Capitalism is a Toxic Paint

Observing How Various “Progressive” Companies Are Anything But When It Comes To Wages

Bryce Post
8 min readAug 13, 2023

Using particular colors when painting in the past could have proven dangerous, believe it or not. Van Gogh was renowned for using particular colors that also contained a lot of lead. The fact that he may have had a propensity to lick his brushes undoubtedly didn’t help. The cadmium-based paint used with the wallpaper in exiled Napoleon’s home potentially contributed to his demise as well.

The reason I mention paint at the beginning of this piece about capitalism is because it helps to think of capitalism as a type of deadly paint color used inside this big house known as America. Nearly every nook and crevice of this vast home known as America is drenched in the paint of capitalism, but workplaces are where it runs heaviest. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, Capitalism runs on production and profits. In keeping with the paint metaphor, production and profits are essentially the binder and solvent that make paint, well… paint. But those ingredients themselves don’t necessarily make the paint toxic. It’s the greed of those who run companies all over the world.

Even corporations criticized by conservative talking heads for “going woke” continue to use such capitalistic paint, their owners plagued with profits rather than toxic lead or copper arsenite. Many of these same businesses attempt to appear more inclusive and progressive. I should know; the company that employs me has tried to divert attention away from recent business troubles by covering them over with more figurative paint.

Last year (in 2022), I intended to write a little more about my work life on this blog, but I found myself short on sufficient time to delve into the specifics of what irritated me due to the fact that I was nearly terminated (among other turbulent events that occurred). I wanted to write about my job because it felt like it was sucking my soul out of me. But, after three rounds of layoffs at this cozy monstrosity in the last three years, I feel I’ve finally pinpointed the source of my dissatisfaction, and it all relates back to the toxic paint metaphor.

If I’m being honest, the company I work for is progressive in almost every other aspect, with the glaring exception of the financial division influencing salary. Because the company that I work for presents itself as progressive and tolerant, it would be delightful if every member of its workforce received a livable wage. Nonetheless, the corporation has implemented a hiring freeze, effectively halting all possible domestic employment. Notice I said domestic employment. However, rather than being progressive and accommodating in other aspects of the business, it appears to be keen on continuing to employ people from other countries (particularly India and the Philippines). To be clear, I am in favor of hiring people from other countries, but the fact that they are paid much less irritates me. I get why they are paid less, but that doesn’t make it right.

This is where the metaphor takes shape: due to my employer slapping a new coat of paint on their progressive brags, those who remain employed are unable to earn a living salary as the ones in charge are poisoned with greed. This is what I mean when I say capitalism is like toxic paint.
When I say capitalism is like deadly paint, I mean that on the surface, a fresh coat of paint seems nice, but the paint’s contents and qualities eventually lead to long-term suffering for some while others go a little funny in the head. You know, just a little funny. Now, I know that saying a business hires overseas to save money is practically as obvious as saying “Rain is wet,” but, in keeping with the paint metaphor, there’s a broader picture I’m attempting to illustrate.

If the organization where I work truly wants to be progressive while still hiring individuals from other countries, the company should pay the people from abroad the same amount as those in the states. Instead, the company where I work would rather create a work climate for workers on one side of the world that is based on the fear of losing a job overseas (or to AI), which produces a resentful and less incentivized workforce. Somehow, I’ve survived at this company, yet after recently attempting to move out of my current living situation, I quickly discovered my full-time salary of $14.20 an hour is not good enough for most one bedroom apartments (mostly because most places ask for three times the rent).

Nonetheless, due to the diversity of their senior management, they continue to promote themselves as inclusive and progressive. During the company’s third “reduction in workforce” (business jargon for mass layoffs), they also announced the closure of offices in certain states. The corporation specifically said that this was due to the fact that the states where they were closing had increased the minimum wage after the 2022 midterm elections (a policy that is progressive 101). Essentially, the company for which I work is capitalism in a progressive drag.

But I know that the company where I currently work is not the only one in America that continues to poison itself and others with the toxic paint of capitalism.

I’m sure a good many companies do similar things, which is partly the origins of where the term rainbow capitalism comes. Have you noticed in recent years that some companies have launched commercials or made statements in solidarity with (insert marginalized group here) (coughBudweisercough). Would it shock you to know that a lot of that is just posturing and marketing while those companies do little to jack shit about systemic injustice in their own company, let alone the world? Or, perhaps some companies do start out in earnest pursuit of change and equality, but then after a little temper-tantrum from a few loud consumers, they suddenly get second thoughts.

One major company that enjoys cosplaying as progressive is Starbucks. Remember how a while ago Starbucks was like the Antichrist and punching bag in conservative circles with its policies of hiring refugees and red holiday cups?

Starbucks, it appears, can’t remember that far back either. In recent years, union-busting scandals have embroiled this ostensibly progressive brand, which is now being defended by many of the same conservatives who criticize it. This is because Starbucks employees around the country have begun unionizing with the aim of obtaining higher pay and safer working conditions. However, this would obviously cost the corporate coffee firm money and reduce the earnings of the CEO and other high-level executives, so they began fighting back with various methods of union busting. When such measures failed, this progressive corporation simply closed all of the stores in one location where workers had recently unionized. Those toxic fumes took a while to kick in at Starbucks, but once they did, yowza!

Other businesses whose owners have jumped on the “woke” money train have likewise demonstrated inconsistency when faced with opposition, demonstrating that they don’t care about the cause, only their bottom line. Then there’s Dominion Voting Systems, the business that sued and eventually settled with Fox News Corp. Remember when they claimed to be fighting for threatened employees? When one of their lawyers was asked if employees would receive any compensation from the deal, their tune shifted to a slightly different chord. That’s quite convenient. While Dominion isn’t the ideal example, it does demonstrate how greed and profit infect the decision-makers at these enormous corporations and how they don’t mind covering this up by splashing around more poisonous paint.

These aren’t the only businesses that give lip service to progressive principles. They’re unlikely to be the last. My point is that, despite their efforts to “refresh” their brand(s), claiming to be fighting for workers or taking other progressive positions, the avarice that infects the leaders of these organizations still causes pain and gradually suffocates everyone employed by them, usually through low wages that are not livable but sometimes even being outright hostile to their own employees.

Hell, look no further than Hollywood, which conservatives have long regarded as a woke socialist hell-scape, where even producers and studio execs currently appear unwilling to pay and compensate writers and actors fairly. Hollywood is drenched in this paint.

In case you haven’t heard, the WGA, a union of TV and film writers, is on strike in part because the AMPTP, which represents producers from television and film companies, apparently doesn’t want to compensate writers over the changing landscape of the entertainment industry. The strike has been ongoing for five months as of this writing, and it does not appear to be ending anytime soon. According to some reports, the AMPTP is willing to let the strike continue until most writers run out of money and “start losing their apartments.” While some may dismiss this as mere tough talk and scare tactics, the fact that these alleged purveyors of socialism and moral degradation (according to conservatives, not me) are battling so fiercely and issuing statements like that demonstrates how deeply the toxic paint of capitalism has seeped into these allegedly liberal and socialist bastions.

As one recent Rolling Stone article explained, “The major studios have made it clear that profit is their only motive in this business and that they have no problem trying to exploit the resource of background actors. It’s a disappointing time for the industry.”

I know that writing about all of this feels like a major bummer. That’s because it is. I’m simply attempting to point out that this application of toxic paint is systemic, even in so-called “woke” liberal companies. But this isn’t to say it’s all bad news and despair. Despite Starbucks attempts to squash employee unionization, many still are. Workers at UPS were ready to strike, but those in charge came to their senses and gave the employees what they wanted. Other, less publicized strikes have popped up this year as well. More and more workers are finding themselves mad as hell, and they’re not gonna take it anymore! Workers are remembering that they have the power, and sometimes it takes a little fight to remind their leaders, who are often too infected with greed to recognize unless most stand up and let them know it’s time to change more than just the metaphorical paint.

I’m not an economist, nor am I an activist. But, I have eyes and have written about capitalism before, especially about the slow moving wave of automation that will engulf many jobs at some point and also how some allow money to make them emotionally stupid. My point being, it’s something at least worth having a conversation about. If you liked this piece, feel free to read more on my blog or check out the poetry I write.



Bryce Post

is a writer that always seems to be working on at least five different projects while attempting to share musings and revelations on a regular-ish basis.