From Kathie Lee To Bangladesh.

Nearly a decade ago, the media were awash with stories tying Kathie Lee Gifford to sweatshops in Honduras. It seems she had endorsed a line of clothing sold at Walmart and, when it was discovered that Walmart outsourced the clothing manufacture to sweatshops using children, Kathie Lee was vilified. Walmart, on the other hand, emerged from the scandal unscathed.

Of course, much has changed since then. Such clothing lines are no longer made in Honduras. They are now outsourced to countries with even cheaper labor and even more deplorable working conditions…countries like Bangladesh where more than 1,100 recently died while working in an unsafe building.

But one thing hasn’t changed. The retailer, clothing brand and contractors are still held blameless for outsourcing their brands to sweatshops.

As long as they offer clothing at low prices, we simply shake our heads at such tragedies and continue to shop for the next bargain. It doesn’t matter that the clothing is as disposable as the workers forced to make it. All we really seem to care about is price. We’re seemingly unconcerned that adding a few pennies to the cost of a garment would improve working conditions. Likewise, we seem unconcerned that the owners of Walmart and other large retailers pressure manufacturers to continue to cut costs in order to line their own pockets with millions more.

This, of course, is a never-ending cycle.

As long as there are regions of desperate, impoverished people in the world, manufacturers and retailers will take advantage of them. And, as long as consumers reward those corporations by continuing to purchase their junk, the practice will continue.

The sad truth is that we’re all as responsible for the deaths of the workers in Bangladesh as the owner of the building and the brands being made there.

Proof That Greed Kills.

For some time, Americans have taken greed for granted. Many have believed that greed is an inevitable outgrowth of free market capitalism. Even following Mitt Romney’s speech about the 47 percenters and revelations of his offshore tax havens, many Americans said it didn’t matter.

But greed has real world consequences.

As the top one percent have gained more and more wealth, the other 99 percent have seen their incomes stagnate or diminish. As CEOs of multinational corporations have pushed for increased productivity and offshore manufacturing, working Americans have lost their jobs and their homes. Workers in the countries that claimed the jobs have been subjected to impossible hours and terrible working conditions.

Where will it end?

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen two deadly examples of the consequences. In West, Texas, a fertilizer company stored massive amounts of explosive ammonium nitrate in the middle of town. The company owners not only failed to notify the townspeople of the danger. They failed to notify Homeland Security that they had amassed 1,350 times the amount that is supposed to trigger investigations. As a result, many of the owners’ neighbors lost their lives. Many others lost their homes.

Halfway around the world, in Bangladesh, textile workers were packed into an unsafe building in order to cut production costs on clothing intended for retail stores in the United States. When the building inevitably collapsed, more than 1,100 people lost their lives.

Certainly, these events were the result of bad decisions made by unscrupulous people. But the real culprit was unfettered greed.

We need to understand that those who chase greater and greater wealth will not change unless forced to. We need to understand that safety regulations are a legitimate responsibility of government. We need to understand that many companies are bad citizens and neighbors. And we need to remember that an employer is not doing employees a favor by allowing them to work for him. All employees have a right to safe working conditions, respectful treatment, reasonable hours and a real living wage.