Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Clean Getaway

The other day I had a post about Matt Tiabbi's new book, The Divide, which looks at the ways economic inequality translates into unequal justice being meted out to the poor and the wealthy. For another example of this disturbing phenomenon, check out Catherine Rampell's column in The Washington Post on wage-theft being practiced by some of the country's largest corporations against their low-wage workers.
Over the past year, low-wage workers and their supporters have protestedstruck and polemicized for a raise of some kind, a proposition that has support from the White House and most Americans, if not Republican politicians. But low-wage workers face an even more upsetting affliction that both parties should feel comfortable condemning: Employers are stealing from their employees, often with impunity.
“Wage theft” is an old problem. It can take many forms, including paying less than the minimum hourly wage, working employees off the clock, not paying required overtime rates and shifting hours into the next pay period so that overtime isn’t incurred. Unfortunately, reliable data on the magnitude of the problem are scarce. Workers can be afraid to report the theft for fear of losing their jobs altogether, especially in today’s terrible economy, and many don’t know their rights. Often workers don’t even realize their pay is being skimmed.
It's the same issue with the bankster thieves: white-collar criminals can steal with impunity, while the guy who commits a smash-and-grab goes to jail behind it. Unless and until people in positions of power in corporations that break the law are forced to do time rather than pay meaningless financial penalties, nothing will change. Fines for defrauding customers, or polluting waterways, or laundering money for terrorists and drug cartels are just the cost of doing business for these guys. They don't pay for their illegal acts, we do, and I for one am sick of it.

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