FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Lost in the Money Maze

by GARY ENGLER

Vancouver, BC.

Our economic system is pretty funny, eh.

I don’t mean of the belly laugh sort, but rather the ironic variety (although a decent argument could be made that many elements of modern work life have the humour quotient of a Three Stooges skit).

There was a rally Thursday to support unionized cleaners working in Cadillac Fairview buildings in downtown Vancouver who are paid in the $12 per hour range. Cadillac, self-described as “one of North America’s largest investors, owners and managers of commercial real estate” and owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, has given its former $12 per hour cleaning contract to another supposedly unionized company that pays its workers $10.50 per hour.

Among the many ironies in this sad situation is the realization that the harder and more important the job the worse it pays. The more pointless and socially unnecessary the work the more cash is thrown at the person.

Keeping buildings where we work clean is pretty important. Making the clothes everyone needs to wear, picking the vegetables and fruit that keep us healthy, making sure urban sewers don’t get blocked, or picking up garbage are all important and difficult jobs, but how much are people doing them paid?

Gambling, on the other hand, pays extremely well, if it’s the sort that rich people do. Of course we’re told that what they do on Wall Street or Bay Street is part of the real economy and only what happens on the Las Vegas Strip is gambling.

But it seems to me, real gambling is when you don’t understand what is going on. Think about it: If I bet my pension on whether or not the little ball is going to fall in a red slot or a black slot, at least I can see what happens. If I hand it over to a mutual fund, I don’t have a clue.

How many of us really understand how the stock market works? Sure, we nod in agreement when the analyst comes on the six o’clock news and says: ‘Bond prices rose six basis points and the Dow dropped 43 points today on news the September durable goods figures were higher than expected.’ Say what?

If I put my hundred on the table the least they can do is show me the cards to prove whether I won or lost. On a Las Vegas craps table I see the pit boss check the dice. Cameras cut down on cheating. On Wall Street? No pit boss, no cameras, not even some guys named Guido and Tony to take a cheater out in the alley. Two years after some company steals ten billion, the government starts a court case that lasts another 14 years with appeals and at the end of it all, five rich guys lose their trading privileges.

But I digress.

If you want to earn the really big dough in capitalism you get a job in one of those Cadillac Fairview-owned buildings buying and selling numbers, letters and symbols that only exist on a computer screen. They call this working in the financial sector, but is it that much different than gambling?

And even better paid than those doing the buying and selling are the guys who give advice about which numbers, letters and symbols — that only exist on a computer screen — to buy and sell. Best paid of all is the guy who hires all these people and then sits back and lets them do their job. He’s called a hedge fund manager and can pull down a pay cheque of two million per week or more if he’s really, really good at convincing other rich people to let him “invest” their money.

Sure, some of these number pushers are smart and even have a lot of education, but is what they do socially useful? Compared to cleaners or seamstresses or fruit pickers or garbage guys?

They “make” money, that’s all, something that is supremely valued in our current economic system, but which when judged by any sort of authentic human experience is nothing more than fantasy.

It’s as if the world were one gigantic cornfield, but instead of harvesting it for food, we build mazes because they fascinate the people with money. Cornfield owners can earn huge profits if they invest in mazes. Trillions of dollars change hands, with the really big bucks going to the experts who design them and those who help people find their way through the mazes. But the people who grow the cornfields are paid barely enough to live on.

The truth is, by any reasonable standard, the cleaners of Cadillac Fairview buildings — like the people who grow the corn — perform easily identifiable useful work. The same cannot be said for many of the people who work in the buildings.

What does this reality say about our economic system?

Gary Engler, an elected union officer and long time Vancouver journalist, is co-author of the New Commune-ist Manifesto — Workers of the World It Really is Time to Unite.

The Vancouver book launch will be Thursday Nov. 7, 7 p.m. at the Public Library Main Branch. The Victoria launches will be Wednesday Nov. 6, 3 p.m. at Camosun College and 7 p.m. at Camas Books. The Kelowna launch is Sunday Nov. 10, 7 p.m. at Okanagan College Theatre. More information at http://www.newcommuneist.com

 

Gary Engler is a Canadian journalist, novelist (The Year We Became Us) and co-author of the recently released New Commune-ist Manifesto — Workers of the World It Really is Time to Unite (www.newcommuneist.com).  He is currently working on the first great hockey novel tentatively titled Puck Hog.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism:  Transcending the Masters tools
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Chuck Collins
Wall Street Hopes You’ve Forgotten the Crash Already
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Robert Koehler
Costa Rica’s Peace Journey
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
February 23, 2017
Dave Brotherton
Trump, Moral Panics and Resistance
Jonathan Cook
One State: Trump Has Reminded Palestinians What It Was Always About
Bill Quigley
Ten Examples of Direct Resistance to Stop Government Raids
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigot Boy Business: Trump Exposes His Ignorance and Intolerance, Again
John W. Whitehead
The Illusion of Freedom: the Police State Is Alive and Well
Ralph Nader
Restricting People’s Use of Their Courts
David Macaray
Women As Labor Union Organizers
Kathy Kelly
Friendship in Defiance of War
Doug Weir
Why Did the US Use Depleted Uranium Weapons in Syria?
Steve Horn
Former GOP Congressional Staffer Follows Revolving Door, Now Latest Keystone XL Lobbyist
Binoy Kampmark
From Rights to Repentance: Norma McCorvey and Roe v Wade
Thomas Knapp
The Target of the “Border Adjustment Tax” is You
Chris Zinda
Open Letter to Neoliberal Environmentalists
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail