Friday, January 08, 2010

Waste Versus Need

by Dick Mac

Waste is vulgar and disturbing. The amount of edible food discarded by Americans could probably feed a couple of small impoverished nations. It's our own fault: we have turned capitalism into a culture of avarice and self-satisfaction. Money has become not a tool for Americans to build a good life, but a method for consumption without consideration of the ramifications. We have become so consumption-oriented that most of us continue to consume at vulgar levels even when we've run out of cash: we just ring it up on our credit cards.

I am a fan of American society and American culture (well, what's left of it), and we have such a font of plenty in America that there is more than enough for everyone willing to earn it.

Sadly, we have stacked the deck against the have-nots, and abandoned charity and social welfare in deference to corporate welfare and freebies for the privileged. If we provide welfare to the wealthiest corporations, we are told, they will create jobs that will help all Americans improve the quality of their lives. We know, after thirty years of this insanity, that this is simply not true. We have more poverty, hunger, and homelessness in America today than forty years ago.

Many of us are privileged. I count myself among the privileged. I have a work, shelter, clothing, and food. Most of us, though, have no respect for our privilege, and denigrate those without, instead of using our privilege to make the world a better place.

Most would rather discard their leftovers (clothes, electronics, etc.) than be bothered to give them to a person who needs them.

We live in a conservative culture that believes that recycling is a lifestyle choice and should not be mandated by law, that chemically-fortified lawns are the right of a landowner, irrespective of the impact on the water table, insects, and wildlife. People who pass themselves off as 'conservatives' are the least conservative of all Americans. We are a wasteful lot. All of us.

In a time of economic hardship, waste is even more disturbing.

A recent article in the New York Times highlighted waste by Wal-Mart and H&M, who have chosen to destroy and discard new clothes rather than donate them to the needy. One can only assume this was an attempt to control the market, in violation of the spirit of our collective notions of the market: supply and demand. If there is a large supply of Winter coats, then the price goes down. However, if the retailers destroy and discard their inventory to create a shortage and keep the prices high, that is price-fixing, and if not illegal is certainly immoral.

The stores could have lowered the price of their overstock, following the supply-and-demand notion that so-called conservatives tout as God-given laws of humanity, and allowed American families to purchase new clothes at a price in line with the changing economic hardship faced by most of us. They could have boxed them up and sent them to homeless shelters or social service agencies for distribution to those who cannot afford them even if the notion of supply-and-demand was allowed to play out.

But no, these wealthy corporations beholden to nobody but an invisible population of shareholders, slashed-up coats and children's clothes, cut the insteps of children's shoes, bagged them all up and put them in the trash. In the case of Wal-Mart, they hired a contractor to dispose of them who, instead of paying the fee to dump them, left the full bags of destroyed clothes (with Wal-Mart labels still affixed) on city streets to be collected by the taxpayers' sanitation departments.

At least one of the companies has feigned ignorance of the practice and said it will cease. They say they give their leftovers to charity and will ensure this happens in the future.

They are immoral liars, cheats and criminals, so we have no reason to believe them; and I think the SEC should investigate them for price-fixing (which I think is still against the law, but maybe not).

A Clothing Clearance Where More Than Just the Prices Have Been Slashed


Al Falafal AKA T.Faigle said...

This is VERY disturbing and totally calls for an investigation by the FTC and the IRS since these corporations count on the huge tax breaks they get for losses due to overstock and returns. Who wants to bet Walmart & H&M either failed to report the disposal of stock or found some shady book keeping tricks to disguise the disposal of stock as returns which is definitely illegal. But it's the kind of double-dipping that happens all the time. The tax benefit to large retailers for their overstock and returns is so great you can bet that they won't give up that incredibly valuable perk so easily.

DrKeithCurrie said...

Thanks for this nice idea dear. We see it as waste but they need business and profit. On the other hand they need cloth who have no abilities to buy. We are trapped this waste and need. Who will save us?