Pay attention to the Twinkie money, even if you think it’s boring

Fair warning: this post is about private equity, but don’t stop reading because you think that’s boring. It’s boring on purpose. It’s boring because boring can be ignored. And boring is a great way to take advantage of someone.

I am a fan of long-form journalism. You know, the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and so on. It’s good in-depth reporting and it helps explains issues like what is happening in Syria with Assad and the rebels (there are no simple answers to the Aleppo question, by the way). But I t seems to me like we don’t have the attention span to pay attention to foreign policy. I think that’s how the powers literally get away with murder. Furthermore, I don’t think we really pay attention to the true people in charge and how they shape the world with their money!

Donald Trump’s increasingly corporate and billionaire presidential cabinet is lifting the veil off of the truth that the true heads of state in the United States and the world are the leaders of multinational corporations. But even with all of the recent exposure, I think we are too busy to take notice; or think the numbers are just too boring.

After I had quite a loud (and profane) outburst at the pastors’ meeting the other day about how the richest in the U.S. is pulling the wool over our eyes, I shared this New York Times’ investigation of the recent Hostess (read: Twinkie) deal that made the superrich even richer! Rod say that the richest barbarians in the land were plundering it.

The numbers are overwhelmingly staggering. This  deal was done under the guise of protecting jobs—but just a fraction of the jobs at the old Hostess operation are maintained under the new one. Per the article:

But the new Hostess employs only 1,200 people, a fraction of the roughly 8,000 workers who lost their jobs at Hostess’s snack cake business during the 2012 bankruptcy.

Americans are worried about losing jobs, and the big political argument is all about keeping jobs in the U.S. Politicians exploit our fear and private equity takes advantage it. They scare us and then trust that we’ll be too bored to pay attention.

Private equity now controls 4.4 million jobs at 7,500 companies. The companies focus on things like automation and efficiency and it robs Americans of jobs, and jobs that they were promised. And most of us have no idea!

The collapse and revival of Hostess illustrates how even in a business success, many workers don’t share in the gains. The episode also provides a snapshot of the economic forces that helped propel Donald J. Trump to the White House.

The situation is complicated and I’m not sure I understand it all. But I want to pay attention. It can be easy to tune out and just keep watching Netflix. Some of us would rather just be entertained than bore ourselves with how private equity is gutting the worker for the sake of its own interests.

The thing I want to leave you with isn’t that you should just pay attention to how the richest are getting richer, how the point one percent is ruining the lives of many Americans, but rather, pay attention to things that you think are boring. Rest assured, the private equity industry wants you to think this is all unimportant and too complicated. It protects their interests after all.

But this season, pay attention to the things around you that seem boring. Our community’s alternative economy, or at least the formation of it, is a response to private equity job destruction and growth in wealth. For us, it begins in sharing money in the common fund and staying conscious about how the budget of our church works. Don’t close your eyes. Own the process, own your dignity, and own your own part. You are important to this work.

We’ve been sold the lie that we don’t matter to the workings of the economy. And private equity interests are just one piece of that puzzle. Whereas, capitalists benefit from our ignorance, the church is hurt by it. So, please, stay awake. Don’t think of what is happening in your very community to be boring or unimportant. It matters and your attention to it matters. Feel free to investigate, ask questions, and learn more. We are doing something together, something that answers these amoral interests that are enslaving themselves to the root of all evil. This work takes many hearts, minds, hands, and eyes.

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