Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Ripple Effect: When Capitalistic Cannibals Come To Town

Guest post by KatieAnnieOakley
They were noticed right away – all the new people in formal business attire, walking around, asking questions, some being overly friendly – saccharine sweet, with a fake sincerity in the tone of their scripted words – and some whose faces were unreadable masks of stone. They moved about the offices silently. Immediately, the gossiping began. Who are they? “Productivity Managers.” Oh. OK – right. Your heart starts to beat faster through your shirt; your shoulders tighten with stress. OK. But, really – why are they here? The company is doing fine. Soon, you hear why they’re really here: they recently acquired the company… they’re an Investment Firm - and today they might fire everyone. Someone hisses behind you in one of the dozens of cubicles: “haven’t you heard about these kinds of people?” and you think: why would they do that? Because - that’s what they do.

WHAT? WHY?! We’re doing so well! Profits are up; bonuses were paid; the inventory is moving; our product is doing great – right? In fact, management was talking about expanding the company! Why would they want to fire us? You sit at your desk, paralyzed with fear. Your hands are clammy. Everything was going so great! Why would the company sell us off? “Haven’t you heard - that’s the way it works nowadays.”
Turns out, they did fire everybody. Last night. And today, you’re here to apply for your old job. Fill out this employment application. Everyone starts back at Square One. You. Your boss. His boss. His boss’ boss. Everyone. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll be rehired to be one of the lucky ones – the ones who’ll be closing the place down. But, you don’t know that – yet. So, you eagerly fill out the application… and hope. Because that’s all you’ve got right now – right? You have a family that depends on you. You leave, eagerly waiting for an answer, carrying a phone that doesn’t ring. For days at a time. Cause that’s what you do. That’s all you can do for now...
Turns out, you didn’t get the job. Few people are left, and not anyone that you know, probably because they brought in Their People. Just a Vice President and a few Field Directors are left – but mainly it’s Their People. So, you head down to the unemployment office – sure, you could have applied online, but it feels good to get out of the house. You walk in and see that you know most everyone in line. This company, your company has been in this town, your town, for decades. The company and the employees toughed out the good and the bad times – but this is the worst: you’ve been terminated… as well as everyone else in line at the unemployment office. So you wait… cause that’s all you’ve got to do now – right?

A couple of years go by; you’ve applied to what feels like hundreds of jobs, but – no one seems to be hiring. So, after the unemployment ran out a few months ago, you took a job at a convenience store near the interstate, at minimum wage. Cause that’s all there is now in your town, and you’re damned lucky and grateful for that – right?! The old company parking lot is nearly empty, but there’s a few people still working there. You heard on the news that the company is being sold again – what’s left of it anyway. And that one guy in the top floor office, the Vice President – he has bought a new home. How did he pull THAT off? Must be nice, right?
Finally, you hear on the news that the company, your old company, the town’s main employer has filed for liquidation bankruptcy. What happened after the company was sold? It’s gone – decades of the company supporting the community and the community supporting the company.

You hear on the news that the new owners couldn’t “meet their debt obligations.” You know that really means that they couldn’t make the loan payments from the Investment Company’s distribution of “Management Fee’s”. They sold the company right after taking their exorbitant fees, leaving the company burdened with debt. They took out all that equity – the equity the company was going to expand with - and they paid themselves and the VP they kept on the Board obscene “Management Fees.” Soon, the line-of-credit from the bank was frozen on the company because they fell behind on their loan payments – the loans the Investment Company had taken out in the company’s name to pay their Investment Company Board of Directors huge bonuses. The bonus at your old corporate headquarters was so huge, you’ve heard that it’s in the 7 and 8 figures per person. Why did they DO that, when they could have kept the company running, earning more money and keeping everyone employed? Why did they put so many people out of work? Because – that’s what Capitalistic Cannibals do. They feed on the living of the business world, only to discard the barely-conscious-but-dying carcass to become someone else’s carrion. Because that’s what they do.
A customer comes in; you’ve seen him a few times before. Must be a Road Warrior. He starts complaining about that wreck of a car that’s always in the parking lot, pointing toward it: “does that thing actually run? It’s an eyesore, even if it is parked over there in front of the boarded-up dry cleaners…”.
And, you’ve had enough - You. Go. Off. On. Him… this has been building up inside of you for years…

Yeah, I see it. THAT’S MY CAR – what’s left of it” you say to him in a controlled, yet angry tone. “I get it. You can’t tolerate others struggling.  You got, and still have YOURS.  Well, then You're OK, right?“ And you launch your diatribe – because Goddammit – that’s what you feel like you’ve gotta do! 
You’re on a roll now: “Everybody should be like you - right?  What could possibly happen to YOU and YOUR company town, over there in Wichita?“ 
You of all people of course would understand WHY entire sections of a state can be decimated by the actions of an irresponsible entity coming in and just shutting down the main employer without notice - right?  I mean, because you live in a company town - right?“ 
What IF Koch Industries wasn't there - hard to imagine, right?  Let's say someone bigger than Koch - I know, for you in your company town - its really difficult to imagine that, right? - comes in and closes YOUR plant, closes YOUR town’s MAIN EMPLOYER, and puts hundred or even thousands out of work - without Notice - and they all go on unemployment, right?”  
Because that's exactly what happens.  Because that’s exactly what happened here. And we never saw it coming.”
There is no going back – you’re going for the gold at this point: “ALL of those hard workers who were being paid via private enterprise are now receiving state aid.  EVERYONE here was impacted - not just the workers.  Grocery stores. Clothing stores. Hardware stores. They didn't work for "that company" - BUT MOST of their customers DID. No warning - just BOOM - Mitt Romney and BainCapital came to town.”  
It's called The TRICKLED-ON Effect. And NO, I don’t mean trickle-down – I mean TRICKLED ON.”  
And then you say, almost yelling: “Or is Koch "too big to fail" in your town?  That's exactly what everyone in our town thought. That's what Wall Street thought too. And then - it happened.  What used to be a thriving area with productive people is now a homestead of state and federal aid - and where did those jobs go?  CHINA: where steel is made cheaply, then imported through American companies "with an office" based in those countries, so no tariffs.”  
The ONLY WINNER was Bain Capital – they basically closed down this town.  Because when a small town loses its largest employer, that deals a fatal blow to the economy. The losers are the tax payers of our nation: everyone else now supports this town and this region via unemployment payments, food stamps, MediCaid, Foreclosures…”.

The rest of the nation that just so happens to think JUST LIKE YOU doesn't like that one little bit - because, why should they support those that can't help themselves - right? ‘They should pay their own way’ - right? They're a drain on society - right? Well, RIGHT??!”
OK, get ahold of yourself – you’re ranting now, you fool! “And yet – you’d support the man who’s THE Poster Child of corporate greed and lust, who took those jobs like a thief in the night, and left everyone else holding the bag... and paying his tax debt on top of it all too!”  
MITT keeps HIS INCOME in off-shore accounts. MITT chooses to hide it - because he can. MITT doesn't pay HIS FAIR SHARE. MITT wants The Rest Of Us to pay HIS SHARE of taxes.“ 
Because, after all - that's what they expect us to do – We’re The Little People - WE Pay Taxes so the rich don’t have to. Because that's what the rich expect us to do!!”
You’re breathing heavily now, shoulders heaving: “You think the Koch brothers feted the Romneys last night in Southhampton just for giggles? THINK AGAIN! They also want a return on their investments. Very Special Rates and Very Special Breaks for the Very Special Koch Brothers and their corporations.
And you're probably OK with that - cause you got yours.  For now...” At this point, you’ve worn yourself out. You’re exhausted – but DAMN that felt GOOD to get all that out of your system!!
To which the guy at the register, now thoroughly cowed by your meltdown finally says to you:
No man – I just wanted to let the person who owns it know their damn headlights were on!!”
Note by Patrick:
Thank you KatieAnnieOakley for this great post! As some of our readers already know, KAO made personal, unpleasant experiences with Bain Capital in the past. So she certainly knows what she is writing about.

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