CANNIBALIZING THE EARTH

Cecile Pineda
9 min readJun 12, 2021

Now that our planet is up to 441 ppm, the highest level since between 4.1 and 4.5 million years ago, we take a look at the many ways humans cannibalize the Earth. This week we look at one of these issues: cannibalizing people. In subsequent issues we hope to look at other areas such as forestry, mining, agriculture, pastoralism, militarization, and war, all of it propped up by the Capitalist system of “unlimited growth.”

A recent Chris Hedges article, “Dying for an I-Phone” points out that because most products now reaching the U.S. are manufactured in China, which has a rock-bottom system to exploit factory workers, including same-sex dormitories, obligations to pay for rent and food, overtime work, and abandonment when their working life ends, it has reduced the bargaining power of workers globally and especially in the U.S. His allegation suggests that, if conditions for the U.S. worker are ever to improve, off-shoring will have to become a thing of the past. Perhaps this image, featured in the article, says more than a thousand words:

The U.S. Congress still can’t kick the habit of expecting people in U.S. prisons to work for free. And by denying workers a minimum wage of $15, which if it were to become a reality, would still not afford them a livable wage, Congress effectively consigns minimum wage workers to indentured servitude. And Congress is still unable even to consider the notion that the right to health and housing might be a human right!

But perhaps the best example of raw cannibalism rests on the report just released by ProPublica via a FOIA request, that the ultra rich, people like Bezos, Gates, Buffet, and Bloomberg, find ways around the tax code that permits them to pay no taxes whatsoever. So for example, the world’s richest man, Bezos, paid nothing in 2007 and 2011. Right behind him, Elon Musk and Michael Bloomberg never paid any tax. Carl Icahn, famous for insider trading, remained tax-free two years running. And for three consecutive years Soros avoided paying any tax.

These titans benefit from tax-payer-funded infrastructure, roads, bridges, communication lines, internet access, public transportation bringing their workers to their plants and campuses and so forth, but all feel free not to support it. Their wealth accumulates from the exploding value of their assets, both stock and property. Such gains are only taxable when they are sold. Over a four-year period (2014–2918) the richest of them paid an average tax of 3.4% on their gains.

Meantime, during these same years, working middle class Americans saw their net worth grow on average by about $65,000 after taxes, most of it the result of real estate appreciation. In 2016, the average net worth of White families was $171,000, whereas Black families, and Hispanic families fared less well, their net assets being valued at $17,150 and $20,070 respectively. The White family had 8 times the wealth of the typical Black family, and five times the wealth of the typical Hispanic family. But for minimum wage workers receiving $7.25 an hour, with no deductions, their yearly salary of $15,080.00 is subject to .062 yearly tax, or $934.91. They live from paycheck to paycheck. For the multibillion-dollar titans such a tax rate would require them to pay $62,000. per every million dollars earned.

That Big Men like Bloomberg, Zuckerberg, Bezos, Gates, Soros et al pay nothing is visible. It is visible now in the millions of people having to live in tents along railroad rights of way throughout the United States. It is visible in the over 100 tents now raised in People’s Park in Berkeley. This houseless phenomenon is directly owing to the financial gaming of the Big Guys, — which is a good reason to boycott them — and their apparent inability to give a fig for their fellow human beings. It results in a taxation shortfall in the trillions of dollars.

But The Lords of Greed are probably not any more blameworthy than the U.S. tax code itself which provides all the loopholes by which these Big Men manage to buy their second yachts, and elude the tax collector in financial maneuvers all of which are perfectly legal. Talk of a wealth tax has now entered the conversation but well you may ask what are the probabilities that the government will plug up these loop holes by revising the tax code any time soon.

Mondragon workers built Bilbao’s Gugggenheim Museum roof

Happily, there is push back starting in 1956 with the Mondragon Cooperative located in Spain’s Basque Country which now consists of 102 federated cooperatives, with branches in 31 other countries, and a total of more than ,80,000 workers. Unlike the pay gap we observe in the United States where CEOs are paid upwards of 100 times what the lowliest worker earns, at Mondragon managers are paid only 6 times as much as the lowest wage group of the cooperative, fostering an ambience of democracy and solidarity. Absenteeism is half as low as in ordinary companies, and productivity — wait — is 8 % higher. In the United States the cooperative movement has spread to the City of Cleveland, to credit unions, agricultural, purchasing, and housing coops, including such firms as REI, Sunkist, Ocean Spray, Land o’ lakes, Organic Valley and others. Worldwide, coops represent over $3 trillion in turnover and 12.6 million in employment, with over a billion people in total membership. As the New York Times put it, co-ops soften capitalism’s rough edges. Worker ownership guarantees that all that sweat equity goes to a better cause than enriching the boss. Workers get treated with dignity, and they get to reap the economic benefits.

TAX the super-rich.

OPPOSE the Senate compromise letting the super rich get away without tax hikes which the rest of us pay.

DEMAND corporations pay for major infrastructure deal.

FIGHT rural income inequality.

First time ever: Climate Justice!!! is on the G 7 agenda.

UN representative denounce potential forced expulsion of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem homes as violation of international law.

European Parliament endorses vaccine patent waiver.

Greek workers have ben e protesting the right-wing New Democracy attempt to enshrine a 10-hour work day into law, and limit the right to strike.

Penally Camp in the UK where hundreds of asylum seekers were held in deplorable conditions has closed.

British ex-minister Alan Duncan reveals ;Israeli control’ of UK foreign affairs.

Socialist teacher Pedro Castillo takes lead in Peruvian election, which Fujimori is still trying to steal.

AMLO’s Morena party wins in Mexican midterms.

Nicaragua stops U.S. from buying this year’s elections.

Israeli-chartered ship leaves Oakland after picket lines keep it from being worked all day.

Israel’s detention of journalist, and Palestinian activists in Sheikh Jarrah draws global condemnation.

In Mexico indigenous mobilization defends Sierra Tarahumara

Off to a bad start with Biden’s snubbing Putin, summit advocates call for no “first use“ and an end to the nuclear arms race.

Puerto Rican unions to hold biggest national strike since 2019.

Three first nations protect old growth in Vancouver Island’s Fairy Creek.

Supremes uphold lower court’s null decision rendering GOP-backed HB 1413 void for violating public employees’ rights to collective bargaining.

Biden aims to restore endangered species protections #45 gutted.

Biden administration threatens to sue Texas over Abbotts’ cynical attack on asylum-seeking children, altho Biden continues to deport them.

Biden administration scraps #45 rule to kick 3 million off food stamps.

U.S. lifts some Iran sanctions amid stalled nuclear talks.

Friends Committee on Legislation joins more than 100 national organizations in signing a letter to Biden urging him to block delivery of $735 million in weapons to Israel.

Thousands set to protest this weekend in support of Palestine.

Conservationists applaud Biden plan reversing #45 attack on Tongass National Forest.

Progressives in Congress warn Biden against cutting green energy from infrastructure package.

Demand for accountability grows as over 200,000 people urge DOJ to create special task force investigating #45.

House Dems press Biden to support major investment in global vaccine supply.

House panel takes valuable step reversing catastrophic methane rule.

The administration announces that the DOJ is formally changing its leak investigation policy to ban seizures of reporters’ phone and email records in an effort to uncover their sources.

Progressives demand floor debate on pro-Democracy bill.

Ro Khanna introduces bill allowing states to carve path toward Medicare for All.

Poor People’s Campaign to march against Manchin obstructionism in W. Va.

Amnesty says paltry G7 climate plans are a ‘devastating mass-scale assault on human rights.’

Health campaigners rage against EU effort to undermine WTO patent waiver on COVID vaccines.

Ahead of summit 200+ global leaders call on G7 nations to help vaccinate the world’s poor.

Sunrise Movement calls on Biden to stop compromising with GOP on climate.

Ahead of key summit, 350+ groups and 10+ economists tell G 7 nations to stop funding fossil fuels.

Tlaib co-sponsors Norton antinuclear bill, making 6th Rep to co-sponsor HR 2850.

Now the big boys at the Pentagon are at it again: With his latest revelation, 90-year- old Daniel Elsberg demonstrates that following U.S. nuclear bombing of China Eisenhower and Dulles were willing to accept retaliatory Soviet nuclear attack on Taiwan.

EPA workers demand removal of fossil fuel stocks from their retirement plans.

FBI probes allegation Dejoy used illegal scheme to rise as GOP megadonor.

NARAL pro-choice America celebrates reintroduction of Women’s Health Protection Act.

International leaders join call to end all legal barriers to abortion.

US justice groups release blueprint to end the torture of solitary confinement.

Immigrants will no longer be subjected to the deplorable conditions of detention at the Butler County Jail in Hamilton.

Co-op Ride in New York City allows you to ditch Uber for a driver-owned rideshare app.

Coping with 441 ppm: Thousands of water protectors gather for largest resistance yet as Enbridge accelerates pipe construction.

Trans Mountain Argo Group insurer to cut ties with the pipeline company.

After 10 years resistance, climate movement wins over Keystone tar sands pipeline. Pressure now builds for Biden to kill Line 3.

200 continue to occupy Enbridge Matting near Mississippi headwaters over night exercising their treaty rights.

Court halts drilling on 630 square miles of federal oil leases in key sage-grouse habitat.

50+ groups across U.S. Northwest unveil green new deal vision for region’s vital forests.

Health advocates welcome formal WTO talks to suspend COVID vaccine patents.

WTO considers COVID vaccine access waiver for poor countries.

Woman who recorded George Floyd’s murder receives honorary Pullitzer.

Illinois to become first state to bar police from lying to minors held under investigation.

New Michigan bill targets qualified immunity as compromise federal bill inches closer.

Floridians defy DeSantis’s Jim Crow voter suppression law.

Maine lawmakers pass landmark fossil fuel divestment bill.

New Jersey governor announces closure of women’s prison plagued by sexual violence.

Poor People’s Campaign plans moral march on Manchin.

Civil rights leaders and W. Va. miners turn up heat on Manchin.

Oregon Repub that tried to coordinate Capitol attack expelled from legislature.

Union vote authorizes strike at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls.

Labor unions rally behind California’s zero-emissions climate plan.

California’s Gov. Newsom signs executive order ordering independent investigation of death row prisoner Kevin Cooper’s case.

Poll indicates voters care more about ending endless wars than confronting ‘enemies.’

Poll shows 83% Americans believe ‘war on drug’ to be a bust.

Puerto Rican workers resist privatization of energy.

Democrats finally notch a win in Texas.

Barbara Lee introduces bill helping Vietnamese victims of agent orange.

Rep Betty McCollum bill H.R. 2590 would prohibit U.S. military aid from being sued to demolish homes, annex Palestinian land, or imprison Palestinian children.

After more than a year of protests, Washing State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced felony charges against three Tacoma cops for the brutal murder of Black resident Manuel Ellis.

For the first time in 40 years, members of Painters Local 10 strike in Portland.

BDS gains momentum as protesters at Port of Oakland declare win in Israeli cargo boycott. Seattle follows suit.

Newly formed Block the Boat N.Y. coalition organizes protest against Zim Tarragona, schedule to arrive Port of N.Y.-N.J. last week.

Native American tribe reacquires island off Maine stolen by the U.S. government more than 100 years ago.

In the Sunbelt, young climate activists push cities to cut emissions, whether their mayors listen or not.

Twin Cities youth speak out on violence and make their voices heard.

City of Berkeley and an indigenous group files an appeal to block housing development on an Ohlone burial site.

N.Y. Dems advance bill banning gerrymandering by county governments.

Maya Wiley consolidates progressive support in N.Y.C. mayoral race.

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