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Capitalism loves kids

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"Detaining Immigrant Kids is now a Billon-Dollar Industry," so we are told by Time magazine. What a relief. I've been stressed worrying that all those little kids stolen by Donald Trump's goons from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border were throwing a wrench into American capitalism. Don't be silly. Capitalism abides, Dude.

Government payments for shelters and other child welfare services for those children cost $958 million last year, and counting. "The recipients of the money run the gamut from nonprofits, religious organizations and for-profit entities," says the article. But even a non-profit like Southwest Key Programs owns another company that is itself a for-profit holding company "made up of several businesses," according to its annual report. These separated infants and toddlers may be traumatized for life, but they're great for business.

It's somehow reassuring in a tumultuous world to learn that capitalism is still alive and well. With so many despicable villains abounding everywhere, some wondered where simple, cruel, exploitative capitalism might have slithered to. In fact, thanks to kids everywhere, it's thriving.  

Giant tobacco, for example, has been busy exploiting children in poor countries, while Goliath-sized food companies do their utmost to undermine the promotion of  breastfeeding for babies in those countries.

What kind of filthy-rich people would conceivably stoop to such appalling depths just to make even more money they don't need, you might well ask. Don't even ask. I once knew both a Canadian university president and a Liberal Senator who sat on the boards of Big Tobacco. Greed is good, after all.

True, the tobacco companies need help figuring out how to sell more cigarettes. In the western world, smoking has finally become the thing not to do, after generations of gullible kids were persuaded they were cool by lighting up. I was once one of them, and my ancient throat and lungs still pay the price every day.

Luckily, the underdeveloped world has once again come to the rescue of western capitalists, this time the tobacco titans. There they are, blasting young people  with massive advertising campaigns to make smoking hip, like the ones that worked their deadly wiles on the west for so long. These canny entrepreneurs are making sure that millions of poor people around the world will dramatically increase their chance of getting extremely sick and dying early in excruciating pain.

Tobacco executives makes scads of money, as is only fair for people who lie for a living. For many decades, they told bald-faced false facts about smoking not being addictive or lethal to the user, even while knowing beyond doubt that it was demonstrably both. Now there's a new twist. Today tobacco growing is booming mainly in poor countries, as are new users. What's more, large numbers of the new tobacco farm workers are children who are paid barely starvation wages.

Yes, it's true: every time you think the tobacco industry has reached absolute rock bottom, good old capitalist initiative comes along to devise lower depths.

According to sources such as the U.S. Department of Labour and Human Rights Watch, somewhere around 20 countries have children as young as 13 working in their tobacco fields. Naturally, those who made their living denying that tobacco is addictive and deadly have no trouble denying the proved existence of child labour.

When asked for comment on these practices by the Guardian, spokespeople for the tobacco industry all replied with heartfelt concern. As one Imperial Tobacco flack asserted, "Child labour is unacceptable and we make every effort to stop it happening in our supply chain." How would you like to do that for a living? How do they even sleep at night?

But I can't help wondering if there's a revolving door between executives of Big Tobacco and those of infant formula manufacturers like Nestle. Nestle is the world's largest food and beverage company in an industry worth a cool $70 billion, and as its very own website reassures us, it's "Committed to enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future." What a relief.

Old-fashioned fact-lovers will want to know that smoking causes 6 million deaths a year, while 800,000 children's death could be prevented annually with breastfeeding.

But Nestle and others need their bloated profits to hire fancy lobbyists who make sure the U.S. government punishes those who prioritize feeding infants mother's milk over manufactured powder substitutes -- just add foul water and drink! At a recent World Health Assembly, the American delegation actually did threaten and blackmail countries that supported a resolution to encourage breastfeeding over substitutes. Like the Dude, Capitalism prevails.  

But fear not. Trump's Russian comrades stepped in to introduce the resolution, which then passed.

Image: Liz/Flickr

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