Bezos adds billions to his net worth, but the workers are still exploited
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to high rates of unemployment in both developed and underdeveloped countries. Increasing numbers of workers were laid off, became homeless, and many of them couldn’t even earn their daily bread.
The share of children with an unemployed parent has reached historic highs in the US since the onset of the pandemic. In April 2020, 21.7% of children had at least one unemployed parent, the highest rate observed since at least 1967. Millions of workers lost their jobs. On the other hand, there was a significant increase in the revenue of the big monopoly businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Where this money is going? During an economic collapse or crisis, special programs are set up to handle the due economic crisis. One of these is quantitative easing, which is a monetary policy whereby a central bank buys government bonds or other financial assets in order to inject money into the economy to expand economic activity.
During the global financial crisis in the year between 2007 and 2008, the quantitative easing system functioned by throwing money at the big capitalists and corporations for an economic survival. Japan's QE was so large that the central bank of Japan spent north of 200 trillion yen, and now the bank owns assets valued more than the entire country’s economy.
Monetary policies such as quantitative easing, and several aid relief programs, constructed for the fall in unemployment, poverty, and hunger during economic crises only provide big businesses with support by a huge sum of money by the central banks.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act worth is worth $2 trillion. Apparently, it is clear that through the CARES Act, money is going to big or small businesses to keep workers on payroll and to deal with the economic crisis, but now, if we look at the number of workers that were laid off from giant monopoly businesses or small businesses, then for what cause is the money taken and who is benefitting?
Maersk, the shipping giant, announced that it will cut at least 2,000 jobs in restructuring on October 13. In September, the company said that up to 27,000 jobs, or roughly a third of its global workforce, could be impacted by the changes. The giant monopoly Amazon cut thousands of workers from their jobs to not cause a fall in its profits, while it was already receiving aid.
Remaining workers are made to work more hours per day by only giving them a $2 pay rise. Workers of Amazon are treated in an ill manner and the environment in which they work increases their chances of catching Covid-19 even more, but at the same time, with their wages, it is largely impossible for them to even afford the cheapest health care in the US. Around 20,000 workers caught Covid, and Amazon laid off more workers.
These people were forced economically to work under such conditions, which Amazon already knew had a higher chance of spreading Covid. The sole motive of businesses is to maximize profits and to offload costs as much as possible, whether by cutting the wages of the day labourer, or by laying workers off from work, taking first from workers’ pockets, and then depriving them of their future.
In this way, many people became jobless, homeless, and in extreme cases, starved to death during the pandemic, wherein the national assets keep growing with these aids and big businesses. Jeff Bezos himself has added more than $74 billion to his net worth since the start of 2020, according to Bloomberg’s estimates. Raj Patel, a British-Indian-American academic and journalist compared Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos as modern-day Christopher Columbuses.
He goes on to say: “Christopher Columbus is a helpful historical figure because he turns up demonstrating all the vices of capitalism and all the strategies capitalism uses to evade paying its bills. When he sees the new world, one of the first things he writes in his diary is that he laments that he can see the wonder of animal and plant life and he doesn’t know how much it is worth, and it causes him great sorrow. He brought back slaves from the new world, he inaugurated the transatlantic slave trade. He wrote back to his patrons in Spain: Let us bring as many slaves as can be sold.”
Think about the modern Columbus who is also very excited about colonialism, who is very excited about persuading bankers to give him vast amounts of money, who exploits his workers, who depends on the historical layering of exploitation that runs from badly paid wage workers to connections to slavery and who is nonetheless celebrated as a hero around the world.
Nree Raha Adrija attended Mount Hermon School, Darjeeling, and is a Marxist activist.