Monday, April 11, 2011

Navajo 5 at New Mexico 371

Capitalism's Dead End

I learned today I am being changed from an employee to being a private contractor, sometimes called contract employee, or 1099 contract employee after the IRS form I'll be getting at the end of the year showing my wages, which are paid in bulk now -- no taxes are deducted. Those are my worry now. Everyone who works where I work faces the same thing.

A 1099 employee isn't eligible for unemployment benefits because they aren't an employee but a contractor, or Workman's Compensation, both of which the employer has to pay for, and the employer no longer has to pay anything into the Social Security trust fund. In other words, it's a win-lose proposition. It's Capitalism under the Republicans, who, as I wrote in the post before last, are in firm control of the US government despite controlling only one-third of the House-Senate-Presidency triumvirate.

I wrote, maybe two months ago now, about how I had been trying to get off the road, get out of driving altogether, really, but was unable to get any other kind of work and ended up back driving albeit "local" driving. That accounting was way down in a long blog entry that no one read, I suppose. I drive around our beautiful state of New Mexico, working for a company that, for lack of a better way to describe it, is a smaller version of UPS or Fedex. They have a few semis, that carry packages in bulk between their hubs, one of which is Albuquerque, but I don't do that, except to fill in for our Albuquerque driver once in awhile. Holbrook and back or Amarillo and back.

I drive a smaller truck, that holds roughly half what a semi holds. It's one of those yellow Penske rentals you see all over the place. I go in at midnight, load up my truck with four to six pallets, then drive out to a truck stop in Gallup and wait for one of our semis coming from the west. We back up to each other and transfer a few more pallets onto my truck, packages going north. Auto Zone parts, pharmacy supplies, clothing and whatnot for Bealls stores.

I drive to Farmington and hand over most of it to a courier service that will deliver to town in the four corners area -- Durango, Cortex, Aztec, Bloomfield, etc. I deliver only what delivers to the Bealls in Farmington, and sometimes supplies for a big rest home, sometimes a Smith's pharmacy, and then head back to Albuquerque.

One nice thing about it is that I drive through some of the most spectacular scenery on earth, and I have visited a lot of the earth. First the ride from Gallup up US 491, formerly US 666, through the Navajo nation, through strange brown and gold windng basins and spectacular rock formations. Likewise US 550 from Bloomfield to Albuquerque across the great New Mexican plateau carved out by one exhilarating canyon after another. I complain about the damage done to the landscape by cow farming, the widespread nuclear radiation here, the politicians here, I complain about many things, but yet, New Mexico is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Halfway up US 491 I take a shortcut across Navajo 5, which unexpectedly ends at NM 371 right where the picture above was taken, the morning the skid marks showed up. A week or two before that, the sign pole, that was there, had been run over and propped back up, the signs attached to it dangling and blowing in the wind, and now even the signpost is gone. NM 371, by the way, is another fantastic drive that takes one through high mysterious uninhabited range land with strange rock outcroppings and through one fantastic moonscape, and it's one of the few places left in the United States where you can drive for any distance without encountering another motorist.

I arrive back at our hub usually around 1 p.m, sometimes a little earlier, more often a little later, especially if I've stopped to fill up my coffee mug or to use the rest room or, if I haven't woke early enough the night before to pack my lunch, to get some kind of crap or other from a convenience store to eat. At Albuquerque I unload my truck, of empty pallets, empty plastic totes, and returns, go home, drop into bed, and wake up when it's time to do it all again.

Thirteen hour days, at 10 an hour, straight time -- no overtime, no benefits. My weekends consist of one long stretch of sleep, then a free period when I get some of what I need to do done, then another long sleep before I go back Sunday night, rested up but my list of undone things a little longer.

This is late Capitalism in America. I've written about it, about how what we are going through now is simply part of a process that began under Ronald Reagan, when the retreat of the Democrats, once the party of working men and women but now dependent on for campaign contributions and beholden to corporations, on Wall street, began in earnest.

One reads statistics, about wages declining, about our standard of living getting nearer to that of the rest of the world. One reads about the assault on labor in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, and wherever Republicans hold power which is most states now. One reads and hears about the great transition to so-called Globalization. What one gets away with in Wisconsin, another tries in Ohio. It spreads that way. In stages. This month they take this, a few months later they take that. Another thing was just taken where I work. It's almost a heady experience to be on the front lines of it.

Marx outlined just this trajectory for Capitalism, of course. And when you look at the the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East you wonder just how oppressed we will get here before mankind's natural proclivity for rebellion kicks in, and it will kick in. It's always has, and despite conservatism's fantasies about perpetual power, it always will. In that you can have faith.

This is history in the making, I thought to myself today as I read the note attached to my new paycheck explaining  that the change came from somewhere above local management. It wasn't our idea. We were just told about it. And the check is completely different than the old one. Another bank, a shiny square that is probably embedded with  a microchip, and no attached stub listing all the deductions and the year-to-date accumulations. Just a check. No explanations, no thank you, no kiss my ass, no hello, no goodbye. Here's some money. Take it or leave it.

I say it's a dead end. Capitalism' life blood, the resources able to be exploited cheaply, here with the acquiesce of the government or there by way of force, will continue to dwindle. Americans, the consumers that drive the world economy, soon will not have that capability. Perhaps India will assume that role for a time, maybe Brazil, even China. Capitalism may be able to hold on a little longer. We may not see the end of it in our lifetimes, but it will come.

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