of Work-Study Program at Hershey Plant

Some highlights from the transcript (are found) below the fold.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to the story of 300 foreign students who came to the U.S. as part of a work-study program and found themselves engaged in what they refer to as captive labor at a Hershey’s packing plant in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. The students from Eastern Europe and Asia went on strike two weeks ago after they were reportedly required to lift heavy boxes, work eight-hour shifts beginning at 11:00 p.m., and stand for long periods of time while packing candy on a fast-moving production line. Federal agencies have launched four investigations into the alleged exploitation.
The student workers recorded an open appeal to Hershey’s CEO John Bilbrey. They’re still waiting for an official response. Here’s a clip from their appeal. [...]
AMY GOODMAN: The students came to the United States through a long-established State Department summer J-1 visa program that allows them to work for two months and then travel. However, in recent years, the program has drawn complaints from students about low wages, unexpectedly difficult work conditions.
It appears, however, the walkout at the Palmyra plant is the first time foreign students have engaged in a strike to protest their employment. The guest workers are demanding a return of the $3,000 to $6,000 each student paid for the cultural exchange program to work at Hershey, that Hershey end its exploitation of J-1 student cultural exchange workers, and that the 400 jobs the guest workers filled instead be given to local workers paid a living wage. The students have collected more than, oh, 63,000 petition signatures from Americans supporting their demands.
JUAN GONZALEZ: A spokesman for Hershey’s, Kirk Saville, said the company — the chocolate company did not directly operate the Palmyra packing plant, which is managed by a company called Exel.
He declined our offer to come on the show but did provide this written quote: "Hershey cares deeply about all of its employees and those of its vendors. We were disappointed to learn that some of the students were dissatisfied in the cultural immersion element of the program. Hershey is partnering with the students’ employers to address this in a manner consistent with Hershey’s values. We strongly support Exel’s decision to discontinue the use of the J-1 program in staffing this facility," end of quote. [...]
AMY GOODMAN: Saket Soni, you’re the director of National Guestworker Alliance. Talk about the J-1 program, how these students who came to the United States to do travel and to work ended up doing this kind of full-time work at the plant.
SAKET SONI: Well, Amy, you know, this is really the story of how far a corporation is willing to go to cut costs, to deny permanent good jobs to local people, and to maximize profits. The J-1 visa program was started in 1961. It was part of the United States’s effort to win the Cold War. It was part of a goodwill campaign to try to bring in foreign students, like them, and have them meet Americans and learn about the American way.
Unfortunately, we’ve come a long way in what the American way is. Today the J-1 program has essentially become the United States’s largest guest worker program. Students like them, from across the world, are recruited ostensibly for cultural exchanges. And they come in, and, like them, they do learn about American culture, just the wrong part of American culture. They learn about corporate greed, and they learn about how American corporations use captive workers.
So these workers paid $3,000 to $6,000 apiece. They were expecting work and travel. Instead, they came into a company town, were forced to live in company housing, charged quite a large sum of money, way above market value, for the privilege of living in company housing. And, most importantly, when they started to organize, they faced threats and retaliation.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, you’ve made the point that companies like Hershey have become less of a direct manufacturer and more of a marketing agent and that they spin off their manufacturing to these suppliers now.
SAKET SONI: That’s right. That’s right. I mean, you know, the quote from Hershey that you had up on the screen a little while ago is very instructive. These used to be permanent jobs inside the Hershey chocolate factory. Hershey’s then took those jobs out of the factory, outsourced them, and created four layers of subcontractors between them and these students.
But they are muuuuuch richer now.

And the venality?

Sneers all round.

Keep eating those Hershey bars, kids!

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