The widening and deepening of capitalism, which many economists misname globalization, has had traumatic impacts on workers. Sped up by what has been called neoliberalism (basically, the political program of modern global capital), the growing penetration of capitalist production and consumption relationships around the globe has literally pitched workers from pillar to post. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has forced hundreds of thousands of Mexican peasants and wage workers to abandon their home country and migrate to the United States. Similarly, government austerity and “free market” programs—curbing food and health subsidies to the poor, closing and selling state enterprises, suppression of worker and peasant protests, and the like—in countries like India and China have deprived many workers of what security they had attained and pushed peasants from their land into cities.
In the world’s rich nations, neoliberalism has dictated an assault on workers, with massive cutbacks in social welfare spending, legal protections, health care, and pensions. At the same time, production has been rapidly transformed in such a way that many workplaces can function profitably with only a small core of full-time workers. The remaining workforce consists of part-time and full-time workers laboring as independent contractors or employees of firms to which work has been outsourced. To make this system function effectively, there has to be a large pool of easily exploited men and women seeking employment. Newly arrived immigrants and displaced domestic workers fit the bill exactly. They supply the labor demanded by the radically restructured workplaces.
In the United States—poster child for the neoliberal model—there now exists an enormous class of poor workers, left to their own devices and made up both of immigrants and native-born. They are desperate for work and willing to accept low wages, long hours, and abhorrent working conditions. They are chronically short of money and are typically without access to things more well-off people take for granted, one of the most important of which is the services of banks, especially credit. Without such access, they may be unable to cash a paycheck, obtain phone service, have utilities connected, buy furniture, purchase a car, and rent or own housing. But just as a reserve army of labor sets employers to licking their chops and brings forth entirely new groups of exploiting “entrepreneurs,” so too the considerable sums of money in the hands of the entire class of poor workers create new groups of predatory lenders, salivating at the opportunity to steal this money.
Capitalism , think it is time to kill it