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A Thousand Points of Blight

Why Many Charities are Corporate Scams

by BRAD YU

#1 TIPPING 101:

So I’m the owner of Company X.  My workers’ used to be paid a whopping 7.25 per/hour because of the ridiculous “minimum wage” labor laws that are seriously cutting into my profits.  I only want to pay them 2.13 per/hour, which is still way too much!  If I do this I can save about $5 dollars per hour on every employee.  Actually, I don’t want to pay them anything, but I know that won’t fly.  They might start asking for a fair wage or even worse: dreaded “union” representation!  If I have 50 full-time employees I can make an extra $500,000 extra dollars a year!  How can I achieve this?  The law is against me.  Or is it? DING DING. TIPPING!

So people can come to my restaurant and give TIPS to my workers for “good” service.  What if I make tipping account for nearly their entire wage?  That way the CUSTOMER has to pay for their labor while I don’t need to pay my workers an EXTRA penny!  I don’t even have to include it into the price of the food or on the bill most of the time.  It’s just an additional cost the customer should be expected to pay.  Now, let’s make it part of the LAW and the CULTURE and VUALA!  You got yourself some home grown All-American authentic: CORPORATE CHARITY.  What a brilliant CORPORATE SCAM!

Because my customers have morals and don’t want to bear witness to their poor server on the street, begging for loose change; they will act as CHARITY.  To top it off, my employees will “work” even harder if their pay is “performance” based – especially if they want to beat minimum wage on slower days.  So, if they want acceptable CHARITY TIPS they have to please my customers who, if continue patronizing my establishment, will fully cover the cost of my 3rd vacation home in Florida.

But just to spice up the deal even more, I will pay nearly all the other restaurant workers (hosts, bussers, food runners, bartenders, counter personnel, etc) 2.13 per/hour and make everyone POOL their TIP money together to SHARE with each other.  That way the CHARITY RECIPIENT becomes the CHARITY GIVER!  My servants money can then be pooled or “SHARED” to pay my workers so I don’t have to.  Sounds communal right?

It’s a sweet deal but not sweet enough.  I need to force their obedience by humiliating them as well; especially women.  Perhaps I will require them to dress like sluts and flirt with middle age white men who are certainly the ones PAYING their literal survival.  I will require them to BEG for their CHARITY by forcing them to wear tiny company skirts and tank tops (Tilted Kilt, Hooters), dance on the table and tell jokes (Ed Dabevics), and provide bells to ring in a CHARITY SONG like a Pavlov dog experiment (Cold Stone).

Sometimes there just needs to be something extra to trigger the good-grace giving feelings of charity givers to the NEEDY.  Even something as simple as a cute little tip jar with some adorable cartoon puppy next to the words: “FEED ME” or “I’M HUNGRY” will do the trick.  I know pity often works for those lazy homeless people who choose not work and live on the street.  It’s bound to work for my company.

#2 Corporate Charity:

Corporations LOVE charity!  WHY?!?  Because they get to fuck up our entire world and we are the lucky ones who end up paying for their EXTERNALITIES – The costs to society to clean up their messes.

So Coca-Cola opens a water bottling factory in India.  The water table goes down substantially year after year and locals go thirsty and hungry (because their crops can’t grow without irrigation) as drilling deeper wells becomes increasingly unaffordable.  The local community desperately seek help from anyone because their government officials got paid off from Coke and are busy cruising around in their new Rolls Royce luxury cars.  Their neighbors are too busy trying to survive themselves with Pepsi down the street so they can’t help.

In good grace, and because the corporation is such a warm wonderful philanthropic institution, they give some tiny percentage of their profits to some CHARITIES which often makes the situation just bearable enough to prevent the local people from revolting.  (Alfred Nobel’s invention DYNAMITE and is responsible for the killing of uncountable numbers of people around the world; particularly in the mining of minerals for our iPhones.  So what does he do?  He forms a CHARITY “PRIZE” FOUNDATION with the word “PEACE” in it.)  They also get to proudly display all their charity giving initiatives on the front pages of their websites; next to the company statistics about all their wonderful contributions they have made to society.

So what will the charity do? They will come in and PATCH UP the typically irreversible damage caused by corporate greed through FUND RAISING and VOLUNTEERING of common people.  They will come and help dig deeper holes, or reroute water in from another location, or ship some in from outside the country.  And who pays for it: in time, money, and energy?  WE DO!  Of course, without the goodwill of caring common people, what would these people do?  Probably die.  But does this tackle the source of the problem?

#3 Corporate Welfare

Corporations really do love CHARITY!  Actually, they thrive on it.  Without charity, people’s situation might be desperate and aware enough to trigger a revolution with the potential to overthrow the very system which makes them rich and powerful.  Even so, they still want to pull out funding from medicare, medicaid, unemployment benefits, planned parenthood, education, low income housing subsidies, food share, or anything else directed to benefit working class people for a COPORATE CHARITY tax break.

Wal-Mart now has food donation boxes for its workers who they don’t pay a livable wage to.  Ronald Mc. Donald’s House has a box for you to drop your donations for sick children whose parents probably often work at Mc. Donald’s and whose children are often fed the only food their parents can afford or have time to bring home for their kids to eat.  “Would you like fries with that $7.25 pay?”  Sorry, you have to super-size your work hours if you want to bring home those factory-farm cancer sticks to your kids.  Perhaps $2.13 an hour with customer charity is a more viable profit-over-people solution.

Actually, there is one kind of “CHARITY” which tends to work very consistently well in our society.  The public welfare to the rich.  We love to subsidize their wealth with our CHARITY GIVING tax breaks and corporate hand outs.  We wouldn’t dare want to witness their corporate economy collapse as our $2.13 an hour jobs get shipped away for even cheaper more exploited labor.  We should lace up our work boots and be thankful for all these amazing jobs!  We should even worship our billionaires like heroic martyrs: Steve JOBS.

We must look upstream to the source of our suffering.  Our options are far broader than Pepsi vs. Coke would like us to think.  The only charitable society is an equitable altruistic one where people work in solidarity, not with Ronald Mc Donald, to make a difference for each other and ourselves. So either we keep wasting our energy trying to patch up a broken system of charity to the rich or work to create new alternatives to this greedy system of human exploitation. The choice is ours.

Brad Yu is a leftist writer, journalist, activist, artist, and humanist.  He regularly contributes and occasionally edits the leftist journal: www.whiterosereader.org.  He can be contacted at nomorewalls@riseup.net.