by Chris Hedges
Enterprise and Capitalism crumble at the disruptors
of Technocracy, a very real human cost emerges and
it isn't pretty.
will lead the world back into the dark ages, with
serfdom being the norm and property ownership
reserved for a very few.
Economy' is the New Term for Serfdom
A 65-year-old New York
City cab driver from Queens, Nicanor Ochisor, hanged himself
in his garage March 16, saying in a note he left behind that the
ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft had made it impossible for him
to make a living.
It was the fourth suicide
by a cab driver in New York in the last four months, including one
Feb. 5 in which livery driver Douglas Schifter, 61, killed
himself with a shotgun outside City Hall.
"Due to the huge
numbers of cars available with desperate drivers trying to feed
their families," wrote Schifter.
"They squeeze rates
to below operating costs and force professionals like me out of
business. They count their money and we are driven down into the
streets we drive becoming homeless and hungry.
I will not be a slave
working for chump change. I would rather be dead."
He said he had been
working 100 to 120 hours a week for the past 14 years.
Schifter and Ochisor were two of the millions of victims of the new
economy. Corporate capitalism is establishing a neofeudal serfdom in
numerous occupations, a condition in which there are no labor laws,
no minimum wage, no benefits, no job security and no regulations.
impoverished workers, forced to endure 16-hour days, are viciously
pitted against each other.
Uber drivers make about
$13.25 an hour. In cities like Detroit this
falls to $8.77.
the former CEO of
Uber and one of the founders, has a
net worth of $4.8 billion. Logan Green, the CEO of
Lyft, has a net worth of $300
corporate elites, which have seized
control of ruling institutions including the government and
destroyed labor unions, are re-establishing the inhumane labor
conditions that characterized the 19th and early 20th
When workers at General
Motors carried out a 44-day sit-down strike in 1936, many were
living in shacks that lacked heating and indoor plumbing; they could
be laid off for weeks without compensation, had no medical or
retirement benefits and often were fired without explanation. When they turned 40 their
employment could be terminated.
The average wage was
about $900 a year at a time when the government determined that a
family of four needed a minimum of $1,600 to live above the poverty
The managers at
General Motors relentlessly persecuted union organizers. The
company spent $839,000 on detective work in 1934 to spy on union
organizers and infiltrate union meetings.
GM employed the
white terrorist group the
Black Legion - the police chief of
Detroit was suspected of being a member - to threaten and physically
assault labor activists and assassinate union leaders including
George Marchuk and John Bielak, both shot to death.
The reign of the
all-powerful capitalist class has returned with a vengeance.
conditions of working men and women, thrust backward, will not
improve until they regain the militancy and rebuild the popular
organizations that seized power from the capitalists.
There are some
13,000 licensed cabs in New York City and 40,000 livery or town
The drivers should, as farmers did in 2015
with tractors in Paris, shut down the center of the city. And
drivers in other cities should do the same. This is the only
language our corporate masters understand.
capitalists will be as vicious as they were in the past. Nothing
enrages the rich more than having to part with a fraction of
Consumed by greed, rendered numb to human suffering
by a life of hedonism and extravagance, devoid of empathy, incapable
of self-criticism or self-sacrifice, surrounded by sycophants and
leeches who cater to their wishes, appetites and demands, able to
use their wealth to ignore the law and destroy critics and
opponents, they are among the most repugnant of the human species.
Don't be fooled by the elites' skillful public relations campaigns -
we are watching Mark Zuckerberg, whose net worth is $64.1 billion,
mount a massive propaganda effort against charges that he and
Facebook are focused on exploiting and selling our personal
information - or by the fawning news celebrities on corporate media
who act as courtiers and apologists for the oligarchs.
are the enemy...
Ochisor, a Romanian
immigrant, owned a
New York City taxi medallion. (Medallions were once coveted by
cab drivers because having them allowed the drivers to own their own
cabs or lease the cabs to other drivers.)
Ochisor drove the night
shift, lasting 10 to 12 hours. His wife drove the day shift. But
after Uber and Lyft flooded the city with cars and underpaid drivers
about three years ago, the couple could barely meet expenses.
Ochisor's home was about to go into foreclosure. His medallion, once
worth $1.1 million, had plummeted in value to $180,000. The dramatic
drop in the value of the medallion, which he had hoped to lease for
$3,000 a month or sell to finance his retirement, wiped out his
He faced financial ruin and poverty. And he was
architects of the new economy have no intention of halting the
assault. They intend to turn everyone into temp workers trapped in
demeaning, low-paying, part-time, service-sector jobs without job
security or benefits, a reality they plaster over by inventing hip
terms like "the gig economy."
began driving a New York City cab 40 years ago. He, like most
drivers, worked out of garages owned and operated by businesses.
was paid a percentage of what he earned each night.
"You could make a
living (then)," he told me.
"But everyone shared the burden. The
garage shared it. The driver shared it. If you had a good night, the
garage made money. If you had a bad night, you split it. That's not
the case anymore. Right now we're leasing (cabs at the garages)."
Leasing requires a
driver to pay $120 a day for the car and $30 for the gas.
drivers begin a shift $150 in debt. Because of Uber, Lyft and other
smartphone ride apps, drivers' incomes have been cut by half in many
cases. Cab drivers can finish their 12-hour shifts owing the garages
Drivers are facing bankruptcies, foreclosures and evictions.
Some are homeless.
"The TLC (New
York City Transportation and Limousine Commission) wanted to
yellow cab drivers to 12 hours a day," he said, referring to
the distinctive yellow cabs that have medallions and can pick up
passengers anywhere in the five boroughs.
"There was a
protest. Yellow cab drivers were protesting that they have to
work a 16-hour day in order to make a living. It's cut
everything. Everybody's fighting for that extra fare.
be at a light with two or three other yellow cabs. You saw
someone up the street with luggage you would run the lights to
get to them. Because that might be an airport job. You're
risking your own life, risking getting tickets, you're doing
things you would never have done before."
"We don't have
any health care," he said.
"Sitting for those 12 to 16 hours a
day, you are getting diabetes. There's no blood circulation.
You're putting on weight. And then there's that added stress
you're not making any money."
Uber and Lyft in
2016 had 370 active lobbyists in 44 states,
"dwarfing some of the
largest business and technology companies," according to the
National Employment Law Project.
"Together, Uber and Lyft lobbyists
outnumbered Amazon, Microsoft, and Walmart combined."
companies, like many lobbying firms, also hire former government
The former head of the
New York City Taxi and Limousine
Commission, for example, is now on the board of Uber.
have used their money and their lobbyists, most of whom are members
of the Democratic Party, to free themselves from the regulations and
oversight imposed on the taxi industry.
The companies using
ride-hail apps have flooded New York City with about 100,000
unregulated cars in the past two years.
"The yellow cab
has to be a certain vehicle," said McDonagh.
"It's a Nissan. (Nissan
won the bid to supply the city's cabs.) Every yellow cab has
to charge a certain price. When that drop goes down, that's
regulated by the city.
They added on all these extra taxes, for
the MTA and for the wheelchair (half of all yellow cabs are
required to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020), a
Uber comes in. No regulations at all. They
could pick whatever type of car they want. Whatever color of
car. They could change prices when it's slow. They can lower the
When it's busy they can do price surging. It can be two
or three times. Whereas the yellow cab is just plowing along at
the same rate at the same time.
Going to Kennedy Airport from
Manhattan is $52. No matter what the traffic is like, no matter
how many hours it takes you to get there.
Uber will jack up its
prices two or three times. You might have to pay $100 to get to
Kennedy Airport. While the yellow cab industry is almost
regulated to death, Uber is coming in with new technology,
figuring out different ways how (it is) going to make money…
It's finished, with the yellow cabs."
Life for Uber and
Lyft drivers is as difficult. Uber and Lyft use bonuses to lure
drivers into the business.
Once the bonuses
are gone, these drivers sink to the same economic desperation as
those driving yellow cabs.
leasing cars," McDonagh said.
"They have car
dealerships that will sell.
They advertise as,
'Listen, you can
have bad credit. Come down to Uber. We'll get you the money or
loan to buy this car.'
And what they do is they'll take the
money directly out of what you're making that day to pay for the
loan. They can't lose.
And if you go under, they'll sell the car
back to the dealership and then redo it for the next immigrant
driver. There's a whole scam going on."
"As a yellow
cab driver, you don't see the world vision," he said.
there's that famous term 'the race to the bottom.' You're
working more and more hours for less and less wages. This is the
new gig economy.
Someone will use an Uber to go to an
get on his phone to order something from Amazon to eat in his
house. All those shops are now gone. From cashiers to cab
I feel like I'm a blacksmith or a typesetter at a
newspaper business trying to explain to you what the yellow cab
industry used to be. We're becoming obsolete."
sleeping in the cab," McDonagh said.
"They'll go out to Kennedy
at 2 or 3 in the morning. They pull into the lot and go to sleep
to catch (passengers off) the first flight that's coming in from
California a couple of hours later.
You have guys who won't go
home for a couple of days. They'll just stay out on the street.
They roam the street to try to make money. It's dangerous for
The amount of accidents will be going up because
drivers are drowsy."
McDonagh said Uber
and Lyft cars must be regulated.
All cars should have meters to
guarantee an adequate income for drivers. And drivers should have
health care and benefits.
None of this will happen, he warned, as
long as we live under a system of government where our political
elites are dependent on campaign contributions from corporations and
those who should be regulating the industry look to these
corporations for future employment.
"We have to
limit the amount of cabs, particularly here in New York City,"
"If we did it in the yellow cab industry for 50
years, why can't we do it with Uber? They're adding 100 cars a
week through the streets of New York. This is insane.
call an Uber, the biggest complaint people have now is,
is here too quick.'
They're there within two or three minutes. I
can't even get dressed… They're rolling empty throughout the
city, waiting for that hit."
Central Park are regulated," he pointed out.
"There's 150 of
them. They make a great living there, the guys on the horse and
Uber comes in and says,
'We want to bring in Uber
horses. And we want to add 100,000.'
And let's see how the
market will handle it.
We know what's going to happen. No one
will make money. They're all around Central Park. And now no one
can go anywhere because there are now 100,000 horses in Central
Park. It would be considered madness to do that. They wouldn't
Yet when it comes to the yellow cab industry, for 50
years all we could have was 13,000 cabs, and then within a year
or two we're going to add 100,000.
Let's see how the market
works on that! We know how the market works."
horses) work less hours (than cab drivers)," he said.
don't work in hot and cold temperatures. If you believe in
reincarnation, you should come back as a horse in Central Park.
And they all live on the West Side of Manhattan. We live in
basements in Brooklyn and Queens.
We haven't upped our status in
life, that's for sure."