Corporate Corruption

Corporate Corruption

It has always been a them versus us situation.
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The Gilded Age thrived on the power of industry and the excess of the wealthy; robber barons like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and J.P. Morgan were able to build empires out of arising inventions and factory labor. The same time, America was also expanding its borders and filling it with these presumed reaps of the American Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, this came at a cost. Even with the additions of continental railroads, America’s attempt at maintaining a prominent sense of unification and interconnection under broadened borders was unsuccessful. The country still fell apart to divisions; there was the North, South, and West.

James Madison and John Locke foresaw the temptation that would arise out of such circumstances. Great divisions meant many tribulations for the government to overcome; politicians would have to build immunity against the desire for a centralized seat of power as a counter to control the vast lands that America populated; centralization warranted a weak republic, easily left to the mercy of powerful interest groups. Unfortunately, the government that arose out of Reconstruction and that was born out of the Gilded Age was exactly that - centralized.

Anyone who dared oppose such corruption, or obvious display of labor of representative exploitation, were often silenced by the affluent powerhouses of the Gilded Age. Most famously, these said powerhouses harbored an expressive fear of labor unions who were the primary opposers of labor inequality - a social issue that was often ignored by government officials due to their associations with victimizing corporations.

Labor unions, the only safeguards against corporate corruption, were ineffective during the Gilded Age. They were silenced by powerhouses like robber baron, Andrew Carnegie. In general, politicians like Beveridge, Cleveland, and Hill too, were impervious to the struggles of those in the factories, railroads, and farms. They were resistant to their plights, even when events like the Homestead Strike occurred, and when journalists like Upton Sinclair, came about with stories broadcasting the harsh conditions in which they labored under. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, was published in 1906 during the height of the Industrial Revolution. His book focused on the new immigrants of America, a demography primarily composing the working class of America, and how they were exploited without regard. In his novel, he perfectly surmised the population which Beveridge and other politicians neglected:

"Here was a population, low-class and mostly foreign, hanging always on the verge of starvation, and dependent for its opportunities of life upon the whim of men every bit as brutal and unscrupulous as the old-time slave drivers under such circumstances immorality was exactly as inevitable, and as prevalent, as it was under the system of chattel slavery...only they did not show...difference in color between master and slave" (Sinclair 151).

Sinclair saw with clear eyes the frightening truth of what was happening to America, saw that “the great corporations which employed you lied to you, and lied to the whole country,” - he saw and wrote what was happening, yet nothing was done to save the corrupted democracy which America had fallen into (88).

Unfortunately, the end of the Gilded Age did not mean the extinction of corruption. To this day, there is still a disparity between social classes as a preference for the wealthy is still prevalent. American policymaking is still biased towards the elite and disregards the middle and lower class. Higher wage occupations and rewards are still being given out to those with elite, professional jobs and are inaccessible from those starting from the bottom of the ladder. Those at the lower end of the professional world are subjected to lower salaries, weaker unions, and expendable positions.

The Founding Fathers of America based off the government from John Locke’s idea of a Social Contract. They believed that human beings did need a government which they would give some of their individual rights to, in return for them agreeing to essentially protect the people from their worst vices. The economy of the Gilded Age was unstable and unequal; it saw a preference for the wealthy and a brutal disregard for those beneath them. It created a hierarchy that gave power to to the affluent elite, which in turn gave them the ability to influence political decisions that were advantageous for them and their businesses. Journals, such as those analyzed by William Reuter, and novels, like The Jungle, were ignored by the majority of those they were preaching to. Both Robber Barons and conniving businessmen, like Carnegie and Tweed, were able to evade persecution and correction for unfair labor conditions and illegal monetary decisions respectively, because politicians willingly overlooked them to preserve their precious relationship with the companies. Politicians, like Albert Beveridge, pushed for repeals and policies unfavorable and inconsiderate of the effects it would have on the working class who were already suffering. Locke’s government was superseded by an industrial government and failed to protect the American public because political parties looked towards “large capitalists who, in turn, expected subservience from the politicians, especially on issues affecting their businesses," said Leon Fink, the author of Major Problems in the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era: Documents and Essays.

Today's society is built on capitalist ideals, and while there is no fault on that, there is a fault on how it is thriving. As the majority, it is up to today's citizens to proactively be aware of any labor affronts and to be able to both address and rectify them. Only then might there be a truly stable and justified capitalist society.

Cover Image Credit: Christopher Dombres

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8 Things You Need To Know About Selling On Redbubble

Everyone buys their stickers from Redbubble, but have you ever wanted to be the one making them?
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As someone who loves to fool around in Photoshop and Illustrator, I saw Redbubble as a chance to flex my skills as a graphic designer. The massive popularity of them provided me with an opportunity to make a little money on the side doing something I not only enjoyed but could do when the mood struck me. It seemed like a win-win, but there were a few things I wish I knew before I started making stickers.

1. Don't expect to be rolling in dough.

It took a month and maybe 10 different designs before I sold any of my stickers. I joined in October of 2017, and I have sold about 20 stickers.

2. Redbubble stickers are expensive for a reason.

At this point, I have sold about 20 stickers which may seem like a lot, until you find out how much I make per sticker. The artist sets how much they make after Redbubble’s share, so artists can set it as low as 0% profit (which means the sticker sells for $2.29).

3. Buying 10 and getting 50% off is great when you're the one buying the stickers...

...but it sucks when you’re the one selling them. I make an average of 20% per sticker, so when you buy my $2.75 sticker for $1.38, I only make 23¢.

4. Make things you would buy.

If there’s something you want to buy, but it doesn’t exist, make it. Keep in mind as well that if you wouldn't buy it, odds are that not too many other people would.

5. Try to offer variations.

You might make a design in blue and love it, but consider offering it in different colors. Someone might love the design but hate the color.

6. Make your designs as versatile as possible.

Redbubble is primarily known for its stickers, but your designs can be put on anything from a poster to a wall clock. Take advantage of that because more expensive items mean you make more for the same design when they sell.

7. Keywords are KEY.

You want your designs to be as visible as possible, so take advantage of all the tools they give you. Try to tag your design with anything that might relate to it; you want it to pop up in as many tags as possible.

8. Do your research.

If you are interested in making something, search one of the keywords and see how many results there are for it. Sometimes there is a need, and you can fill it.

I have enjoyed my time on Redbubble nonetheless, and I recommend it to anyone who likes to design or draw. It’s certainly not a good way to get rich quick, but I enjoy it. Every time someone purchases one of my stickers, I feel this rush of pride in knowing someone liked something that I designed. That's a big reason why I continue to put designs on Redbubble.



Cover Image Credit: Meagan McDowell

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11 Financial Tips For College Grads Who Don't Know Where To Start

Most people learn how to navigate their finances as they go, at the cost of making several mistakes and starting good habits later than they should've. Don't be like most people!

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Adulting is hard, especially when it comes to money. If you're like me and you took a personal finance class in high school or college, you probably don't remember much because the information wasn't relevant to you at the time. Well, now you're almost done with college and you're ready to be welcomed into the real world as a freshly-minted adult. Suddenly you realize that class was probably one of the most important classes you ever could've taken.

Here are 11 tips to start making money moves today.

1. Start building your credit

It may not seem important now, but it's a good idea to start building your credit early. In three to five years or so, when you're ready to apply for a car or home loan, you're going to want to be approved to get the best interest rates, and that means having a credit score of at least 760. See tips two and three for more on how to increase your credit score.

2. Open a credit card if you don't have one already

One huge factor in your credit score is how long your oldest credit card account has been open, so you want to make sure to start early. A first card many people get is called a "secured" credit card, which basically acts like a debit card so the bank knows you won't go all "Shopaholic" and max it out. Make sure to pay every single one of your monthly payments on time and in full. No excuses, no exceptions.

3. Make all of your student loan payments on time and in full

JUST DO IT.

4. Embrace the concept of paying yourself first

Paying yourself first is a concept that many millionaires, even billionaires, swear by. Decide how much of your income you want to save. Then set up a portion of your paycheck to deposit directly into your savings before you can even think about it. The rest can go to your checking account for spending on bills, food, rent, and other expenses.

5. Build a three- to six-month emergency fund

Did you know that 33% of Americans would struggle to pay $1,000 in an emergency? This is a serious issue. You don't want to ever experience living "paycheck to paycheck," let alone have a minor crisis throw your life upside down. That's why you're going to build this emergency fund before you do anything else with your money. Think of this fund as something that you can't touch until you absolutely need it. If and when that time comes, you'll know, and you'll be so grateful that you were smart and were prepared.

6. Open a Roth IRA

There are so many things to be said about Roth IRAs and why you should get one as a new college graduate. In short, IRA stands for Individual Retirement Account. A Roth IRA is unique because any money you put into it is taxed now, so you won't have to pay taxes on it when you're retired and ready to use it. The main benefit: you also won't have to pay any taxes on the money you earn in the account. In addition, because you're young, you get to take advantage of the power of compound interest for a long time before you retire. This could potentially earn you hundreds of thousands of dollars. The best time to open a Roth IRA was yesterday. So go do it now!

7. Contribute as much as possible to your 401k

A 401k is basically an investment bank account that you can't use until you retire, and it will be taxed once you start using it (so it is not taxed now). Many employers offer 401k matching, and they open one up for you when you start your first job. If your employer offers 100% matching up to 6% of your salary, that means that if you can afford to put 6% of your income into your 401k, your employer will also contribute the exact same amount. Listen to me: this is free money. I like free money. You like free money. Take it.

8. Open a high-yield savings account

This is 2019. Don't keep your money in cash or in a regular savings account, where it'll depreciate 2-3% in value every single year it sits there. Get yourself a high-yield savings account, in which interest rates are anywhere between 2.0 and 2.25%, and watch your money make money while you sleep.

9. Start tracking your spending

Since it has become much easier to make quick and painless purchases these days, you should definitely be aware of your spending. I personally like to use a free app, like Mint, that does all the work for you because it puts all of your financial accounts (ie. savings and checking accounts, investments, loans, assets, etc.) into one place.

10. Create a monthly budget for each of your spending categories

These include food, housing, transportation, entertainment, subscriptions, health and wellness, and maybe more. You should know the things you always buy on a monthly basis and how much they typically cost. Comparing your budget to what you really spent after a month will show you exactly where your weaknesses are. Try to stay at or under your budget for each category every month unless there's an unusual event, like a vacation or a car repair.

11. Learn the basics of investing

Compared to the other tips on this list, this is one you can put on the back-burner for a bit. However, that doesn't make it any less important. It's critical for everyone who is financially independent to understand the basics of stocks, bonds, Exchange-Traded Funds, Mutual Funds, REITs, and more that you can use to diversify your portfolio, including in your new Roth IRA and 401k!

What are you waiting for? Up your financial game!

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