aNewDomain — Want to pick fruit for a living?
Long hours of back-breaking labor, with allegations of wage theft and piece rates well below minimum wage, with work done largely by undocumented “guest workers” – migrant farm laborers doing the work no one else wants to.
Don’t we need strawberries? Tomatoes? Lettuce? Broccoli?
This is not a problem of illegal immigration. I mean, there are two ultimate solutions to that problem: help other nations with their sagging economies, or sag ours such that we aren’t such an attractive option (as happened in the 2007/’08 collapse). It is a problem of how we treat people – because of how we value labor. And food.
We don’t subsidize foods that are good for us, like berries, cruciform vegetables, leafy greens. We subsidize corn because the people who own the farms work in congress, and write the agriculture bills. The same people reducing funds for people who cannot afford food are the ones paying themselves to grow corn.
Corn ends up being the basis of most of what we eat. Corn is cheap. The farmers get paid to grow it and throw it away. Cheap corn is available in quantities we can’t even begin to eat, so it gets boiled down for corn syrup, and corn syrup is in nearly everything.
With chemically produced “food” so cheap, the alternatives can’t compete. If a farmer pays minimum wage to people working in OSHA-approved conditions, the price of apples and broccoli is higher than anyone can pay. But these are things we need.
We don’t need another iPhone this year. Do we? Another tablet? Look, we have to eat, but we don’t really need another way to bundle derivatives so that debts look like assets. So why do we value food labor so cheaply, but the manipulation of money so highly?
You can make more money cheating at online fantasy sports than you can picking crops.
What if we were willing to pay for good food, because we could afford to? That’s the next problem: Most people can’t afford to eat well. I mean, we can buy things that fill our stomachs and provide sufficient calories, but we just can’t meet all of our vitamin and mineral needs with the corn chips and soda that are our affordable options. In some places, agriculture doesn’t reach people at all. The only food option in your neighborhood might well be Burger King or 7-11.
Is food too cheap?
Or is “food” so cheap we can’t afford food?
All of that is really so I can ask this question: What were they thinking, naming it “Soylent?”
Did they not watch the movie all the way through?
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Cover image: by Partridge, Rondal, 1917-, Photographer (NARA record: 8464464) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Image one: By Miguel Angel de la Cueva (Border wall west of Sonoyta Uploaded by PDTillman) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons); Image two: High fructose corn syrup chart: Jason Dias for aNewDomain, All Rights Reserved; Image three: Soylent.com, All Rights Reserved.