Friday, January 13, 2012

The 99% and the 0.000001%

If you ever wondered why it's so hard for the 99% to find entry level employment in the US maybe it's a case of the "inmate took my job".

I still had this antiquated view of prison work programs of where prisoners were stamping out license plates. My how times have changed....

"The federal government calls it "the best-kept secret in outsourcing" — providing inmates to staff call centers and other services in both the private and public sectors.

The U.S. government, through a 75-year-old program called Federal Prison Industries, makes about $750 million a year providing prison labor, federal records show.

Inmates provide private call center service, including data review and sales lead generation, for "some of the top companies in America" under a federal mandate to help companies repatriate jobs they have outsourced overseas.

When New York residents call the Department of Motor Vehicles, for example, they might get an inmate at Greene Correctional Institution in Coxsackie, near Albany, or at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women near White Plains."

I think there is a good deal of merit in training people to have marketable skills that they can use after they pay their debt to society. However, I struggle with a couple of ideas here:

* Private companies can utilize this prison labor at significantly lower rates than they might otherwise have to pay a traditional employee.

* The government is in effect subsidizing these businesses by offering below market labor.

If the prisoners (or the state) were paid an equal wage to that of a traditional employee than I think you could argue that this is a win/win but when some prisoners are being paid $0.50/hour I think the market is thrown out of whack.  What do you think?

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When I first read this story, I thought it had to be a joke especially in an era of smartphones, twitter, etc. 

Apparently, one company has figured out that not all wealthy people are very bright and to capitalize on this phenomenon they introduced the Black Astrum line of business cards.  These hand crafted, diamond encrusted business cards are available only to the special few that are "invited" to pay roughly $1,500 PER BUSINESS CARD!!  Want to get a set of 100 to impress your friends and family?  That will be the cost of a starter home.  For that price I think you'd better make sure your phone number and email doesn't change very often. 

Ah, life is good for the 0.000001%.

I think I'll stick with Vistaprint for all my business card needs :)

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Cheers!

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