Government Steel, Inc.: The Death of Capitalism
Government Steel, Inc.: The Death of Capitalism
The best thing about being a worker at General Steel, Inc. is the pay. For the amount of work I did, I got paid a very decent sum. Not to say that the $115.00 an hour I made was anything close to that of my boss, that is, the boss of my union, but I was happy to live the lifestyle that I did. Ever since they instituted the 30 hour work week back in 2027, workers around the nation had seen their lifestyles change drastically. We all had access to healthcare, comfortable homes, cell phones, and the other necessities of life.
This year, 2042, marked our company’s 205th anniversary. This year also marked the time of my promotion, which I hoped I would be accepted for.
“James, James Tyler, please report to management,” said a woman’s voice over the loudspeaker. I looked up at the ceiling and hoped to myself that I would get the promotion.
“Here we go,” I murmured.
“What was that?” said the worker next to me, who really didn’t look all that curious.
“I might be getting a promotion,” I told him, waiting for his response.
“Ah huh,” he said indifferently.
I gave him a quick glance then decided that there wasn’t much point in continuing the conversation. I had to get to management. I was a likely candidate for the promotion, a junior management job. I had been applying for it for nearly three years now, and as far as my work habits, they were clean. I worked my full 30 hours each week, not staying for overtime as ownership requested (I believe it had something to do with having to pay 3.5 times the normal work hour).
I wondered whether I should take the elevator or the stairs. The stairs were slightly faster, but the elevator was easy. The elevator was the best choice; after all, I didn’t want to be out of breath when I got to management.
As I opened the door to management, I was shocked to see the company’s owner standing to the right of my boss…my union boss. “Hello, Sir,” I said to the man sitting down.
“Sit down, James,” he said, even though I already had sat down. He looked at me and gave me a smile. He was impeccably dressed, wearing an Italian suit, and he looked impressive at his mahogany desk.
“Thank you, Sir,” I replied, and took a seat on one of the pneumatic chairs in front of his sprawling desk.
“Well, James, you got the job. Congratulations, Son.” I really don’t know why he called me “Son”; we were roughly the same age.
I looked at the owner. He was dressed in somewhat lesser clothing compared to the union boss; his coat was missing a button and his suit looked a little worn; never the less, he managed to carry the air of a corporate executive. “Anything to add, Mr. Thomas?” I asked him as I was pulling the door shut to leave.
“No…congratulations, Mr. Tyler,” he looked at me with such an intense look of disappointment (I didn’t know if it was in me or his situation), that I averted my eyes in shame.
As the six hour day ended, I put away my factory gear for the last time and walked out to my car. I looked at my daily paycheck; it read $690.00. That was, naturally, before taxes, which amounted to about five percent of my daily income, so in actuality, I was only keeping $655.50 per day. Everyone’s a crook, I thought to myself.
At home I turned on the news, and it came on to the default station, PBS. The anchor talked for a while about the need for tighter regulation on businesses and corporation, also stressing the need for government to take a more active role in the free market place. She finally concluded the program stating that the administration and Congress had been, and were making, excellent progress, citing some figures. Apparently, federal spending alone now amounted to roughly 56% of the Gross Domestic Product and a more fair tax code was being worked on. Low income earners like me would, in a few weeks’ time, get a 50% tax cut while high income earners, like my company’s owner, would see their tax rates increase from 88% to 95%. This was all, of course, for the good of the nation.
About a week later, I was settled into my new management job. Accounting and paper work were far superior to the daily work done on the steel factory’s floor. My main job was getting everyone’s, including the union boss’s, paychecks in order and deducting the amount they paid in taxes. Each day I and my small crew of 20 other people would organize the pay of the 643 people working in the union and corporate, although I usually handled the higher income earners and the sales statistics for the company as a whole.
As it turns out, my union boss made on average $847,000 a year with a tax rate of 8% and the owner of the company made about $1.2 million per year at a tax rate of 88%. Their net incomes were $779, 240 (for my union boss) and $144,000 (for the owner). Every time I looked at their salaries I would stare at how much more the union boss would make over the owner.
One day when I was filling out the pay checks, my union boss stopped by our office. “Hey, James, how’s it going? Anyway, can I get my check?” he’d ask every time
“Sure, boss, here it is. . .” I’d hand it out to him and he’d snatch it without another word. I thought about asking him about his pay and why it was so much greater than Mr. Thomas’s, but I thought it might be somewhat rude, so I refrained.
Driving home from another day’s work, I was listening to the radio, more as background music than anything. I turned it up a little; NPR was already a very quiet news station, so having it as low as I did made it almost inaudible. Right as I turned it up, the anchor was talking about the budget deficit, which in that fiscal year ran nearly six trillion dollars. An expert from the President’s Treasury Department came on as a guest and explained that the new tax increases on the wealthy would have to be further increased, perhaps to a 100% rate; however, he assured the listeners that low income earners, like me and those of other union workers, would not see an increase in their tax rates but rather the promised tax cut.
The expert also explained that the corporate tax would have to be increase further, from the current 89% to the 99% tax rate. He assured us all that the companies would be able to remain fiscally stable due to the government’s redistribution programs. I knew, without a doubt, that our government had the entire situation under control. After all, had not the federal government taken care of all of society’s ills so far? America was now closer than ever to being the fair, just, and equal society dreamed of for so long. The government often reported such successes as the healthcare industry and our low sickness rates.
Right as I was turning a corner, I saw what appeared to be a hospital. Of course, the hospital was now owned by the government of these United States; it had been an amendment to the Affordable Care Act, signed into law years ago by President Barack Hussein Obama. I noticed an extremely long line coming out of the hospital doors, stretching an entire block. Slowing down, I looked a little closer and saw people coughing, in some cases blood. But what was even more peculiar was the sight of nearly a dozen people just lying (sprawled, really) on the sidewalk. I sped up to leave. Looking in the mirror, I saw some people in the line waving their hands frantically toward me and some other cars, then pointing at the people sprawled on the ground and themselves. I wondered what they could possibly want.
The next day when I was at work, I walked by the owner’s office, a tiny little thing, almost a cubicle, that barely housed his small, aluminum desk. I put my head around the door and saw him looking down at something on his desk. I took a closer look and saw it was his paycheck: his $1.2 million had been taxed at $1.2 million. As he looked up slowly and said, “May I help you, Mr. Tyler?” he no longer carried the corporate air about him; in fact, he looked pale and his eyes had dark circles beneath them.
“Well, I, uh, just wanted to see how you were.”
“I guess I can’t complain, Mr. Tyler,” he said, looking me in the eye.
Getting a little uncomfortable, although I really didn’t know why, I said, “All right, have a nice day then.”
“Wait, Mr. Tyler, I almost forgot to tell you, I’m leaving the company.”
“But. . .why?” I asked, surprised.
“Apparently the steel industry has been nationalized, and that includes my business,” he said.
“You mean our business? Well, I did hear that there was a new 99% tax rate for companies making excess profits like our own.”
He looked at me and tilted his head to the right slightly. “You don’t think that’s nationalization?” he asked me.
“Why, of course not,” I responded, putting my own doubts down. “It’s still our business, after all.”
“Stop saying that,” he retorted quickly, “this is my business and it has been for a very long time. My family has owned it for decades and we have always had, no matter how small, a share in this corporation’s wealth.”
Laughing, I said, “Oh, Mr. Thomas, don’t you know that this company belongs jointly to the ownership and union under the Fairness Act of 2034? Why do you insist on calling it yours?”
“Because we started it, my family: It is mine, my own property, my very heart and soul. . . I don’t expect you to ever understand that.”
Three days after my conversation with Mr. Thomas, I, along with all the other employees, received a letter from the Federal government. It read:
To Mr. James Tyler,
Due to instabilities in the financial market, the United States Federal government has deemed it necessary to nationalize the steel industry and, in effect, nationalize your own private corporation. Congratulations, you have officially become a worker for the United States government.
I looked up from the letter and realized that Mr. Thomas had been right. We had been nationalized and now we were working for the federal government. I thought to myself, all is well, now we are part of something bigger than ourselves, now we can be guaranteed all the things we ever needed to survive, including increased wages from our already low pay. It seemed the future of all Americans, and especially the downtrodden American worker, was secure. I looked forward to a brave new era. An era that would last forever because there would be no more uncertainty, no more inequality, no more greed, no more “profits”. Instead, there would be social justice (for the worker above all else), there would be a stable economic system for us all to follow (of course, it wasn’t socialism as some of those crazy conservative talk show hosts claimed), and there would be harmony amongst all the people in this nation.
20 years later, a worker looks up from his factory job on the floor. Shortly after the nationalization, he had been demoted to his old job. The loudspeaker blazed on, saying something nondescript that his old ears couldn’t pick up anyway, and he looked back down at his work.
The wage of this man, as of others, had been reduced to $1.59 an hour, and following new legislation, the 30 hour work week had been abolished in favor of a new, 80 hour work week. This was done because the government declared it had to be so. Following the final nationalization, the budget deficit had simply been too large and the “wealthiest class” no longer existed to be taxed: cuts had to be made. Some people had spoken out, as there were always were those who did this. They had claimed higher taxes with continued massive spending were insolvent. In fact, they had been saying that for decades before this year and era.
But these people had not been a problem for the government. With the authority of the National Defense Authorization Act, passed a long time ago in the year 2012, the dissenters were declared terrorists and sent to a prison in Death Valley.
With no one left to speak out against the federal government, the establishment was free to do whatever it pleased, in any manner it chose. They decided that there was no need for written law. Instead, the government would make laws and keep them for government eyes only. They explained, “logically” as they said it, that for the nation to remain secure, the Senators and Congressmen would have to be appointed by themselves. In the name of economic stability and security.
The old factory worker looked up again, this time at the camera that was watching him intently (authorized, of course, with the USA PATRIOT Act), waiting for him to slip up in his work or take so time to breathe. The man recalled that this was the same day he had been promoted all those years ago to manager, but he quickly put the thought out of his mind. It was illegal to speak of private industry now, under an amendment to the Fairness Act.
He no longer had the things he had 20 years ago: he no longer had his high wages, or his “necessities” like a car and a home of his own. He now took public transportation and lived in a government housing complex.
Looking down this time at his hands, burdened with callouses and arthritis, Mr. Thomas thought that he didn’t much like his job at Government Steel, Inc.