But that’s on paper. The numbers show 30 million are unemployed, the highest level in the country’s history. Millions who were already unemployed continue to be left to their own devices and the meager safety net they rely upon is now swamped by the newly unemployed. Miles-long lines of cars waiting at food banks attest to this reality.
Unemployment benefits require two stages, according to 60 Minutes on April 12. Stage one, applicants must fill out a lengthy form on-line during which many applicants find that their connections ends inexplicably before completing it.
Stage two, after filling out the form online, the applicants must then call the unemployment office to answer further questions. Again, though, the system is totally overwhelmed. Applicants report calling 50 times a day for several days without success. Meanwhile, rents were due on the first of April and May, food supplies dwindle from hoarding, over demand and the breaking of supply chains (farms, to factories, to grocery stores, to purchasers).
Meanwhile, Congress allocated an additional $4 Trillion for corporate loan guarantees, but President Trump said he would not follow even the minimal oversight required by Congress.
This most extreme expenditure of the peoples’ monies is a looming catastrophe seen 12 years ago in the Wall Street bailout of 2008. At that time, corporations and financial institution used bailout monies in two ways. One, they bought back their stocks at rock bottom prices. This buyback drove up the stock prices. Corporations then used these extra monies to “reward” their top executives and shareholders furthering the radical divide between the haves and have-nots, the one percent and the 99 percent.
Two, the devalued prices of family homes were rich picking for the banks and other financial institutions because homeowners were unable to pay their mortgages. Thus, banks repossessed these homes, and other properties, and when prices rose again, sold them at handsome profits.
The Shock and Distraction Behind This Transfer of Wealth
This was deliberate and planned grand theft of the highest form and the same is happening today during the coronavirus pandemic. For decades now, the corporate class has been exploiting moments of shock and distraction around the world caused, inexorably, by unfettered free-market policies to gather greater and greater wealth and economic control for itself.
Even now, under cover of the coronavirus pandemic, corporate government is escalating economic, military and political pressure against Venezuela in order to gain control of its oil reserve -- the single largest in the world, and against Iran, to ensure US control of middle east oil resources. These economic sanctions alone are taking the lives of untold numbers of citizens in these two countries, especially due to the coronavirus which is challenging to even the most advanced western countries.. The Trump administration has refused the call of world leaders for the suspension of sanctions while all of humanity is facing a common, invisible, enemy. Clearly, the goal is to create such a state of shock that the corporate class can ensure control of these resources by any means necessary.
Again, under cover of the coronavirus, the corporate class is allowing the global climate crisis to escalate exponentially while they continue to reap financial rewards from their devastating economic policies.
Finally, under the cover of the pandemic, it is clear that migrant detention centers, prisons and jails are now ticking time bombs for the Coronavirus.
Clearly, there are some further drastic cracks in society
- The wealth of the nation is now more fully ensconced in the hands of the corporate owners, the one percent.
- The Democrats voted for this stimulus bill. None of the so-called progressives used any of their leverage to fight for the working class and the poor. Sander’s speech saying he would hold up passage of the bill if an amendment removing unemployment benefits was passed, was a mockery since he knew that the Republican leadership only allowed it to come to a vote because they knew it wouldn’t pass. Their strategy, as cruel as it might seem, was to persuade their base that they did everything they could to prevent the stimulus package from including unemployment benefits for the average person.
- The dream that when the pandemic ends we will be able to get back to business as usual is totally unrealistic. The upward movement of capital, the further loss of individual wealth, the vacuum left by these months of, relatively, no economic activity, etc. make such a dream impossible. Fifty percent of all employment is provided by small businesses. Most will be bankrupt in a short time and allow for corporate takeovers at rock bottom prices. In fact, Walgreens and CVS, the number 1 and 2 drugstore chains in the US, are already accelerating efforts to buy out rival independent pharmacies hurt by the pandemic.
- During this pandemic, many are dying because they cannot afford hospital/medical care. Further, persons/families will rack up extreme debts from hospital and medicine charges because they are now uninsured due to layoffs. This is all a result of the profit-driven health care system. Moreover, the Trump administration’s prior decision to eviscerate funding for the National Infectious Disease Department contributed to the inability of the health care system to respond to the pandemic. Clearly, a universal health care system would be more able to respond to this pandemic.
- The coronavirus didn’t cause the economic collapse but it does show that the US economy was already a house of cards due to neo-liberal economic policies. Such policies include the rampant speculation we have seen these last 50 years, not the least of which followed the bailout of 2008. In fact, these policies are a major cause of the pandemic and others to come.
- Immigrants, who live in the U.S. and pay taxes, engage in essential work that endangers their lives while providing many of us with some degree of normalcy. Meanwhile, they are excluded from the stimulus package.
Is This Really The Type Of Society We Want To Live In Or Leave To Our Children?
Some hopeful signs
The coronavirus is radicalizing workers on many fronts. McDonald’s workers in Tampa, St. Louis, and Memphis went on strike, asking for protective equipment, hazard pay, and paid leave for anyone who wants to stay home because of the virus. General Electric workers protested proposed layoffs and asked the company to put them to work making ventilators. In response to a worker’s lawsuit, a judge ruled that Instacart had likely misclassified its California workforce as independent contractors in order to underpay them and to skirt some labor laws.
Never again can it be said that national health care, The Green New Deal, homes for those without homes, etc. are unaffordable. There’s always money when it benefits corporations and for engaging in resource wars, both of which benefit the wealthy. Citizens can push for policies that benefit the common good.
The pandemic offers us an opportunity: greater numbers of people are becoming aware that the neo-liberal, globalized economy played a major part in leading us to this pandemic and the destruction of the economy. Clearly, the economy should serve the people, which includes protecting the environment, and not just serve the most wealthy one percent.