Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Slave Labor

A couple of years ago, Annie and i were traveling up highway 287 and were southeast of Crockett, Texas by about 15 miles when we decided to see what the next roadside historical marker had to tell us. We arbitrarily pick one every once in a while just for grins and to break the monotony of our travel. They usually bring pretty much unexciting information about a church that used to be on that site and the name of the landowner who donated the land and maybe the long gone circuit riding preacher that was involved. Or else it might be tell of a graveyard located 2 miles from the marker. This time we got lucky.

The marker told us a brief story of how in 1847 twenty eight year old Albert Holley was setting up a homestead in East Texas. He was arriving from Alabama with his group of 137 slaves. The rest of his family was coming to Texas from Alabama by boat.

Southern Slave
I was stunned to think of the responsibility of having to care for that many people. Slaves in 1850 were selling at various prices, depending on their age, sex and physical condition, but a primo slave, 23 years old, could bring around 1,200 dollars to the seller. So it was quite an investment in 1850 and Holley was a large slave owner as few owned so many and about 75% of the white population owned none. The slaves were of different ages, and sexes I would suppose, detail is not available, but it would seem reasonable that anyone with that many slaves traded in human beings to a substantial degree. Anyone with 137 slaves was definitely in the slave breeding business. Marriage was outlawed between slaves and most were kept dumbed down as they needed to be jussmartenuf to do what was needed of them, and no more. Dumb was good. It was all legal.

Today it seems that the same is being applied to the rank and file of American citizenry by most of our titans of industry and finance and our media. Of course there has been a class war going on for not only decades but generations. There is nothing wrong with making a million dollars. As Reverend Ike used to say, "The best thing we can do for the poor is not be one of them." But even though it is not illegal and is even admirable to make a ton of money, there is something immoral when it is done through the exploitation of the underprivileged.

Today's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which projects to $15,080 per year, working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks of the year. It does not include benefits of any sort. Some politicians and pundits say this is too much money and should be reduced or that the minimum wage should be abolished altogether. Think about this, based on the same formula, Rush Limbaugh makes $27,885 per hour.*

I know the argument; this is usually for entry-level people, often teenage workers or people will little or no skills, but surely some are single mothers needing to feed their children. Nevertheless, that person is faced with the same problems we all encounter daily: the need for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, transportation and all on $15,080 per year, that's gross and if you think that is a living wage, you don't know Jack. With the recent Obama reduction in Social Security tax for the worker to .042% and the other payroll tax deduction of Medicare, which is .0145%, the net comes down to $14,228 or $38.98 per day, further reduced by the fact that in Texas the state adds an .0825% tax to all purchases except medical care or for food bought in a grocery store. Don't we all remember Rachael Ray's show about her being able to miraculously buy three meals a day for just $40.00? (Just an aside: when Rachael came to do Dallas on $40.00 a day she stayed in the pricey ZaZa boutique hotel where prices start at around $600 per night for the cheap rooms. Their server is down so i cannot confirm actual prices at this time.)

We can extrapolate further. You can take exception that McDonald's has a dollar burger, but don't you get my drift? Minimum wage is not even a living wage for one person, let alone someone with a dependent. You can expect to see this person lined up at the emergency room for medical care as it is improbable that they have access to a personal physician for preventive care.

Today Albert Holley would not have to concern himself with the care and feeding of 137 slaves, many of whom would be unproductive as they would be too young or too old or too ill. He would not have to clothe or feed or shelter his help. He would not have to concern himself with their well-being when the workload slacked, such as in the dead of winter. All he would need to do is to draw on the millions of Americans today that are looking for work, any work. All they need to do to qualify is to be jussmartenuf.

*$58 million divided by 2080 working hours per year.

No comments:

Post a Comment