Friday, August 4, 2017

THE DOW SOARS as the rest of America drifts to revolution and economic meltdown

Rather than reflecting growing strength in the 

US economy, the share market upsurge is the 

outcome of increasingly parasitic forms of 

profit-accumulation that have become ever more

pervasive in recent decades, accelerating in the 

aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.

Dow at 22,000: A new high for parasitism

By Nick Beams
4 August 2017
The Dow Jones Industrial Average recorded its seventh straight record high yesterday after reaching 22,000 on Wednesday, powered by a 4.7 percent jump in Apple stocks. The Dow has nearly tripled in value since it reached its post-2008 financial crash low point of 6,547 in March of 2009.
The record stock market boom has continued despite the turmoil in Washington surrounding the Trump administration and the growth of geopolitical tensions, with the US simultaneously threatening war in Europe against Russia, in the Middle East against Iran, and in East Asia against North Korea and China. On the very day of the Dow’s triumph, President Donald Trump signed into law new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. The European Union is unravelling in the aftermath of Brexit and the alliance between the United States and Germany is turning into mutual and open hostility. Amid continuing economic stagnation, global trade relations are breaking down, giving rise to trade war and beggar-thy-neighbour protectionism.

None of this has halted the juggernaut on Wall Street and stock exchanges around the world. So far this year, the Dow has risen by some 11.5 percent. An investment of $10,000 made a decade ago would now be worth $33,600. These 

enormous gains have not flowed to the 

population as a whole—the Federal Reserve 

estimates that only 15 percent of American 

households hold stocks—but to the financial 


In the early decades of the post-World War II period, a rise in the US stock market reflected a general strengthening of the American economy, which was powered by huge industrial corporations that embodied the overall superiority of American production methods. Those days have long since passed. The rise of the stock market today is an expression of the immense and growing chasm between the financial markets and the underlying real economy.
The jubilation in corporate boardrooms, 

official Washington and the mass media over 

the Dow’s surge above the 22,000 mark 

coincided with Depression-like scenes of tens 

of thousands of workers, young and old, in 

economically devastated cities and towns 

across the US, lining up for job applications 

with the online retailer Amazon in the hope of

securing positions at just $12.50 an hour.

The real conditions confronting millions of workers were also underscored last month by the decision of the Taiwanese-owned giant electronics manufacturing firm Foxconn to open an assembly plant in the US. Real wages in America are now so low that it is profitable for Foxconn to site production in the US, closer to the home base of Apple and the other hi-tech firms it supplies.

With Wednesday’s breakthrough, the Dow set a new record for the rapidity of a 1,000-point gain. The event was greeted with comments in the financial media that the surge signified a strengthening of profit opportunities for US firms as a result of a strengthening of the American and global economy.
The New York Times cited a business executive who said that nobody cared about the “soap opera” in Washington and that what mattered was increased global demand in heavy industries along with a weaker dollar, which aided US exports.

The Wall Street Journal quoted a JPMorgan equity analyst who claimed that the current strong earnings season was “more evidence of an upswing in the fortunes of the world economy” and that accelerating global growth could keep stocks rising.

These assertions are not borne out by real 

data. The International Monetary Fund has 

projected global growth to be 3.5 percent this 

year. While this represents a slight increase 

over previous assessments, it is well below the

levels achieved before the global financial 

crisis. All major global economic institutions, 

such as the IMF, the World Bank and the 

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and 

Development, point to continuing low rates 

of investment in the real economy as a drag 

on productivity growth.

The IMF last month downwardly revised its estimates for US economic expansion for 2017 to 2.1 percent, compared to its forecast of 2.5 percent growth a year ago. The organisation all but ruled out any return to a 3 percent growth rate for the US economy, which the Trump administration claims will be achieved as a result of its program of tax breaks for corporations, business deregulation and a government-sponsored profit windfall packaged as infrastructure investment.
Rather than reflecting growing strength in the US economy, the share market upsurge is the outcome of increasingly parasitic forms of profit-accumulation that have become ever more pervasive in recent decades, accelerating in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.
The various forms of parasitism are reflected in the main driving forces behind the relentless rise in stock market valuations. One of the key components of the increase in the Dow has been a surge in bank shares in anticipation of the gutting of the already minimal regulations imposed on banks by the Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed in 2010 in response to the financial crisis. The banks received a further helping hand when it was announced last month that they had passed stress tests organised by the Federal Reserve, allowing them to launch massive dividend hikes and stock buybacks to boost their share values.
The key drivers of the market are no longer major industrial corporations, but firms such as Facebook, Netflix, Google, Apple and Amazon, all of which have very different modes of profit-accumulation than the market leaders of the past. Amazon, for example, does not produce anything. The boost in its share values, which last week briefly made founder Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world, derives from its ability to devise new methods to undercut the traditional retail giants. The rise of Amazon has therefore been accompanied by a wave of retail store closures and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs across the US.
The hi-tech firms Apple and Google, together with the major 

pharmaceutical companies, boost their profits through the 

monopolisation of knowledge, via the protection of so-called 

intellectual property rights, in the same way that in a 

previous era land ownership and the extraction of rent 

formed a major component of wealth-accumulation.
These firms claim that their monopoly-based prices are needed to fund new research. But in fact, the funds are used to finance share buybacks enabling wealthy investors to make a killing on the market. Apple is one of a series of major companies, dubbed by the business channel CNBC as “buyback monsters,” that have been using their profits not for productive investment but to carry out “financial engineering” to boost share values.
Recent research has shown that from 2006 to 2015, the 18 drug companies in the S&P 500 index spent $516 billion on buybacks and dividends, some 11 percent more than their outlays on research and development. In other words, more than half a trillion dollars that could have been used in myriad ways to advance health education and other vital social services was deployed instead for the sole purpose of boosting the wealth of the ultra-rich. It is estimated that each year, firms in the S&P 500 index spend between $500 billion and $600 billion a year on share buybacks.
These operations, which shovel billions of 

dollars into the hands of the ultra-wealthy, 

have been underwritten by the US Federal 

Reserve. It poured trillions of dollars into the 

financial markets after the 2008 financial 

crisis, keeping interest rates on the borrowed 

funds used for such “financial engineering” at 

historic low levels.
Contrary to the claims in the mainstream media, the rise of the Dow is not an expression of the growing health of the US economy, but rather a fever chart of the spread of decay and parasitism.
Ultimately, this process of social plunder must be paid for—at the expense of the jobs and living standards of the working class, the producer of all value through its labour. The vast inflation of financial assets is like an inverted pyramid resting on an increasingly narrow base of real values generated by productive investment and the expansion of the productive forces.
Sustaining this inherently unstable and unsustainable financial bubble requires two basic things: the ever more brutal exploitation of the working class and the suppression of working class struggle. Ending the former requires ending the latter, and infusing the struggles of the working class with a conscious revolutionary and socialist perspective.

“It’s like we are going back to the early 

1900s before workers had any rights”

............. the entire reason our borders have been 
left open and undefended is to encourage Mexico's
invasion, occupation and looting of our jobs and 

Amazon job applicants speak on social crisis in US

By Isaac Finn
4 August 2017

Amazon, the world’s largest Internet-based retail company and tech giant, held a jobs fair in several cities and towns across the US on Wednesday. The scenes of tens of thousands of economically struggling workers lining up for low-paying jobs were reminiscent of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The corporate media, however, had nothing but praise for the company, which is supposedly providing 50,000 workers it is hiring with new economic opportunities.
As the cars piled into the Amazon facilities’ parking lots, it was common to see husbands and wives or multiple generations of the same family come out to compete for jobs with minimum medical benefits that pay roughly $12.50 an hour.
Despite the low pay, many people told reporters from the International Amazon Workers Voice(IAWV) that the job would be an improvement on their current jobs or would be their only opportunity to receive any medical coverage.
One of the fairs was in Etna Township, Ohio, just east of the state capital of Columbus. “We’re here because the pay is good,” Laurie told the IAWV. “Currently, I’m a grounds keeper at Zane State [College] and a student there. I’m working for $8.50 an hour. It is good that they are offering jobs here. I don’t know of anything in Zanesville [Ohio] that pays well.”
Thirty-one percent of the residents in Zanesville live in poverty, according to the July 2016 US Census.
Asked about the social situation in the US, she added, “The rich get richer and the poor keep getting poorer. I think Trump is going to hurt us. People didn’t know what they were getting into when they voted for him.”
Zack, who was also applying at the Etna facility, said, “I’m here to try out warehouse work because I have done call center work. I’ve been out of a job for a month now. Around here, there are few jobs outside of working in fast food restaurants.
“When it comes to politics, I don’t get too involved. In the last election, I voted for Hillary Clinton just as a lesser-of-two-evils decision, but I wasn’t thrilled with anyone.”
Thomas, a retired newspaper publisher who was bringing a family member to an interview, stated, “Workers didn’t like Clinton or the Democrats’ message.
“Nobody is stopping these billion-dollar corporations, the unions today are weak. In the 1930s and 40s, there were people in government who actually cared about the working people. Today, none of them do. The Democrats just want their votes. Nobody really believes they will do anything they promise anymore. It’s like we are going back to the early 1900s, before workers had any rights.”
Ohio, which went to Trump in the last election, has been heavily impacted by decades of deindustrialization and betrayals by the unions. The state was once associated with the militant strikes of the 1930s, such as the Toledo Auto-Lite strike and the rubber industry sit-down strikes in Akron, but is now synonymous with the abandoned industries and the opioid epidemic.
On the same day as the jobs fair, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was speaking in Columbus, Ohio, about the ongoing opioid crisis. According to the Health Department, more than 3,000 Ohioans died from opioid-related overdoses in 2015, with the numbers expected to be substantially higher for 2016.
Fall River, Massachusetts, where Amazon was hiring 700 new employees, is also one of the hardest hit by the economic crisis. The town of 89,000 people last year experienced 934 opioid-related deaths. In 2015, the poverty rate for Fall River was roughly 23 percent, compared to 11.6 percent in the rest of the state.
Devon Green, a 23-year-old who recently graduated college, described his work experience. “I had a job at one of my friend’s restaurants for a while. Now I’m working doing some landscaping and construction work for my mom’s clients. I turned down my first job out of college, in financial advising, because I didn’t really have a lot of money to relocate.
“I can’t really speak for all people, I can only speak for myself. What held me back is not having enough money to find a place for myself at that particular time.”
Lindsey Fennel, who just received a tour of the Amazon facility, said, “It was really shocking to see what was in there. It was so big and people are working hard. When you’re going on Amazon to shop, it’s just ‘click and buy,’ ‘click and buy.’ With work like this it’s going to be a tough, but I don’t think it will be anything anybody can’t handle.
“I work retail for Christmas Tree Shop. I like the company. But I’ve been there for almost a year, and it’s time for something new. I just moved here from Virginia about three or four weeks ago. I went from making $8.50 to $11-something, still for Christmas Tree, and we get time and a half on Sundays.”
Landsy, who has worked for Amazon for three months, stated, “People aren’t staying at Amazon because it’s hard work. It’s 10 hours, four days a week, and you’re on your feet. And when you’re working on the pick machine, you have to get the products: up-down, up-down. That’s why people are not staying. My team, there were maybe 16 or 17 people when I started, now there’s like 3 people. They are hiring every day, but they’re not staying.
“[Amazon CEO Jeff] Bezos is making so much money because we’re working and we don’t get enough pay. The harder they can make you work, the more they make.”
Bezos has a net worth of approximately $90 billion.
Landsy described conditions in which workers are regularly fired at the whim of a manager. “If they send you to get something and you don’t see it, like five times, and they go and find it, you might get fired.”

"From the standpoint of America’s richest 10 percent, who control over 75 percent of the national wealth, Obama’s 2016 claim that “America’s pretty darn great right now” is a statement of fact."

"But the average wage of a US Amazon worker is less than the hourly wage in real terms of a coal miner in 1935, according to the US Labor Department’s Handbook of Labor Statistics. Most workers, especially those hired as temps, make even less."

"The top 10 percent of Americans now own roughly three-quarters of all household wealth."

"While telling workers there is “not enough money” for wage increases, or to fund social programs, both parties hailed the recent construction of the U.S.S. Gerald Ford, a massive aircraft carrier that cost $13 billion to build, stuffing the pockets of numerous contractors and war profiteers."

Ten facts Amazon workers must know about the corporation:

  1. Slave wages for Indian Amazon workers: Indian Amazon workers are paid as little as $233 a month. No wonder Bezos said he was “energized by optimism and invention in India” when he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June. A 28-year-old Indian Amazon worker told the IAWV: “Multinational companies are exploiting workers as cheap labour in this country.” Amazon has 41 fulfillment centers in India. Read more: Amazon pays warehouse workers $233 per month in India

  2. Workers stuck in a freezer: AmazonFresh workers report that the company illegally keeps them in freezers for nearly three hours, with temperatures between 30 to -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 to -30 Celsius). “There are no clocks in the freezer,” one worker said. “Stopping to check for the time [on your cell phone] also slows you down—they never stop monitoring your pick rate.” Read more: AmazonFresh worker reveals: Amazon illegally keeps workers in a freezer for over two hours at a time

  3. Bezos’ wealth grows: Jeff Bezos is about to become the richest man in the world. With a total net wealth of nearly $90 billion, he needs just a few billion more to top Bill Gates. Bezos has made $22.4 billion so far in 2017, more than anyone else on earth. Read more: Amazon CEO Bezos makes $1.4 billion Thursday morning, briefly becoming world’s richest person

  4. Amazon’s empire expands: Amazon’s monopoly and domination of the world market is growing. Former Amazon executive Brittain Ladd told The Street that other corporations “will have a challenging future if they don’t embrace Amazon…That’s what will determine the winners and losers—who decides to work with Amazon.” This means conditions will worsen for workers across all industries, who will be subject to the same exploitation as Amazon workers.

  5. Amazon robs the elderly of their land: A Virginia power company is seeking to seize land from elderly black residents to build transmission lines for an Amazon data center. Amazon will not contribute a dollar to the construction—the proposed $62 million project would be paid entirely by residents. A spokesperson for the residents said, “No community should be made to sacrifice so much for one multibillion-dollar corporation.” Read more: Amazon to seize the land of freed slaves’ descendants to lay power lines

  6. Worker run over by truck: Workers reported to the IAWV that an Amazon worker in Tennessee died when he was run over by a semi-truck. “The Amazon Associates and the truckers share a parking lot at my plant,” a worker told the IAWV. “I think an accident is going to happen eventually.”

  7. Sweatshops and Warehouses: Nike has made an agreement to sell their apparel company’s goods on Amazon. The deal links Nike sweatshops, where workers in South East Asia make shoes and clothing for near-slave wages, with Amazon’s network of exploited workers at fulfillment centers worldwide.

  8. Speculating on Whole Foods-Amazon deal: Financial speculators are cashing in on the Whole Foods-Amazon deal. Jana Partners, an investment firm that owned a large chunk of Whole Foods, sold off its ownership share and made $320 million on the Amazon deal. The Street reported: “A Jana Partners official declined to comment.”

  9. Selling short on Wall Street:  According to a June article in Business Insider, “The ever-expanding juggernaut Amazon’s $13.7 billion deal to acquire Whole Foods spurred share losses in the likes of Kroger, Target, and Walmart, amounting to about $500 million of gains for short speculators last week alone.”

  10. Truckers fight back: In June, truck drivers and warehouse workers transporting Amazon packages went on strike against trucking companies that skirt minimum wage and insurance and benefits regulations by classifying them as “independent contractors.” The Teamsters union shut the strike down with no benefits won to placate Los Angeles’ Democratic Party mayor. Read more: The way forward for West Coast port truck drivers

Amazon Jobs Day: A Tale of Two Americas

By Eric London
2 August 2017
All across the US today, tens or hundreds of thousands of people will line up looking for work as part of the largest job fair in US history.
“Amazon Jobs Day” tells a tale of two Americas.
On the one hand there is Amazon, a corporation awash in cash, always expanding its monopoly, producing ever greater dividends for shareholders. Its stock value has tripled in the last two years, and CEO Jeff Bezos (net worth=$90 billion) is making $23,000 per minute, about the same as the average Amazon warehouse worker in the US earns each year. The financial oligarchy agrees with what Barack Obama said in 2016: “Now is the greatest time to be alive.”
On the other hand, living conditions are deteriorating for the working class. The net worth of the average working class family has nearly fallen in half since the 2007-2008 financial crash, and most workers don’t have enough savings to cover a moderate expense like new tires or new medication.
The job fairs are being held in some of the most economically distressed regions of the country.
Urban centers like Baltimore, Maryland and Buffalo, New York have been hollowed out by decades of job losses and population decline. Suburban areas like Etna, Ohio; Whitestown, Indiana; Romeoville, Illinois; and Hebron, Kentucky are among the most heavily impacted by an opioid crisis that killed roughly 60,000 people last year. Former industrial hubs like Fall River, Massachusetts; Robbinsville, New Jersey; and Kenosha Wisconsin were once home to better-paid manufacturing jobs, but are now being transformed into industrial parks for low-pay, low-benefit warehouse work.
The fact that many workers view Amazon warehouse jobs that net $15,000 to $25,000 per year as a step up from the minimum wage service industry is itself a sign that corporations exercise an unprecedented degree of domination over the lives of hundreds of millions of workers. Today, workers no longer have the eight-hour day, pensions, employer-provided health care, or cost of living adjustments in contracts.
The growth in poverty and economic hardship in the working class means the accumulation of wealth and privilege by the ruling class. The top 10 percent of Americans now own roughly three-quarters of all household wealth. The poorest half of the population—roughly 160 million people, own nothing—just 0.1 percent of US wealth.
The growth of inequality is the product of deliberate policies enacted by both capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans, which have carried out the same policies of bank bailouts, cuts to social programs, tax cuts for the rich, mass surveillance, the deportation of immigrant workers, and never-ending war abroad.
Trump and his cabal of fascist advisers, generals, and family members did not emerge from nowhere—his administration is the product of decades of war, reaction, and decay within the ruling class and all its official institutions. The present crisis within the administration, marked by high profile cabinet member firings and resignations and unproven allegations of “Russian hacking,” is a fight among the Democratic and Republican factions of the ruling class to control the government and dictate the foreign policy of US imperialism.
The fact that the working class has no allies in this fight is proven by where the two parties agree.
While telling workers there is “not enough money” for wage increases, or to fund social programs, both parties hailed the recent construction of the U.S.S. Gerald Ford, a massive aircraft carrier that cost $13 billion to build, stuffing the pockets of numerous contractors and war profiteers. In the name of the fraudulent “war on terror,” the ruling class has drained trillions of dollars on wars fought for corporate profit that have left millions dead and destroyed whole countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
Both parties have also expressed their desire to “cooperate” on a health care law aimed at boosting the profits of the insurance, hospital, and pharmaceutical corporations. Under the Democrats’ disastrous Obamacare program, millions are paying skyrocketing premiums for barebones coverage. The Republican proposals use Obamacare as a jumping-off point to make further cuts to workers’ coverage, including by gutting billions from Medicaid subsidies.
ions over the The wealth gap that separates the ruling class from the vast majority of the poplast 40 years. The primary role of the AFL-CIO today is to block strikes and prevent workers from linking up with one another in a common struggle for social equality.
Amazon and other corporations want workers to view one another—including those in line with one another at Amazon’s job fair—as competition. In reality, workers in the US and all over the world are linked by common class interests, regardless of their race, gender, nationality, religion, immigration status, or sexual orientation.
Amazon’s vast international supply chains, spurred by advancements in the areas of communication, transportation and engineering, are transforming social relations, linking the international working class in different industries together in the process of production like never before.
The conditions for bringing the world economy into harmony with the needs of the human race are already present. But under capitalism, these progressive tendencies are turned against the working class and society as a whole. The advances in technology and the global integration of production become weapons in the hands of the capitalist class to destroy jobs and living standards for the broad masses of people, while the conflict between the global character of economic life and the nation-state system of capitalism erupts in the form of militarism and war.
What is required is the socialist transformation of the world economy, expropriating the wealth of corporations like Amazon and turning them from for-profit exploitative giants into international public services, organized and directed democratically by the workers themselves.

Voice (, which exposes exploitative working conditions in Amazon fulfillment centers around the world and serves as a platform for organizing opposition among Amazon workers internationally.

Amazon’s Bezos passes Bill Gates as world’s richest person


July 27 (UPI) — Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Internet retail giant Amazon, overtook Microsoft founder Bill Gates as the world’s richest person on Thursday, according to a real-time ranking compiled by Forbes magazine.
A 1 percent surge in the price of Amazon shares accounts for the wealth Bezos has accumulated, at least on paper, enabling him to surpass Gates with $91 billion in assets on the Forbes list Thursday. Gates was listed with $90 billion.
Shares of Amazon have increased about 40 percent in the last year and have traded at over $1,000 per share during that time. According to regulatory filings, Bezos owns about 81 million shares of Amazon, accounting for roughly 17 percent of the company he founded.
Bezos also owns The Washington Post and the space exploration company Blue Origin, which he founded and funds with the sale of $1 billion in Amazon stock each year, according to The New York Times.
Gates’ wealth has also increased as Microsoft stock has enjoyed recent success. He still owns 191 million shares of the company, a 2.46 percent stake worth $14 billion.
Gates has diversified his wealth since stepping away from day-to-day leadership at Microsoft and now oversees Cascade Investments, the company he formed to manage his vast fortune. Cascade has a wide array of business interests, including private equity, public stock holdings and real estate.
The Forbes list does not count the money Gates has donated to his charitable organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as part of his personal fortune.
Gates has been ranked No. 1 on the Forbes richest person list in 18 of the last 23 years.

Government gives Amazon millions in free money for Romulus, Michigan warehouse

By Robert Verdine
25 July 2017
Amazon has announced that it plans to move forward on the construction of a new warehouse in Romulus, Michigan after being confirmed for a grant by the State of Michigan’s “Strategic Fund Board” to the tune of $5 million in public city funds. This comes on the heels of the recent decision to give $7.5 million in corporate welfare for another Amazon construction project in the Detroit suburb of Livonia.
The new site plans on utilizing the existing metropolitan airport, which will also see large sums of capital invested as part of an economic partnership between the state and major corporate entities known as the Detroit Region Aerotropolis (DRA).
In addition, Amazon has its sights set on a third location in the Detroit Metro area in Shelby Township at the site of an old Visteon plant, an auto parts maker for Ford. The board of trustees for the Macomb County Brownfield Redevelopment authority and the township’s planning commission gave approval for the project last week. As stated on the township’s web site, a main component of the plan will be the granting of various tax incentives.
This past week, the Livonia City Council furnished Amazon with an industrial facilities exemption certificate approved unanimously by the board. The certificate would “provide an exemption from ad valorem real and/or personal property taxes on the property. The application turned in to the city earlier this summer requests the certificate for 12 years, the maximum amount allowed by the state,” reports.
Other cities in the US rust belt are also making similar deals. The city of Cleveland is considering a similar package of tax and other various financial incentives for the redevelopment by Amazon of the Randall Park Mall site, formerly a major shopping hub whose retail anchors have been the main retailers put out of business by Amazon. Sears, Macy’s, JCPenney and Burlington Coat Factory were all former tenants.
This kind of economic arrangement is similar to deals Amazon has extorted all over the world. In 2013, the UK newspaper the Independent reported that “Amazon’s corporate tax bill was just £2.44 million – less than the £2.5 million it received from the Scottish Government in inducements to build a new distribution warehouse in Dunfermline.” The report goes on to detail some of the methods that Amazon and other multinationals use to avoid paying taxes on profits to government authorities.
“Amazon manages to pay only a tiny fraction of its profits in corporation tax because all sales to British customers are routed through a Luxembourg affiliate, Amazon EU Sarl,” the Independent writes. “It is funded by fees it receives from Amazon EU and since these only just cover operating costs, little is left over for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to tax. Amazon EU pays little tax in Luxembourg because it pays hundreds of millions of euros each year in fees to a tax exempt affiliate, also registered in Luxembourg.”
The company that Jeff Bezos founded in 1995 as an online bookstore now increasingly controls the fundamental infrastructure of the economy. Its Amazon Web Services division currently provides the computing backbone for much of the country, including the CIA. Its massive network of distribution centers and warehouses in every major US city has displaced local shipping industries. Amazon sales also increased 23 percent in the first quarter of 2017, climbing to $35.7 billion. On one day alone, July 11, 2017, the company reported that it sold $2.9 billion worth of goods.
While the ruling class claims that there is no money available to meet the most critical social needs of working people, state and local governments engage in a bidding war seeking to attract lucrative deals from large capitalist enterprises like Amazon and in the process drive down pay, benefits, and overall working conditions.
The online retail giant has received innumerable public grants from states seeking to lure the company into investing in capital in their regions. Fairfax County, Virginia has recently given a massive handout of $43 million for construction of a new distribution center. Last year, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf submitted a similar proposal, which was accepted by Amazon on behalf of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development. The proposal included a $5 million dollar “First Program” grant and $15 million in tax credits. Massachusetts announced its own deal in April 2015 which included $14.8 million incentives and credits for Amazon warehouses.
Financial papers and journals have meanwhile touted the deals by Romulus and Livonia as a supposed boon to job creation. The reality is that Amazon is notorious globally for paying poverty wages and severely exploiting and abusing its workforce. Workers are given a stick-and-carrot routine, promised bonuses and education assistance when signing on, promises which are postponed and then reneged on time and time again. Ironically, the repurposed former auto plants that are being purchased and refitted by Amazon will provide jobs that pay less than half as much in starting wages as were formerly paid to autoworkers at these facilities.

Amazon CEO Bezos makes $1.4 billion Thursday morning, briefly becoming world’s richest person

By Evan Blake
28 July 2017
Around the time Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos woke up Thursday, he became the richest person in the world after making roughly $1.4 billion shortly following the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange. With an estimated net worth of $90.9 billion, Bezos briefly surpassed Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who had been the world’s richest person since May 2013.
Bezos’s fortune stems almost entirely from being the largest shareholder of Amazon stock, of which he owns roughly 17 percent. With the company slated to report strong earnings and growth in its quarterly earnings report released Thursday evening, its stock surged 1.6 percent shortly after the NASDAQ opened Thursday morning, reaching a high of $1,083.31 per share at mid-day.
The released earnings report, however, differed from what analysts had predicted and caused Amazon’s stock price to fall 3 percent to $1,012.68 in after-hours trading Thursday evening. The company reported earnings per share of only $0.40 cents per share, far below the predicted $1.42 per share. Bezos finished the day as the second richest person, trailing Gates by just $1.1 billion.
Under capitalism, the daily fluctuations of the market cause figures such as Bezos and Gates to win or lose hundreds of millions—or even billions—of dollars on an hourly basis, while the vast majority of the population struggles to survive.
The obscene amounts of money that Bezos accrued early Thursday and in recent years contrasts sharply with the low wages earned by Amazon’s global workforce. While Bezos netted $1.4 billion in his sleep, it would take 54,280 years for a graveyard shift worker in one of Amazon’s warehouses in the US to earn the same amount.

As the International Amazon Workers Voice (IAWV) 

reported last month, super-exploited Amazon warehouse 

workers in India make just $233 per month. Thus, it would 

take an Indian Amazon warehouse worker 500,715 years to

earn the same amount that Bezos did overnight.

Coinciding with the rise of the stock market, Amazon’s stock value has skyrocketed over 40 percent this year alone. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Bezos has cashed in with $24.5 billion since January. In the past five years, a period of almost uninterrupted stock market boom, Bezos has made an astounding $70.4 billion.
Bezos’s wealth is so vast that it would be enough to end homelessness in the US and provide access to water and sanitation for the entire global population, according to figures from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
After a summer of skyrocketing share value, the company’s market capitalization surpassed $500 billion for the first time on Wednesday, joining the exclusive set of fellow tech giants Apple, Google and Microsoft.
Earlier this summer, Amazon began acquisition negotiations with Whole Foods, which also propelled Amazon stock and netted Bezos another $2.88 billion in a single day. The deal portends a massive shift in the grocery industry, as Amazon aims to introduce technology to make superfluous jobs that currently employ millions of people, including cashier positions.
On July 11, Amazon held its annual Prime Day event, a sales bonanza in which numerous items were discounted, including Amazon-produced technology like the Echo Dot. The company afterwards announced that the sales event was their “biggest day ever” in terms of overall sales—a 60 percent increase over Prime Day 2016. In the 30-hour time frame of the event, they surpassed their combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2016 and added more Prime members than ever before.
The rise of Amazon and the billions accumulated by Bezos have been built upon the exploitation of its workforce worldwide, which faces brutal working conditions. Over the past few weeks, building up to and after Prime Day, workers at Amazon’s immense distribution warehouses have been under intense pressure to meet productivity requirements. Thousands of workers have been forced to work mandatory overtime, often at least 60 hours per week.
At most “fulfillment centers” across the US, inbound workers are already stocking up for the “peak” holiday shopping season and have continued to work mandatory overtime. Inbound workers have told the IAWV that they come home so stressed out from the thought of having to go back to work overtime the next day that they cannot fall asleep, creating a grueling feedback loop of overwork, stress and sleep deprivation.
Inside the facilities, workers are forced to labor under the intense summer heat. Workers frequently collapse from heat exhaustion, at which point they are simply advised to take a break and then get back to work.
This brutal exploitation is the real source of Amazon’s climbing stock value and Bezos’s soaring wealth. Without the labor of Amazon workers, there would be no profits. The wealth that Bezos has extracted from Amazon workers must be seized and redirected to meet social needs, not hoarded away in his private bank accounts and stock portfolio.
The way forward for Amazon workers requires that they form links with their coworkers internationally and fight to build independent rank-and-file committees, which will be used to unite with the international working class more broadly.

Tens of thousands line up at Amazon job fairs as Dow tops 22,000
3 August 2017
Two scenes played out across America yesterday, providing a window onto two separate worlds: one occupied by a small, wealthy elite; the other by the working class, who comprise roughly the bottom 90 percent of the population.
Shortly after the opening bell on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average broke the 22,000 mark for the first time in history, a milestone that was greeted with exuberant headlines in the establishment press and made the lead story on NBC’s evening news program.

The day before, President Trump tweeted: “Corporations have NEVER made as much money as they are making now,” a claim that the fact-checking website Politifact said was partly true, with the caveat that profits were even higher under Barack Obama. From the standpoint

of America’s richest 10 percent, who 

control over 75 percent of the national 

wealth, Obama’s 2016 claim that 

“America’s pretty darn great right 

now” is a statement of fact.
At the very moment the Dow crossed the 22,000 threshold, tens of thousands of workers were lined up waiting to apply for jobs with Amazon in the company’s nationwide job fair, the largest such event in US history.
If the photos of long lines of job-seeking workers encircling buildings and stretching across parking lots recall scenes from the Great Depression, that’s because the conditions of life for masses of working people increasingly resemble the “hungry thirties.”

We spoke to workers representing a diverse 

cross-section of society—black and white, 

immigrant and native-born, young and old—

who lined up together in the hope of landing 

an Amazon warehouse job with no pension, 

barebones health coverage and no guarantee 

of either an 8-hour day or 40-hour work 

Workers told the WSWS that Amazon forced them to take an on-site drug test and undergo a background check just to file an application. Many were disappointed and upset that Amazon refused job offers to those who had not previously filed an application online.
It is a testament to the desperate conditions workers confront that so many thousands view Amazon’s average wage of around $12.50 an hour as a step up from the service industry, where many workers make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. But the average wage of a US Amazon worker is less than the hourly wage in real terms of a coal miner in 1935, according to the US Labor Department’s Handbook of Labor Statistics. Most workers, especially those hired as temps, make even less.
Amazon’s job fairs targeted roughly a dozen particularly distressed regions nationwide. Baltimore, Maryland and Buffalo, New York have been hollowed out by decades of job losses and population decline. Suburban areas like Etna, Ohio; Whitestown, Indiana; Romeoville, Illinois; and Hebron, Kentucky are among the most heavily impacted by an opioid crisis that killed roughly 60,000 people last year.
Former industrial hubs like Fall River, Massachusetts; Robbinsville, New Jersey; and Kenosha, Wisconsin were once home to better-paid manufacturing jobs but are now being transformed into industrial parks for low-pay, low-benefit warehouse work, including the 10,000-job Foxconn plant announced last week.
For all their diverse experiences and backgrounds, the challenges workers confront in their daily lives and the concerns they share for the well-being of their families and loved ones are fundamentally the same. They worry about their children facing a lifetime of indebtedness and dead-end jobs, or family members slipping into alcohol or chemical dependency to numb their physical and mental pain. They are burdened by the knowledge that a medical emergency or car trouble could leave them broke.
They wonder how they will come up with the money to care for their aging parents or send their children to college. They know veterans who went to war and came back traumatized by the horror of imperialist war, only to be denied access to social assistance by the government that sent them there. They know that their friends and coworkers confront the same basic problems.
In the world of the wealthy, seemingly so far away and yet grounded in the same social reality, an entirely different set of concerns predominate, driven by the drive to increase their personal wealth, privilege and social position.
The entire political establishment—including both major parties, the corporate media, the universities, the think tanks and the official state institutions—is single-mindedly focused on addressing the needs of the rich. A section of the upper-middle class, upset over the distribution of resources within the wealthiest 10 percent, indulges in a politics of self-obsession, based on categories of personal racial and gender identity that are employed to gain positions of privilege.
While differences exist between and within different strata of the top 10 percent, bourgeois politics is what Obama called “an intramural scrimmage” between groups who are ultimately “on the same team.” This fact is demonstrated by the areas where the Democrats and Republicans agree: permanent war and massive spending on the military, domestic surveillance, cuts to social programs, tax cuts for the rich, and the militarization of the police to suppress working class resistance.
There is growing opposition in the working class to the increasingly oligarchic character of American society. “I’ve watched a lot of people lose a lot of stuff,” Amazon applicant Eric Childs told a WSWS team in Illinois. Lucinda, a mother of four who also cares for four grandchildren, stood in line to apply for a job in Ohio. She said, “If we spent more on jobs and less on going to war with people we don’t even have anything to do with the country would be much better off.” Andrea, another Ohio job applicant, voiced the frustration many workers felt with both candidates in the 2016 election: “Hillary was all that was wrong with the government,” she said, “and Trump was all that was wrong with society.”
The very economic conditions that cause social inequality also contain its solution. The growth of massive corporations like Amazon, whose supply chains stretch around the world, has united billions of workers internationally in the process of production. New technologies—including mobile phones, the Internet, advanced transportation systems—are revolutionizing social relations and transforming the way in which people of all races and nationalities interact with one another.
Despite the potential created by the development of man’s productive forces to abolish hunger, poverty and disease, under capitalism these advances become weapons in the hands of the capitalist class. They are used to destroy the jobs and living standards of workers around the world while devastating the environment. At the same time that private ownership of the corporations and banks subordinates the economy to the profit greed of capitalist oligarchs, the conflict between the increasingly integrated character of the world economy and the nation-state system erupts in the form of militarism and war, threatening the planet with nuclear annihilation.
The task of the working class is to free the world’s productive forces from the vice-like grip of the corporations and harness the huge advances in science and technology to meet the needs of the human race.
The corporations must be transformed into public utilities and run democratically by the workers themselves. The wealth of these corporations and that of their CEOs and major stock- and bond-holders must be confiscated and used to guarantee good-paying jobs, universal health care, education, housing, drug rehabilitation programs, pensions and other necessary social services. This requires a political struggle to unite workers internationally, in opposition to the political parties of the capitalist class, for the socialist transformation of the world economy.
Eric London

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