Peaches And Pepsi

            The 4th of July holiday week has just passed. It would have been difficult for someone to not notice the special offer ads run by the local mega food retailers, “4 twelve packs of Pepsi for $10” (with membership at Kroger or Giant Eagle. Walmart will match any advertised price brought in with ad). Over the weekend I noticed several farmer’s market produce stands offering a carton of 4 gorgeous peaches for $5. You don’t need Karl Rove to help you do the equation: eight peaches equal forty eight 12 oz. cans of Pepsi (576 ounces of refreshment). Let that sink in for a moment. OK, time’s up! What springs to mind? Oh yeah, labor costs. We all know the capitalist alibi: labor costs drive prices up, eventually putting either jobs or the enterprise that sells the product out of work. The formula is simple and drilled into every sixth grader with their lessons on how to count (no, not the ABC’s kind but how to count money, usually other people’s money). So Pepsi will stay in business and grow, and eventually peaches will, well, disappear. Pepsi will do so by keeping production costs down (and some other unmentionables). This is where the sixth graders are left in the dark. Pepsi will keep its costs down by relying on automation to eliminate its labor (and some other unmentionables). More automated systems equals less human labor costs. In doing so Pepsi will be called a “jobs creator” when it opens or renovates a new production facility that will be more “cost effective” (automated) than the previous. As a “jobs creator” it will be entitled to real estate tax credits, income tax cuts, as well as other “community development” benefits and perks. Peaches, on the other hand, are a totally different economy. Initial start-up investment is substantial, competition with land values as well as continuous reliance on weather and environment, coupled with heavy reliance on human labor make it a primitive economic model for success. Although real people will really be working, it will not qualify as a “jobs creator” (unless it is subsidized and subsumed within some other unmentionables). In the end it relies on growth, but not the economic kind.

            Over the weekend PBS televised what looked to be an archived edition of The Human Parade with Jay Nordinger interviewing Jeb Bush. No matter. Governor Bush came off very presidential. His promotion of the conservative economic agenda was totally patriotic. He aspired to create success for America, and Americans. He lauded Marco Rubio for being willing to promote the reduction/elimination of Social Security and elimination/reduction of other social welfare programs (subsidized unmentionables). Also he presented a “how” on immigration: along with securing the borders, allow immediate citizenship for PHD’s entering the country as well as hard working entrepreneurs (NOT the hungry huddled masses yearning to be free, but those arriving with lots of capital- like Rupert Murdoch). This is where the sixth grade symposium on counting doesn’t do those who made it to the seventh grade much good. Weird news coming out of the various government and non-government bean counters: higher education costs are getting, well, higher. Those graduating are either unemployed or having to settle for work that is way below their degree capacity, i.e. Master’s doing minimum high school degree level work, etc. America currently has a lot of well-educated folks (who owe an awful lot of money for getting that degree). Karl Rove math aside, success for America might mean including them. But that brings us back to Pepsi and peaches. Just what does success mean if Americans are insecure in their old age and retirement, if Americans cannot afford to admit to themselves (or others) that they are  ill or injured, if education is considered a supplement to learning how to count (other people’s money), and if, when hungry, most Americans will need to choose Pepsi over peaches?

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