Black Underworld Inc. – Part III

In Part II of Black Underworld Inc., the economic repercussions of foreign and American exploitation in Central America has sired many, if not most of our modern illegal immigration-refugee problems at our southern border. Economic indicators over 35-years show substantial income per capita inequality in Texas, the state that makes up half of the southern border as well as one of four states that immigrants-refugees might first enter. The reality is most illegal immigrants enter the U.S. through points-of-entry like airports and seaports, and stay well beyond their visas when here then disappear into the general population. A tiny percentage actually gain entrance through our southern border.

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there are five (5) sectors driving the current national economy and have been for many years. Construction and Retail/Service are #3 and #4 respectively. Both of these U.S. industries illegally hire tens of thousands of low-wage workers via contractors, subcontractors, by mid-size and small businesses. Mega-corporations rarely do because they are high profile and therefore utilize buffer methods, or scapegoat contractors. In Texas and the U.S. this unprincipled, illegal labor finessing has become a booming underworld relationship, benefiting America’s upper 10% – 20% along with the mega-corporations or companies they own or are employed by.

The fact that the other three big driving GDP sectors of the U.S. economy—healthcare, technology, and non-durable manufacturing—demand highly educated, degreed, sector-specific experienced workers able to garner high wages. This trend has another domino effect. Sparse high-wage jobs channel most U.S. citizens or Texans without the under or post-grad degrees, or impeccable industry-experience into low-wage construction or retail/service occupations once again profiting the upper 1% – 20% of the nation’s population. This in turn contributes to America’s amassing economic inequality and a host of other domestic hardships and unlawful markets.

The More Extreme the Inequality, the More Extreme the Converse Abuses and Crimes

The majority of the U.S. economic wealth in 2014 was accumulated in 18 firms or corporations. The Hill reports:

[Those 18 firms hold] 36 percent of all wealth last year, a jump from 27 percent in 2009 with the gap expected to widen further, according to a report from Standard & Poor’s, a New York-based credit rater.

That means that out of a record $1.53 trillion in cash and short-term investments held by U.S. corporations the wealthiest 18 held about $535 billion.

“In our view, current U.S. corporate tax policy and accommodating credit market conditions have been primarily responsible for this growing wealth gap,” the report said.

Furthermore, the wealthiest top 20 percent held 89 percent of total cash, leaving only 11 percent for the bottom 80 percent of firms.

The top 1 percent are mostly investment-grade businesses — Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Apple, Oracle, Ford, Coca-Cola and Boeing — and are concentrated in technology and healthcare industries.

By utilizing advantages of foreign deposits and other minor investments, these 18 wealthiest corporations mostly or completely avoid their ethical and taxable obligations back home.

The corporate analysis shows that the top 1 percent gets about 55 percent of its revenues offshore, and that more than half of the cash flow is generated overseas, as well.

That cash is rarely brought onshore because of the U.S.’s 35 percent tax rate, which would be on top of the taxes paid in the country in which the revenue was generated.

“As a result, overseas cash continues to accumulate untouched,” the report said.

US-wealth-distribution-chart-07-16

click here to enlarge

Before stepping into the lethal venomous part of BU Inc., it is critical for readers to fully grasp the gravity of obscured, illegal American labor practices and abuses onto economically average and below-average Texas and U.S. citizens. This cannot exclude exploitation of abundant undocumented workers and the corporate evading of fair, compulsory reinvestment back into our nation’s general well-being via effective statutory tax rates. I am hence obliged to drive home how grim this toxic disparity has become, how misconstrued Americans perceive it and the ulcerating consequences of the American (and Texas) naïvety or shirking of the elephant in the room.

In order for a single person to live alone safely and comfortably in 50 of the biggest U.S. cities one must earn (in 2014) an average of $57,879 per annum—in Texas’ seven largest cities it is an average per annum of $50,686 with San Antonio the lowest and Houston the highest, $46,238 and $60,795 respectively. As I noted in Part II, the per capita annual income of Texans in 2017 was only $28,985 for about roughly ±25-million Texans. The American population, according to a 2011 study, of any political persuasion grossly underplays the nation’s true wealth inequality.

And so as the elephant of growing severe inequality continues to lounge unimpeded in our room of false patriotic optimism, then the horrors of the darkest parts of BU Inc. here in our own backyard will continue to feast and cannibalize our malnourished middle and lower classes.

Essentially, the wealthy possess greater financial opportunities that allow their money to make more money. Earnings from the stock market or mutual funds are reinvested to produce a larger return. Over time, the sum that is invested becomes progressively more substantial. Those who are not wealthy, however, do not have the resources to enhance their opportunities and improve their economic position. Rather, “after debt payments, poor families are constrained to spend the remaining income on items that will not produce wealth and will depreciate over time.” Scholar David B. Grusky notes that “62 percent of households headed by single parents are without savings or other financial assets.” Net indebtedness generally prevents the poor from having any opportunity to accumulate wealth and thereby better their conditions.
Causes of Wealth Inequality, Wikipedia, accessed Feb. 24, 2019

Whether the abuses and crimes take place on this side of our southern border or just across it in Mexico or clear down to Colombia in South America and everywhere in between—a small part in a enormous picture is not a “crisis” and especially not a national emergency—then we native-born U.S. citizens, our corporations, and our federal and state governments have a major role in how we address, reduce, and cure ourselves of the venom and pestilence we have helped create and sustain. Vague political rhetoric does not make the beast go away.

Tentacles of Our BU Inc. Monster

There are at least fourteen (14) known tentacles to this insatiable monster. Its den of Lords, its associates and offspring are too numerous to count and as difficult to identify. Ignored for so many decades and as many to prepare and countervail, the BU Inc. beast has slithered into a litany of feeding grounds. Some are familiar I assume, others maybe not so much:

Tentacles of the Beast

I will probe only five of these tentacles since there is not enough time to probe all fourteen and I could not do each justice and the exposure they deserve in this series. However, if you would like to read brief summaries of the other nine black (tentacle) markets then click here. Following are the five I believe harbor, amplify, and distribute plutocracy, not democracy, increased tyranny and the worst of human trauma and suffering to disadvantaged millions and their families. That in turn rewards the few BU Inc. kings, lords, their associates and spawn. Concluding this 4-part series will be a close up ugly and frightful look into America’s illegal gambling, phony pharma, human trafficking, ghost guns, and the human organ trade. The black byproducts of America’s unlawful corporate grey market.

And also in my conclusion I will share some one-on-one personal stories of three homeless people out of ten I spoke with over the last 12-months. Just over a mile away from where I currently live is a part of Dallas called Preston Hollow. Further up a bit is North Dallas where the Dallas North Tollway cuts through on its way to Addison and Frisco, Texas, two suburbs that are some of the wealthiest in the DFW Metroplex. Barely over 1,400 feet from me to the south then east of 75/Central Expressway is a large number of rotating, roaming homeless persons.

I met six of them at one nearby convenient store where they often loiter hoping to receive money or food and drink. The other four I met were not too far away either. There I often purchase my car’s gasoline at another convenient store that borders one of our many city public transit rail-stations. In this area are two or three times as many homeless people roaming and loitering for the exact same help. The stark demarcations of haves and have nots within a 2 ½ square mile area is remarkable and curious. I hope you can return to read their personal stories that speak directly to what my BU Inc. series reveals:  how and why these underworld markets thrive and who suffers.

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Black Underworld Inc. – Part II

Previously in Part I we learned that what happened then—119-years ago in our Pan-American hemisphere—ripple-effects what happens now and into the near and not-so-distant future both in prosperous and horrible ways. Part I was the more visible and dirty, complex public domain where historical facts and political motivations are not always freely attained nor aggressively sought by the average American. Here with Part II let’s follow the Pan-American histories of the 19th and early 20th century and examine what is going on today on the north side of our nation’s southern border.

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Involved with the North American FTA’s covered in Part I and their decades socioeconomic impact on Caribbean and Latin American nations (CLAN) are the foreign corporation’s abilities to conquer the CLAN’s through Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanisms. There are two development distinctions between politicized “economic development” and how much of that development by foreign “investments” are really stimulating and occurring inside the CLAN’s, or not, and how much “foreign stimulus” is benefiting the investing, foreign corporate pacts. From Dr. Walter Ferrier, University of Kentucky:

Through the 1990s, foreign multinational corporations (MNCs) seemed unrelenting in their quest to invest in and conquer this culturally rich land of more than 500 million people, upwardly mobile consumers, and promising industrial markets. Between 1991 and 2001, the ownership of the 500 largest companies in Latin America changed dramatically, with non-Latin multinational ownership growing to 39 percent from 27 percent. (see Exhibit 1 and 2 below.) The rising foreign competition pressured local Latin companies, which historically served only their home-country markets, to consolidate and expand into other Latin American countries, transforming themselves into “multilatinas.”
Multinationals vs. Multilatinas: Latin America’s Great Race, Gatton College of Business & Economics, University of Kentucky

Exhibits 1 and 2

click here to enlarge

Also mentioned in Part I, the Latin populace rightly protested in the streets against foreign Multinational FTA’s (and BIT’s) that ultimately did benefit those foreign interests. Since 2009 Multilatina investment pacts are slowly able to acquire some CLAN foothold, but in doing so they become competitive threats to powerful American and foreign investment groups and their international law firms.

However, to date few local Latin firms have taken on the world or tried to create large multilatinas. In fact, very few Latin American companies earn more than 50 percent of their revenue outside their domestic market. […]

The post-2000 stock market collapse, currency devaluations, mounting political disorder, and the prospect of defaults on debt obligations have considerably reduced both the rate and the value of foreign investment in Latin America.
Multinationals vs. Multilatinas: Latin America’s Great Race, Gatton College of Business & Economics, University of Kentucky

Since the early and mid-20th century, perhaps too going back to the Age of Imperialism, Latin America’s and the Caribbean’s prosperity has essentially been dictated or at minimum heavily influenced by North American and European interests and their own economic stability or volatility and recessions. This 118-years of exploitation created the modern Black Underworld Inc., then creating further repercussions domestically to the USA. What are some examples of those American-made repercussions?

Big Texas and American Businesses Perpetuate BU Inc.

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It’s the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. We live in a society where we don’t really want to acknowledge that… precisely because business depends on those workers.Bill Beardall, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Center – Austin, TX

Minimum wage in Texas is $7.25 per hour, $290 per 40-hour week, or just $15,080 per year. This wage was last changed in 2008 from $6.55 per hour. The vast majority of the jobs that pay minimum wage are food preparation/servers, restaurant dishwashers, retail cashiers, hosts or hostesses, cinema ushers/ticket-takers, and farm workers (any farm). Just 19-years ago it was $3.35 in 2000. The latest Texas per capita income (2017), in other words for legal, documented citizens was $28,985 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That figure amounts to a $13.93 per hour wage. Texas has a minimum (legal) population of 28,300,000 assessed in 2017. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 6.3% of that 28-million people (i.e. just 1.8 million people) earn over $200,000 per year, or a $98.16 per hour wage.

Yes, the economic inequality or simply the buying power of those 26.5 million average Texas consumer-laborers (see this Texas Tribune article) is frankly atrocious by American standards, particularly in light of rising housing and living costs in an economic model that in so many ways favors and rewards wealth (or proven credit) with more wealth/credit. Texas’ disproportionate wages does not include those wages of the border states:  southern California, Arizona, or New Mexico.

And yet despite the wage disparity, oddly enough the U.S. apparently has a big illegal, undocumented immigrant and refugee crisis according to Conservative Republican rhetoric reports, but more bizarre is that we have no hiring or labor crisis. To be honest, in the entire context “border security” immigration is just a small component of a bigger dynamic, but it is not a crisis, much less a National Emergency. What the causes are is never quick or simple to pinpoint. It’s not just one cause either.

No Shortage of Low-Wage Jobs for Illegal Immigrants-Refugees

Within the larger historical political context the United States has a significant debt and responsibility to many decades of political and financial instability/poverty in the Caribbean and Central America since 1901. Recently, one of the major contributing factors of illegal immigrant entrances—that many erroneously describe as a “crisis”—is the constant available work undocumented Latinos and Afro-Caribbeans can easily find throughout the U.S. and here in Texas. Unauthorized immigrants are constantly “hired” illegally by Texas employers and businesses. The current enabling by American-Texas illegal hiring practices creates a non-stop merry-go-round of U.S. invite, seduced migration then/or deportation, and false work/reward dreams to Latinos going back to 1992, but in several ways even to the 1980’s with Ronald Reagan’s overt and covert interventions in Latin America.

unauthorized-immigrants-testimony-REPORT-03+05

click here to enlarge

As reported by one of the nation’s most unbiased news and media organizations, The Texas Tribune, in 2016 – 2017 launched an investigative project over several months into U.S. border security, immigration, the reality and the rhetoric. Their findings in “Bordering on Insecurity” are painfully sobering and about as far away from patriotic pride as an American could ever muster, unless hypocritically mustered. I will briefly pull from this outstanding and extensive report.

Let’s not forget that our U.S. Capitol building, the White House, and many buildings and landmarks in Washington D.C. and throughout the entire U.S. proper—most of the fifty States—heavy hard labor and construction inside the ‘Land of the Beautiful’ was mostly done on the backs of slaves and minorities. During modern times of prosperity, booming business and economic stimuli, certain disadvantaged ethnic groups still do all the hard labor for exploitative wages and labor abuses by their supervisors and employers:

Though it’s illegal, brothers Israel and José Martinez [native Mexicans] have no shortage of work, moving from one construction job to the next in the ongoing building boom of Central Texas. They’ve worked on homes in affluent communities along the Upper Colorado River and renovated sprawling apartments in North Austin. They were on a crew that erected a new health center at a high-end retirement community, and as expert masons have built luxury pools, interior chimneys and backyard grilling stations. […]

In all their years in Texas, Israel and José — pseudonyms, since both asked that their real names not be published — have experienced a lot. One thing they say they haven’t seen: U.S. citizens doing the heavy lifting on construction projects.

“We’ve never seen any Americans carrying cement, picking up stone, working from sunup to sundown,” Israel said. “Never.”

This is the economic and social reality in which the brothers, and millions of other unauthorized immigrants, find themselves — a country so reliant on cheap labor that substantial portions of the economy are built largely on the backs of immigrants willing to do work most Americans won’t, and for lower pay.
Bordering on Insecurity, The Texas Tribune by Travis Putnam Hill, December 2016

Because of Wild Wild West circumvention, good ole boy private agreements, and rear-door activities by (usually) well-educated or street-smart, unscrupulous, native-born American big business owners and supervisors, they’ve learned over decades how to finish “under budget and before deadlines.” With this success comes higher motivation for repeating their illegal rewards for the project-foremen and upper/middle management, and habits are formed blatantly bypassing lawful prohibitions of hiring workers illegally. Next, their competitors duplicate the illegal methods and work abuses to stay in the game of hyper-capitalism… and the vicious cycle continues. Much of the time these native-born American and Texas executives and hiring managers silently know, before and during work projects, that casual oversight in hiring and paycheck finagling are not only illegal, but they also ignore the long-term DAMAGE to many American principles and values. More audacious is that these same good ole boys publicly and “patriotically” rally and campaign for diversionary “problems” in election years. The rally speeches are all the same, the usual vague, oversimplified political rhetoric from candidates. But the damages and the ignored red-white-blue “elephant in the room,” as Beardall described, do not stop there.

Another negative side-effect from these native-born patriotic American business owner’s/employer’s and their subversive double-standard practices cheat all American citizens out of public state and federal tax-funded services and programs:

Many undocumented immigrants also find informal work paid in cash under the table, often at rates far below minimum wage, and the employer can pretend they were never hired.

Operating in the shadows of this clandestine labor market puts the workers in a vulnerable position: Yes, jobs are plentiful, but only in exchange for working long hours for low pay and little recourse against unscrupulous employers who cheat or exploit them.
Bordering on Insecurity, The Texas Tribune by Travis Putnam Hill, December 2016

And these unethical, illegal practices by (advantaged, wealthy, white?) American and Texas business owners and supervisors create more negative ripple-effects of social, economic, domestic, and illegally explicit temptations and behaviors. These are the native-born Americans with criminal records and/or ties to organized crime-groups which prey upon the thousands of undocumented immigrants. The snaring of illegal, struggling immigrant workers fuel increased problems of drug addiction/abuse, drug dealing or running, further public mental-health problems—due to state or county clinic’s following proper, legal admission protocols so they go back out to the streets—and prostitution and/or sex-trafficking.

The Martinez brothers in the Tribune’s article are fortunate. They are mobile when they recognize employer abuses. The brothers state repeatedly just how ‘easy and endlessly available the service or construction jobs were to find.’ The never-ending availability of low-wage jobs is due in large part because the vast majority of college-educated young Americans are not seeking low-wage jobs after 4-5 years of going into thousands of dollars of debt or spending it to acquire their Bachelor’s degree. It was easy for Israel and José to work multiple 10-12 hour a day jobs, 365 days a year. However, as state and federal immigration policies become increasingly strict, he and his brother had to adapt or counter the new, stricter policies and laws:

[Now] they have to get past the laws that forbid their being hired. For many undocumented immigrants, that path forward is through fraudulent documents.

“The workers present false documents of the kind that the law requires the employer to inspect,” said Bill Beardall, executive director of the Equal Justice Center, a nonprofit law firm that represents low-wage workers, many of whom are undocumented, in employment rights disputes. “Now, the employers know this. The workers know this. The prohibition on hiring undocumented workers has stimulated the growth of that whole industry in creating false documents.”
Bordering on Insecurity, The Texas Tribune by Travis Putnam Hill, December 2016

Yes indeed, today large American and Texas corporation CEO’s, department Heads, Hiring Managers and Supervisors are for the most part familiar with the numerous benefits of low-wage illegal workers laundered through (sketchy) subcontractors. There are many who are so familiar with hiring and labor laws they know what not to see, hear, read or inspect closely. They also understand the buffering benefits of having scapegoats, ala Senior Executive Bunny Greenhouse of the USACE, Lt. Colonel Oliver North and National Security Advisor John Poindexter, Capt. Charles McVay of the USS Indianapolis, or famously PI Bryan Wagner employed by Board Member/External Director Patricia Dunn of Hewlett-Packard, or more famously Kareem Serageldin of the Credit Suisse Group.

Aeschylus quote

target+picAs the nation’s 39th ranked company in total revenues on the 2018 list of Fortune 500 American corporations, the Target Corporation and its many subsidiaries is the 8th largest retailer in the U.S. As of Sept. 2018 Target had 1,839 stores across the USA with 148 in Texas.

In 2004 or 2005 an Austin-area Target store hired/contracted a local janitorial-cleaning company, Jim’s Maintenance, to clean bathrooms, take out garbage, wash windows and carpets, and polish floors to a reflective white sheen, something the Target Corporation publicly prides itself. An undocumented Mexican immigrant nicknamed “Chunco” had been working for several contractors cleaning Target stores. Chunco told The Texas Tribune that all the cleaning-janitorial workers he’s ever known in those 12-years are illegal immigrants. They go in the stores between 10 and 11pm and are scheduled to leave between 7 or 8am on company records. However, he said, that rarely happened.

Target night managers locked them in and they couldn’t leave until a walk-through inspection by the manager was completed, usually well after 8:30 or 9am. Working this way in the wee-hour shadows puts Chunco and fellow immigrant workers at risk for exploitation. They were hired by Austin-area contractors and companies with full unspoken knowledge and oversight they were or might be unauthorized to work in the U.S. and Texas. Many times Chunco reported that he and fellow custodians were paid less than minimum wage and no overtime pay for working 7-day work weeks.

“We’ve realized that [employers] prefer us for being undocumented because we just keep our heads down to get jobs,” Chunco said. “[We] can’t afford to complain. They take advantage of us being undocumented.”

Chunco and 28 other custodians represented legally by the Equal Justice Center filed a lawsuit against Target and Jim’s Maintenance for unpaid wages and overtime. Despite the fact that it was Target night managers letting the workers in back doors late at night, directing them what to do for 10- or 12-hour shifts and letting them out the back doors late into the following morning, attorneys for the large retail corporation claimed they were not co-employers with Jim’s Maintenance. The case was eventually settled out of court in 2008. Jim’s Maintenance, however, had already been put out of business in 2006 because Target terminated its contract with him and withheld $496,000 in fees owed to Jim’s for its services. This buffering tactic has sometimes been called scapegoat contracting.

Executive Director of Austin’s Equal Justice Center Bill Beardall talked about how disadvantaged workers like Chunco are not informed by native Texas (or American) business owners and contractors of any labor rights they actually do possess:

“Employment rights apply equally to all workers, regardless of their immigration status,” Beardall said. “The problem is most undocumented workers don’t know that, and employers may not know that. If they do know that, they will nevertheless use those workers’ vulnerable immigration status to discourage them from enforcing their rights.”

h-e-b_plus-BurlesonThe H.E.B. Grocery Co. is a supermarket chain I am very familiar with; it was founded in 1905 in my Mom’s 20-year hometown of Kerrville, Texas, now based in San Antonio, Texas. Today H.E.B. and its many subsidiaries, including in Mexico, has 350+ locations with over $21-billion in revenues in 2018. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2017 ranking of retail stores, H.E.B. ranked 20th in the USA. Like the Target Corporation, H.E.B. also practices in scapegoat contractors.

In 2012, produce workers filed a class action lawsuit against Pastrana’s Produce and H.E.B. for cheating them out of minimum wages and overtime pay. As in the case with Target, the H.E.B.-Pastrana’s undocumented workers worked long 10-12 hour shifts and frequently 7-day work weeks. And…

As in the Target case, lawyers from the Equal Justice Center argued that the workers were jointly employed by H-E-B and Pastrana’s because they were a vital part of H-E-B’s business. They worked only in stores owned by H-E-B and under supervision of H-E-B managers, who determined their work hours and daily production.

Once again this case was also settled out of court with H.E.B. shouldering no responsibility for their ties and contract with Pastrana’s Produce. What is more aggravating to note is that in both of these cases the immigration status of the plaintiffs was never a concern in the court case! Care to guess why?

Consequently, like hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants and refugees, construction workers Israel and José Martinez step closer into illicit, illegal activity to keep jobs and keep working. Chunco is still cleaning the exact same bathrooms and floors of Austin-Target stores he always has for the last 14-years with a host of custodial companies all contracted by Target, but below minimum wage and still 10-12 hour shifts with no overtime pay. Yet, in their native countries everyone knows work in the U.S. is very easy to come by. So they come. And keep coming because the standard of living in their hometown or city is much worse and in many cases has been as far back as 1901, as covered in Part I.

For these immigrant workers and thousands of others who can find abundant work, but want some protection from exploitative Texas and American contractors, better hours, and better pay, they then slip into another side of a growing profiteering equation, the underground market of forged and falsified documents and I.D.’s. For each work document or I.D. a forger charges $100 – $1,000. This puts them at risk for another type of exploitation. But Israel and José Martinez are men. Associating with and having to depend on certain mechanisms and unethical or abusive people in positions of power over their American dreams, or its dormancy, or detection and arrest. It is a racket with daily temptations for the American-Texas extortionist or blackmailer. And these vulnerabilities for illegal, but hired workers are significantly higher for female teenagers and women, and possibly their children.

The Effectiveness of a Great Wall of China

On a final note, when there are hundreds to thousands of American corporations, business owners, upper and middle management supervisors/foremen illegally hiring undocumented immigrants—either directly or through scapegoat contractors—and have been doing it since at least the late 1990’s, what is any practical use of a fixed, and quite permeable 1,954 mile Medieval wall when American big businesses are (allowed) happy to give illegal immigrants jobs? A near 2,000 mile symbolic hurdle seems insanely asinine to me.

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In Part III I want to further peel back the uglier, illegal black market a majority of every day Americans know little about, are too busy and/or naïve to connect all the dots of how their own business-as-usual consumer-values and American corporate profit-models fueled and have sustained the inhumane virulent tri-continental black market. It gets worse.

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