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Corporate Power
Photo by RGtimeline / iStock

Upton Sinclair's landmark 1905 book, "The Jungle," exposed the food contamination and worker exploitation hidden in the fetid stockyards and meatpacking plants of Chicago and other major American cities. The muckraking journalist dubbed the nasty and brutish meat factories "a monster ... the Great Butcher ... the spirit of capitalism made flesh."

The nauseating details of worker and consumer abuses that Sinclair exposed were so horrific that the ensuing public revulsion and outrage were transformative. Congress quickly passed a food purity law (the 1906 Federal Meat Inspection Act), and union organizing drives sparked nationwide contract bargaining that eventually gave long-oppressed meatpacking workers the clout to improve factory conditions and pay. Indeed, by 1970, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and the United Packinghouse Union had won enforceable safety rules and solid middle-class wages — about $25 an hour in today's dollars. Now the median wage for hourly workers in meatpacking plants is down to about half that — $13.23 per hour — some 30 percent less than production workers in other manufacturing jobs.

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Photo by Markus Spiske from Pixabay

Wow, how about that Dow?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, I mean, Wall Street's up-to-the-minute report on whether corporate stock prices are going up, down or sideways. It's the one economic indicator that our nation's media and political establishment watch religiously, claiming it tells them how our national economy is performing.

Recently, the stock market has been zooming up, up and away. So, like ancient priests watching burbling, hissing volcanos to determine if the gods are pleased or angry, the believers in the infallibility of the Dow are hailing today's economy as boom times! No need for another big round of pandemic relief payments or any other urgent actions by government, exclaim the Trumpeteers, because — Boom, Boom, Boom, look at that Dow! — shareholder wealth is pouring down on us like manna from heaven.

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