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Amazon’s practices are detrimental to the nation’s economy
July 30, 2013 12:22 PM   Subscribe

President Obama visited an Amazon facility in Tennessee today giving a speech proposing a "grand bargain for middle-class jobs" that would cut the U.S. corporate tax rate and use billions of dollars in revenues generated by a business tax overhaul to fund projects aimed at creating jobs. The American Booksellers Association is not happy about the visit and called him out on it.
posted by dukes909 (233 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
What did the President say in response to this?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:29 PM on July 30, 2013


Ben Roberts photographs of an Amazon fulfilment centre. The article that goes with the story is fantastic. It sounds like some of these Amazon jobs are pretty shit.
"The workers at Rugeley are effectively human robots," Roberts says. "And the only reason Amazon doesn’t actually replace them with robots is they’ve yet to find a machine that can handle so many different sized packages."

The issue at Rugeley is not that workers are ungrateful for the jobs Amazon has given them, or even that they find these jobs unpleasant. Most of Rugeley’s workers come from mining families, a stock not exactly known for its weak-livered dandyism. It doesn’t matter that these jobs are hard. It’s that they have no future.
...
The jobs in the Rugeley fulfillment center are almost always temporary positions handed out by agencies on zero-hour contracts. Nothing is guaranteed, and a fulfillment associate’s job can completely disappear between one day and the next. As such, the local economy is not recovering as locals hoped. Amazon is not investing in the town’s people; instead, it’s mechanizing them.
posted by chunking express at 12:30 PM on July 30, 2013 [45 favorites]


According to Publisher's Weekly, no response from the President as of yet.
posted by dukes909 at 12:33 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sure The Whalerss Union had some terse words for President Grant after he choose the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company as a backdrop to his speech on jobs.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:33 PM on July 30, 2013 [27 favorites]


Making a "grand bargain" with a bunch of corporations is no bargain at all. We know that a "bargain" with corporations basically means "let's give you tax incentives; once you've wrung everything you can out of us, you'll split town".
posted by Frowner at 12:33 PM on July 30, 2013 [54 favorites]


On the heels of press reports that Amazon has drastically lowered the price on many hardcover titles

Heh. A couple of weeks back it was Amazon evilly raising prices.
posted by Artw at 12:33 PM on July 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


I voted for Jill Stein at my next opportunity.
posted by wrapper at 12:33 PM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


come on, guys, he's half-right - it IS a great bargain
posted by pyramid termite at 12:34 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Amazon is the Walmart of e-commerce. It's not just their warehouses that work this way either. Check out any of the tons of articles, essays, and personal accounts out there. Like this.

Hiring contractors for 11 months and canning them is pretty shady. It's just another angle of the keep everyone at 33 hours a week bullshit that directly brick and mortar retail shops do to keep anyone from ever being "full time".

The amazon business model seems to be to extract as much as they can from people and spend as little as possible to the point that they're a net drain on the system.

In before the whole "but a corporations job is to maximize shareholder profit!" crappile.

And this isn't even getting started on the weirdness that is how investors treat them, that they're just allowed to make barely any profit and still get patted on the back as awesome.
posted by emptythought at 12:36 PM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


Do you know how many telegraphists have lost their jobs because of this "Internet?" For shame, Mr. President.
posted by Behemoth at 12:36 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


It doesn't make any sense to be mad at Amazon specifically for destroying jobs. That's the whole efficiency model of the internet basically. If that's the best argument they have it doesn't merit an official response.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:37 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's fascinating to me how the same people who bash the crap out of WalMart give Amazon a free pass.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:38 PM on July 30, 2013 [41 favorites]


Man, Obama, why not just do the speech at the Open-Pit Sadness Mine?

"Here at the Open Pit Sadness Mine, we're partnering with Job Creators to employ all the Baby Woodland Creatures that were orphaned after local residents hunted down their parents for food. Look at those baby otters operate that drill press! America is truly in a recovery."
posted by hellojed at 12:39 PM on July 30, 2013 [64 favorites]


by the way - isn't this basically the same crap bush pulled that resulted in unbalanced budgets and a record high deficit?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:39 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do you know how many telegraphists have lost their jobs because of this "Internet?" For shame, Mr. President.

This is a completely useless and inapplicable analogy.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:40 PM on July 30, 2013 [27 favorites]


2bucksplus:
It doesn't make any sense to be mad at Amazon specifically for destroying jobs. That's the whole efficiency model of the internet basically.
It's the same reason people pick out Wal-Mart. Wally World isn't the whole of the problem, just the most successful and therefore most representative. If we can get people to understand the hidden costs of Amazon we can get them to understand the (potential) problems with all online shopping.
posted by charred husk at 12:43 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's fascinating to me how the same people who bash the crap out of WalMart give Amazon a free pass.

He should have given the speech in front of an Apple store.
posted by Artw at 12:43 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Amazon's labor practices being sub-par doesn't mean that retail stores are the right way to sell books.
posted by kiltedtaco at 12:43 PM on July 30, 2013 [38 favorites]


More essays to fuel your Amazon rage!

From Salon: Amazon Is Everything Wrong With Our New Economy and Amazon Is Worse Than Wal-Mart. And over at Shelf-Awareness, you can read the ABA letter again, along with one from the head of the New England Independent Bookseller's Association.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:43 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


The problem with the future is that it's a Jeff Bezos future.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:44 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So is the argument for Amazon basically:

"Hurray! The Internet keeps eating more jobs! Soon we'll have no more jobs to feed it and then we can just start chucking live people into it somehow! People are information and information wants to be free! Of jobs! Total freedom for all! This is good because... efficiency! We're bringing the human race to its logical conclusion more efficiently than ever now!"

I mean, I used to think there was some point in all this about not wastefully using resources but is there any evidence Amazon's way of doing business produces less pollution or produces fewer carbon emissions even?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:44 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there an option for online book purchases that does treat their workers well? How is Powells?
posted by kokaku at 12:45 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we can get people to understand the hidden costs of Amazon we can get them to understand the (potential) problems with all online shopping. - charred hush

Can you explain this further?
posted by playertobenamedlater at 12:46 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is capitalism at work, folks. Unless, and until, we as a society call bullshit on the cult of productivity, we will keep producing ourselves right down a fucking hole. Too many pay, and took few reap. It's not good, it's not commendable, it's not defendable, it's not acceptable. Business needs to exist at the behest of the society, not the other way around.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:46 PM on July 30, 2013 [62 favorites]


On the other hand, Amazon bought a local technology company here in town (head office is about 10 minutes by kayak from where I am working right now) called Abebooks. Abebooks has increased their headcount since acquisition, and is one of the best places to work in Victoria BC, in terms of pay, professional development and on and on.

Unfortunately, the ratio of dev/architect jobs to warehouse jobs must be something like 1:10,000.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:46 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Making a speech about investments and creating middle class jobs at a temp-employing warehouse run by a tax-dodging company?

That's like if somebody were to appoint the CEO of General Electric to chair a council on U.S. job creation.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 12:46 PM on July 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


In exchange for his support for a corporate tax reduction, Obama wants the money generated by a tax overhaul to be used to fund such projects as repairing roads and bridges, improving education at community colleges and promoting manufacturing, senior administration officials said.

Tax cuts don't generate more tax revenue. By definition, tax cuts reduce tax revenue.

Obama must think we are mentally challenged, if he thinks we will buy a story that the US can pay for infrastructure and education by cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans (which now includes corporations).

Actually, since we voted him in twice, he must expect us to be mentally challenged. We get what we deserve, I guess.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:47 PM on July 30, 2013 [16 favorites]


Amazon's labor practices being sub-par doesn't mean that retail stores are the right way to sell books.

There is no "right way" to sell books. Part of our problem is that we act like markets can optimize everything automagically even in the absence of any stipulations about what goals exactly they're supposed to be optimizing for.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:47 PM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


The horrible truth is that all shopping, online and off, involves warehouses. Terrible, I know.
posted by Artw at 12:48 PM on July 30, 2013 [21 favorites]


saulgoodman: I think the argument goes something like this:

1. Internet wantonly destroys entire industries.
2. ????
3. Utopian post-work society.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:49 PM on July 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


Yes, let's just throw out capitalism because that's going to happen.
posted by dobie at 12:49 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


The article that goes with the story is fantastic. It sounds like some of these Amazon jobs are pretty shit.

The real story there is that there is no job security, inadequate pay and no possibility of advancement. It says as much in the second half of the article, past the "human robot" red herring that paints what seems like a decent working environment in the worst possible light.

Many warehouses have computerized instructions for workers. My brother worked in one where some of his co-workers would show up stoned, and spend all day on their feet hauling boxes past nearly-identical shelves, following instructions through a set of headphones. They went home happy, but then they had full-time employment and were making more than minimum wage.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:50 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


The horrible truth is that all shopping, online and off, involves warehouses. Terrible, I know

But in the not-too-distant past, most of those warehouse jobs would have been permanent, included a stable promotion track, and would have had unions representing the workers. Amazon's not unique in using too many temp workers and off-loading their business need for flexible NSA labor onto the backs of the US workforce, but they're definitely not on the side of the angels.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:53 PM on July 30, 2013 [31 favorites]


Amazon is an odd beast. It brought in a scant $82 million in profit on $16.1 billion in sales this past Q1. That means they spend over $200 for every dollar they earn and barely hold on to 0.5% of the money that they get.

In Q2 they lost $7 million on $15 billion in sales. Fifteen billion and they couldn't hold on to a penny!

It's almost as if Jeff Bezos is subsidizing our shopping habits at a loss for us.
posted by furtive at 12:54 PM on July 30, 2013 [22 favorites]


The amazon business model seems to be to extract as much as they can from people and spend as little as possible to the point that they're a net drain on the system.

...in order to maintain their razor thin margins so we as consumers can enjoy the illusion of low prices.

I think at some point it makes sense to raise prices on everything at all levels, put some markup back into the system to allow for fair wages and quality control, even if it means we pay more than we're used to what we really should be paying.
posted by sourwookie at 12:54 PM on July 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


...decent working environment...

Maybe in Tennessee but certainly not in Pennsylvania.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 12:56 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


playertobenamedlater:
Can you explain this further?
As Artw mentioned, for a large enough online shopping business there will be brick and mortar infrastructure underneath in order to maintain efficiency. Because the the nature of the relationship between seller and buyer, this infrastructure is invisible. This doesn't make it inherently a bad thing but it does make it easier to abuse which is why I said "potential" problems.

So, mostly, the idea is to show what's behind the curtain at Amazon so that people are aware that it isn't always one-click magic. The problem isn't that there are warehouses, the problem is that they are warehouses with shitty employment practices.
posted by charred husk at 12:57 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's almost as if Jeff Bezos is subsidizing our shopping habits at a loss for us.

Not almost - he is. And I, for one, am doing all I can to drive them out of business by buying as much as possible.

Anyway, the invisible hand of the market is good a closing bookstores but not yet very good at picking & packing.

If it makes anyone feel better, in 10 years there will not be problems with Amazon abusing labour practices in its warehouses because there will not be humans in the warehouses any more. The clearly local bookstores will have nothing to complain about.
posted by GuyZero at 12:57 PM on July 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


Making a "grand bargain" with a bunch of corporations

I think the 'grand bargain' being proposed here is a bargain with the Republican-lead House, not with the corporations. If you have some cunning plan whereby the President can enact spending initiatives over the opposition of the majority party in the House or can cajole them into passing such legislation without getting anything they want in return, here would be as good a place as any to spell them out. Otherwise, complaining about the fact that Obama is trying to give something to get something is just kinda silly utopianism.
posted by yoink at 12:57 PM on July 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


Look it's a two pronged thing, it's a tax cut on the high end (reducing max rates) and tax reform on the low end (i.e. closing loopholes). It has the benefit of helping some business (generally small to midsize) and hurting huge corporations (especially those that generate much of their income overseas), which means there shouldn't be a unified business lobby immediately opposed to it day one. That's by design.

We can ignore that if we want but it is absolutely a bargain, meaning a compromise.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:57 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


The sooner the ABA realizes that the future of printed books is as fetish objects for collectors the better.

Publishers should focus more on gate keeping, since finding anything good will be difficult in a post-print world. Random Penguin, save me from the tragedy of the commons!
posted by Gin and Comics at 12:59 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


"a bargain with the Republican-lead House, not with the corporations."

That's often a distinction w/out a difference.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 12:59 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


My understanding of Amazon is that their employees love their jobs. They are well paid, have great benefits, and are very engaging for the workers. They get to innovate, engage their brains, and have great career prospects.

As you probably can guess, these are not the warehouse jobs.

Similarly, in the 90's, Microsoft was an awesome place to work - incredible benefits, perks (even for temps), a great job atmosphere, great career prospects. At the same time the people who were packaging software into boxes were literally prison labor workers.

And Apple, even though there is criticisms about headquarters is (probably) an engaging place, with (?) happy employees, great benefits and perks. Unless you are in China, actually making their products.

As for independent booksellers (and boy, do I love an independent bookstore), I always had the impression that big box book sellers (Barnes and Nobles and the like) were killing them off way before Amazon had a serious chunk of the book market. And frankly, I'd rather Amazon succeed in the marketplace than Barnes and Nobles.
posted by el io at 12:59 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


even if it means we pay more than we're used to what we really should be paying.

There is no morally proper price.
posted by GuyZero at 12:59 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, let's just throw out capitalism because that's going to happen.

I don't think anyone has proposed that. But there is huuuuuuge ground between capitalism as we are allowing it to be run today and "throw out capitalism".

Stagnant and/or declining middle-class wages for FORTY years should be damning enough, no? In the face of ever-increasing corporate profits on top of that. How is that in any way defendable?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:00 PM on July 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


Amazon is an odd beast.

Sometimes I'm not sure the goals of those running/investing in Amazon are business/profit oriented alone. There doesn't seem to be any real drive towards an economic profit on a recognizable horizon.
posted by weston at 1:03 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Booksellers were dead and done when Barnes and Noble and Borders rolled out nationwide with a hundred times the selection and bargain racks. Amazon may have put Borders out of business, but that should cheer indie booksellers - who, to be frank, pay their workers crap, usually without benefits. (I worked at one in college.)

What is bullshit are the subhuman working conditions Amazon places on its workers, and the financial drain it places on the communities where its facilities are located.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:04 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's often a distinction w/out a difference.

Actually, you probably could get a halfway reasonable deal with the corporations. The silly thing about getting exercised about this proposal is that it is clearly dead in the water from the beginning. The Republicans aren't going to give Obama any deal of any kind on taxes and spending. So, you know, if you hate the idea of lowering the headline rate on corporate taxes and closing the loopholes which mean that, in fact, hardly any corporation pays those headline rates in return for some increased government investment in infrastructure (i.e., hiring a bunch more Americans into good jobs in construction etc.) then sleep easy, partner, John Boehner has your back.
posted by yoink at 1:05 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


So is the argument for Amazon basically

I dunno, it seems to me that the argument for Amazon (at least so far as books go which is where Amazon started and the focus of the ABA) is that Amazon made vastly more books available to vastly more people at better prices than existed pre-Amazon. They were a blessing of the highest order to book lovers everywhere.

Does that mean there aren't problems? Of course not. But I started shopping at Amazon in '96 or '97 and it was wonderful.
posted by Justinian at 1:05 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


What is bullshit are the subhuman working conditions Amazon places on its workers

Yes, that's the problem with Amazon. Not the fact that you can order a wide variety of things for good prices (except insofar as the prices depend on the working conditions.)
posted by Justinian at 1:06 PM on July 30, 2013


Many warehouses have computerized instructions for workers. My brother worked in one where some of his co-workers would show up stoned, and spend all day on their feet hauling boxes past nearly-identical shelves, following instructions through a set of headphones.

During my community college years I worked for a little mail order catalog company doing QA in their warehouse. This was pre-computer based training so any new folks that were hired during the fall rush (most of which were temps or folks that knew someone that worked there) were literally given two sheets of paper detailing where the bins were for their shift orders, shown how to operate the fork lift, issued a safety harness, and told to "not waste too much time".

One of the dudes that had been there for years that I used to chat with on break told me, without a hint of shame, "they make this job too damn easy, I'm going to need to start taking a handful of horse tranquilizers to make it through tomorrow. I wish they'd just bring in the robots so I can go home and stay drunk."
posted by playertobenamedlater at 1:06 PM on July 30, 2013


Isn't this all exactly what Marx predicted would inevitably happen with capitalist systems?
posted by mullingitover at 1:06 PM on July 30, 2013


So, mostly, the idea is to show what's behind the curtain at Amazon so that people are aware that it isn't always one-click magic. - charred husk

Nobody wants to know how the sausage gets made. Just make sure Lasership can get it to me by tomorrow for $3.99 via Prime.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 1:09 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can structure corporate taxes any damn way you please; they still won't pay them. Corporations don't pay taxes. They pass those expenses to the customer. Every penny of them.
posted by klarck at 1:09 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, you know, if you hate the idea of lowering the headline rate on corporate taxes and closing the loopholes which mean that, in fact, hardly any corporation pays those headline rates in return for some increased government investment in infrastructure (i.e., hiring a bunch more Americans into good jobs in construction etc.) then sleep easy, partner, John Boehner has your back.

Actually, this argument is the reason I'm (almost) willing to cut Obama some slack on for proposing yet another "grand bargain". If the nominal corporate tax rate is now 35%, but they only pay an average of 12%, will lowering the nominal rate lead to them paying less? Maybe not. If that's true, then the upside is much greater than the downside.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:11 PM on July 30, 2013


Look it's a two pronged thing, it's a tax cut on the high end (reducing max rates) and tax reform on the low end (i.e. closing loopholes)

But my understanding (gleaned from popular media reports and so probably at least a little misleading) is that with this latest proposal, Obama is offering to forgo closing the loopholes on the low end, which would make this a straight-up bribe to companies to start hiring in return for a short-term payout in reduced tax liabilities.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:11 PM on July 30, 2013


Or in a less charitable reading, it's another tax revenue sacrifice on the alter to the supply-side gods.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:11 PM on July 30, 2013


What is bullshit are the subhuman working conditions Amazon places on its workers

Amazon warehouse jobs are hardly great but I think "subhuman" is an exaggeration. It's not coal mining or slaughterhouse work - no one is going to die in a cave-in or fall into a vat of hot lard. They just look for loopholes in employment law and the job is really, really boring. In some cases they set unrealistic benchmarks for productivity, but again, none of those warehouse workers is in any danger of, say, black lung or something like that. It would be much better if Amazon gave them some level of benefits and full work weeks instead of the crap they're currently pulling, sure.
posted by GuyZero at 1:12 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Doesn't matter, Obama proposed it so the Republicans will oppose it.
posted by Justinian at 1:12 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Similarly, in the 90's, Microsoft was an awesome place to work - incredible benefits, perks (even for temps), a great job atmosphere, great career prospects. At the same time the people who were packaging software into boxes were literally prison labor workers.

I'm totally ok with that and don't think it's comparable at all with what's happening now.
posted by headnsouth at 1:14 PM on July 30, 2013


I dunno, it seems to me that the argument for Amazon (at least so far as books go which is where Amazon started and the focus of the ABA) is that Amazon made vastly more books available to vastly more people at better prices than existed pre-Amazon.

Project Gutenberg has done far more good by that measure, though. And public libraries have done far more than Amazon ever could on that score, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:15 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, let's just throw out capitalism because that's going to happen.

Agreed. Ultimately, capitalism will throw us out. There is nothing inherent in the market that demands the continued survival of our current global civilization, or even the human species, and when the abolition of either becomes more economically viable than their survival, they (and/or) we will happily eliminate them (ourselves).
posted by Naberius at 1:16 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amazon warehouse jobs are hardly great but I think "subhuman" is an exaggeration.

You may have missed the story from the Morning Call.
posted by Longtime Listener at 1:18 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ultimately, capitalism will throw us out.

Is it too early to request to be thrown into the vat of hot lard someone mentioned earlier when this happens?
posted by playertobenamedlater at 1:18 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, let's just throw out capitalism because that's going to happen.

Well, it's not like capitalism is working out all that well for the vast majority of people. We could try a different approach....
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:19 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


You can structure corporate taxes any damn way you please; they still won't pay them. Corporations don't pay taxes. They pass those expenses to the customer. Every penny of them.

This argument has never made much sense to me.

If it's true that businesses just pass along taxes, then:

1) Why are they so often worried about increased taxation? If they can just pass along every penny of the cost, it's no skin off their nose, and heck, depending on the timing of collection on both sides, there's possibly some opportunity for float. That's not how they generally seem to react, though -- instead is they're often concerned they will be carrying the cost.

2) If it's true that businesses can just pass along taxes, I assume that's true for me, too, of course. Presumably, I don't pay income/payroll, I just pass along the cost of those taxes to my employer. My employer (as given) just passes those costs along to consumers. Each consumer just figures in the costs of goods/services and calculates their asking price for their market offerings accordingly.

So... nobody pays taxes! Right?

What seems more likely to me is that everybody pays the tax by finding some economic balance between what they can/must pass on and what they can/must absorb. How much is passed along probably depends on how competitive the market for each exchange is along every cascade and how price sensitive buyers are.

That is, sure, there are costs to consumers down the line, but it's fundamentally false to say that corporations pass along every penny and don't pay taxes at all.
posted by weston at 1:20 PM on July 30, 2013 [17 favorites]


The goal of business now is to eliminate jobs, not to create them . It's not like they would create more, if only they had an incentive.
posted by thelonius at 1:20 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


by the way - isn't this basically the same crap bush pulled that resulted in unbalanced budgets and a record high deficit?

We keep hearing that things have changed, that new regulations will prevent this and that from happening but politicians from both sides of the ridiculous spectrum in the States are gutless. The employment situation even outside of the effects of the Internet is dismal in terms of pay rates for millions of people and lack of "upward" mobility. It's a model of maximizing profit and bugger the social consequences that is being embraced and has been embraced for quite some time by a lot of companies and it's an ideology embraced by a lot of voters, be they poor or otherwise.

The argument against further regulation and changing the laws so that massive tax shelters are made illegal, fair wages are paid, etc. is that then the companies will "leave" and won't hire anyone in the States anymore so politicians who ostensibly believe that reform is needed don't bother while the Republican side rejects the very idea out of "principle". Kowtowing to business has never had any benefit for the greater good of the country.

Perhaps the argument for regulation, fair wages, and fair taxes should be one of patriotism or lack thereof. You want do to business in your country origin but you want to fuck it over at the same time? How "patriotic" is that? I know it's cheap but any sort of reasonable argument is rejected out of hand as socialism or, of course, anti-American or unpatriotic. Those politicians who are acting like children and who won't listen to reason and who are frankly saying things that are insane should be called out rather than politely stepped around. It's unbelievable that the bullshit going on is not met head on but only in commentary from comedy shows and ever dwindling serious journalism.

We're all getting majorly fucked over. We already have been of course, and will again. Nothing particularly has changed and I doubt nothing will. The ideal of less poor and large middle class is only an ideal. What we're getting is far more poor, a middle class that will disappear, and a few folks at the top who want to keep it that way. I'm not even sure if that's not what we have already.
posted by juiceCake at 1:20 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]



Corporations don't pay taxes. They pass those expenses to the customer. Every penny of them.


If they didn't pass all their expenses on to the customer they wouldn't stay in business very long. The same goes for Mom and Pop stores.

(On preview, basically what weston said)
posted by ghharr at 1:21 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I actually know a few people who work at this particular facility. To hear them describe it, it's not nearly as bad as what news media had led me to believe. All three of them managed to get past the temp stage, and they're not exactly the most professional or reliable people. On days they are scheduled to work but there is no work, they get the choice of taking 2 hours pay and going home or twiddling their thumbs for their scheduled shifts. Being youngish people who place more value on partying than financial security, they always take the 2 hours and go home.

I don't know what their benefits, if any, are like, but they definitely prefer it to working at McDonald's or waiting tables at some chain restaurant.

They were split on whether picking or receiving is better work. Apparently receiving is kind of boring, but easier, while picking keeps you constantly in motion, but is more interesting/challenging.
posted by wierdo at 1:25 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]




I buy my books from The Book Depository in part because they're not Amazon. Except it turns out now they are Amazon after being bought two years ago. Ug.
posted by shelleycat at 1:29 PM on July 30, 2013


This argument has never made much sense to me.

If it's true that businesses just pass along taxes, then:

1) Why are they so often worried about increased taxation?


Newer tax proposals tend to try and avoid or close loopholes that allow existing taxes to be passed on in the first place.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:29 PM on July 30, 2013


If they didn't pass all their expenses on to the customer they wouldn't stay in business very long. The same goes for Mom and Pop stores.

Oh, to make an addendum to this thing I said, the obvious exception is Amazon, since they appear to have a goal of creating a monument to consumer glory at the expense of their investors.
posted by ghharr at 1:29 PM on July 30, 2013


In a recent Amazon thread there was a link to an article that pointed out that Amazon's valuation depends on an expectation that once they've put the competition out of business they will be drastically increasing prices.
posted by junco at 1:32 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's not like they would create more, if only they had an incentive.

Where are people getting the idea that this is about cutting taxes in a "bargain" with the corporations in return for which they'll create more jobs? That's not the proposal. The proposed "bargain" is with the House Republicans. Obama agrees to lower the top rate for corporate taxes (he also proposes creating a minimum tax for offshore earnings, so as to close one of the major ways corporations avoid paying US taxes). Part of the deal involves a one-time windfall that results from some of the changes to the tax code and Obama is asking that in return for the lowered corporate tax rate the Republicans agree to invest that money in infrastructure projects in the US. That's where he's seeing more jobs being created: the US government would hire a whole bunch of people to work on infrastructure projects. There's really no question at all that if this "bargain" passed (which is won't because, you know, Republicans) more jobs would result. No part of that equation relies on corporations feeling cheerier because their tax rates dropped.
posted by yoink at 1:33 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I'm not sure the goals of those running/investing in Amazon are business/profit oriented alone. There doesn't seem to be any real drive towards an economic profit on a recognizable horizon.

I can't escape this feeling either. It seems like intense tinfoil hatting, but i keep thinking it's some sort of plan to starve everyone else out of the primary retail market. Ebay bought craigslist, so they own like 99.999% of the online secondary market, and amazon is going to steamroll the primary market.

Anyone who can't compete at their prices and level is driven out. There will be nothing but large specialty sellers(IE newegg) who are selling at a hair above cost.

I get the feeling everyone in it with amazon is it in for the long game, when amazon rules everything and they can charge whatever they want(but still below what any newcomer could afford to pull) and own the market.

That or some even more bizarre plan to destroy the market in general and like smash everything, but who knows...
posted by emptythought at 1:33 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


some even more bizarre plan to destroy the market in general and like smash everything, but who knows...

Shh... someone might overhear.
posted by CrystalDave at 1:38 PM on July 30, 2013




My rage. It is on.

cut the U.S. corporate tax rate and use billions of dollars in revenues generated by a business tax overhaul to fund projects aimed at creating jobs

What in the everloving goddamn motherfuck, Obama? When the hell did you turn into a Republican? The Amazon connection, meh, whatever; but since when do Democrats believe that cutting taxes increase government revenues? How the fuck does a 7-10% cut in corporate taxes generate any money for the government at all? Here's a fucking hint, one-time "transition fees" do not constitute sustainable revenue, goddamn it.

Obama's proposal immediately drew fire from the office of Republican John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives. ... Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel criticized the idea even before the release of the plan's details

What in the everloving goddamn motherfuck, Boehner? So at this point you just automatically blast any proposal coming from the other team, even if it matches your own goddamn playbook pretty much word for word, or for that matter even before you know what the goddamn proposal even fucking is?

Bickering broke out as the White House said it had tried to tell Boehner's aides about the plan on Monday but "never heard back" from them, said Obama spokesman Jay Carney.

Fuck. We are so fucking fucked in this fucking country. How the fuck did this fucking bunch of petulant children get to be in charge of things
posted by ook at 1:43 PM on July 30, 2013 [38 favorites]


Corporations don't pay taxes. They pass those expenses to the customer. Every penny of them.

That's like saying I don't pay any income tax because I pass those expenses on to my employer. Ridiculous.
posted by The World Famous at 1:44 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


yoink: AP is reporting that the new proposal offers corporate tax cuts in return for nothing more specific than a commitment from Republicans to invest in jobs somehow.
Obama long has called for a cut in corporate tax rates, but previously insisted such business tax reform be coupled with an individual tax overhaul. He’s dropping that demand and says instead that he’s open to the corporate tax cut that that businesses crave. But he wants it to be coupled with a significant investment on some sort of job creation program, such as manufacturing, infrastructure or community colleges.
So if there's confusion about the proposal, blame the usual suspects. It seems like the press might not be reporting the actual details of this proposal very clearly.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:45 PM on July 30, 2013


Newsflash: Warehouse jobs are shitty. Always have been. And I bet they're shitty jobs in the warehouses that supply physical bookstores, too.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:46 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Saulgoodman: he's dropping the demand for an overhaul of the individual tax code. He is continuing, however, as the very passage you quote says, to demand direct government investment in job creation. Yes, he has said that the details are up for negotiation, but the starting point is very clearly "you guys get a lower corporate tax rate, we close some loopholes and start getting a cut of overseas earnings and we invest some of the new returns in stimulus projects."

None of this is "let's lower corporate tax rates and they'll be bound to start creating jobs!" Even the Republicans in the House would probably accept that offer.
posted by yoink at 1:51 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


AP is reporting that the new proposal offers corporate tax cuts in return for nothing more specific than a commitment from Republicans to invest in jobs somehow.

Of course, it is writ large in Republican dogma that tax cuts are job-creating investments. So...a two-fer!

Way to go, Barry...
posted by Thorzdad at 1:51 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also pretty shitty. Probably illegal. "subhuman"? That seems excessive.

If we're going to play moving goalposts with cherry-picked pullquotes, how about this one:

"During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress."

Amazon management recognizes the fact that their warehouse working conditions necessitate medical intervention for the warehouse workers and instead of doing anything to fix that they hired medics to patch 'em up and put 'em back to work, or get 'em to the hospital so they don't die on the clock.

They are treating their warehouse workers as literally disposable.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 1:53 PM on July 30, 2013 [23 favorites]


I'm disappointed amazon's warehouses aren't full automated yet since eliminating warehouse jobs all together helps the most.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:54 PM on July 30, 2013


since when do Democrats believe that cutting taxes increase government revenues?

Because he's proposing specific new taxation programs as part of the overhaul and it is that guaranteed money he is proposing gets spent on job-stimulus. Fuck, will NO ONE actually read about the proposal he's making?

Look, if Obama were simply offering the corporations exactly what they wanted and the Republicans were simply the mouthpieces of the corporations why do you think the Republicans have torpedoed this proposal as soon as it was announced?
posted by yoink at 1:54 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


If their air condition capacity was overloaded due to aberrant weather, bringing in paramedics seems like a good idea to me. It's not like they can add several tons of air conditioning capacity overnight.
posted by GuyZero at 1:55 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I guess if they cut the taxes, corporations can make more money. Then wealth can sort of... trickle down, if you follow my analogy. If only that had been tried earlier, the economy wouldn't be such a mess for so many people. Prepare to become fabulously rich everyone. I feel this is gonna work!
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 1:55 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know for a fact that, while warehouse jobs may have always been shitty, they've more often come with reciprocal obligations on the employers in the not-too-distant past (offering the kind of job security that encourages stable middle class communities to form and even pensions).
posted by saulgoodman at 1:55 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not like they can add several tons of air conditioning capacity overnight.

They could order it with free overnight shipping from themselves.
posted by elizardbits at 1:56 PM on July 30, 2013 [24 favorites]


/fully expects a campaign to elect more Republicans in 2014 to "punish" Obama for not having magicked away Republican budget madness.
posted by Artw at 1:56 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not like they can add several tons of air conditioning capacity overnight.

"On July 25, a security guard at the Amazon warehouse called OSHA and said the temperature exceeded 110 degrees. The guard reported seeing two pregnant women taken to nurses and that Amazon would not open garage doors to help air circulation."
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 1:56 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also: "'For instance, loading dock doors on opposite sides of those warehouses were left open to let fresh air circulate and reduce the temperature when it got too hot, he said. When Amazon workers asked in meetings why this wasn't done at the Amazon warehouse, managers said the company was worried about theft, Goris said.'"
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 1:57 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dodecadermaldenticles: "Hmm. I guess if they cut the taxes, corporations can make more money. Then wealth can sort of... trickle down, if you follow my analogy."

This wealth that's trickling down...is it supposed to be warm and salty?
posted by mullingitover at 1:57 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


If their air condition capacity was overloaded due to aberrant weather, bringing in paramedics seems like a good idea to me. It's not like they can add several tons of air conditioning capacity overnight.

That statement is bullshit.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:59 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


The trickle-down theory... it'll work eventually! We just haven't cut taxes enough yet!
posted by Zed at 2:00 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fine. Warehouse work is subhuman and it should be banned. Everyone can drive up to Quebec and pick up their books directly from the printers from now on.
posted by GuyZero at 2:01 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "nation's economy" is fine, keeping in mind that you and I and the rest of MetaFilter do not participate in it in any meaningful way. If you don't like this situation, then work to change the laws and regulations to make it impossible to continue what is essentially a capital harvest; the middle class is being reaped for the benefit of the business owners.

I'm not even joking. You can't blame Amazon or Wally World or any other business for this situation. They find niches that work and exploit them. If you don't like those niches, you have to plug them.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:01 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps they could call in military advisors regarding the air conditioning issue.
posted by fairmettle at 2:01 PM on July 30, 2013


So at this point you just automatically blast any proposal coming from the other team, even if it matches your own goddamn playbook pretty much word for word, or for that matter even before you know what the goddamn proposal even fucking is?

Unfortunately at this point was years ago and unfortunately this sort of bullshit is not called out probably because it would be countered with more bullshit that people would believe but why bother caring about people who will not be reasonable?

Warehouse jobs are shitty. Always have been. And I bet they're shitty jobs in the warehouses that supply physical bookstores, too.

When I was 17 i worked in a warehouse packing orders for paper products. It paid $12/hour which for a summer job in 1984ish was a great rate (this was in Canada). I only worked it for 2 weeks however not because it was subhuman or terrible physically, but mentally I couldn't take the monotony. People who had been there for years (some 30 or more) seemed to me to have some psychological issues (but I was pretty young and could have been just unperceptive or being an asshole at the time).

A friend of mine works at Toyota, first in paint and now in QA and his chief compliant is the monotony but the money is so good he stays. At least in that case the money is there to pay for the monotonous nature of the work.

Because he's proposing specific new taxation programs as part of the overhaul and it is that guaranteed money he is proposing gets spent on job-stimulus. Fuck, will NO ONE actually read about the proposal he's making?

I don't think lack of reading is the issue, it's reading something that is pretty much unbelievable in the sense that it will actually happen (I seem to recall some deals with the telecommunications industries that did not pan out as they were supposed to for example). The Republicans have gotten away with denouncing everything under the Sun for years and the Democrats are in part part of that, since they do not trust a significant amount of the public at large to be able to process the calling out of bullshit, which is strange since those who believe the bullshit won't be persuaded anyway.

Look, if Obama were simply offering the corporations exactly what they wanted and the Republicans were simply the mouthpieces of the corporations why do you think the Republicans have torpedoed this proposal as soon as it was announced?

How often have they agreed with anything coming from Obama even if it's largely from their own playbook?
posted by juiceCake at 2:03 PM on July 30, 2013


Hmm. I guess if they cut the taxes, corporations can make more money. Then wealth can sort of... trickle down, if you follow my analogy.

And, again, that is not the proposal.:
Obama also wants lawmakers to pour one-time revenue generated from the tax overhaul into jobs programs, including infrastructure, manufacturing and community colleges.

"If we're going to give businesses a better deal, we're going to give workers a better deal too," the president said.

Republicans have opposed using tax revenue to support more spending. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Tuesday that "everything should be negotiated, but certainly I'm not in support of it."

Administration officials said the jobs programs would be paid for with a one-time revenue boost from measures such as changing depreciation rules or having a one-time fee on earnings held overseas. But they wouldn't put a price tag on the revenue total or the corporate tax overhaul at large.

...

The U.S. has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, but many businesses avoid the full cost by taking advantage of deductions, credits and exemptions that Obama wants to eliminate.

Obama wants to do away with corporate tax benefits like oil and natural gas industry subsidies, special breaks for the purchase of private jets and certain corporate tax shelters. He also wants to impose a minimum tax on foreign earnings, a move opposed by multinational corporations and perhaps the most contentious provision in the president's plan.
Source.

And, also once again: if you don't like this, you have absolutely no need to worry about it. Apparently eeeeeeeeeeeevil Obama 'becoming a republican' and "giving the corporations everything they want' has had the magical effect of turning John Boehner into Che Guevara. He has declared it dead on arrival. Because he hates corporations, or something.
posted by yoink at 2:03 PM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


I don't think lack of reading is the issue, it's reading something that is pretty much unbelievable in the sense that it will actually happen

Of course it won't happen, but that's not what people are saying. People are saying that the proposal is simply to cut taxes and see jobs flourish as a result of a diminished tax burden. That is simply false.
posted by yoink at 2:05 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because he's proposing specific new taxation programs as part of the overhaul and it is that guaranteed money he is proposing gets spent on job-stimulus.

He's not, actually. I see the phrase "tax code overhaul", some vaguely described "one-time revenues" and "Our main goal here as not to announce new details as much as to make clear the president is putting forward a new kind of grand bargain for middle-class jobs". Those aren't specific new taxation programs, that's just a bunch of handwaving.

Look, if Obama were simply offering the corporations exactly what they wanted and the Republicans were simply the mouthpieces of the corporations why do you think the Republicans have torpedoed this proposal as soon as it was announced?

Well, they apparently torpedoed the proposal before they even knew what the proposal was, so I'm taking that to mean they'll torpedo anything.
posted by ook at 2:06 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apparently kids need to get off my lawn today, because the FPP and the comments have me grumbling...

No company will hire any workers unless their business is growing such that they need more bodies to meet the demand, or face jeopardizing that growth. Is the idea that the tax cut will compensate companies for the extra cost of using workers rather than robots?

This seems like really fundamental economics. I'm sad that this is the best Obama has got.

Also, have people forgotten that the middle class was created through people working mind-numbing, sometimes back-breaking tedious labour for hours on end for 30 years? I mean, it also came with job security and benefits, which are clearly lacking here. But that's your issue, not the tedium of the work. That has always been the price of financial stability for working class families. The middle class was always a bargain. We can fight to protect the bargain, but don't expect the work to be fun. The privilege on display in this thread is grating.
posted by dry white toast at 2:11 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


What do you want, there was a Gold Box deal on torpedoes.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 2:12 PM on July 30, 2013


He should have given the speech in front of an Apple store.

Yeah. Crucify the guys that pay well above minimum in both retail and manufacturing.
posted by Talez at 2:13 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fine. Warehouse work is subhuman and it should be banned. Everyone can drive up to Quebec and pick up their books directly from the printers from now on.

Or, like... fix it.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:14 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Guys, if warehouse workers wanted to be treated humanely, they should have picked up an O'Reilly book and become a programmer.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:22 PM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


Look, if Obama were simply offering the corporations exactly what they wanted and the Republicans were simply the mouthpieces of the corporations why do you think the Republicans have torpedoed this proposal as soon as it was announced?

Do you actually think they care about policies? They care about the other guy being wrong, Period.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:23 PM on July 30, 2013


My sole point is that there is an actual gap between "bad treatment" and "subhuman treatment." If something is bad it doesn't instantly move to being "subhuman." That sort of superlative escalation really diminishes the things in the world that are actually subhuman.
posted by GuyZero at 2:24 PM on July 30, 2013


Metafilter: The Open-Pit Sadness Mine

Yes, let's just throw out capitalism because that's going to happen.

Capitalism can certainly be restrained. There are certainly things that it does well, but the kind of circular, intensive version that's practiced today by large corporations is destructive.

I think at some point it makes sense to raise prices on everything at all levels, put some markup back into the system to allow for fair wages and quality control, even if it means we pay more than we're used to what we really should be paying.

I am for this. I'm just afraid that I, and others, would be at the short end of the stick both ways -- prices would go up, but the business would just pocket the difference, and I'd have to pay the new higher prices with the same minimum wage pay.

However:

There is no morally proper price.

This is an important point. Prices are what they are. Instead of saying what prices should be, we should be putting more national will into ensuring people have non-soul-killing jobs and that they pay a living wage -- that will raise prices, but low prices are not everything.

Sometimes I'm not sure the goals of those running/investing in Amazon are business/profit oriented alone. There doesn't seem to be any real drive towards an economic profit on a recognizable horizon.

The goal is almost certainly to drive enough other players out of business, or purchase them outright, so that Amazon can later raise prices without so much competition.

In Q2 they lost $7 million on $15 billion in sales. Fifteen billion and they couldn't hold on to a penny! It's almost as if Jeff Bezos is subsidizing our shopping habits at a loss for us.

It is worth noting that the finances of corporations includes many things, and both the money lost and gained come from many sources. You can't look at the gross income and profit figures and make such a pat conclusion.

klarck: You can structure corporate taxes any damn way you please; they still won't pay them. Corporations don't pay taxes. They pass those expenses to the customer. Every penny of them.

GUFFAW. That is seriously dumb reasoning you're using. By that logic, corporations also don't make profits, because they'll eventually spent that money on wages, dividends, capital, etc. Also, not all corporations even interact with consumers, so no. And it also supposes that corporations are just mechanisms that exchange money, completely objectively, when in fact there are human beings in control of them, that wield not-inconsiderable power, and they are just as fallible as anyone is.

The statement is useless. Corporations well do pay taxes, or should. They'll pass expenses on to whatever mechanism they use to make profits, sure, but that will also decrease their income, because their customers (in whatever form those take) will pass that right back to them in terms of reduced business. Eventually that will mean some corporations fail, meaning the survivors will pick up the slack, and will do increased business. Equilibrium will be found, or approximated at least, and as implied above, that equilibrium has no moral position. But no one really knows where it will be found again, or even if it will result in less of anything necessarily worse than the status quo. Economies are weird.

And in the meantime, the money from the taxes will go into funding programs and paying people. That money will go back into the economy, and will ultimately increase demand. And the money will be used, generally speaking, in making the environment of the US better, instead of just helping the corporate bottom line. But that plethora of advantages is harder to quantify than simple red-vs-black ink, so everyone discounts them. They really shouldn't.

This is a fundamental principle of economic reasoning, I think: things that are easy to understand get overrated in importance, and increase the importance of obscure processes by their neglect. Prices, costs, taxes, incomes -- these things are fairly easy to understand. Public satisfaction, positive perceptions, decreased worker turnover, being a good corporate citizen, these are not so easy to put into plus/minus terms. But because they are more complicated, people don't assign them importance, and they become more important because of it.
posted by JHarris at 2:25 PM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


You can structure corporate taxes any damn way you please; they still won't pay them. Corporations don't pay taxes. They pass those expenses to the customer. Every penny of them.

This is just flat out wrong, and in fact believing this would require that you ignore the basic principle of supply and demand. There's a whole branch of economics dedicated to the study of how completely wrong this statement is.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:27 PM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


Amazon is a charity run for the benefit and aid of consumers, and it does so at the expense of communities.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:37 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


So at this point you just automatically blast any proposal coming from the other team, even if it matches your own goddamn playbook pretty much word for word, or for that matter even before you know what the goddamn proposal even fucking is?

If the parties did not fastidiously maintain the illusion of fundamental opposition, their ideologue bases and shepherding media machines would be presented with unignorable evidence to the contrary. Their polarity sustains them, and snuffs out marginal politics.
posted by troll at 2:38 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I worked on on a loading dock for years, breaking out freight from tractor trailers. It was physically exhausting, dangerous work, heaving boxes and dragging pallets at a breakneck pace. It paid for college, and ushered me into the middle class.

I doubt I would have lasted five minutes in one of these new, dehumanizing Amazon fulfillment center. Suggesting it as a path to the middle class is an insult.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 2:40 PM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


I doubt I would have lasted five minutes in one of these new, dehumanizing Amazon fulfillment center.

Your description sounds pretty much like the description of the Amazon warehouse. Can you elaborate?
posted by GuyZero at 2:44 PM on July 30, 2013


Newsflash: Warehouse jobs are shitty. Always have been. And I bet they're shitty jobs in the warehouses that supply physical bookstores, too.

Retail jobs can be shitty too, but not nearly as shitty as the temporary warehouse jobs replacing them. At least retail offers some opportunity for advancement into management. I am guessing that working at an "Amazon fulfillment center" does not.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:46 PM on July 30, 2013


Chattanooga Times Free Press: "Take your jobs plan and shove it, Mr. President: Your policies have harmed Chattanooga enough"
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:47 PM on July 30, 2013


'Kay while we're on all of this is someone going to fix the hundreds of thousands - maybe millions - of OTHER jobs in the U.S. that are robotic with no advancement opportunities? That'd be super.
posted by Malice at 2:48 PM on July 30, 2013


Chattanooga Times Free Press: "Take your jobs plan and shove it, Mr. President: Your policies have harmed Chattanooga enough"

"Forgive us if you are not greeted with the same level of Southern hospitality that our area usually bestows on its distinguished guests."

Michael: Okay. You know what you do? Buy yourself a tape recorder. Record yourself for a whole day. I think you're gonna be surprised at some of your phrasing.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:54 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


When the economic questions come up, so many people (myself included) quickly get to digging their heels in: one side says the system's broken and needs some serious regulation while the other side says the system would work if it were just un-hobbled.

But, the question, IMO, has to be what is the end-game? What do we absolutely need to accomplish here? And if you can honestly say that an increasing number of part-time workers with no benefits is progress in any way, shape, or form, then we'll just have to agree to disagree. But the fact remains, that's what the present system is giving us.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:56 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


The proposed "bargain" is with the House Republicans. Obama agrees to lower the top rate for corporate taxes (he also proposes creating a minimum tax for offshore earnings, so as to close one of the major ways corporations avoid paying US taxes). Part of the deal involves a one-time windfall that results from some of the changes to the tax code and Obama is asking that in return for the lowered corporate tax rate the Republicans agree to invest that money in infrastructure projects in the US. That's where he's seeing more jobs being created: the US government would hire a whole bunch of people to work on infrastructure projects. There's really no question at all that if this "bargain" passed (which is won't because, you know, Republicans) more jobs would result. No part of that equation relies on corporations feeling cheerier because their tax rates dropped.

Please, you're destroying the whole false framing of the post. Think of the children!
posted by Ironmouth at 3:00 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Your policies have harmed Chattanooga enough

Combined with the fact that Tennessee gets $1.25 in tax revenue for every dollar it sends to Washington, I'm convinced after reading the article that both residents of TN and other US citizens would be happier if we closed that ratio to parity, and avoided having the federal government try anything ambitious in the state again.
posted by weston at 3:00 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


one side says the system's broken and needs some serious regulation while the other side says the system would work if it were just un-hobbled.

If this were the case in our supposedly representative democracy, I think we'd be OK. But it's not that way at all. The Democrats are also in the pocket of the corporations.
posted by cell divide at 3:01 PM on July 30, 2013


That's not the proposal. The proposed "bargain" is with the House Republicans. Obama agrees to lower the top rate for corporate taxes (he also proposes creating a minimum tax for offshore earnings, so as to close one of the major ways corporations avoid paying US taxes). Part of the deal involves a one-time windfall that results from some of the changes to the tax code and Obama is asking that in return for the lowered corporate tax rate the Republicans agree to invest that money in infrastructure projects in the US.

Which is a good idea. However, he could have chosen someplace other than an Amazon warehouse to promote "jobs," because the Amazon warehouse "jobs" are the problem, not the solution.
posted by deanc at 3:01 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Warehouse jobs are shitty. Always have been

Working for UPS is actually pretty decent, and they have lots of warehouses.
posted by deanc at 3:03 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


If this were the case in our supposedly representative democracy, I think we'd be OK. But it's not that way at all. The Democrats are also in the pocket of the corporations.

Oh, I agree. But I was referring more to us, the citizenry.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:03 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]




Uased to buy lots of books at indepen dent old fashioned bookstore. costly. parking bad. then Barnes and Noble came to that town and the indy lowered prices to compete...didn't work. Indy went out of biz. then Amazon came along and B and N now in trouble.

Me? I buy Amazon: cheaper, get used books, pay no tax, no shipping...can get new, used, or kindle...free market dictates that I get what is most sensible and cheaper for me.
posted by Postroad at 3:09 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your description sounds pretty much like the description of the Amazon warehouse. Can you elaborate?

The difference between my 1990's-era loading dock job (a non-union common commodities carrier -- think pallettes of televisions and toilet paper) and a modern Amazon fulfillment center is efficiency and mobility.

Efficiency: Occasionally there'd be a break between trailers, maybe 15-30 minutes, that gave us a chance to sit, smoke, and shoot the shit. Amazon monitors the productivity of each worker to the second. Rest beyond your mandated 5-minute break and you're reprimanded.

Mobility: Our terminal's manager, dispatcher, and supervisors all worked on docks at one point in their careers, as did some drivers. In most cases, open office positions were offered to dock workers who showed promise (or at least resilience). In my case, it advanced me from laborer to billing clerk when our branch manager learned I could type (thanks, Frank, I'll never forget it). I don't see that kind of relationship between Amazon's laborers and executives.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 3:09 PM on July 30, 2013 [17 favorites]


If their air condition capacity was overloaded due to aberrant weather, bringing in paramedics seems like a good idea to me. It's not like they can add several tons of air conditioning capacity overnight.

Actually, they should have had airconditioning in the first place because that is a humane amenity for workers in modern society.

There is no morally proper price.

The Amazon warehouse stories indicate that you are wrong, assuming one claims one has the best interests of the health and welfare of the public in mind. If Amazon's prices mean that their working conditions are actively harmful to other people, then their prices are immoral.
posted by deanc at 3:11 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


hauling boxes past nearly-identical shelves, following instructions through a set of headphones
Manna told employees what to do simply by talking to them. Employees each put on a headset when they punched in... The software would speak to the employees individually and tell each one exactly what to do. For example, "Bob, we need to load more patties. Please walk toward the freezer."

If it took you too long to mop the floor or clean the sinks, Manna would say to you, "lagging". When you said, "OK" to mark task completion for Manna, Manna would say, "Your time was 4 minutes 10 seconds. Industry average time is 3 minutes 30 seconds. Please focus on each task." Anyone who lagged consistently was fired.

-- Manna, Marshall Brain
posted by the jam at 3:12 PM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


The reason Amazon doesn't turn a profit regularly isn't connected to their ability to turn a profit. They are making massive investments in a wide range of things that are often not visible to consumers or even necessarily outsiders. If they were truly unable to make a profit, there's no way they could have continued on this trajectory for so long. This is what it looks like when a company reinvests its profits in its own future. However, it is also a glimpse of what the future looks like -- bleak and uncertain for wide swathes of society as a consequence of the vast and increasing efficiency of technological industry.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:14 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


bleak and uncertain for wide swathes of society as a consequence of the vast efficiency of technological industry.

...or hubris of.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:17 PM on July 30, 2013


Actually, they should have had airconditioning in the first place because that is a humane amenity for workers in modern society.

My assumption is that they have air conditioning but that on exceptionally hot days there's insufficient cooling capacity to keep up. Whether that's a design failure, a simple oversight, a side-effect of global warming or a desire to keep warehouse workers in a subhuman condition is for each of us to decide I guess.
posted by GuyZero at 3:19 PM on July 30, 2013


the jam - the warehouse system also required workers to say "OK", although that was configurable. Some had it set to a different language, and others set it to something along the lines of "OK, bitch".
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:28 PM on July 30, 2013


deanc wrote: Actually, they should have had airconditioning in the first place because that is a humane amenity for workers in modern society.

You seriously think that all warehouse space should be climate controlled? Do you know how much money that would cost. More importantly, do you know how much more electricity we would have to generate to do that? Of the warehouses I've worked in that were not specifically cold storage, precisely zero had air conditioning. Some were (minimally) heated, if the products in storage couldn't be frozen.

Break rooms and such, yes, but not in the warehouse itself. Ventilation is another thing entirely. Most I've worked in have had large fans in the roof to suck out the hot air. Doesn't do a lot of good when it's 110 degrees outside, though. Granted, all of those were places where workers were (mainly) operating forklifts rather than scurrying around picking individual items for shipping, so maybe it's different in other types of warehouse operations.

The story about the Ohio warehouse where they refused to provide sufficientany ventilation was rather disturbing, though.
posted by wierdo at 3:31 PM on July 30, 2013


My assumption is that they have air conditioning ...

That would be a reasonable assumption, GuyZero. Also an incorrect one. That warehouse had no air conditioning until federal workplace safety regulators began inspecting it because of complaints. At that point, the company installed temporary air conditioning units. A follow-up story in the newspaper said, "But workers said parts of the warehouse, particularly its upper levels, remained unbearably hot even after the temporary air conditioning was installed." Nine months after the newspaper exposed the working conditions, Amazon added sufficient air conditioning to make the place tolerable on hot days.

So somehow they found enough in the budget to do what they could, and should, have done in the beginning without any prodding from the feds or the public.
posted by Longtime Listener at 3:33 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


You seriously think that all warehouse space should be climate controlled?

When employees have to walk more than 10 miles per shift plucking items from shelves, I'd expect that the company would either slow down the pace when the inside heat index hit triple digits, or install some kind of climate control. This company did neither until forced to.
posted by Longtime Listener at 3:39 PM on July 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


Artw: "The horrible truth is that all shopping, online and off, involves warehouses. Terrible, I know."

I hear they're working on that. Although I guess instead of warehouses of books, they're going with warehouses full of servers delivering ebooks over the internet.
posted by pwnguin at 3:40 PM on July 30, 2013


"Artw: "The horrible truth is that all shopping, online and off, involves warehouses. Terrible, I know."

I hear they're working on that. Although I guess instead of warehouses of books, they're going with warehouses full of servers delivering ebooks over the internet.
"

On non-preview: at least the datacenter I work in is climate controlled!
posted by pwnguin at 3:40 PM on July 30, 2013


This is why I can't have the edit window =(
posted by pwnguin at 3:41 PM on July 30, 2013


On non-preview: at least the datacenter I work in is climate controlled!

Yeah, well, enjoy it while you can because they're working on getting rid of air conditioning in data centers.
posted by GuyZero at 3:42 PM on July 30, 2013


even in the absence of any stipulations about what goals exactly they're supposed to be optimizing for.

stuff more people will buy. the goals are up to the consumers.
posted by jpe at 3:43 PM on July 30, 2013


I guess I should go complain to someone, somewhere about the manual labor I have to do packing all the books that my company sells via Amazon and our own website in our non air-conditioned shipping area inside the warehouse-like former factory building where we have our office...

OH WAIT, I HAVE NO ONE TO COMPLAIN TO, BECAUSE I'M THE BOSS.

Recently I did some calculations that compared Amazon's Fulfilled by Amazon service to Shipwire, who we've been testing as a replacement for my own labor doing those things...and Amazon has come out on top, so pretty soon Amazon will be in charge of packing and shipping our books.

So it goes. It's called capitalism. I'm choosing to forgo a few thousand dollars a year in revenue we make on the difference between what people pay us to ship their stuff to them and what it actually costs us to do because I don't think those few thousand bucks are worth...

a. my own labor, which could be put to use more productively elsewhere
b. hiring someone to come in a few hours a week -- not worth it for them
c. having a response time that's not as good as it could be, thereby improving our service.

People seem to forget that Amazon also offers some pretty kickass services to small businesses like mine. I don't see Walmart offering to get me a better book printing deal in China using their suppliers or whatever the hell...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:45 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


For those advocating mandatory air conditioning for indoor laborers, may I ask what the rationale is for that position, as opposed to requiring ventilation, fans, and other measures to maintain temperatures similar to, say, those to which outdoor laborers experience? What do you think the regulations should be to address the same working conditions issues for outdoor laborers like construction workers, road workers, roofers, iron workers, etc?

It can get very, very hot in a warehouse that is not properly ventilated, and I don't think anyone can reasonably dispute that measures must be taken to mitigate that and keep temperatures at a safe level. But, unless the conditions are such that air conditioning is the only way to bring temperatures down to a safe level (as opposed to a comfy, cool level), I can't help but think the call for mandatory air conditioning ignores the reality of manual labor, much of which is done outdoors, and the fact that OSHA exists for health and safety, and not for comfort.

Let me be clear: 100 degree temperatures in a warehouse are, in my opinion, unsafe and unhealthy. I'm just not seeing how it's reasonable to demand that the warehouses be kept at a comfy 72 degrees or something like that.
posted by The World Famous at 3:49 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the key takeaways from this is that the only reason Amazon employees people in warehouses at all is that robots haven't been invented yet that can do the job effectively. Once they can, and when self-driving cars and airplanes and ships are the norm, there will be very little human labor needed for this part of their business. Of course, home-based 3D printing could come before that, but either way how long does the idea of a warehouse stocked by humans last?
posted by cell divide at 3:50 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Amazon sells a lot of shelf-stable food items which I assume need to be kept closer to 72 degrees rather than 100 degrees, but they have enough warehouses so that I guess not every warehouse is going to stock hershey bars beside the shoes and books.
posted by GuyZero at 3:52 PM on July 30, 2013


...the only reason Amazon doesn’t actually replace them with robots is they’ve yet to find a machine that can handle so many different sized packages.

So, given the crappy working conditions, I can't tell, would it be a good thing to replace these jobs with robots, or would taking away lousy-but-paying-gigs be even worse than the way things are now?
posted by blacksmithtb at 3:56 PM on July 30, 2013


One of the key takeaways from this is that the only reason Amazon employees people in warehouses at all is that robots haven't been invented yet that can do the job effectively. Once they can, and when self-driving cars and airplanes and ships are the norm, there will be very little human labor needed for this part of their business. Of course, home-based 3D printing could come before that, but either way how long does the idea of a warehouse stocked by humans last?

Why should it last? Are there really people who would do this work for free? Out of love? Let's face it, this is a job people get because they need to get paid for something. If we're going to artificially sustain jobs just to keep people gainfully employed, that's just busywork -- and if we're going to pay people for busywork, why don't we put them to work doing basically anything else?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:59 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


One of the initial things that sparked off this whole discussion of air conditioning is that Amazon kept the doors locked to deter theft and wouldn't allow them to be opened for ventilation. That they wouldn't even consider something as simple and cheap as a rolling grille when designing the place does speak to their priorities. It's like the first thought that comes to your mind when you think "how do I let air in and keep people out?" Company needs came before human needs.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:01 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think that once we get to the point where it's feasible to replace a warehouse staff with robots, we're in seriously big trouble if we haven't also addressed the social ramifications that come with doing so. As jobs are automated away one robotics breakthrough at a time, there is not much on the horizon to replace them short of New Deal-style jobs programs and imagining that sort of thing getting through our current Congress is like imagining the Vulcans revealing themselves with a magical cure for our problems.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:04 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


What's the name for the rhetorical move, X is ok because there exists Y which is worse? How about X is ok because X is common? Or X is ok because it's really no different than Z, which is common?

Whatever they're called, they aren't moral arguments. Shitty conditions are shitty conditions, and if the Market demands that Bezos treat his workers like shit or go out of business, well, no one's forcing him to be in business.

As for Obama, nothing he proposes is going to go anywhere unless the Democrats win back the House (unlikely). All he has left is symbolism, the bully pulpit, and the veto. This move is bad on all three: he chooses one of the worst of the new employers to tout; his party (those who notice) is even more conflicted about him as a result (and thus even less likely to win back the House); and he is once again offering a starting bargaining position well to the right of his party that will, inevitably, move much farther right before either passing or being vetoed by the Republicans.
posted by chortly at 4:07 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is particularly where Amazon's acquisition of warehouse automation company Kiva Systems gets relevant. A trade video, pre-acquisition.

Another video.
posted by CrystalDave at 4:08 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


What's the name for the rhetorical move, X is ok because there exists Y which is worse?

first world problems?
posted by jacalata at 4:08 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guys, I think I know what this is about. I just did a random spot-check of Amazon items (for reference: vitamin E oil, Barrel of Monkeys by Ruppert and Mulot, the new album from The Knife, and an extra-small Fleshlight), and literally every single one of them suggested that "You might also enjoy...The Audacity of Hope."
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:09 PM on July 30, 2013


once we get to the point where it's feasible to replace a warehouse staff with robots

Actually, Amazon bought a company called Kiva that does warehouse automation. Check this out.

In that situation the humans are only packers - the picking is all done by robot. The humans don't walk anywhere and everything gets brought to them. I assume that it's only a matter of time before all Amazon warehouses are as automated as that video or more automated.
posted by GuyZero at 4:09 PM on July 30, 2013


Small businesses (i.e. bookstores) are the "engines of the economy" because they're inefficient. They're tremendously wasteful, what with all that duplication and people getting paid to do things that machines could be doing if they could take advantage of large enough economies of scale. They're engines because all of those inefficient people spend their wages at grocery stores and coffee shops and gas stations.

The only solution to the Amazon "problem" is to regulate efficiency, to levy penalties for using machines, or to limit the size or concentration of warehouses (etc.) Basically, the only way is to wind the clock back to a less-automated age.

I'm not necessarily against that, but the impacts on the shape of society would be profound. We gotta be careful what we wish for.
posted by klanawa at 4:11 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


The government already regulates efficiency. It's called "the government."

zing!
posted by GuyZero at 4:14 PM on July 30, 2013


Kiva Microfunds provides microloans so people in the developing world can get the money to do the work they need. Kiva Systems creates automation so that people are no longer necessary for jobs, and so no longer get that money. Whatta world.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:15 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that once we get to the point where it's feasible to replace a warehouse staff with robots, we're in seriously big trouble if we haven't also addressed the social ramifications that come with doing so. As jobs are automated away one robotics breakthrough at a time, there is not much on the horizon to replace them short of New Deal-style jobs programs and imagining that sort of thing getting through our current Congress is like imagining the Vulcans revealing themselves with a magical cure for our problems.

It's a fucked up place to be in when, on a list of possible agents of change in this situation, a full-blown depression big enough to finally be felt by the upper class after thoroughly ruining everyone else is probably a few notches above "sensible legislative solutions".

The only solution to the Amazon "problem" is to regulate efficiency, to levy penalties for using machines, or to limit the size or concentration of warehouses (etc.) Basically, the only way is to wind the clock back to a less-automated age.

Or make-work programs, or a guaranteed minimum income.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:20 PM on July 30, 2013


I was trying to get around using Amazon by printing everything on my 3D printer but I can't find a way to open, let alone read, a solid block of plastic in the shape of a hardcover book.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:27 PM on July 30, 2013


You need a better 3D printer. Mine includes a free digital copy of every book and CD I print.
posted by The World Famous at 4:29 PM on July 30, 2013


The only solution to the Amazon "problem" is to regulate efficiency, to levy penalties for using machines, or to limit the size or concentration of warehouses (etc.) Basically, the only way is to wind the clock back to a less-automated age.

Not sure that's the only solution or that it has to get into prohibiting certain scales of activity or types of automation.

Increasing marginal tax rates build in some inefficiency, increasing with scale, and could possibly be used to fund a guaranteed minimum income, which would give people money to spend on coffee shops or whatever has the most utility.
posted by weston at 4:30 PM on July 30, 2013


The only solution to the Amazon "problem"

if there really was a simple solution to this "problem" people would do it.

Germany and France both have more restrictive labour laws than the US - this sort of warehouse would never exist in either of those countries. Yet France's unemployment rate is worse than the US's and Germany's is better.

In the long term productivity improvement are the only way to grow the economy, unless we discover a new continent somewhere that we've missed all these years. In the short term productivity improvements are painful and result in worker dislocation. There are numerous ways to ease that pain but none of them fundamentally get rid of it.
posted by GuyZero at 4:34 PM on July 30, 2013


Are these jobs going to be ones that we want our economy to be built on? Are they going to be jobs that we can survive?
posted by goHermGO at 4:36 PM on July 30, 2013


Isn't the focus on jobs a kind of cargo cultism?

If we can automate away the need to work, we'll have everything we need. We just won't have to toil away in order to get it. At that point, it's an economics problem: how do we fairly distribute everything?
posted by mullingitover at 4:38 PM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


It all goes to the owners of the means of production, regardless of whether there are workers or not. Then there's a revolution and everyone's a sustenance farmer again. Rinse, repeat.
posted by GuyZero at 4:40 PM on July 30, 2013


GuyZero: "It all goes to the owners of the means of production, regardless of whether there are workers or not. Then there's a revolution and everyone's a sustenance farmer again. Rinse, repeat."

I doubt it'd go to that extreme. More realistically, if the population is suffering from rampant unemployment and poverty, the scale will tip toward greater redistribution of wealth. It's hard to defend yourself from taxation when you're literally doing no work and hoarding all the wealth.
posted by mullingitover at 4:44 PM on July 30, 2013


Funny how everyone is talking about Amazon, but nobody has a critique about your president's praising Amazon as some sort of middle-class job creator. The emperor wears no clothes.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:50 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


With regards to warehouse temperature moderation, chiming in late but I can assure everyone that a safe (as opposed to comfortable) temperature range is mandated by law. I learned this from family connections in industrial facilities management, where the need to keep factory workers from passing out in July when they're surrounded by welding robots and wearing multiple layers of PPE safety gear required industrial scale air coolers and heat exchangers. It's not good for the equipment either, but they're more hardy than the people are.

I don't recall what the actual legal temperature range was (this was in Ontario), but I remember a few wistful comments about how the workplace environmental protections were so much more lax in the United States that the company subsidiaries there were allowed to get nearly ten degrees warmer and colder without violating any local labor laws.
posted by ceribus peribus at 4:51 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm genuinely curious why this time is/might be different. Productivity has been increasing non-linearly continuously since the industrial revolution (at least). New industries have basically always sprung up to replace the ones that faded. Perhaps the computer really is qualitatively more powerful than any other innovation in human history.
posted by gsteff at 4:52 PM on July 30, 2013


Germany and France both have more restrictive labour laws than the US - this sort of warehouse would never exist in either of those countries.

Can you explain what you mean? In what specific ways do the warehouses of Germany and France differ from Amazon's warehouse?
posted by The World Famous at 4:56 PM on July 30, 2013


I don't know about it being more powerful than any other innovation in history, but computers definitely change the game. Not only do they allow for the implementation of extremely complex business processes, they allow those processes to be optimized in place using the same techniques. This is huge, because software is cheap to change relative to jacquard looms and the mechanical fruits of the industrial revolution descended from it.

To add insult to injury, it is of course also easier to retrain a robot than a human when you decide to build Nexus 7s instead of iPads.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:01 PM on July 30, 2013


We've had the five-day work week for less than a century, klanawa.   "Actual work week lengths have been falling in the developed world. Every reduction of the length of the work week has been accompanied by an increase in real per-capita income."

Yes, the unions fought hard to reduce the workweek from six to five days, but their success depended upon the technological advancements making the six day workweek economically stupid. And Bertrand Russell seriously proposed reducing the work day to four hours at that time.

We've invented the computer since then. And our five day work week now contributes to income inequality and our recessions. We address this by creating wasteful "make work" like law enforcement, finance, management, etc. as well as concentrating wealth (previously).

We've only one real solution to current economic woes though, reduce the legal workweek to three to four days, along with making most jobs non-exempt under the FLSA. Doing so would resolve our unemployment problem and gently equalize incomes and purchasing power, which stimulates real economic demand.

Automation and optimization helps us achieve this reform by making the workweek reduction progressive more necessary. We experience economic paid as elites try to monopolize those efficiency gains as profits, but that economic pain will eventually help create the political action.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:06 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


In what specific ways do the warehouses of Germany and France differ from Amazon's warehouse?

Well, they get to go on strike at least. That said, they're probably not much better. Especially if they're Spanish working in Germany.

So on the balance, let's just say I'm wrong (again).
posted by GuyZero at 5:09 PM on July 30, 2013


Obama is in the habit of striking "bargains" which are in fact massive giveaways to the wealthy, and then pretending it's a big step forward.
posted by anemone of the state at 5:10 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Kiva Microfunds provides microloans so people in the developing world can get the money to do the work they need.

What's nice is that Kiva has launched KivaCity so domestic microloans can be available now, before we quite reach developing-world status.
posted by headnsouth at 5:12 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


nobody has a critique about your president's praising Amazon as some sort of middle-class job creator.

Cripes. That is the entire point of this thread.
posted by deanc at 5:24 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


The warehouse issue with the paramedics sticks in my craw a lot, because for all those people who decried Obamacare by saying that they were "really looking out for the health of people", they were lying. Because if they were telling the truth they would have headed right over to the Amazon warehouse which parked ambulances nearby to handle people falling over from heat stroke and protested and rioted because Amazon was endangering people's health and expecting the rest of us to pick up the tab. And since those opponents of Obamacare didnh't do that, we might as well hold Amazon over a barrel and force them to give their employees health insurance and not endanger their health, because lord knows that conservatives, in their utter uselessness, can't be arsed to do it.
posted by deanc at 5:27 PM on July 30, 2013


Amen Benny A.
posted by nowhere man at 5:34 PM on July 30, 2013


I wonder if what we are starting to see might be evidence that the class divide in fact represents separate economic systems. In the .05%'s (or whatever) upper strata we have what you might call finance capitalism (money farming, basically) while for everyone else in the lower strata we don't quite seem to fully know what we have on our hands yet. To me, I think the future might look something like systems of the past where each household individually made a contribution to some larger local concern. Maybe the advent of 3d printing will allow for certain types of factories to be eliminated altogether, robots and all, in favor of assembling goods in piecework throughout a community using parts obtained from home printers, similar to locally-distributed factories in Japan. If, for example, a carbon tax raises the cost long-distance shipping any number of consumable goods, particularly things made out of recyclables, will begin to become cheaper to produce as close to the point of consumption as possible. Of course, we're into the fantasy land of assuming Congress works with ideas like that. Whatever the solution is, it seems like it will have to be something fairly radical, or at least something that will seem that way retrospectively in 40 years.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:34 PM on July 30, 2013


Man, it seems like politicians can't come out and say/propose anything straight these days. Like, didn't FDR kinda just go "the economy's screwed so I'm gonna dump a bunch of cash into a big ass program that puts people to work doing useful stuff." Instead we get "well there's no jobs so we're gonna cut taxes for bidness but then use some of the kickback money to create some jobs but we're not Republicans, m'kay?"

Wtf? Sounds like selling the farm tomorrow to keep the pig today, or some other confusing metaphor I just made up.
posted by nowhere man at 5:53 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am always amazed how many mefites are willing to skirt the problem of capitalism and instead bash Walmart and Amazon.
posted by notreally at 6:29 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am always amazed how many mefites are willing to skirt the problem of capitalism and instead bash Walmart and Amazon.

Given the massive amounts of propaganda the American people are subjected to it's not really that surprising.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:34 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


If we can automate away the need to work, we'll have everything we need. We just won't have to toil away in order to get it. At that point, it's an economics problem: how do we fairly distribute everything?

Five cynical bucks says the technology problem gets mostly solved and economics problem... mostly doesn't. :-(

On the warehouse issue, I'm told that Costco has excellent working conditions. It also has Amazon-style prices, and brick-and-mortar convenience. (Though it is set up to encourage larger purchases than Amazon.)
posted by anonymisc at 7:04 PM on July 30, 2013


My assumption is that they have air conditioning but that on exceptionally hot days there's insufficient cooling capacity to keep up.

GuyZero, your assumption about the temperature of the days at the Pennsylvania facility is incorrect. I purchased the temperature records for the government monitoring stations in the area, and the numbers were in the 70s outdoors on the day when people were dropping, and well below record for all but two days of that month.

The only entity saying that temperatures were record-breaking or unusual was Amazon, not any weather reporting service, private or government.
posted by zippy at 7:05 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


zippy, if that is in fact the case, how is it that people were not dropping like flies on previous days with normal temperatures?
posted by wierdo at 7:33 PM on July 30, 2013


There's always this as a solution.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:35 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


What are conditions like in all the other shipping and warehouse businesses in that region? Is Amazon markedly different from them?
posted by The World Famous at 7:37 PM on July 30, 2013


If we can automate away the need to work, we'll have everything we need.

Depends who "we" are, and where we are in the process of automation. Automation is most successful at replacing jobs requiring rote physical labor, i.e., unskilled blue collar work. Those jobs that die with automation need to be replaced with new things to do, or else you have mass disenfranchisement. I'm no Luddite, but I don't see a day when robots replace all work forever and we lounge about waiting for the Morlocks to eat us. Rather, I think the more important and realistic focus should be on changes to the structure of the workplace, how it operates, greater parity and cooperative management; the "problem" isn't just Amazon's, in other words.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:49 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those jobs that die with automation need to be replaced with new things to do, or else you have mass disenfranchisement.

I don't think it necessarily follows that unemployed people will be stripped of their voting power. If you mean they'll lose power in general, don't forget that they can still vote, and the people competing for their votes will likely be pledging to correct the situation through policy.
posted by mullingitover at 8:05 PM on July 30, 2013


I am always amazed how many mefites are willing to skirt the problem of capitalism and instead bash Walmart and Amazon.

See also every single conceivable political problem being personalised down to OBAMA.

That's the problem with socialism being exterminated leaving no proper left - you end up with a bunch of shoddy thinking contrarians instead.
posted by Artw at 9:43 PM on July 30, 2013


Please focus on each task." Anyone who lagged consistently was fired.

Can we get this system for the top executives of Amazon and other companies? I wonder how they'd feel if their offices weren't air conditioned.

Yeah, well, enjoy it while you can because they're working on getting rid of air conditioning in data centers.

We have to cease the development of energy efficient chips and systems with no moving parts post haste!

Obama is in the habit of striking "bargains" which are in fact massive giveaways to the wealthy, and then pretending it's a big step forward.

Yes, he's just like every other President in recent memory.

nobody has a critique about your president's praising Amazon as some sort of middle-class job creator

So everyone who is just doing that, which is almost everyone in this thread are nobodies? Robots perhaps?

I am always amazed how many mefites are willing to skirt the problem of capitalism and instead bash Walmart and Amazon.

Fortunately in most threads this is not the case, and problems of captilism are discussed but with a sense of complete powerlessness. It's like anyone who speaks to the subject is like Cassandra.
posted by juiceCake at 9:54 PM on July 30, 2013


To be fair, the problems people are talking about with Walmart and Amazon are problems with capitalism.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:03 PM on July 30, 2013


notreally: I am always amazed how many mefites are willing to skirt the problem of capitalism and instead bash Walmart and Amazon.

This is true. If it wasn't them, it would be some other company.

emptythought: Anyone who can't compete at their prices and level is driven out.
That's how free market works... usually, it's a good thing, rewarding efficiency and innovation and also giving customers lower prices. If you're bad at running a business, it doesn't mean your competitors should give you a break.

Blaming 'capitalism' is a little inaccurate. Capitalism brings many good things. The problem is unchecked capitalism. Corporations of course will do whatever they can to maximize profits, but ultimately they are bound by the law. So blame the lawmakers for not looking after the interests of the workers, families, and communities.

What is needed is stronger regulation - better labor laws, better anti-monopoly laws, better environment protection laws, and better policing of all of these. And that's not going to happen unless voters demand it. Which they aren't - most have been thoroughly brainwashed.
posted by joz at 10:33 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think it necessarily follows that unemployed people will be stripped of their voting power.

That wasn't what I meant; I meant they won't have work. Poor word choice on my part to use "disenfranchisement".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:56 AM on July 31, 2013


Automation is most successful at replacing jobs requiring rote physical labor, i.e., unskilled blue collar work.

At present, we're replacing many white collar jobs extremely effectively too. Automated grading software allows larger class sizes, for example. I consider mid-level management the really juicy target here, software will do that job so much better and cheaper.

Those jobs that die with automation need to be replaced with new things to do

Impossible, our needs simply don't extend that far. We're already abusing the environment by consuming too much. We must work less and reduce inequality by sharing the remaining work more equally. And reducing the legal workweek represents about the only viable or equitable mechanism. We're so developed now that frankly the value of our time should outweigh most economic activity anyways.

I don't see a day when robots replace all work forever

We've already replaced almost all work many times over! How many people work in food production today? We never automated cleaning toilets or fancy cuisine preparation, but actually the toilet itself represents a major step in automating excretion, and fancy cuisine employs many tools.

We'll replace almost all work several more times, surely eliminating most white collar jobs and hopefully doing the toilets this time around with Roomba like devices. Just don't pursue so much shit we don't want or need, like even more excessive law enforcement, even richer stock brokers, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:48 AM on July 31, 2013


There's a Doug Stanhope bit where a presidential candidate should promise 100% UNemployment because robots are supposed to do all the work.
posted by Renoroc at 3:56 AM on July 31, 2013


"Hurray! The Internet keeps eating more jobs! Soon we'll have no more jobs to feed it and then we can just start chucking live people into it somehow! People are information and information wants to be free! Of jobs! Total freedom for all! This is good because... efficiency! We're bringing the human race to its logical conclusion more efficiently than ever now!"

No, you see, when everything becomes so efficient that there's no, or hardly, need for humans to do work, BAM, full communism.

The trick is to decouple "getting money" from "working a job". If no one has a job, that shouldn't be SO hard, right?
posted by kenko at 8:34 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


GuyZero, your assumption about the temperature of the days at the Pennsylvania facility is incorrect. I purchased the temperature records for the government monitoring stations in the area, and the numbers were in the 70s outdoors on the day when people were dropping, and well below record for all but two days of that month.

The only entity saying that temperatures were record-breaking or unusual was Amazon, not any weather reporting service, private or government.


What are you talking about? That Morning Call article is referring to the Summer of 2011. Here's the months of June, July, and August from the weather station KPABREIN4, which is located at 40.568, -75.677 - about 3.2 miles from the Amazon warehouse as the crow flies.

As you can see, the summer months had highs of 93, 104, and 91, respectively.
posted by god hates math at 8:48 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's been danced around in this thread and elsewhere - the unending drive for increased productivity is the metric that's fucking up the program. Businesses are blindly trading people for profit. It's a fool's quest ultimately. Every dollar that's easier to get right now becomes a dollar that's harder (or impossible) to get later on. People with no discretionary income cannot become customers. It's a death by a thousand cuts.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:17 AM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


What are you talking about? That Morning Call article is referring to the Summer of 2011

I was talking about June, and in particular Amazon's claims about unusual temperatures such as this, quoted in the article you mentioned:

"On June 3, 2011, the Lehigh Valley area experienced unusual, extremely high temperatures which caused the heat index inside our building to reach a temperature above 95 degrees in a few areas of the building," Forney [an Amazon representative] wrote."

So, what was the the unusual, extremely high temperature in Lehigh Valley on June 3, 2011?

On June 3, the high temperature was 75º F (Weather Underground) NOAA says 77ºF at the airport nearby

Amazon also said:

"July 2011 was a highly unusual month and set records for the hottest temperatures during any single calendar month in cities across the East Coast"

So how does that compare against the numbers?

For the month of July, not a single day in Allentown set a record. July 1 was 82F, 16º below the record.

So was July 2. It reached 87F that day, 15º below the record.

In fact, you can see on the monthly graph for July that only two days broke 95F. But let's look at a sample of days from the rest of July:

July 7: 10 degrees below record
July 14: 16 degrees below record
July 21: the hottest day in July 2011, 98ºF, 3 degrees below record

Looking further, every day of the month was below record, and of the five days I looked at, four were 10 or more degrees below.
posted by zippy at 9:45 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's how free market works... usually, it's a good thing, rewarding efficiency and innovation and also giving customers lower prices. If you're bad at running a business, it doesn't mean your competitors should give you a break.

Blaming 'capitalism' is a little inaccurate. Capitalism brings many good things. The problem is unchecked capitalism. Corporations of course will do whatever they can to maximize profits, but ultimately they are bound by the law. So blame the lawmakers for not looking after the interests of the workers, families, and communities.

What is needed is stronger regulation - better labor laws, better anti-monopoly laws, better environment protection laws, and better policing of all of these. And that's not going to happen unless voters demand it. Which they aren't - most have been thoroughly brainwashed.


What, exactly, is your point here? This almost sounds like libertarian "Free market!" hot air.

The problem isn't that others are "bad at running a business", the problem is that amazon is slapped on the back and cheered on for not even really making a profit. How the hell do you compete with that? Is that where your better anti monopoly laws come in? Because they're not a monopoly, they're just a negative force in the universe.

How they fuck everything up is the same way that walmart does, in that they're selling things at a price no one can match because they literally crush the manufacturers in to offering it for that price(or, they or one of the marketplace sellers find a very similar item for cheaper and list it), and chop any margin out of it. There's plenty of things on there that are $5 which are $10-20 anywhere else. How are you supposed to compete with that?

When a couple big companies can price everyone else out of the game something is deeply wrong with the system. I'm not saying there's some "ethical price" things should be, but in the primary "new" market for goods something is fucked if one or two guys can sell way below everyone else unless they're also manufacturing the items they're selling, or at least designing them with some clever new innovation that allows them to be cheaper.

These are the same goods at a price you or i could never even break even selling them for. Even decent sized companies can't compete with this because they have to make some kind of profit but amazon doesn't.
posted by emptythought at 2:58 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amazon's prices are usually higher than the cheapest ebay seller's prices, emptythought. Aliexpress has stuff cheaper still, but they're complicated. Amazon's online retail is crushing offline retail, but online wholesale is crushing online retail.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:04 PM on July 31, 2013


We'll replace almost all work several more times, surely eliminating most white collar jobs and hopefully doing the toilets this time around with Roomba like devices. Just don't pursue so much shit we don't want or need, like even more excessive law enforcement, even richer stock brokers, etc.

If we reach this age of machines doing literally everything for us, to where there is no work done at all, I reckon it will be centuries down the road. So much of work requires human judgement calls, and it will take some time to replicate some of the more complex decision making required. Nor does the socioeconomic structure necessarily change with the technological, as we've seen. In the meantime, this is the challenge that automation presents: it depletes the jobs of one socioeconomic class in particular, and will likely continue to do so. Even if new jobs are found for them, these people do not necessarily elevate their position to a more stable and prosperous position. I am in strong favor of technology taking over more of the hazardous jobs, whether physically or psychologically. But my hope is this brings with it a shift in attitude about how we look at work, and how workplaces should be organized, to increase involvement of the running of the workplace by labor. If what we're working towards is a life of less hardship and more leisure, the structures that build this should be in the class structure as well as the technological one.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:14 PM on July 31, 2013


Amazon's prices are usually higher than the cheapest ebay seller's prices, emptythought. Aliexpress has stuff cheaper still, but they're complicated. Amazon's online retail is crushing offline retail, but online wholesale is crushing online retail.

Yea, but all the truly cheap stuff on ebay is nearly always "ships from hong kong" "ships from china" and takes 4 weeks to actually show up. Amazon is higher profile than that and has lots of stuff nearly that cheap even when you click "free super saver shipping!" on the sidebar and look at stuff thats fulfilled by their megawarehouses.

There's a big difference between technically cheaper, and functionally here in 2 days if you have prime and still destroying everyone elses prices.

Also you know, the fact that a few places are cheaper than amazon or walmart doesn't mean that they aren't still completely fucking over any smaller or local business in a lot of those departments.
posted by emptythought at 3:32 PM on July 31, 2013


We're growing good at replicating "human judgement calls" with machine learning, ala self driving car, computers grading essays, fucking google, etc., Marisa.

Automation preferentially targets the middle class whatever jobs they do because they're the expensive class by definition. Today, the poor toilet cleaners earn so little we don't bother replacing them, while mid-level managers are a scourge upon our profits, so they're high profile targets. University faculty were only higher priority targets because (a) scamming federally backed student aid grew so profitable so (b) some faculty want to do it right.

We rarely completely eliminate any particular job of course. Instead, we create tools that drastically reduce the work required, hence the , but that's plenty close enough. It's infinitely easier to clean toilets than dig a trench latrine.

There isn't much upward class mobility when middle class folks lose their jobs because they cannot all become upper middle class. In the past, there was upward mobility in the sense that we eliminated dangerous jobs, so the unemployed found better jobs in that they'll lived longer, but really the white collar jobs just moved from upper middle class to middle class.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:55 PM on July 31, 2013


Anyways, there is no technological miracle required to "reach this age of machines doing literally everything", machines already do almost everything by previous standards.

It's all down to economic choices : Do we choose to consume more? Do we choose to waste more time enforcing idiotic laws? Do we concentrate wealth into a few stratospheric bank account balances? Or do we take the time the machines liberate as personal time?

We could already work very few hours if we as a society had chosen that path. We occasionally take steps that direction with moves like reducing the workweek form six to five days, but mostly we choose to squander our time and resources.

Yet today, we really must start choosing the path of more free time because otherwise we're going to wreck the planet with all the additional consumption.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:03 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Privileged naifs who literally don't value work at all promising the less privileged a pie in the sky in return for their stolen economic independence. That's all this techno-Utopianist gibberish is. Most people actually want to work, they just want their work to be rewarding and fairly compensated and to be treated like adults in the bargain.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:32 PM on July 31, 2013


We rarely completely eliminate any particular job of course. Instead, we create tools that drastically reduce the work required, hence the , but that's plenty close enough. It's infinitely easier to clean toilets than dig a trench latrine.


this is only true because you never SEE the stuff that makes the toilet work. Like the plumber that installs the plumbing in the house and the sewer connection, the pump station operators, the sewage treatment plant operators, the method by which the treated effluent and sludge are disposed of (thankfully most is put to sustainable use as irrigation water, fertilizer and non direct human contact uses). Plus the construction crew (most of which are HIGHLY trained) to install and maintain all of the stuff. All of which are middle class jobs, all of which aren't going away and probably is at least equal to or greater than (as a percentage) the poor bastard who go latrine duty (if there even was a latrine and not just the nearest rock, river or tree).

You know what used to be the job of the 'lower' classes? being a peasant, servant (or just flat out slavery) or at best subsistence agriculture if they were free men (and women). You know what cured that poverty and human misery? automation and mechanization. I make this point in this way because there seems to be some kind of misbelief on metafilter about the exact nature of past working conditions and the history of the human condition. (this is true about a lot of the right wing sites that also believe in some kind of past utopian conditions for other reasons).
posted by bartonlong at 4:49 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Most people actually want to work, they just want their work to be rewarding and fairly compensated and to be treated like adults in the bargain.

Sadly there's still a lot of shit work to be done. Putting things in boxes is still a shockingly manual task based on every "How It's Made" video I've ever seen. Every automated production line ends with a human being putting stuff in boxes for some reason.
posted by GuyZero at 4:58 PM on July 31, 2013


We're growing good at replicating "human judgement calls" with machine learning, ala self driving car, computers grading essays, fucking google, etc., Marisa.

I'm hesitant to accept Google as evidence that we are technologically speaking just chuggin' along to a world of machines doing all our work. But wherever we might be on that scale and however fast we may be travelling, technology isn't what has or will save us from economic disparity and exploitation. Yes, the economic structure does need radical changes. Technology does not mean, and has not meant, that progress towards those changes follow.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:58 PM on July 31, 2013


I'd agree that social progress does not necessarily follow from technology, well that's actually my complaint. New technology does however give us a new chance to get it right *without* lowering our standard of living nearly as much. Ain't so easy convincing folks to lower their standard of living, but we've chopped days off the work week in living memory.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:05 PM on July 31, 2013


What, exactly, is your point here?

I thought I was clear; basically: The current capitalist system, needs to be fixed through regulation, to better suit the needs of our society. Capitalism does not reward altruism, it's only purpose is to make money. So if we want behaviour from business that in any way diverges from profit-making, we have to force it.
There's no point wringing our hands and saying 'nasty Amazon/Walmart/[whatever], they're not being very nice'.

emptythought: Is that where your better anti monopoly laws come in? Because they're not a monopoly, they're just a negative force in the universe.

Yes, that's exactly where better laws come in.... if you don't put controls on anti-competitive behaviour, companies of course are going to exploit this. If you don't put labor laws in place that protect workers, of course someone will exploit this, it's to their competitive advantage to do so. Profiteers are going to do squeeze as much as we (voters, governments) let them.

"When a couple big companies can price everyone else out of the game something is deeply wrong with the system."

Of course there is something wrong with the system. The status quo is not working. I believe it needs regulation and reform - so I'm certainly not an advocate of free-market libertarianism, as you suggested.
posted by joz at 5:33 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


My grandfather was a sharecropper who dropped out of school before middle school to pick cotton. Post-industrial revolution. He loved work. He was a workaholic who died on the job. People want to work.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:39 PM on July 31, 2013


Point being, a lot of people are sustained by the hope that if they work hard, they can get ahead. You sure you're not just talking about taking the ladder away and making permanent existing social divisions, because that seems to be the direction we're going. I believe unemployment numbers don't even come close to accurately reflecting the scale of economic imbalances in the US today.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:42 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


3D printers can pay for themselves in under a year
Assuming you'd pay retail prices for replacement household parts like shower rings. Very unlikely if you'd replace a shower ring with wire.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:33 AM on August 1, 2013


zippy wrote: So, what was the the unusual, extremely high temperature in Lehigh Valley on June 3, 2011?

Yet two days before, it was unusually hot at 92 degrees. Three days before, it was 93 degrees. Those were at the tail end of a week of temperatures over 10 degrees above normal, the last few of which saw unusually high low temperatures as well. Ever consider that somebody misreported the date involved? And in July, the highest temperature in the area was 104 degrees at the nearest reporting station (Lehigh Valley Airport), also unusual for that part of the country.

Note that official temperatures are measured in the shade several meters off the ground, not at ground level in the middle of a sea of asphalt, so they drastically understate the actual effect on people.
posted by wierdo at 8:49 AM on August 1, 2013


I'm thinking more and more that a guaranteed minimum income would be the best path forward.

Short-term, that seems like a much more realistic way to handle this sort of thing than trying to regulate away Amazon's business practices. The best way to keep Amazon's business practices humane is to ensure that potential employees have other options.

Long-term, I think everyone sees the writing on the wall vis-a-vis human labor. It's been losing value for decades, and that trend promises only to accelerate. I think you can sum up the issue of inequality with the observation that our economic future (and thus today's economic growth) is increasingly based on capital rather than labor.

I picture a fully automated world looking something like a massive nationalized business in which every citizen is a dividend-receiving shareholder. Seen that way, I think there's a pretty clear path forward, and it starts with something like a guaranteed minimum income.

Of course, given that we apparently can't even guarantee health care, just that first step seems pretty infeasible.
posted by bjrubble at 10:05 AM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]










jeffburdges, stories like that frighten me. (Although then I notice it came from the Daily Fail, and I'm not so frightened any more.)
posted by JHarris at 6:29 AM on August 5, 2013


Looks like a pretty naked attempt to exploit a tragedy to take a swing at the Goverment of the time (2010) which otherwise gives pretty much no information.
posted by Artw at 8:00 AM on August 5, 2013




Now on the front page.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2013


If you're on facebook, I highly recommend liking the "Police the Police" page. It's mostly just the "small" stories about local injustices, but definitely "best of the web".

I've wanted to make an FPP about it, but I won't make an FPP that encourages anyone to join facebook, so I'm waiting until I find some non-facebook blogs, twitter, etc. with the same content.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:27 AM on August 6, 2013




In before the whole "but a corporations job is to maximize shareholder profit!" crappile.

It is worth responding to this pervasive and toxic idea:
Salon/Alternet: The Shareholder Fallacy
Forbes: Is the Hegemony of Shareholder Value Finally Ending?

Summary: the idea that shareholder value is paramount has no basis in law, and in fact dates to 1972.
posted by JHarris at 5:24 AM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


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