You Make Money Doing What?: Musing on the $1B Facebook IPO and Wage Labor

via Huff Post article “Majoring in Debt

There have been three things on my mind this week. The first is the labor of graduate students and adjuncts. The second is student debt. The third is the Facebook IPO and who makes money off of what. Yup, it’s going to be one of those kinds of posts.

Yesterday, I mentioned the amount of labor that is going into teaching and she sat me down and she told me that her momma saw the amount of work she was doing as an instructor and student and said “Honey, you are an indentured servant”.


She went on to tell me, yes #allcity you need to teach and you Love it, but you are here to leave with a finished product. Your work is brilliant, write and keep writing, find a finished product by someone in your field and decide how much attention your teaching will receive. Learn what the unstated rules are and proceed accordingly. #jesusbeaFenceforBlackgirls.

I was both relieved by her words because I did plan on writing all day, even though I have a slight temperature. I tend to have some of the best ideas about writing when I have a temp. I was also bummed out by her words, because I thought, what if she were not there to say these things to me. But she is, and I am grateful.

I know that the US graduates more law students than there are lawyer jobs, and I would imagine that there are more undergraduate students graduated than their are entry-level jobs. The fact that there are more trained people than their are jobs allows for employers to pick the employee who is willing to accept the lowest pay. How is this humane?

Inside Higher Ed had an interesting article up earlier this week titled “Among the Majority” by Michael Bérubé about the state of academia and how 70% of jobs are taught by people who have part-time contracts.

The article has several nuggets.

The first is that,

Adjunct, contingent faculty members now make up over 1 million of the 1.5 million people teaching in American colleges and universities.

The second is that,
40 years ago, 80 percent of America’s college teachers enjoyed the protection of tenure, whereas now only 54 percent do.
In the third point, he quotes John Rhoades saying,
 colleges promote themselves, especially to first-generation students, as a pathway to the middle class — but, increasingly, colleges do not pay middle-class wages to their own faculty members. The contradiction is deepest at the lowest tiers of the academic hierarchy, where, Rhoades said, underpaid adjunct faculty members are effectively “modeling what is acceptable as an employment practice.”
I think that what many people are unable to see is that the status of graduate student workers and adjunct employees isn’t an exception to the rule but more like the rule in 2012 and beyond.
In a culture were undergraduate students are routinely saddled with tens and thousands of dollars up debt upon graduation, how can this not be a version of indentured servitude? School loan debt is greater than credit card debt in the US. Yet, if you are working class, and the first person in your family to go to college, who in the hell is going to tell you that Sallie Mae and them are going to want their money rain, shine or earthquakes.

Which brings me to the Facebook IPO. As a scholar I do political economy, so I am always paying attention to how money moves. I had several questions after having seen the $100B IPO numbers.

How is it possible for company to be “valued” at 100 billion dollars when it doesn’t make a material product?

What does it produce? I will wait. #SmoothesSkirt. It doesn’t produce anything material, you do. It is your personal information, or the personal information of the nearly 800 million users.

If a corporation’s primary duty is  to it’s shareholders what is to stop them from compromising user data for profit?

David Rushkoff states that,

the more money Facebook takes on, the more like money it will become. In other words, when a social media company is a social media upstart, it will have vastly different motives than the motives it has when it’s responsible for acting in the best interest of its shareholder — a requirement for being a publicly traded company.

I am not sure what to make of all of this, however I do know that it isn’t sustainable.

1 million of the 1.5 million college instructors are teaching on a contract as temporary employees, student debt is higher than credit card debt and Facebook just IPO’d with a 1 billion dollar valuation.


Why You Pay for Shit Twice in the Hood.

Image courtesy Faith in Action.

I just received an email about a digital farm network in Dallas, and I thought, this is interesting.

I often have conversations with @afrolicious and @tomphilpott
about how to use technology to bridge the gap between farmers and people who buy food.

There is a lot of money being made off of people who live in the hood and this is why if you live in the hood you pay for shit twice, and the endless need for profit/growth plays a huge role.

Last fall, my professor said that a unit of profit requires exploitation. What she meant by this is that in order for someone to profit, someone else has to take a short.

Look at it like this, if you are working at Target, making $7 an hour, Target is making arguably $100 to $200 dollars an hour off of you. You are taking the short, and the corporation is keeping the rest.  What if you were able to keep more of the money you earned for them? Life would be different. On top of that, most of the items that we get from stores are from factories in China, Mexico, Haiti and the Phillipines where women work earning $2 per day. Again, those women are taking the short.

How do people pay for shit twice in the hood. Poverty is lucrative. People who own businesses in the hood make money charging incredible prices for the day to day things needed to survive.

The first example that comes to mind is a New York times article where Barbara Ehrenreich talks about the “ghetto tax” and how being poor is expensive. She writes,

  • “Poor people are less likely to have bank accounts..”
  • .”..low-income car buyers…pay more for car loans than more affluent buyers.”
  • “Low-income drivers pay more for car insurance.”
  • “They are more likely to buy their furniture and appliances through pricey rent-to-own businesses.”
  • “They are less likely to have access to large supermarkets and hence to rely on the far more expensive…convenient stores.”

When you add that all up, you really get a sense of how when you live in the hood you pay more for services and products, just because you live in the hood.

The example of how poverty is expensive is Rafi and Dallas’ video Check Mate. Checkmate analyzes why people in the hood use check cashing places rather than banks, why there are arguably no banks in the hood and how check cashing spots,  pawn shops and gold chain shops operate to seperate the people who don’t have a lot of money from the little bit of bread that they do have.

So people in the hood pay more for mortgages, food, care insurance, furniture, banking or check cashing.

Let me focus on food for a minute.

For a long time I thought that the issue around food and social justice was that we just need have more locally sourced food. But the thing about this is that all cities and states are not created equal.

We don’t get our oranges from Idaho.

Because I come from Oakland, where lemons, limes, tomatoes, rosemary and avocados grow everwhere, I assumed that local was the solution.

It isn’t. More than anything, a solution will be food systems, bodega’s, grocery stores, co-ops, farmers markets where earning a profit, and accumulating ENDLESS profit isn’t the main directive or inspiration.

We have been raised to think that everyone can profit, that growth will always increase. Growth or the endless accumulation of profit has real consequences on the quality of life of people in the hood, and it shows. Peace to South East DC. Peace to East Oakland.

Growing and distributing food and ensuring that low income Latina women in Bushwick, and affluent Jewish women on the upper east side both have access to good, fresh reasonably priced fresh food and vegetables is what I envision.

@Umair talks a lot about this  issue of corporations thinking about the bottom line second or even third his blog.

I know that I am talking about a new society here. But isn’t it time?

Do you pay for things twice?

Have you moved from the hood to the suburbs?

Where you surprised by how much cheaper things were?