Slave Labor - The "new" Debtor's Prison concept - ALEC and KOCH Industries
by Bob Sloan
Many over the past few months have said more than once, "Next they'll be trying to bring back Debtor's Prisons." Well as I answered then, many states have done just that due to lobbying by financial, investing and loan companies and corporations.
Wednesday's Wall Street Journal had this article titled: "Welcome to Debtors' Prison, 2011 Edition ."
"More than a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who can't or won't pay to be jailed. Judges have signed off on more than 5,000 such warrants since the start of 2010 in nine counties with a total population of 13.6 million people, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal of filings in those counties. Nationwide figures aren't known because many courts don't keep track of warrants by alleged offense. In interviews, 20 judges across the nation said the number of borrowers threatened with arrest in their courtrooms has surged since the financial crisis began."
The Federal Trade Commission has become involved in this return to debtor's prisons and when asked to comment on the subject:
"An FTC spokesman declined to comment on whether the inquiry has led to formal investigations by the agency, which oversees the debt-collection industry and enforces a U.S. law that restricts how borrowers can be pursued for debts."
So here we are once again with the government agency representing the people, looking the other way and issuing a series of "no comments" on the matter - as if it will go away on it's own.
As the article says, when an individual is arrested for failure to appear at court hearings about the debt(s) owed, warrants can be issued and the debtor arrested. Any bond that is set for the "charge" is usually in the amount claimed to be owed by the finance company, loan company or bank. Once the "bond" is met by the debtor (in cash) the money is immediately turned over to the claimant and the prisoner/debtor released. This manner of using our courts to collect debts is so inefficient that it clogs the dockets with unnecessary debt cases. Sheriff's also complain it causes needed personnel to be shifted from criminal cases to pursue warrants for owed debts.
All of this not only clogs law enforcement agencies and causes backlogs in the Courts, it also necessitates substantial expenses in court costs, prosecution expenses and manpower costs of issuing and attempting to serve warrants for bad debt. The cost to the taxpayers is enormous. We are paying for the pursuit of collecting bad debts brought into the courts by the corporations. Any of the money collected through the issuance of the "bonds" or settlements going to reimburse the public for the costs involved with the recovery of their money? I would presume the answer there is no. When we consider that anyone arrested and held in jail for any amount of time costs the community for such incarceration, it is easy to see just how insidious this return to laws that were abolished more than a century ago are to not only the debtor, but also to the community that has to pay for prosecuting him/her on behalf of the owner of the debt. This simply represents another way corporations are getting taxpayers to cover the costs of their using our governments for their personal needs and goals.
If it wasn't for the fact that the same financial institutions are responsible for issuing tens of thousands of unsecured loans that brought our economy to it's knees, maybe there would be some amount of sympathy for those holding the debt. As it is I have no sympathy for them. Loans are a gamble - just as investing is - and once you put your chips down, betting on making a profit and lose, there should be public bailout for your actions. Corporations and loan companies know the job is dangerous when they take it. To later want us to help them recover what they lost gambling with our money, is adding insult to injury. How many of them toss us a few bucks when their gambles pay off? NOT!
Since debtor's prisons were outlawed by the federal - and most state systems - in 1833, debts have been considered civil matters to be handled in civil courts. This new trend of using criminal action against debtors is only the first baby step in turning back the clock 175 years. It benefits no one but the corporate interests pushing for this kind of debt system. As the article I linked to above informs, many Republican and/or conservative states are the ones leading the way. Here is a look at some of the model legislation and "resolutions" adopted or passed by ALEC's task forces involving wages and consumer debt:
Business and Entrepreneurship:
Business Ombudsman Act
Standards for Competitive Contracting
Competitive Contracting of Public Services Act
Uniform Photographic Records Act
Council on Efficient Government Act
Prohibition Against Regulation of Nutritional Information Dissemination
Economic Civil Rights Act
Business Exit Interview Act
Licensing and Certification Common Language Act
Resolution in Opposition to a Consumer Financial Protection Agency
Public-Private Fair Competition Act
Electronic Pay Choice Act
Regulatory Flexibility Act
Employment Policy and Regulatory Reforms:
At-Will Employment Act
Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act
Breach of Personal Information Notification Act
Omnibus Common Language Act
Civil Rights Act
Prevailing Wage Repeal Act
Employment Reference Immunity Act
Starting (Minimum) Wage Repeal Act
Full Employment Act
Professional Licensure and Certification Reform Act
Opposing Any Increase in the Starting Wage
Resolution on Occupational Licensing
Opposing Comparable Worth Legislation
Resolution opposing increases in minimum wage linked to the CPI
Opposing Employer-Paid Health Care Mandates
Urging Congress to Pass Legislation Requiring Expedited Waiver Procedures to States
Opposing Ergonomic Regulations Based on Unsound Science
Resolution Opposing Federal Mandates on Unemployment Insurance
Opposing Federal Regulation to Extend Unemployment Insurance Benefits to New Parents
Resolution on Criminal-Background Checks
Financial Services and Consumer Banking:
Access to Financial Services for Unbanked and Underbanked Consumers
Free Contract in Financing Act
Consumer Banking Act
Loan Originators Voluntary Registration Act
Credit Enhancement Loan Act
Nationwide Interstate Banking Act
Deferred Presentment Services Act
State Power to Regulate Lending Act
Expanded Consumer Choice in Financial Services Act
Title Pledge Act
Opposing Government-Imposed Caps or Elimination of ATM Fees
Urging Congress to Oppose Measures Designed to Impose Ceilings on Credit Card Rates
Supporting Insurance Commissioners’ Exclusive State Regulatory Authority over Variable Life Insurance and Variable Annuities
Urging Congress to Protect Our Uniform National Credit System
As the foregoing "few" topics and laws proposed by ALEC show us, they are all about deregulation and eliminating all government interference with wages, debts, corporate banking and other fees...issues and subject important to ALEC's corporate membership and donor base. Granted some of the issues presented appear to be beneficial to consumers...but we'll never know because when you click on the subject to expand it and see what ALEC's position is, we are told access to each page is unavailable to non-members.
Take a few minutes and peruse the Task Forces of ALEC here and click on the links to all nine of them. You will not only be disgusted with some of the legislation they are proposing but will also not believe that all of these efforts are ongoing off of everyone's personal and political radars. Multiply what is disclosed today at ALEC's site by the 30 years of influence they have wielded since Reagan was elected President and one begins to understand how we find our country in the state it's in currently.
Want to know what they think about wages, especially "living wage" proposals? Check out this page from ALEC's site that provides:
· “Living Wage” laws, generally enacted as ordinances at the municipal or county levels, set hourly take-home pay above the federally defined poverty level.
· While such action is driven by good intentions, living wage laws are an inefficient and ineffective means of fighting poverty. According to a survey of 336 labor economists, all members of the American Economic Association, 75 percent of respondents said that a living wage would require employers to hire entry-level employees with greater skills and experience than current standards; since labor will cost more, employers will demand more efficiency and production from employees. In addition, only 7 percent of those responding agreed that the living wage is an efficient means of fighting poverty.
· Living Wage laws hurt low-skilled employees, the very group that supporters of the living wage portend to be helping. Even The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a liberal workers’ rights organization, has sued the State of California in an attempt to avoid having to pay its own employees the state’s $4.25 per hour minimum wage. In its legal brief, ACORN said that the more it must pay each worker, the fewer workers it can hire.
· The arguments for the living wage are similar to those in favor of other wage laws. Commonly, the private sector is seen to be untrustworthy in the setting of wages because it is perceived that corporations will take advantage of low-skilled workers by paying them very little. However, in reality—and just like other wage laws—the living wage produces higher, not lower rates of unemployment among impoverished workers.
· Living wage ordinances generally apply to companies that receive government contracts, or subsidies such as those located in an “Enterprise” or “Empowerment” Zone. This means that not only are large corporations affected by these ordinances, but small businesses such as those that lease space from a city or county must also comply.
· Left-leaning organizations actively support the living wage campaign. Because living wage laws have thus far been enacted only on the local level, rather than in state legislatures, these organizations target specific municipalities or counties in an effort to circumvent the legislatures’ resistance to setting exorbitant wage laws that they know will hurt small businesses.
· Unions support the living wage too, but for the wrong reasons. Labor organizations such as AFSME and SEIU support the living wage because in so doing, they can thwart governments’ efforts to privatize public services. As evidenced in recent years, moving jobs out of the government and into the free market economy can have a significant and positive impact on the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of these services. However, such movement into the market also threatens these unions’ hold on the labor pool. Sometimes unions even ask that living wage laws be preempted by union contracts if the union wage is the living wage, so that governments will be bound by union contracts.4
· State legislatures need the power to preempt local governments from enacting their own wage laws. Every state except for Alabama, Idaho, Maine, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia have at least one living wage ordinance put in place by municipal governing bodies.5 Without centering the ability to set wages at the state level, local governments will continue to be the targets of unions seeking to maintain full employment of their members while thwarting municipalities’ efforts to assist small businesses, and hindering efforts to more productively provide public services to taxpayers."
Hmmm...they don't much like Unions or others who support living, fair or prevailing wages - especially for public workers. Wonder where they got that philosophy? Let's glance at their Private Enterprises Board:
Energy Future Holdings
Johnson & Johnson
American Bail Coalition
AT&T Services, Inc.
Reynolds American Inc.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
and the list goes on and on.
Now we start to get a better picture of how and why the fair wage and collective bargaining issues have begun to be exploited in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and several other states. We've heard about the funding of Governor Walker of Wisconsin by Koch money. Additional funding for Republican lawmakers there in Wisconsin and the other states. All of that funding to ensure that the states where that money has been spread around, will put forth right to work legislation and implement other laws eliminating collective bargaining and Union-busting.
As my forthcoming books points out, the wage, imprisonment, slave labor and privatization issues are all supported and funded by the same collective cabal of conservative lawmakers, corporations and businesses belonging to ALEC and funded by the Koch-Dealers. Lawmakers are like any other addict person; when it comes to money, power and influence and they're hooked and high on Koch.
In conclusion we know where the money comes from to fund these conservative pursuits for profits and attacks upon labor, unions, wages and now debtors. We know what organization is being used - ALEC - and who their corporate and legislative members are (Debbie Lesko is the rep from Arizona). We also know they frequently use our government agencies, courts and judges in pursuit of their goals...the same governments they want to butt out of corporate business.
ALEC and those such as Charles and David Koch have been able to argue for smaller government while they continue to use it to fulfill their needs. Maybe what they really want is for the government to serve their needs alone and forgo serving America's citizens...Oh, wait...isn't that the battle that's taking place now, all across our Midwest?
The fight's upon us, folks. They have prison labor, foreign labor and now they want our labor at wages they're willing to pay foreigners and prisoners. We join with Unions and fight now or work for less later...
Originally posted by Bob Sloan on Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 10:18 AM EDT.