This particular topic is one that burns me up. There has been quite a bit of noise in the news about payment systems dropping anything to do with the erotic industry, pornography, and sex workers.
If you follow this link you will find a very good opinion piece on the topic. I would like to reproduce the whole PDF verbatim, but that wouldn’t be appropriate–but do please read it. The stats and examples are horrifying.
Winston Churchill, when he was Home Secretary, was famous for saying that a society could be judged by how it treated its prisoners. [The US equivalent for a Home Secretary is the Secretary of the Interior—head of the police and prisons]. This compassionate view was and is controversial, but has evolved to a wider concept of how a society treats its most vulnerable members is a measure of that society.
Certainly, Sex Workers should be considered amongst society’s most vulnerable members. In some areas more than others, absolutely, but even the most “secure” areas of sex work still carry substantial risk. Violence is just one of them.
Beyond this, it amazes me that we actually make laws that make whole classes of people more vulnerable. By forcing sex workers out of the banking system, society puts them into a limbo that greatly increases their life risk.
For one, they are forced to live in a cash economy. Carrying cash always has added risk. Second, they can be shut out of banking—imagine life without credit cards, home loans or mortgages, even a debit card. Imagine that you had to do everything with top ups or those cash cards or gift cards. Exactly why do we do this? What do we hope to achieve.
I can’t help but think this is just one more ugly side of the patriarchy.
But I think there is something deeper here. Many of you will be aware of the changes to e-payment systems like CashApp and Venmo recently. These tools many people rely on to make direct payments to one another for a variety of things—whether they are for services or for just giving money to one another. The people who use them are mainly people who live in the gig economy—in other words, people that don’t have a lot of disposable income, and who usually have to hussle to make enough money to be able to eat.
The change? Any volume of payments that surpasses $600 in a fiscal year will trigger a notification to the IRS, and a filing requirement. That is hugely burdensome for the companies and may make them reconsider exactly how “free” their services will be—a real problem for the unbanked who are already faced with higher costs for everything, even things so simple as paying their electric bills. But it also means that the poorest members of society will pay more tax.
And okay, the law is the law, and if tax is due, then tax is due. But it gets my goat that we have a supposedly left-leaning, socially aware administration that is wasting its legislative energy on coming up with ways to close tax loopholes and extract more tax $ from the poorest members of our society, rather than figuring out how to start getting the rich to pay more tax.
And it isn’t just me on a rant to say that rich people should pay more tax, not at least in % terms on the normal tax code…it is rather that they should pay more tax in absolute terms. The rich have so many ways, “legitimate ways”, to reduce or eliminate their taxes, through methods that are not really available to those who work for a living in the wage economy, that the distortions and absence of fairness is out of all proportion to logic. Why on earth are we trying to screw the little people in society instead of just asking the richest among us to pay a fair share?
And what is a fair share? What if there were no loopholes at all, would 20% be enough? I bet most readers would think 20% is reasonable. Do you know what % US billionaires pay on average? 8.2%. How I would love to pay just 8.2%. I’d be laughing all the way to the bank. And you know what else? I’d spend it. Why? Because that little bit extra would make a meaningful difference to my quality of life. Does Jeff “dick pics” Bezos spend more because he weaselled his way to a low tax level by using legal loopholes? I doubt it. And that isn’t a morality question—it’s just that at a certain point, more money is just a number.
And this debate is going on down on the streets, but if you step back and look at the big picture, what we are seeing is something even more alarming. The wealth gap is the highest it has ever been:
- In the last 30 years, the total wealth held by the richest 1% of people grew from 30% of all wealth to 40% of all wealth.
- Over this same time period, the poorest 90% (yes, you read that correctly), fell from 33% to 23%.
It should make you sick to your stomach. And what are we doing? Mastercard decides that it doesn’t want to be a payment system for Sex Workers or things that offend the Christian Conservatives. OnlyFans decides it doesn’t want to offend Mastercard so it walks from the people that made the platform…and now we have this stupid legislation to make CashApp and other payment platforms no longer viable for people who rely on its ease and anonymity for payments…making them more vulnerable.
We talk about victimless crimes, but this strikes me as a crime that only has victims. And who actually benefits? It doesn’t take being a conspiracy theorist to believe that a large body of our government officials and decision-makers actually believe that putting more pressure on the weakest members of society is what we need socially right now. “We just gave them a bunch of COVID money so now let’s come up with an unrelated way to take it back.”
No wonder crypto-currency is doing so well. No wonder more and more people won’t to unplug. No wonder more and more people wonder why we even bother to vote—especially when the party that is meant to champion the little guy is actually doing more to harm the little guy than the previous administration, which if nothing else, was a venal, self-interested, pocket-lining and corrupt bunch.
Do a good deed. Send some money today to your favourite content provider. Even if you never do that. It is the giving time of year. Leave a bigger tip to your taxi driver. Leave a bigger tip to your waiter or bellhop. Just be generous. Because if all us little guys aren’t generous to one another with the 23% of total wealth we have to play with, you can be sure that the rich 1% aren’t going to let us in on the 40% game they get to play.
So when Jeff “dick pics” Bezos says that the earth needs to be saved, and that people will be living on other planets, what he means to say is that the 1% is going to keep planet earth, and the 90% is going to be working in Amazon warehouses on planet Zog, but sure as heck not living here. After all, there are just too damn many of the 90% crowd, right?! And we can’t solve global warming if there are too many of us.