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Willamette Week is wearing a steel toe boot with a starbucks logo and stomping on the poor

To everyone who buys starbucks: YOU are the one who is stealing the money directly from the hands of third world country families who desperately need that money for food, medicine and basic survival! Starbucks is known as Starcrooks because they steal from those suffering most!
I am writing in regards to the Willamette Week (Wweek) newspaper article [reference 1].
On their website the article is titled "Thoroughly Starbucked
The world's biggest coffee retailer gets no respect from PDX. Should it?" To question Starbucks is understandable. That, among other things, is the job of any credible media business.

But the actual front page title of the print newspaper, with a circulation of 90,00, read "Why Can't Starbucks Get Any Respect?" (And Why It Should)" That title is written in a manner which promotes Starbucks, like an advertisement, and that is exactly how most of the article was written.

Some of the other Indymedia article responses have been written in a concise manner, but because I am a dirt-poor minority who everyday sees the most brutal bottom line results of what happens, in the faces of my homeless friends, when people are forced into slave-labor like jobs which Starbucks is forcing onto the world and onto minorities, what I have to say won't be as well written because it tears me up inside to know that a newspaper that in the past has actually cared about people, is now wearing a steel toe boot with a starbucks logo and stepping on the faces of minorities and the underclass worldwide!

Because Willamette Week has often described people who speak out against their pro-corporate articles as 'Wweek bashers,' it is urgent to me that I make it clear that I am not bashing Wweek newspaper. The recent Neil Goldschmidt 2-year rape scandal (not a sexual relationship) exposed by the Wweek was excellent especially since such crimes against women/girls often go unpunished, especially by people in power. There were some good follow up pieces on that too {Urgent: The only thing that the follow up left out, which the Portland Tribune covered [reference 1a], is that Goldschmidt is a member of the Oregon Bar association who should be dishonorably disbarred by the Oregon Supreme Court rather than permitted to honorably resign. This is because he was a historically high-ranking sexual predator who politically influenced every woman's ability to create anti-sex offender laws during his reign. Guess we know why there is a time limit to when sex offenders can be prosecuted!} Also, a few years ago Chris Lydgate wrote an excellent article (with follow up pieces) regarding how a dumpster corporation was literally and repeatedly murdering homeless people with no regard at all. The article was excellent in every regard because it not only got in touch with the victims families and portrayed him as the human being that he was, but it also was able to quote some of the cold-hearted and heartless statements made by the corporation. I actually wrote to Chris Lydgate and told him how much I liked it. There was also another story I liked about how racism effects housing. [reference 2]. And among the many other stories in WWeek, Nick Budnick wrote an awesome pieces about budget cuts that hurt the homeless youth. [reference 3]. And many times Wweek has spoken in support of Dignity Village, as can be seen in many links on the Dignity Village website.

But for all the good that WWeek has done, I am still literally nauseated by the existence of the Front page pro-Starbucks article. Towns are banning Starbucks all across the country, and people are working hard everyday to get rid of Starbucks from Portland but the Wweek article critically hurts everyone's ability to do that! The only way that you could ever imagine even a sliver of how much suffering Starbucks causes to minorities in third-world countries is by living several years, dirt poor in the cardboard houses that many Central America farmers live in, because the non-fair trade wages that Starbucks pay are not enough to ever break the cycle of Poverty for those people.

Willamette Week Pro-Starbucks Propaganda #1:

Quote from the article: ""...Starbucks paid an average of $1.20 per pound for higher-grade beans last year. This is only a few cents shy of the per-pound price for coffee that is certified Fair Trade--a designation that comes from a cooperative dedicated to ensuring that farmers earn a fair wage."

A "few cents" shy? Lets put "a few cents" into perspective as minorities and people in thrird-world countries see it. [reference 4]

Here is a quote from the International boycott taco bell webpage:

"Farmworker Conditions

Farmworkers who pick for Florida growers who sell tomatoes to Taco Bell earn between 40-50 cents for every 32-lb bucket of tomatoes they pick. For example, the Immokalee-based "Six L's Packing Co., Inc.," one of the nation's largest tomato producers and a contractor to Taco Bell (according to the industry journal "The Packer"), still pays 40 cents per bucket. That is the same piece rate paid since 1978."

Here is the proposed solution:

"What can Taco Bell do?

"Taco Bell could nearly double the picking piece rate paid to farmworkers by agreeing to pay just one penny more per pound for the tomatoes it buys from Florida growers. We believe that Taco Bell, as part of the "world's largest restaurant system" can easily afford to pay one penny more. But even if they passed the cost on to YOU, the consumer, it would still be less than 1/4 of 1 cent more for your chalupa."

Did you hear that? There is an international boycott to get Taco bell "...to pay just one penny more per pound." Yet, Starbucks, this unchained monster that is killing minorities with a corporate smile, is (in the words of Wweek) "...a few cents shy of the per-pound price."

To everyone who buys starbucks I want you to know something: Unfortunately, I cannot afford to send money to charities that help people in third world countries and most of you can't either and if if you can, you never have. BUT when you buy starbucks coffee...

...YOU are the one who is stealing the money directly from the hands of third world country families who desperately need that money for food, medicine and for basic survival! Starbucks is known as Starcrooks because they steal from the people who are suffering the most.

You think it is just a few cents and it won't make a difference but a few American cents, in third world currency exchange makes a tremendous difference and in your heart, you know it.

Willamette Week Pro-Starbucks Propaganda #2:

Yesterday I wrote a comment titled: "STARCROOKS IS NOT A GOOD EMPLOYER -1000 employees ripped off! [reference 5]

I would like to explain more about how Starbucks is ripping off the rest of America in this manner.

Starbucks paid 18 million dollars to settle a lawsuit. The claim was filed on behalf of over 1,000 current and former managers and assistant managers in California stores who were classified by the company as exempt from overtime. While their jobs had management titles, more than half their actual work time was spent performing non-exempt duties such as ringing sales and maintaining their stores. As a result, they did not qualify as exempt employees and were entitled to overtime pay for hours worked in excess of eight per day or forty per week.

The only reason Starbucks was able to be exposed for ripping people off in this manner, was because California is one of the most progressive states in the country, and made a law which makes it illegal for corporate employers to "promote someone to a salaried manager position simply to unethically weasel out of paying them for the countless overtime that a 60 hour work week, common for Starbucks managers, entails on a regular basis. The sad part is, in other states, there is not such a law so Starbucks carries on with 'corporate business as usual' and rips off some of the most vulnerable people in America. They have created a corporate formula which takes advantage of it and as they expand they will not change this formula. This is well noted in the settlement as they "admitted no wrongdoing."

It is these types of profit first, people last, formulas which cause Starbucks to thrive on the suffering of minorities and others. Here is a quote from the Multinational Monitor:

"Probably the most far-reaching policies are formula business bans, which about half a dozen towns around the country have adopted. These prohibit formula restaurant and retail chains from locating in a community. They don't say that Starbucks can't come in, but they do say that, if Starbucks wants to build, it has to look and operate, both internally and externally, completely differently from any other Starbucks in the country. This sets up a pretty significant hurdle that most major retail corporations are not willing to comply with. Coronado and Arcata, California are examples of cities that have recently adopted these policies." ,[reference 6]

Willamette Week Pro-Starbucks Propaganda #3:

Quote from Wweek: "CHARGE #2: STARBUCKS PAYS ITS FARMERS SLAVE WAGES. VERDICT: NOT (ALL THAT) GUILTY. "

Lies. Wweek goes on to say: "Aside from better prices, another way Starbucks avoids gross Third World exploitation is by doing business directly with growers, cutting out the middlemen who skim off a hefty cut from the farmers' share. Oxfam, the British anti-poverty charity, is even willing to give the company credit for buying 30 percent of its coffee direct from farmers, which leads all major coffee buyers."

I am not saying that Starbucks is involved in "gross Third World exploitation." That is an understatement. I am saying the truth: Starbucks is involved in downright murderous third world exploitation. The Wweek's use of twisted half-truths using the name of a Oxfam, a charity to clean up the Starbucks image is a public disgrace. I have another quote involving Oxfam that I would like to share. Before reading this quote, ask yourself this question: "Which country on earth has the most internationally known crisis of starving people? Many people instantly think of Ethiopia as having the most vulnerable people in the world when it comes to abject starvation. Starbucks is an international predator that is unquestionably promoting the starvation of the world's most vulnerable people in the world. Here is the Oxfam quote:

"Here's the problem:

"There is a crisis destroying the livelihoods of 25 million coffee producers around the world," reports Oxfam. "The price of coffee has fallen by almost 50 percent in the past three years to a 30-year low. Long-term prospects are grim. Developing country farmers, mostly poor smallholders, now sell their coffee beans for much less than they cost to produce -- only 60 percent of production costs in Vietnam's Dak Lak Province, for example. Farmers sell at a heavy loss while branded coffee sells at a hefty profit."

"For many coffee-producing countries, plummeting prices are devastating their national economies. Central American countries have seen revenues fall 44 percent in a year, from 1999/2000 to 2000/2001. In Ethiopia, coffee export revenues declined 42 percent. In Uganda, where a quarter of the population depends on coffee for their livelihood, coffee earnings dropped 30 percent.
"For individual farmers around the world, declining prices have pushed them to the edge of survival, or destroyed their means of livelihood altogether. Tens of thousands are losing their land in Central America alone, and thousands of plantation workers have been thrown out of work.

"The low prices are due to a global surplus of coffee beans. The surplus reflects a variety of forces, including the collapse of domestic and international marketing controls by producer countries -- in part a consequence of IMF and World Bank policies, the entrance of Vietnam into the global coffee market and a surge in Brazilian production, and stagnant demand in rich countries.

"The market imbalance has further shifted power to the giant coffee roasters. Coffee farmers get 1 percent or less of the price of coffee at Starbucks, and about 6 percent of the cost of a supermarket pack of coffee, according to Oxfam.

"Meanwhile, the coffee roasters are operating with extremely high profit margins."

"These companies do not have complete control of the market, but they have the power to move to a global solution. They have not.

"There will be no solution without management of price and supply.

"Activists are demanding the companies buy a modest 5 percent of their beans from Fair Trade-certified growers. Fair Trade coffee ensures farmers get a sustainable price."[reference 7]

That quote was from an article subtitled "Mugging The World" and that is exactly what Starbucks is doing. They are mugging the world, they are mugging the most vulnerable people and they are mugging Portland.

And everytime that I see WWeek write a pro-corporation article which ignores the suffering of the poor or negligently attempts to downplay the suffering that such monstrous corporations cause people, it makes me realize why more people must work to rid ourselves of these corporations.

In closing, I would like to thank all those people who are bravely taking action and also those who are speaking out against such oppression. Former Starbucks employee Colleen McDonald was very brave and awesome to write her indymedia article titled "Thoroughly Starbucked" Response'. "[reference 7] Corporations such as Coca-Cola have demonstrated that they are willing to kill people (even inside their own bottling factories) who speak out against them or try to start a union. "[reference 8]

We need more former and current employees to speak out against Starbucks, even if done anonymously. Your voice does make a difference. I opened up the Portland Tribune today and saw that yet another Starbucks kiosk is opening up inside a Safeway tomorrow. The longer we wait to speak out against Starbucks and other corporations, the stronger they become.

I would also like to thank my friends at Dignity Village and each and every person who was part of the excellent play I saw titled "The Filmore Hotel." The Wweek article came out on Wednesday and since the moment I read it I was emotionally, mentally and physically sickened by it and I wrestled with myself trying to convince myself not to say anything about it because I would be too emotional. Three days later, I saw the play, and at one point in the story, an actor, who would become homeless because the landlord kicked him and his friends out into the streets to make a luxury hotel, yelled at his friends and told them that they have to speak up about injustice. That made me realize that I should at least write this article. Even a theatre production is a form of independent expression and I hope more people will get involved in the struggle. Wweek has a mission statement of being "independent" but is woefully obvious that someone in their administrative chain of command is more than willing to sell us out for favor in the eyes of even their most monstrous multinational corporate sponsors.

In truth, I must tell you that one of my strongest reasons for writing this article because I honestly and strongly believe that the Wweek article was simply Wweek 'testing the waters' to see if their new form of pro-corporation journalism/advertising would pass by the public without tremendous public criticism. I honestly am concerned that one day I might wake up to discover that Wweek has transformed my beautiful Portland day into a living nightmare by publishing an article titled:

Why Can't Walmart Get Any respect? (And Why It Should)."

That may sound like a joke but as Starbucks spreads its profit-before-people virus presence all over the world, all third world country farmers, and all the Starbucks employees (who are illegally prevented by Starbucks from starting a union) and all of the world's most vulnerable people can't laugh anymore. That is because like me, they are too busy crying inside about this international corporate-plaque known as Starbucks which is not only being ignored by the mainstream media, but also being promoted.












[reference 1]  http://www.wweek.com/story.php?story=5137&page=2
[refernce 1a]  http://www.portlandtribune.com/archview.cgi?id=24528
[reference 2]  http://198.107.45.79/story.php?story=1932
[reference 3]  http://198.107.45.79/story.php?story=1932
[reference 4]  http://www.ciw-online.org/tz_site-revision/take_action/alert.html
[reference 5]  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/05/289615.shtml#124707
[reference 6]  http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/mm2002/02oct-nov/oct-nov02interviewmitchell.html
"[reference 7]  http://www.ratical.org/corporations/mm10worst02.html
"[reference 8]  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/05/289615.shtml
"[reference 9]  http://www.cokewatch.org/

empathy is commendable 01.Jun.2004 16:59

moon

re; the formula business strategy. At this point in the evolution of our society, I think most americans(many in other parts of the world too) admire the shrewd and ingenious effectiveness of formula business, and would, if they had the capital, brains and vision, utilize it for themselves, thus accessing all the great lifestyle perks associated with the quintessential american success story: fancy cars, clothes, vacations, food... life as a non-stop disneyland.

re; fair trade prices and slave labor jobs. Those are complex subjects defying clear or satisfying solutions. Historically, I think it might be reasonable to conclude that humanity loves the idea of a free market. People want to be free to produce and sell the fruits of their labor at the highest possible price. Controls mess with that concept. Despite the consequences of this concept, humanity to date has yet to implement any realistic regulatory market devices that would attempt to achieve and maintain a reasonable standard of living for each and every person in the world.
Third world growers are involved in that big gamble, agriculture. It's risky. It's either the weather or the market. So, now they starve and die. Pay them more, what happens? They have money, have larger families and population increases, a population dependent on the consumption of coffee for survival. Stateside, retail side, internationally, something not unlike that occurs where we have a population that arguably can increase because of businesses involved in the production of non-essentials like coffee. And again, be dependent on that industry. What happens when that industry shrinks or drops off the map? Where do all those employees and growers go for sustenance?
Got an idea for a planned, sustainable civilization where every inhabitant has a reasonable and equal standard of living? Be careful not to let it look to much like communism or socialism. Those concepts never seem go over too well.

Agriculture as a business 01.Jun.2004 17:17

James

Unfavorable market conditions or poor seasonal weather do not have to lead to starvation. These elements are a cost of doing business in the agriculture industry. They always have been. In market economies, however, there are financial tools available to mitigate the harm which either elements may cause.

There is insurance. There are derivatives. These tools take the extremes out of the business -- the high extremes and the low extremes. Inevitably, over the long haul you'll get a bit less. But that's the cost of insurance.

It is the responsibility of government to assure the availability of these tools to farm owners, and that farm owners are properly educated of their usefulness. If the growers opt not to use them, how can Starbucks be faulted?

Look beyond the first level effects caused by a particular action. If you say coffee beans should be more expensive, you're necessarily saying other things should be less expensive. This is a simple truth. Without increasing productivity or output, you're playing a zero-sum game.

You're saying coffee beans should be more expensive, but soy beans should be less expensive. Or health care should be less available. Or education. Or beer. Or whatever else it is.

But it has to come from somewhere.

If coffee prices are too low for growers to make a living, then there are too many growers. Inevitably, some will leave the market. They must; after all, they cannot make a living, right? If they are to live, they must leave the market. The tendency will be for the least efficient growers to leave the market first, because they will be the least able to make a living. Then prices will rise for the more efficient growers.

This strange microchosm of outrage over cofee beans is silly. The reality is that most folks don't really care about the price of beans, they just dislike yuppies and corporate culture and they associate those things with Starbucks.

To my mind at least, it really is that simple.

Coffee culture co-opted and corrupt 01.Jun.2004 17:38

me again

Coffeehouses throughout recent history have been hotbeds of radical ideas. Contrary to what WW says, Starbucks didn't invent the scene, they just sterilized it for easy consumption. And guess what: YOU DON'T HAVE TO DRINK COFFEE! The whole speed scene is unhealthy for humans and the environment-a tweaker is a tweaker regardless of their speed of choice. Caffeine is polluting our groundwater and streams and the pesticides they use on coffee plantations are really bad; in fact, if you gotta drink it, better drink organic. And ask yourself why you must drink it. Are you tired, overworked? There are other caffeine sources if you must but maybe you need to do something about your life, your health. There are herbs to increase energy like rhodiola and schizanthra, and there's qigong and yoga.

Starbucks discriminates too! 01.Jun.2004 19:35

Menopause Red

Have you noted that Starbucks (in print) is quick to contribute it's stores' success to its hiring of "young employees." This is not a selling point for middle aged job seekers. (We might talk back.) Unfortunatly, I STILL can't find any coffee I like as much as S-Bux.

yes 01.Jun.2004 20:32

moon

Many people, as does James apparently, know a bit more about economics than I can claim myself. Some countries do have programs to mitigate the effects of factors having to do with inconsistent income through agriculture. In a more ideal and humane civilization, this seems reasonable and logical. Now if more people would seize upon and beleive in the idea of builiding an international civllization with those attributes.
Supply and demand certainly does work, redirecting the energy of farmers when there is too many beans, raising the price of beans when demand exceeds supply ( to name just two effects), but the process is inefficient, and vicious. It's not wonderful when you, as one dependent on this industry for an income, must find another because the market no longer needs your labor, there is no parachute(insurance, etc.), and no other source of sufficient income.
Humanity loves to hold on to the idea of personal ambition and incentive in the pursuit of possions and power, as the fundamental motivation towards existence, rather than co-operation towards the general welfare of all.
Anyone cracking that sustained dilemma, might have something big to offer the world.

I don't know about you.... 01.Jun.2004 22:40

another coffee drinker

and this has nothing to do with how bad the WHOLE coffee industry is (except maybe fair trade etc...although who really knows?)

but starbucks coffee sucks
AND there are a number of good coffee places that roast their own and are really great like Schondeckens in Sellwood and I have heard that StumpTown is really good to..so coffee drinkers go forth and find the cool local place

how about Common Grounds...mmmmmmmmm

now there is a cup of beans

Caffine 01.Jun.2004 23:01

#1 Drug in America

Caffine is the #1 drug in America. Aside from suger but that is another story. Anyway, caffine, generally in the form of coffee is the #1 drug in America. And it is legal. The reason is that it is a very effective way to get more productivity out of a worker. The management can get you to work harder with coffee. Hell my company gives it away for free. But I am on to them...I don't drink their coffee, and I dont work hard

But... 01.Jun.2004 23:24

wise-gal

it is hard to work when your ass is warming the coffee house seat :)

invisible hand or iron glove 02.Jun.2004 09:40

mike gonzales

some people here seem to be arguing that these problems (low prices of coffee, poor and starving farmers, etc.) are a natural result of the 'free market', and that raising the price of coffee and imposing market controls would betray these free market principles, and therefore the only thing we can do is accept these low prices and understand that the market will correct itself once these farmers all starve and/or decide to do something else. here is what moon said, "People want to be free to produce and sell the fruits of their labor at the highest possible price. Controls mess with that concept..."

ok, heres what i have to say: these markets are not free. we need to look at the history of colonialism throughout the global south to understand how global south economies shifted to production of 'cash crops' for export, how this shift was encouraged first by colonial oppression and domination, and later by neo-colonial 'free-trade' policies of neo-liberal institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. and now through institutionalized oppression, support of military dictatorships, the CIA orchestrated overthrow of governments that try mild land reform, we continue to keep down the peasants of the global south. and like the peasants of europe before them, they are slowly being expropriated from their land because of these conditions and are being forced to migrate to work in sweatshops, maquillas, and mines, dangerous and oppressive work that they 'choose' not because they love capitalism and the opportunities it affords them, but because they are herded into them by forces larger and more powerful than they are.

ok, so what do we (we, as in the capitalist north) do? for starters, we need to understand that the 'invisible hand of the market' is a lie, and that it is usually encased in an iron glove. then we can support cooperative movements that try to push for fair trade. its a start, but not nearly enough. then we need to drop the dept imposed by neo-colonial institutions like the IMF and World Bank, and instead of lending money predicated upon harmful Structural Adjustment Plans (SAPs that restructure economies in order to better exploit the people) we infuse countries throughout the global south with capital and investments that are not based upon usury and exploitation. why? because european/american colonialism helped to create the conditions of oppression and exploitation that exist today. oh yeah, most importantly, we need to support and give solidarity to workers movements throughout the world, to support the organizing of workers, and to give a big middle finger to companies and governments that profit off of these messed up neo-colonial conditions.

as far as Starbucks is concerned, they didnt create the conditions of oppression and exploitation, but they are profiting off of this institutionalized colonialism, and they are using their immense power to perpetuate these conditions. why not pay people more? because it violates the 'invisible hand of the market'? excuse me? no, they dont want to violate the iron glove of the market.

You've completely missed the point 02.Jun.2004 10:45

James

"why not pay people more? because it violates the 'invisible hand of the market'? excuse me? no, they dont want to violate the iron glove of the market."

Because if you're paying someone more, you're paying someone else less. That's why.

Prices are not only low for coffee beans, but for a whole range of products. Sure, if you pay all growers more, those people will be better off. But someone else will be worse off.

If we raised the prices on all things, those costs would quickly add up. It's not an exaggeration to say some would go without health care because of our new price increases, since that is frequently the first thing people forego when they're running short of money.

If there's a good case for debt relief on a case-by-case basis, fine. But blanket debt relief is silly. In almost all cases, you'd be giving welfare to the wealhy class of a poor nation.

Also take note, we're not going to send the warships in if a nation defaults. All of these nations are free to stop paying their debt whenever they choose. They're even free to confiscate foreign-owned property within their countries, and re-distribute it to the people. It's just that they'd see foreign investment and credit immediately dry up.

Onthe 02.Jun.2004 11:25

Mark

The so called free market is a sham.

It is a tightly controlled system designed to keep the people in power who already have power. It is absurd to think that some farmer in an impoverished country has anything like a fair competition vs giant multinational corporations.

Multinational corporations get all sorts of welfare. They pay very little taxes. They have the power to shape the laws to favor their interests. And when aginst great odds, some people in another country organize themselves to oppose these unfair advantages, the US government works to prevent them through economic pressures and if that doesn't succeed, the US military is sent in.

It is a rigged game.

It is a rigged game, both internationally, and nationally.

Make it freer, then 02.Jun.2004 11:52

James

"Multinational corporations get all sorts of welfare"

True enough. Let's make it freer then and end agricultural subsidies.

You seem to be making the point that because these multinationals receive corporate welfare, the market is not really free. But I don't believe that's the actual reason for your opposition to the multinationals.

If the market was completely free from government meddling -- no taxes, no tariffs, no subsides, on any side, and anti-trust laws were strictly enforced -- would you then support the multinationals equally with the family farms?

Of course not. Because the actual reason for your opposition to the multinationals, and by extension the free market, is not corporate welfare, but rather the fear of the loss of your romanticized notion of the independent family farm.

Just like activist opposition to Starbucks is the manifestation of their fears of losing their romanticized notions of the independent family coffee house.

(And don't let the fact that Starbucks has created, rather than destroyed, independent coffee houses get in the way of that fear).

We're dealing with a scare resource (land) and a relatively fixed need (food stuffs). It only makes sense that the most efficient growers should cultivate the land.

If the game is rigged, it is rigged in favor of the most efficient.

It's not romantic, but it does have the greatest utility.

Starbucks is the worse 02.Jun.2004 12:22

.

Starbucks is the worse and needs to pay fair trade wages to farmers who they kill

Damn... 02.Jun.2004 12:27

mr green genes

...I could really use a triple-orange-mocha-joka-frappa-latte right now...

Missing the facts 02.Jun.2004 12:35

James

"Starbucks is the worse and needs to pay fair trade wages to farmers who they kill"

This is exactly the point addressed by the WW article. Starbucks is already paying fair trade certified prices for their coffee beans in some cases, and is very close to fair trade prices on the average. (Something like 5% less than 'fair trade prices').

'T' -- the author of this thread -- attempted to refute that assertion by misdirecting attention from the subject of what Starbucks pays for coffee beans towards what Taco Bell pays for tomatoes. Yet the specifics of the two cases are different.

Starbucks pays more per pound of coffee than almost all independent coffee houses do.

The WW article is right; the anti-Starbucks activists are wrong.

the impending death of corporatism 02.Jun.2004 12:56

back to business

James attempts to paint his opposition as "emotional" rather than "rational", a classic tactic to dismiss one's opponents. Yet he too appears emotionally wedded to the idea of the benefits of corporatism.

Corporations are not efficient. They would collapse without massive subsidies and that's why I absolutely favor the end of all government meddling in business. Most transnationals would collapse as soon as their federal funding and tax breaks were done away with.

But, to bring up one further point about corporatism that hasn't been addressed. There are more reasons than corporate welfare to oppose corporations in general. The most important to me is that the very idea of a "corporation" is completely damaging to society. The idea of creating a convenient legal entity, a fiction, for the purpose of removing business owners from civil and criminal liability is outrageous. The idea that they should have the rights of citizens is even more outrageous (and adamantly opposed by Jefferson and Madison during the founding of this country). As long as corporations can shield business owners from liability there is no free market. The free market demands accountability and that cannot be achieved so long as corporations are allowed to exist.

So, which what will it be, a free market or the end of capitalism? Either way we'll see far more accountability than we see today. And that can only be a good thing.

Onthe 02.Jun.2004 13:08

Mark

Yes, let us make it free

You see, if it truly were a free market, multinatonal corporations would be out of business. They are less efficient than small business and that is why they are heavily subsidized.

Expand that to all markets and get rid of all subsidies. We would have a decentralized local based economy that would be much more sustainable, balanced and fair.

The reason we have such huge subsidies is because they are unable to compete on a level playing field. A lot of people with a lot of power have a vested interest in keeping things as they are because such an unfair arrangement lets them amass enormous amounts of money and power far beyond any good sense.

In a truly free market, things would naturally, without regulation, be more equitably distributed (not evenly mind you). What we have now is a controlled abberation. Not an expression of natural forces.

James... 02.Jun.2004 13:17

purple punk

A couple of questions. Shouldn't Americans pay more for their products if it means that the people who make the products get to live a better life? Wouldn't you be glad to lower your own standard of living a bit to make things more fair for farmers? And if you're a corporation that pulls in many many millions in profit, wouldn't it be proper to not be so damned greedy, and to pay the farmers and your workers a bit more? If people weren't so selfish and spent a bit more time working together we wouldn't have these problems to the same extent.

Yes 02.Jun.2004 13:59

James

"They are less efficient than small business and that is why they are heavily subsidized."

What do you base that statement on? It's just not true. The efficiencies found on large, agribusiness farms cannot be had by small farms. The efficiencies stem from economies of scale which the small farms cannot exploit.

A small, family farm is rarely heavily mechanized. Heavy mechanization is only possible on large farms with output great enough to justify the cost of investment. If you only have twenty acres of land, it doesn't make sense to invest in harvest mechanization. If you have 20,000 acres of land, enough to justify investment in the equipment, you're no longer a small business.

In America, commercial farms account for 8% of all farms, they own 1/3 of the total farmed land area, but account for 68% of total output. Small business farmers are responsible in large part for vast deforestation and pollution which would otherwise not be necessary. Small business farmers are truly enemies of the environment.

I suspect the productivity disparity between big business farms and small business farms is not so drastic in the sub-group of coffee farmers -- just because it's more difficult to mechanize coffee farming than say, wheat farming -- but I'm sure you'd see significantly higher productivity among the agribusinesses than among the small family farms.

"Expand that to all markets and get rid of all subsidies."

Sure, if it makes sense. If the subsidy has a well-defined purpose -- say, encouraging renewable energy use -- then let's keep it. But I catch your drift. I'm always glad to hear free market ideas expressed on Indymedia.

"Wouldn't you be glad to lower your own standard of living a bit to make things more fair for farmers?"

Yes; but I'd be pissing in the wind. Why would I want to give more money to coffee farmers and encourage them to grow too much coffee? They could be growing a staple crop or other edible food item to help end world hunger. They could grow those other crops and the price of coffee would rise naturally, without any charity, or government tinkering. And some hungry people, who might otherwise not have afforded a proper meal, now may.

I know it's easier said than done to convert a farm to a new crop. The seed is expensive, retooling is expensive and it's just not possible for a lot of farmers. This sounds like a good candidate for targeted government subsidies.

But simply paying the coffee farmers more money just masks the problem. The best solution is for the glut in the market to end. And the best way for that to happen -- best for the growers, best for consumers, and best for the environment -- is for the least efficient growers to exit the market first.

please remember 02.Jun.2004 19:56

hohum

James doesn't have a heart and isn't listening. Glad I don't live in his world

yes yes 02.Jun.2004 20:43

purple punk

I certainly can't argue with economy of scale, but that's just one small part of the big picture.

You wrote:
"Why would I want to give more money to coffee farmers and encourage them to grow too much coffee? They could be growing a staple crop or other edible food item to help end world hunger. They could grow those other crops and the price of coffee would rise naturally, without any charity, or government tinkering."

That's a fairly simplistic look at the world. I agree that you would encourage too much coffee growth if you simply hiked the price. That's why I followed my questions to you with, "If people weren't so selfish and spent a bit more time working together we wouldn't have these problems to the same extent." Planning together on a global scale is possible.

But even if we didn't couple fair prices with global cooperation, and we inadvertantly encouraged over-production, that would in no way justify paying too little for the coffee that we *do* buy. In fact, I see your answer as a sort of cop-out. Poor farmers are the rule and not the exception. Paying them too little for their product is the rule and not exception. And world hunger isn't so much a matter of producing too little as it is a matter of poor distribution to areas that for whatever reason can neither produce nor afford enough (and it's a matter artificially supported overpopulation but that's a whole 'nother story). With that in mind, switching crops isn't going to solve the world's problems, much less the problems of farmers. The system of exploitation needs to be destroyed, and perhaps we need to stop propping up the world's population.

So how do we shift away from where we are today, to a better place? When the world gets together and demands fair treatment for everybody, perhaps we will determine what a fair price is, and how much demand there is. But then, governments typically aren't for the people so this won't happen.

And no, I'm not talking about the abolition of the free market (not that we have one anyway). I'm talking about recognizing what the market will bear and discouraging overproduction in ways that are a bit less harsh than paying dirt for a product. Can you come up with ways to do that? I think that would be a lot more productive than passively accepting the reality that paying low prices during a coffee bean glut will ultimately correct the market. After all, when the market corrects itself, coffee farmers will still be underpaid.

As an aside, how is it you know so many factoids? I'm quite impressed by your erudition.

Heart and reason 02.Jun.2004 20:46

James

"James doesn't have a heart and isn't listening."

I have no heart, but those arguing for "fair trade" prices do? You're the ones who would rather see hungry people starve than see environment-destroying low-efficiency coffee producers switch crops. Right?

I'm not even saying the growers should finance the crop switch with their own money; I proposed that their governments' should subsidize the cost of their switch. I'm merely suggesting the radical idea that if coffee farmers are producing more coffee beans than consumers know what to do with, perhaps they should grow fewer beans.

You can live in my world, where there is a balance between the desires of humanity and the supplies which meet those wants, to the very best ability of mankind, or you can live in a world chock-full of coffee beans, where the growers are content, but there are people starving.

It's hyperbole, but I'm sure you get the point.

Heartless? I'd say not. Just reasonable.

Onthe 02.Jun.2004 23:03

Mark

""Expand that to all markets and get rid of all subsidies.""

"Sure, if it makes sense. If the subsidy has a well-defined purpose -- say, encouraging renewable energy use -- then let's keep it. But I catch your drift. I'm always glad to hear free market ideas expressed on Indymedia."

Renewable energy use might not even need a subsidy if you took away all the subsidies currently given to the oil industry. Not sure about that, but it is possible.

Estimates of a gallon of gas that is not subsidized are around 5$ a gallon (this estimate is a couple years old now when gas was significantly cheaper). This does not include maintaining roads which according to free market approach should be paid for by the people using them, not foisted on everyone through taxes. It also does not include costs from environmental damage, which are admittedly hard to calculate, but are real costs that someone has to pay.

When you start to really look at the whole picture, is when you begin to see that local organic farming is cheaper.

Right now, if you take away the subsidies on fertilizer and related costs, growing organic is straight up cheaper. Growing locally, and eating locally are cheaper, healthier, and more sustainable in the long run. And the food tastes better.

Agribusiness is only cheaper when it is calculated in this system which is blind to many costs and has 'hidden' subsidies to ensure it appears cheaper so that power can be consolidated in fewer hands.

Who is going to pay the cost for the terrible depletion of top soil from poor farming practices? Small scale organic farming improves soil, making it healthy so that it will produce just as well in 50 years as it does now. In 50 years, the US midwest will be a dustbowl because of shortsighted practices which are geared only towards short term profit and which still only make a profit because of the built in subsidies.

I would be happy to get rid of short term speculative practices in favor of a down to earth, common sense free market approach which calculated real world costs. I believe that in this case, sensible, local sustainable, and environmentally sound practices would emerge as both the most profitable, and most aesthetic and enjoyable.

The ideal of communism is quite good, but we saw the Soviet Union and it was nothing like the ideal. The ideal of a free market is sound, but we have nothing like it currently. What we have now is an entirely unfree market controlled by certain interests to the detriment of people everywhere.

Starbucks Oblivionfest 03.Jun.2004 22:42

bjdorr

Starbucks has become spontaneous as the gas stations with one dotting every block and spendy fluids. It's almost as if we can no longer travel one block without a Starbucks on every corner. Is the reason for this strateic planning to dot every block with a Starbucks got to do with 1) Oblivions too lazy to walk more than ten feet from their SUV or 2) it's less walking if your SUV should ever run out of gas but your java has precedence. Going into Starbucks is like entering the Oblivion Zone. Every person standing in line with their one hand glued to their ear and having to put up with listening to a one-way conversation is enough for me. Then there's your barrista who probably never smiled in her or his life, wearing the corporate uniform which never distinguishes individualism, giving me the blank look with the expectation that I can read her telepathically saying "can I help you?" without ever moving the lips. Then there's the price - an overkill and putting my bank on empty. I can get the caffeine kick off the free coffee at my work and as I said, it's free(sometimes with consequences on the stomache). But you may be certain to find a place to sit in a Starbucks because most people will once after receiving their java, will tear out the door, straight to their SUV, and tear off with once again, holding the java and the other hand glued to their ear, steering with their knees - and the supposedly burned out turn signal. If not, you're guaranteed to listen to the one person sitting in the corner at maximum volume, having a one way conversation with the wireless friend.

Big isn't necessarily better (or more efficient) 05.Jun.2004 06:25

calmnsense

1. To the author of the original Starbux/WW rebuttal, well-done. Sure, there are flaws in your argument (Taco Bell-Starbux comparison is apples to oranges, well tomatoes to coffee) but overall, it is a worthy commentary...both about the lowered standards of WW and the threat that ambivalence/apathy poses towards economic justice in the third world. And your commentary has provoked a pretty damn interesting thread...

2. to James: corporate apologist extraordinaire, a couple of points: guess what the most "efficient" farming community is in the entire US? Lancaster County, PA...which is the home of the old order Amish and Mennonites, not some massive corporate agribusiness interests. Fact is, most corporations (including farming interests) lose a lot of their efficiency beyond a certain point. Trust me, I have worked for two billionaires and several of the biggest US multi-national corporations, as well as in small, private concerns. You're "pissing into the wind" with these arguments - if anything, what big corporations (or any big institution, for that matter) manage to do is MASK inefficiency rather than provide real efficiency, however you are measuring it.

3. for a real understanding of world economix and the difference that "supersizing" of companies makes in destruction of our planet (both economically and environmentally), there is still no better read than E.F. Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful" and I highly recommend to James, especially, but to all other readers/contributors of this thread.

I was wrong. Free market trade policies hurt the poor 18.Jun.2004 10:07

.in reply to moon's comment titled "empathy is commendable"

"re; the formula business strategy. At this point in the evolution of our society, I think most americans(many in other parts of the world too) admire the shrewd and ingenious effectiveness of formula business, and would, if they had the capital, brains and vision, utilize it for themselves, thus accessing all the great lifestyle perks associated with the quintessential american success story: fancy cars, clothes, vacations, food... life as a non-stop disneyland.
-comment posted by 'moon' "empathy is commendable"

In reply to moon, here is an article titled "I was wrong. Free market trade policies hurt the poor" written by Stephen Byers, one of the former advocated who spear-headed the "life as a non-stop disneyland" free market formular which slowly kills the poor.


 http://politics.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,9115,958790,00.html
I was wrong. Free market trade policies hurt the poor


^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
I was wrong. Free market trade policies hurt the poor

The IMF and World Bank orthodoxy is increasing global poverty

Stephen Byers
Monday May 19, 2003
The Guardian

In November 1999, during the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference in Seattle, I watched from my hotel room as thousands demonstrated against the evils of globalisation.

Anarchists clad in black marched alongside grandmothers dressed as turtles and steelworkers from Philadelphia. They saw international trade as a threat - to their jobs, the environment or simply as part of a capitalist conspiracy.

As leader of the delegation from the United Kingdom, I was convinced that the expansion of world trade had the potential to bring major benefits to developing countries and would be one of the key means by which world poverty would be tackled.

In order to achieve this, I believed that developing countries would need to embrace trade liberalisation. This would mean opening up their own domestic markets to international competition. The thinking behind this approach being that the discipline of the market would resolve problems of underperformance, a strong economy would emerge and that, as a result, the poor would benefit. This still remains the position of major international bodies like the IMF and World Bank and is reflected in the system of incentives and penalties which they incorporate in their loan agreements with developing countries. But my mind has changed.

I now believe that this approach is wrong and misguided. Since leaving the cabinet a year ago, I've had the opportunity to see at first hand the consequences of trade policy. No longer sitting in the air-conditioned offices of fellow government ministers I have, instead, been meeting farmers and communities at the sharp end.

It is this experience that has led me to the conclusion that full trade liberalisation is not the way forward. A different approach is needed: one which recognises the importance of managing trade with the objective of achieving development goals.

No one should doubt the hugely significant role that international trade could play in tackling poverty. In terms of income, trade has the potential to be far more important than aid or debt relief for developing countries. For example, an increase in Africa's share of world exports by just 1% could generate around 43bn - five times the total amount of aid received by African countries.

This has led President Museveni of Uganda to say: "Africa does need development assistance, just as it needs debt relief from its crushing international debt burden. But aid and debt relief can only go so far. We are asking for the opportunity to compete, to sell our goods in western markets. In short, we want to trade our way out of poverty."

The World Bank estimates that reform of the international trade rules could take 300 million people out of poverty. Reform is essential because, to put it bluntly, the rules of international trade are rigged against the poorest countries.

Rich nations may be pre pared to open up their own markets, but still keep in place massive subsidies. The quid pro quo for doing this is that developing countries open up their domestic markets. These are then vulnerable to heavily subsidised exports from the developed world.

The course of international trade since 1945 shows that an unfettered global market can fail the poor and that full trade liberalisation brings huge risks and rarely provides the desired outcome. It is more often the case that developing countries which have successfully expanded their economies are those that have been prepared to put in place measures to protect industries while they gain strength and give communities the time to diversify into new areas.

This is not intervention for the sake of it or to prop up failing enterprises, but part of a transitional phase to create strong businesses that can compete on equal terms in the global marketplace without the need for continued protection.

Just look at some examples. Taiwan and South Korea are often held out as being good illustrations of the benefits of trade liberalisation. In fact, they built their international trading strength on the foun dations of government subsidies and heavy investment in infrastructure and skills development while being protected from competition by overseas firms.

In more recent years, those countries which have been able to reduce levels of poverty by increasing economic growth - like China, Vietnam, India and Mozambique - have all had high levels of intervention as part of an overall policy of strengthening domestic sectors.

On the other hand, there are an increasing number of countries in which full-scale trade liberalisation has been applied and then failed to deliver economic growth while allowing domestic markets to be dominated by imports. This often has devastating effects.

Zambia and Ghana are both examples of countries in which the opening up of markets has led to sudden falls in rates of growth with sectors being unable to compete with foreign goods. Even in those countries that have experienced overall economic growth as a result of trade liberalisation, poverty has not necessarily been reduced.

In Mexico during the first half of the 1990s there was economic growth, yet the number of people living below the poverty line increased by 14 million in the 10 years from the mid-1980s. This was due to the fact that the benefits of a more open market all went to the large commercial operators, with the small concerns being squeezed out.

The evidence shows that the benefits that would flow from increased international trade will not materialise if markets are simply left alone. When this happens, liberalisation is used by the rich and powerful international players to make quick gains from short-term investments.

The role of the IMF and World Bank is also of concern. The conditions placed on their loans often force countries into rapid liberalisation, with scant regard to the impact on the poor.

The way forward is through a regime of managed trade in which markets are slowly opened up and trade policy levers like subsidies and tariffs are used to help achieve development goals.

The IMF and World Bank should recognise that questions of trade liberalisation are the responsibility of the WTO where they can be considered in the overall context of achieving poverty reduction and that it is therefore inappropriate to include trade liberalisation as part of a loan agreement.

This represents a departure from the current orthodoxy. It will be opposed by multinational companies who see rich and easy pickings in the markets of the developing world. But such a change would benefit the world's poorest people and that's why it should happen.

Stephen Byers is Labour MP for North Tyneside. He is a former trade and industry secretary and was a cabinet member from 1998 to 2002.

 stephenbyersmp@parliament.uk

Special reports
Globalisation
May Day
Debt relief

Explained
25.06.2002: G8 summit
07.09.2001: IMF
04.09.2001: World Bank

Background and resources
31.10.2002: What is globalisation?
31.10.2002: Globalisation: good or bad?
31.10.2002: Globalisation: world-changing or word-changing?

TO THE IDIOTS JAMES AND MOON 03.Aug.2004 02:07

I CAN'T WASTE MY TIME TO EDUCATE YOU, PLEASE DO IT YOURSELF

.