Columns » Hightower

The cost of cutting people and pay



1 comment

Wall Street analysts tell us that Amazon's $14 billion buyout of Whole Foods Market is not only a win-win for both of them — but also for consumers, as Amazon intends to lower the organic grocer's prices.

Really? Yes, say the analysts, because Amazon will use its amazing computer-driven tactics to cut Whole Foods' cost of selling groceries. But Amazon's robotic "efficiency" is achieved by cutting people. It ruthlessly squeezes suppliers, demanding that they give bankrupt-level wholesale prices to the retail colossus. That means small organic farmers and food artisans are destined to be squeezed out of Whole Foods, displaced by deep-pocket, global food makers willing to cut corners on quality and the environment in order to get on Amazon's new grocery shelves.

Next comes Whole Foods' helpful and friendly workforce. Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO, doesn't view workers as assets, but as costs, so to jack up the grocery chain's profit he'll cut those "costs" — aka, people. He's already testing a store concept that has no cashiers to interfere with your shopping "experience," using computer sensors to take your money electronically, instead of paying bothersome humans to do the job of checking you out and — God forbid — conversing with you.

Oh, another plus of connecting us to the corporate computers: They will track and record our every move and every purchase, building a detailed personal profile on each of us. Meanwhile, the Associated Press says the U.S. job market has "settled into a sweet spot of steadily solid growth," but notes that the market is still missing any "broad acceleration in pay."

So if you can find work, don't expect to be paid. And forget about such "luxuries" as health coverage, pension, sick leave, vacation time and having a regular schedule. These are not jobs, they're jobettes! Most are in service work — from fast-food chains to nursing homes and car washes. Nearly all are poorly paid, temporary and routinely exploitative.

So many families have been in dire economic straits for so long that they're now having to take such onerous, one-sided terms of employment. This, ironically, increases the power of low-wage corporations that rationalize obscene salaries and bonuses for top executives by pointing to those same profits the executives take out of the workers' paychecks.

This selfish, self-perpetuating expansion of inequality is no "sweet spot" of solid growth — it's the sign of a severely sick economy.

And it will kill all hope of a democratic America unless We the People rise up to reject the plutocratic profiteers and politicians who're inflicting such deadly disparity on our society.

You can contact Hightower at


Showing 1-1 of 1


Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast