A two part news series on NPR by Wade Goodwyn displayed the Texas construction industry as harmful to itself and its workers. Worker injury and death is much higher than the national average and twice California's average. People are treated as disposable, with no repercussions.
Construction booming in Texas but many workers pay dearly.
Texas contractors say playing by the rules doesn't pay.
(One quibble- what they call "playing by the rules" I call "following the law".)
The reporter completely missed two natural followups: 1. How the GOP plays a part in this massive illegal tax evasion and exploitation of undocumented workers by an entire industry. Texas government (i.e. Texas GOP) prides and promotes itself on how "business-friendly" it is, and how few regulations an industry has to follow. Tax evasion and illegal employment (and exploitation) of undocumented workers cannot take place on an industry-wide scale without collusion by the state regulatory agencies. The NPR reporter quoted or played recordings of construction company owners saying that for 15 or more years they have been hiring workers as "contractors" instead of employees in order to pay wages below industry norm, even below living wages, and as a way to evade paying Social Security and workers compensation insurance. One owner said he did not believe his contractors paid taxes, and did not think more than a fraction were in the country legally. No wonder he did not want his last name quoted- he was admitting on the radio to several felonies. (Want to bet how he votes? There is a better than 57% chance it is for the GOP. This is Texas, though, so in some counties it's much much higher.)
Texas is a "right to work" state, so the laws are deliberately lax, but it's even worse for 'contractors' than for employees. The reporter touched on but did not elaborate on the fact that these 'contractors' got no other benefits as well- no overtime, no health insurance, no sick leave, no vacation time, no freaking nothing except for the right to be worked to death for subsistence wages, all so Texans can buy cheaper houses.
Furthermore, the GOP both promotes and benefits from this illegal activity. The GOP blocks minimum wage increases. The GOP blocks a path to citizenship- a path to paying taxes for both employees and employers. The GOP keeps these workers "illegal" so the workers are afraid to make legal complaints about being exploited, and their families cannot take legal action for the people killed. The GOP underfunds or actively cuts state and federal regulatory agencies, stopping from having the resources to raid businesses which break the law. The GOP promotes and exploits the fear of undocumented workers, but their campaign contributors and voters actively exploit those same workers. There is a lack of empathy in all of this exploitation which seems inhuman to me.
2. The Texas construction industry is coming to realize how they have trapped themselves into a bad situation. Companies that "play by the rules", or rather "follow the law" cannot compete against companies that break the law. On the other hand, the Texas GOP and the national GOP uses the natural consequences of this illegal activity. It is more profitable in the short term to break the law by hiring people for below living wages and evading paying Social Security and worker's comp insurance. However, this is shooting your society in the foot (or head) in the long term. Social Security is going to run a deficit, and could sure use the payments being illegally evaded. The economy is suffering because exploited people making less than a living wage cannot afford to spend money, so other industries cannot benefit from the 'multiplier effect'. The people who build these houses could never afford to buy and live in one. Wages which are spent feed other industries, and literally feed other families through their wages. The NPR story discusses how working a career in construction in Texas used to provide a good living. Now it's just a path to grinding poverty. Instead of spending their wages in improving their family's lives, maybe even sending their children to college, these families are at the poverty-level. Instead of paying taxes, do they collect food stamps, decreasing the states' coffers?
Who really benefits from this situation? The GOP does, because these are the core issues that get them elected. Fear (and scorn) of the "illegal". Fear (and scorn) of the "moocher" who takes but does not give. Fear (and scorn) of the low wage worker who cannot make ends meet on minimum wage, never mind save for retirement and therefore will need "entitlements" like Social Security. Hatred and scorn for people who do not have medical insurance (which these companies refuse to provide). In reality, these "illegal" "takers" are hard workers who are underpaid.
If you're already rich, exploiting workers (or letting them die) for your personal gain, then maybe you don't care if Social Security fails or the state and federal budgets don't balance. If you're in the other 99% of the population, you're screwed. This is the natural result of GOP policy.