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This is the best of times and the worst of times

On April 25, the New York Times reported on poor residents of Chelsea, Massachusetts, which has the highest COVID-19 rate in that state because of cramped housing. The Times also reported on rural hospitals closing that leave patients stranded. One company bought three facilities, fired the doctors, let supplies run low, and closed them. Since 2005, 170 rural hospitals have been shut down.

As Chelsea residents lined up for food assistance at their city hall, Yahoo reported on billionaire Larry Ellison, who owns 98% of Lanai Island in Hawaii; as well as homes in Rancho Mirage, Malibu, Silicon Valley and Lake Tahoe, California and Newport, Rhode Island. The billionaire candidate for president, Michael Bloomberg, who just bought a $45 million ranch estate in Colorado, owns homes in New York City, Long Island, Westchester County, New York, Vail, Colorade, Wellington, Florida and Bermuda.

Life is just fine for Ellison, Bloomberg and their 1% capitalist class. It will remain so until citizens rise up to end the obscene violence of inequality, documented in a 2018 U.N. report: 40 million Americans live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million in “Third World conditions of poverty.”

So far, 100,000 people have died from this virus, 36 million are unemployed including nearly 9,000 in Jackson County, and millions may lose health insurance. But the super-rich have increased their wealth by more than $400 billion. They have turned the coronavirus tragedy into even more profit. Economist Michael Hudson reminds us that the Federal Reserve can create trillions of dollars out of thin air to protect the stock investments of the 1%, but cannot print trillions for the common good. Toward that end, Bernie Sanders has called for $2,000 monthly payments for all Americans until the virus crisis ends: “If we can bail out large corporations, we can make sure that everyone in this country has enough income to pay for the basic necessities of life.”

In such crises, capitalists have never supported the common good and have no interest in changing this unjust system. Therefore, we should heed the words of American abolitionist Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never did and never will.” The spirit of Douglass’ assertion was captured in 1905 by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW): “There can be no peace so long as hunger and want” affect millions of working people, and “the few have all the good things of life.”

U.S. history confirms Douglass’ view: Reforms have been forced on the 1% percent by mass pressure from below; they have never been given.

While the warmongering, virus death-assisting Trump must be removed from office, believing that Joe Biden — who has faithfully served the powerful capitalist class and weapons profiteers his entire political life, and declared he will veto Medicare for All if it crosses his desk — will work for the common good is sheer fantasy. Recently, he told his wealthy donors that “nothing fundamental will change” for them. Given his political history, he will support banks, corporations and endless foreign wars.

But now we hear Biden promise sweeping changes in response to this pandemic: enlarging government-backed health insurance — but not Medicare for All — with major investments in public-health jobs, health care facilities and child-care programs. Despite these campaign promises, however, Biden made his presidential intentions clear by appointing Lawrence Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary and prime architect of Bill Clinton’s financial deregulation program that fueled the 2008 Great Recession, to his panel of economic advisers. The campaign promises sound fine, but the odds are that Summers and other key appointees will continue Trump’s corporate-looting, billionaire-first policies.

The Trump coronavirus aid plan — supported by Democrats — follows Obama’s Great Recession bailout: secure the wealth of the rich and leave the rest of us on our own, with gain but no pain for powerful banks. As then, the Fed will help Wall Street buy up Main Street “at fire-sale prices.” There are huge financial resources for the 1%, but not small businesses that account for 50% of all U.S jobs, and workers. The winners will be financial institutions and banks.

Following their history, both parties will continue their bipartisan tradition of serving capitalist interests and blocking fundamental change. They follow the guiding rule advocated by John Jay, Founder and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court: “Those who own the country ought to govern it.” It’s a rule that should be ripped out by the roots.

John Marciano lives in Talent.

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