Friday, November 11, 2011

When Income Inequality first hit the big road...

I used to drive the truck shown above.  Trucking was and remains my first love and during the time I drove OTR (Over the Road) I logged close to two million miles in large cars such as the Kenworth pictured above. I also saw first hand the beginnings of enormous change, market manipulations and a targeted and calculated castration aimed at America's workers.

As a result I've also spent decades writing about and chronicling these transitions, what are now widely accepted as the 1%'s intentional ruin of the economic outlook for the majority of American Workers. If you don't believe me, venture back to the old site and view news articles and essay entries found in the Meanwhile Back at the Ranch archives.

Since 1988, I've written about these experiences for diverse media outlets including both NPR and PRI affiliates, academic institutions and I've been interviewed by OUT, the Advocate, the Washington Blade, Truck News, Overdrive, and a host of both trucking trades and no- trucking trades.

My website was the first gay trucking website ever featured as Website of the Month by Road Star.  I write all of this not to brag but rather to demonstrate how serious I felt these issues were compelling then and they remain so now.

I will proudly state that I am a soldier in class warfare, and that all my weapons, the ammunition of a strong first hand account, and the moral outrage of a faith unrestrained, is aimed at the 1%.

But truly, I never thought I'd see this day come, where the general population is also now also on board. Let the outrage roll.

Much of what I experienced first hand beginning in the late 1980's my better educated friends laughed off as paranoid conspiracy crap.

As long as their nest eggs were secure, their economic outlook stable, and their work place rights protected, they were content to look the other way. But even these folks-- they are not laughing now.

The globalization made possible by high speed Internet, free trade agreements, deregulation, outsourcing, off shoring, the weakening of unions, the destruction of the rule of law, and the financial tinkering we've experienced have been acts of war.  No one is immune.

Finally we are, the 99%, all in this together.  Only the media, the FOX News Network whores, and the desperation of the elite rulers who control the purse strings remain to protect the 1%.

I am not a liberal, I am not a conservative, but I am a man who has always strongly believed that the greatest foundation this nation rests upon is one that is only as reliable as our safeguards.

Since the 1980's the concept of free market capitalism has been hijacked by ominous forces who use an Orwellian tactic of deregulation and free trade agreements to bait and switch the population into ever more ominous repercussion.

Consider these documented trends as they relate just to the trucking industry, one of the first industries to face deregulation:

The average life expectancy of today's truckers is 18 years less than other professions.

The average life expectancy is 13 years less than the general population.

Most drivers, when factoring actual hours worked do not make minimum wage.  They are exempt from all federal wage and overtime regulations.

40% of truckers have no health insurance.  For the 60% that do, most health insurance plans are unusable and coverage is not afforded when truckers are on the road for most medical situations, including emergencies.

Drivers are subject to random and constant surveillance not only by local, state, and federal government agencies but also by their employers. 

This includes regulatory demands that constitutional protections enjoyed by most citizens now do not apply to drivers.  Members of the trucking industry are under constant satellite surveillance, subject to search at any time, and now post 9/11, must maintain redundant security credentials at their own expense that have hardly made anyone safer.

A driver's bio metric identification, their bodily fluids, medical and credit histories, as well as ten year employment records are kept by unaccountable profit generating concerns at the benefit of employers.  Yet despite proven inaccuracy's, these records continue to be defended as necessary by credit bureau like organizations who are loathe to fix errors, and whose compliance with existing law is questionable at best.

All aspects of a trucker's life are subject to the inspection, investigation, and judgment of those who are under no legal jeopardy but who directly influence the daily operations of these employees.  Truckers are treated as expendable by their employers and the federal government, which is reflected in the developing world health realities found among most of the nations truckers.

This is not the stuff of conspiracy theories but has been enabled not accidentally by existing law, that are by design intrusive, and in the case of deregulation, especially demonstrates how government and industry share equal responsibility for the current insanity.  When compliance is subtly shifted from the employer to the employee and the government focus compliance on those who are least empowered to comply, that is modern feudalism and the 1% has engineered this transition perfectly.

The same party who holds the least amount of authority or autonomy in these situations but who is most accountable for compliance.

These shifts are hardly accidental.  Their sole purpose is to create a class of indentured servants, without legal remedy, and this precedent is now beginning to impact workers in many other arenas.  Welcome to the new modern slave class.  Feudalism via surveillance, dis empowerment, and governmental empowered poverty.

These photographs were taken by photo journalist Laurel Mercury as well as by my friends Charlie, John, and James.

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