Co-published by Fast Company
What’s arguably most responsible for the growing problem of electronic waste is the manufacturing model of planned obsolescence, in which software and hardware become incompatible or antiquated, or smartphones and laptops aren’t designed for durability.
(This article was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute. It first appeared on The Nation’s website and is republished with permission.)
The call from the temp agency comes in late October. I’ve passed the drug test, cleared the background check, sat down for a quick interview—“Can you lift fifty-pound boxes?”—and completed a worksheet of basic math problems. Now there’s a job. A warehouse just outside the city of Ontario, about forty miles east of Los Angeles, needs more bodies to meet the holiday crush.
They do work for Walmart, Best Buy, “all sorts of big companies,” says the female voice on the line. Orientation starts at 8:15 am; pay is $9 an hour. “Make sure you’re early.” Before hanging up she repeats the order. “Be early.”
On an overcast Tuesday, I pull into the parking lot,
For evidence, look no further than Apple’s decision to borrow a whopping $17 billion and turn it over to its investors in the form of dividends and stock buy-backs.
Apple is already sitting on $145 billion. But with interest rates so low, it’s cheaper to borrow. This also lets Apple avoid U.S. taxes on its cash hoard socked away overseas where taxes are lower.
Other big companies are doing much the same on a smaller scale.
Who gains from all this? The richest 10 percent of Americans who own 90 percent of all shares of stock.
But little or nothing is trickling down. The average American can’t borrow at nearly the low rates Apple or any other big company can. Most Americans no longer have a credit rating that allows them to borrow much of anything.
Until recently the Internet, along with the devices that brought it to us and the platforms that have expanded its usefulness, held a certain cool, selfless allure. The Web was mostly the idea of young, rule-breaking rebels, and their insurgent mystique made them hero geeks. Browsing a favorite blog on our laptops, a cup of red-eye coffee nearby, we felt a part of the New. Then money began doing what it always does to young, rule-breaking rebels – it turned them into our parents, our landlords and our loan officers.
It began in earnest, I suppose, with last year’s tiff between Amazon.com and the state of California over Sacramento’s insistence that the online retail behemoth start collecting state taxes on its sales. Amazon eventually struck “compromises” with California and other states that mostly favored Amazon. Many of us in California smiled – we got an extra year of purchasing on the site without paying taxes.