The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Issue no. 1105 — May 18 - June 1, 2020

The “Right” to Die of the Virus Is NOT Freedom

May 18, 2020

In recent weeks, small gangs, armed with assault rifles, stood guard near a few shops that decided to open up, despite the spread of coronavirus. In Texas, it was a tattoo parlor and a beauty salon. In Michigan, it was a barbershop. In several more states, hundreds of people massed in state capitols, waving American flags, many carrying Trump election campaign signs, again some armed with assault rifles. Calling themselves names like the Sons of Liberty or the Home Guard, the armed men claimed to be defending individual rights, individual freedom, liberty and the Constitution.

It’s true that small shopowners have paid a big price during this shutdown—in part because the grants and loans set up by the federal government supposedly to help small business were completely insufficient and, on top of that, went to some of the biggest businesses in the country. But above all, they are paying a price—as are workers laid off and workers continuing to work under unsafe conditions—because government shirked all responsibility for funding public health coming into this epidemic.

These demonstrations and “defense guards” were not organized to defend small businesses or workers who lost their jobs. And certainly not to defend workers who have been forced to work every day under conditions that guarantee the spread of the virus to them and their families.

No, these demonstrations were organized by what today is called the “right-wing fringe” to make a name for themselves.

When six men armed to the teeth with military ordnance parade around a tattoo parlor, it’s little more than street theater. But didn’t the whole country hear of them?

Nonetheless, behind this street theater—grown men parading around like kids with toy guns on Christmas day—is a more sinister reality. And that was evident in some of the bigger demonstrations.

Those demonstrations certainly pulled in some small shopowners who lost their business and workers who lost their jobs. But hiding behind the guns are those opposed to vaccination; white supremacist organizations; anti-immigrant organizations; neo-Nazis; even a few wearing the white hood of the KKK.

Today, these “fringe organizations” may not seem like much of a danger. In fact, even that isn’t true. The steady increase in racist attacks on black people and immigrants shows the violence these cowards are ready to inflict.

But tomorrow they can become a much bigger danger, first against black people, who have always been in their gunsights. Today’s “fringe groups” can become the basis for much more serious armed gangs to be used against all working people who attempt to organize—in much the same way that the KKK was used by the former slave-owners to control both ex-slaves AND poor whites in the post-Civil-War South for almost a century.

These groups may seem like “fringe groups” today. After all, who can take seriously people who oppose vaccination in the midst of an epidemic like this one? But the issue is not their stupid ideas, nor their play-acting with guns today.

The fact is, these groups have long been funded by some of the richest capitalists in the country: multi-billionaires like the Mercer family or the DeVos family, among others. Many billions of capitalist wealth have gone into setting up extreme right-wing groups, providing them with media outlets and legal help, establishing networks of right-wing social media chat rooms.

The Mercers and DeVoses preach an individualism directly opposed to the collective interests of the working class. They fund demagogues who openly spout racist ideas. They push forward politicians who encourage one part of the working class to set itself apart from and against the other parts. The wealthy class has funded anti-union activity for many decades, anti-public school campaigns for many years.

Much of this is behind the scenes today. Who among us has heard of the Mercers? But what they do today is preparation for tomorrow.

Working people need to take note of these preparations. Because we have to prepare also. We have to know that when we organize to defend our own class interests, we will also have to organize to defend ourselves physically against right-wing gangs, and we will have to act accordingly.

Above all, we have to struggle for this hard-won insight: the working class has strength only when it acts as a whole. Only by fighting together for our collective interests can we build true liberty, which can only be freedom from capitalist rule.

Pages 2-3

Nursing Homes—Capitalism Kills

May 18, 2020

The Coronavirus has been tearing through nursing home facilities—they are the sites of many of the largest outbreaks all over the country. In Illinois, of more than 3,000 dead, nearly half were living in nursing homes in the state.

Nursing homes are close-quarters environments, where staff are physically cleaning and helping residents. Once one resident catches the virus, it spreads easily. And nursing homes concentrate the elderly and the sick—that is, the people most vulnerable to the disease. The environment in a nursing home poses problems, but capitalism, which exploits these homes for profit, turns the problem deadly.

At the largest nursing home in the state, City View Multi-Care Center in Cicero, nine residents and one staff worker have died of COVID-19, with 165 positive tests among residents and 41 from staff. Just three weeks ago, there were 38 cases. This is a quarter of all of the cases in Cicero, a working class suburb just west of Chicago. City View is for-profit, and, unsurprisingly, has the lowest rating by the government—1 star. The facility is now under a restraining order that staff must wear masks—the owner was skimping on safety to pad his pocketbook.

Seventy percent of the country’s nursing homes are for-profit. To the capitalists who own the nursing homes, our poor and elderly become “reliable income streams.”

By every measure, for-profit homes do worse by their residents: quality of care, staffing, citations. They pay as low as they can get away with. For-profit homes are short-staffed, a problem which becomes worse when workers themselves get infected. And the pressure to squeeze profit pushes the owners to cut every corner on safety.

Every nursing home could be staffed, with professional staff, well-paid for this essential work. Supply them with the Personal Protective Equipment necessary to help keep staff and residents safe. Provide testing for all residents and staff. Of course all of these steps would cost money, eating into the profits of the owners of these homes. Our society pushes the owners to line their pockets at the cost of our parents’ and grandparents’ lives.

A daughter who lost her father at a home in Chicago’s suburbs said, “It’s horrifying to be in a nursing home with a parent and you are at the mercy of strangers. You are at the mercy that this nursing home has ethics and morals and compassion for these people.” But it is the function of this system, which pushed nursing homes into private hands and squeezes them to make profit—it is this system which is merciless.

“Citizen’s Arrest”
—Just Another Excuse for Lynching

May 18, 2020

A Georgia prosecutor finally charged two men, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis, for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man. Their arrest and charges came more than two months after his killing.

Two other district attorneys previously refused to charge the men. One of those prosecutors, George Barnhill, said the men who shot Arbery were within their rights under Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law.

The arrests of the McMichaels came only after a video was made public showing the men gunning down Arbery, who was simply jogging along a country road.

The release of the video showing Arbery’s killing, and outspoken statements by Arbery’s mother and attorney sparked protests and support around the country and the rest of the world. On May 8, which would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday, many people participated in 2.23 mile runs to commemorate his death on February 23.

Not surprisingly, Georgia’s citizen’s arrest laws date back to 1863 when the KKK was beginning to form to round up escaped slaves during the Civil War.

Barnhill’s use of the state’s citizen arrest law to justify not charging the McMichaels is just the latest example of legal officials making excuses for lynchings of black people. Throughout the period of Jim Crow segregation in the South, states passed laws making vagrancy and loitering criminal acts. Police used these laws selectively to arrest black men and they were even used to justify lynchings,

More recently, “stand your ground” and “castle doctrine” laws have been used to justify killings of black men, as in the case of the murder of Trayvon Martin.

This is just the latest in a long list of killings of black people caught on video—Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, and Philando Castile, to name a few. Most have gone unpunished. How many more weren’t caught on video and what would have happened if Arbery’s murder had not been videotaped?

People are right to protest blatantly racist killings like this. Trump’s presidency, the pandemic, and the capitalist economic crisis have all emboldened the far-right. It will take a continued fight by the black population and the working class to push them back.

Bosses Tighten Repression of Women’s Rights Under COVID-19

May 18, 2020

Conservative right-wing governors and the wealthy conservatives they represent are using the COVID-19 epidemic to eliminate abortion rights for thousands of poor and working women in states they control. They use their emergency powers to impose rules and procedures to delay and block access.

For them, the COVID-19 epidemic has been a wonderful gift. Six conservative states, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas, jumped to say abortions are non-essential, effectively banning access to abortions during a pandemic.

Arkansas issued rules to say that women had to receive a negative COVID-19 test result at least 48 hours prior to surgery. Of course tests are scarce, effectively blocking any abortion.

Even after Texas lifted its total ban on abortions, it still continued to limit access. Women are required to show up in person for both counseling as well as get an ultrasound in advance of the actual procedure. Each extra trip contains the threat of COVID-19 exposure.

Women driven up against an imposed 20-week deadline have to travel to other states, increasing costs for transportation. Stays in hotels are less available while exposure to COVID-19 is increasing. Women are forced to stay in cars (due to COVID-19 distancing) where they are attacked and maligned by pro-life protesters. When they get out, they are touched, jostled, spit on.

Women are pulled down by increasing expense and childcare issues under COVID-19. The women being blocked from obtaining abortions today have the hardest lives; they are often essential workers, care-givers at work and at home. They are the worst paid, have the fewest benefits and often the worst health. Women have abortions for a number of reasons that are intensified, not ameliorated, by COVID-19. The impact of pregnancy and birth on health, the ability to work, economic disadvantages are made worse by the pandemic.

The need for safe, affordable and timely services, including abortion, are increased many times over by the coronavirus epidemic.

The monsters who are imposing the latest abortion restrictions on women will never stop, will never be discouraged by elections of new politicians, by complaints, not even, finally, by peaceful protests.

They will have to be forced out by a determined fight of working class people. It is up to us to embrace and protect our most valued and most vulnerable.

BlackRock and the Bailout ... Again

May 18, 2020

In mid-March, the U.S. Federal Reserve responded to the worsening financial collapse with a mammoth bailout of the heavily indebted corporate and banking sectors, a bailout that will cost trillions of dollars.

To manage and run this bailout, the Federal Reserve turned to BlackRock, the global money manager. BlackRock is not well known; it is not a household name. But it is a company of massive power and reach. It manages more than seven trillion dollars for private speculators, institutions and pensions funds, an amount of money that is bigger than the entire German economy! It is the biggest investor of many of the largest companies in the world. It also holds massive amounts of government debt in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

As the manager of the Federal Reserve’s bailout program, BlackRock will decide what to do with trillions of dollars of debt. It will decide for the Federal Reserve what debt to buy up and for how much, as well as how much to sell it for. This includes untold billions in debt held by BlackRock itself! In other words, BlackRock will buy and sell its own financial instruments, using the money provided by the Federal Reserve!

This is not a new role for BlackRock. Back in 2008, when the Federal Reserve engineered an earlier corporate bailout in the midst of that financial collapse, it also turned to BlackRock to manage the bailout.

At the time, BlackRock was only said to have a little more than a trillion dollars under its own management. But after being hired by the Federal Reserve, other governments came knocking. The British Treasury, the Swiss National Bank, the European Central bank and the government of Greece all hired BlackRock as a key advisor and money manager. At the same time, BlackRock hired top former government officials and ministers, including George Osborne, the former British finance minister (chancellor of the exchequer), and Friederich Merz, the former head of the German ruling party and cabinet minister, greatly expanding the company’s influence and reach over the entire globe, in the private and public sectors both.

BlackRock’s spectacular rise shows just how much control over the entire global economy has become ever more concentrated and parasitical. BlackRock and a few big companies like it are little more than conduits for channeling the wealth produced by the working class worldwide into the pockets of a few big financiers. A tiny minority of financiers grow ever richer by impoverishing most of the working population, leading to growing social and economic rot and decline, as well as ever worsening crises and collapses.

Pages 4-5

U.S. and China Undercut Scientists for Petty Political Gains

May 18, 2020

In late April, the U.S. government suddenly cut the research grant allocated to a New York-based non-profit scientific research organization, EcoHealth Alliance, which works on discovering dangerous viruses in wildlife, especially bats.

The apparent reason of this grant termination is that EcoHealth collaborates with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a China-based scientific research organization. The U.S. government accused China’s government of spreading the COVID-19, knowingly or unknowingly, through a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The U.S. government has not produced any evidence to support its accusation, nor has any scientist in the world found any such evidence.

In reality, the U.S. government manufactured accusations against China to disguise its disastrous response to COVID-19. Because EcoHealth was working with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the U.S. government targeted their funding to further its fake accusations.

But the research done by EcoHealth with the Wuhan Institute of Virology is essential in understanding deadly viruses in order to develop vaccines and treatments, to fight against virus-driven diseases.

EcoHealth, led by a well-respected scientist, Peter Daszak, is known for its research on global emergent diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Nipah virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Rift Valley fever, Ebola virus, and COVID-19. An antiviral drug, Remdesivir, which seems to have some impact on COVID-19, was originally tested against the viruses EcoHealth discovered under the U.S. federal government’s funding.

Since China has one of the world’s most diverse populations of bats, EcoHealth has been collaborating with the Wuhan Institute of Virology for 15 years with funding from the U.S. government.

China’s government, to further its own political schemes, very similarly suppressed their scientists and physicians when COVID-19 emerged last December, and now prevents scientific research toward finding the origins of this deadly disease.

By undercutting this research to advance their political schemes, these governments are not only obstructive and useless in this fight, but are dangerous against our health.

Watch out for the Government and Big Business—and COVID-19!

May 18, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

The lockdown is being lifted bit by bit, but the chaos and confusion remain! And while the government began the lockdown without time to prepare, it has had two months to organize its relaxation. But did it prepare? Why haven’t medical authorities begun massively testing everyone? Where are the supplies? Where are the quarantine stations for isolating known carriers of the virus? Nobody knows.

In the Paris Metro, instead of running more trains on crowded lines, the authorities were content to put up lots of stickers with warnings. These worked great … for empty trains! On other lines, it was obviously mission impossible. Only the mandatory wearing of facemasks and the carrying of work permits during rush hour are enforced. And the authorities don’t joke around about these!

The government doesn’t distribute free masks. But it did mobilize 20,000 cops to impose fines of 145 dollars for people without masks or permits. Holding people back, repressing working people, and sowing contempt for them: that is all the government can do!

As for schools, the government is improvising everything. After drawing up a quasi-military program, the government pushed it onto mayors and teachers to implement. They have to make do with the supplies on hand by letting fewer children enter the schools. In fact, only one out of six children will go back to school. But “educational continuity” will look like it really happened!

The government’s main goal is to stick to its timeline for lifting the lockdown and ensure that all employees return to work—despite the risks that still remain. And they have achieved this goal.

So it’s all the more true that to protect themselves, workers can’t trust the government. They themselves have to monitor safety conditions at work.

One cluster of infections was identified in Dordogne (near Spain) after a funeral attended by around 30 people. Another popped up in Vienne after a meeting to plan how to reopen a high school. Yet another at a chicken slaughterhouse in Vendée (south of Normandy). It’s hard to believe that supermarkets, warehouses, and factories that throw hundreds of people together have not also experienced infections. Are suspected cases systematically detected there? Are they investigated along with the people they have been in contact with, as should be happening?

No doubt, big businesses don’t want publicity about cases in their workplaces. And since the government is pushing the return to work, it too doesn’t want instances of infection made known. Neither does the media. The media lashed out against employees and unions who exercised control over working conditions and demanded accountability from their bosses, like at Amazon and at Renault in Sandouville (by the English Channel). The bosses’ spokespeople accused these workers of slowing down the economic recovery. They even held them responsible for future bankruptcies. This is shameful intimidation. We come to work to earn a living, not to lose our lives!

Today big business wants us to unquestioningly accept the conditions they impose, even if these conditions put us at risk of death. Tomorrow, bosses will pressure us to work more or sacrifice things like our paid holidays, our wages, or even our jobs—in the name of economic necessity. But what bosses call economic necessity has nothing to do with the future and the well-being of everyone. They’re not motivated by the general welfare, but only by dividends and the fortunes of the capitalist minority. These fortunes are made on the backs of workers, by slashing workers’ jobs, wages, and working conditions.

In this society based on exploitation, business will always put the profits of the capitalists before the lives of workers and the future of society. The capitalist class is as irresponsible as it is parasitic. Its domination has led us to this health disaster. Tomorrow the bosses will want mass layoffs and harsher exploitation. So we have to defend ourselves.

As long as the capitalist class runs things, it will lead us from one disaster to another. We have to take power from the bosses and ensure that workers run society for the benefit of everyone.

Botched Mercenary Attack Reveals U.S. Imperialist Scheming

May 18, 2020

On May 4, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro went on state TV to exhibit two captured Americans, both former U.S. special forces members, who admitted, on video, to taking part in a planned amphibious attack on Venezuela.

The plan sounds very unrealistic, considering that the attack force consisted of just several dozen men, mostly deserters from the Venezuelan military, on three boats—supposedly expecting to overcome Venezuela’s armed forces and kidnap the president of the country.

But who was funding this ragtag mercenary army, which had set up camp in Colombia for months? U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied only “direct” U.S. involvement in the attack on Venezuela. “If we had been involved, it would have gone differently,” Pompeo said, adopting a macho posture, much like his boss in the White House often does.

It’s nothing new. For more than 20 years, the U.S. has been openly hostile to the regime in Venezuela, because under Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela did not exactly follow the U.S.’s orders and used some of the income from its rich oil reserves to set up some social programs. After Chavez’s death in 2013, the U.S. continued its hostility toward the Venezuelan regime, openly seeking to oust Maduro. In the meantime, the U.S. has been keeping Venezuela under a strict trade and financial embargo, which has plunged practically the entire Venezuelan society into poverty. Falling oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic have further worsened the hunger and misery for millions of Venezuelans—while the U.S. just tries to increase the pressure on the Maduro regime.

All this is in line with long-standing U.S. policy toward Latin American regimes that do not cow into total submission to the big power up north. U.S. attempts to invade Cuba in the 1960s, and to assassinate Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro in subsequent decades, are well known. But before that also, the U.S. openly attacked many other regimes in Latin America, such as in Nicaragua and Panama in the 1980s, in Guatemala in the 1950s, ... it’s a long list.

Whatever the exact truth behind this latest incident in Venezuela is, it no doubt is part of the U.S.’s imperialist scheming against another country’s government.

Pages 6-7

Be a Warrior for Our Class

May 18, 2020

The following article was the editorial in Spark workplace newsletters of May 10.

Trump called on workers to be “warriors” for the economy. Risk going back to work, as 2,000 people continue to die every day from the virus.

Well, if Trump wants to be a “warrior,” let him. Let him risk dying. Let him give up being tested every day, as he is now, to protect his health.

But don’t let him dare call on us to go into work under conditions that guarantee more infections, and a steadily growing death toll.

We are in this mess because no public agency prepared for a new epidemic—despite the clear warnings given by SARS and MERS. No public agency put enough money into research so there would already be a vaccine that might prevent any disease provoked by the corona family of viruses. No county or state set aside funds so public health departments would be prepared to test and trace whenever a new disease appeared. Counties and states had other priorities—handing out money to corporations and other capitalists, propping up their profits.

As for the federal government, and its Federal Emergency Management Agency—even its name is a joke. The only thing it managed was lucrative cost-plus-big-profit contracts for private companies every time there was an emergency: flood, fire, hurricane, earthquake or disease. Forget about stocking basic protective equipment. FEMA didn’t do it. Even hospitals forgot about it. Too focused on making profit, directly or indirectly. And no medical insurance company even thought about stocking protective equipment; their aim was simply to make profit on the population’s ills.

The basic problem is not a new virus, it’s capitalist society, organized for the pursuit of profit, no matter what or who is harmed by that.

Today, the governors are beginning to open up the states, letting companies send us into work while nearly 2,000 people are still dying every day. All the governors are doing it in one way or another. The capitalist class they serve cries out for help in resuming their profit stream.

More of us are being called back to join those who never stopped working under unsafe conditions. Those who never stopped working show what will happen to the rest of us.

Meatpacking, for example, worked all through the shutdowns. Tens of thousands have already tested positive. Many dozens, if not hundreds, have died: not only the workers in these plants, but also their families, their neighbors, as well as people in the shops and cafes in the little towns where the plants are located.

Well, meatpacking is a factory. People work on lines, with too few bathroom facilities, with limited space in break areas. The whole set-up crowds workers on top of each other. Is this really different from factories any of us know?

Grocery stores also worked all through the shutdowns. Walmart, for example, had to close some of its stores, when they became centers of an outbreak, with hundreds infected, including people who shopped in the stores. How is Walmart different from the other retail stores and public venues that governors now talk about opening?

Caterpillar has a small factory in Illinois that never stopped working. Several workers died, more contracted the disease. Was it worth it? Caterpillar and its stockholders probably think so. Because on April 8, the company paid out 500 million dollars in dividends to its stockholders.

This is what it means for us to be “warriors” for Trump’s economy: to die by the thousands so the capitalist class can make millions.

We should be “warriors,” but not for Trump, not for any governor, not for the capitalist class. We should think about fighting, but for ourselves, for our families, for our neighborhoods—all those who make up our class, the working class.

Of course, we want to go to work, to have a job. But we also want to be safe. Our first job every day should be to organize our workplace so our safety is put first. Our last job should be to verify that we are all still healthy. We certainly can figure out how to do these things. Doing them, we will start being warriors of our class, the working class.

Maryland Hospitals Lose Money and Want Us to Pay

May 18, 2020

Maryland hospitals announced a drop in revenue, at least a billion dollars over the past two months of crisis. Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, with the largest number of beds, already said pay would be frozen, some workers might go on furlough, and the pension system would not get its contributions. In another region, Anne Arundel Medical Center, the largest hospital in its county, announced 1,100 furloughs.

Since the state has been under stay-at-home orders, hospitals have refused to do what they call elective surgery, including for patients with serious problems like cancer or diabetes or heart troubles. Most people could not see doctors unless they could prove they had an emergency.

In the first week of May, the governor said the hospitals could re-open for elective surgeries. In other words, despite cuts already imposed on the work force, these hospitals are concerned for their bottom lines. They call hospital workers “essential,” and arrange for them to get a round of applause. But then they lay some off!

While Maryland does not allow hospitals to run as for-profits, the state rules allow for income above expenses. Their CEO pay, their anti-union stances, their low pay for cleaners or food service workers, all their policies are like those practiced by businesses. State rules may call for community hospital health care, what used to be called charity, but hospitals are still allowed to hound poor people for repayment of bills.

It is a matter of life or death at this moment to recognize that society needs to provide services, health services, food services, education services, maintenance and repair so long neglected—and profit be damned. But it won’t happen under capitalism.

Murder by COVID-19

May 18, 2020

Caterpillar’s EMD plant in a Chicago suburb is still operating, though the locomotive engines and parts it produces are not in any way “essential” right now.

In late March, a few workers at this plant tested positive for the coronavirus. In response, management said they would take all necessary safety precautions—but that was a lie. They put out hand sanitizer stations—but these kept running empty and it took days for the company to refill them. They said they would maintain social distancing, but this was impossible, especially at the entrance to the plant and the time clocks. They gave out some masks, but when workers asked for new ones, the company said they didn’t have enough.

By mid-April, a worker had died, almost surely of COVID-19, though the company tried to keep the cause of his death a secret. Then, many more workers began testing positive in departments all over the plant. By early May, at least two more workers had died of COVID-19, while others were in the hospital fighting for their lives. Yet the plant did not shut down for even one day.

The owners of this plant made a conscious choice to keep operating when they knew that would mean workers would die. There is one word for that: murder.

Health Care Profits, Gambled Away

May 18, 2020

Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest HMOs in the country, announced a $1.1-billion-dollar loss for the first quarter of 2020.

So is this health care giant, which had declared a profit of $7.4 billion for the year of 2019, another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Well, no. In fact, Kaiser’s health care operations turned another big profit in the first three months of 2020, to the tune of $1.3 billion. Kaiser ended up in the red because of its huge losses in the financial markets—that is, gambling—during these three months.

Here is a huge company, which calls itself a health-care non-profit, sitting on more than $30 billion in reserves and playing big in the financial markets, while its executives actively solicit donations of protective gear from the public in the face of a pandemic. In the meantime, the same executives keep squeezing huge profits from their workers and patients, pandemic or no pandemic.

These greedy bosses are the people we are entrusting the population’s health and well-being to. And it’s not just Kaiser, of course, it’s the whole industry. Under capitalism, health care becomes just another “business,” for a few big capitalists to profit.

Is it any wonder that this country, despite its vast means, was totally unprepared for a pandemic, which announced its arrival months ahead of time?

Page 8

“World’s Richest Country” Can’t Feed Its Children

May 18, 2020

Across the country, lines for food banks have been stretching for miles. In April, almost one in five households with young children in the U.S. reported either that their children weren’t eating enough because they couldn’t afford food, or that the food they bought didn’t last and they didn’t have money to get more.

The COVID-19 crisis touched off a massive increase in hunger, but more than 10% of people in the U.S. already faced “food insecurity” before the pandemic. And hunger was already about to get worse because of a new work requirement that was set to go into effect in April for the main program providing food aid in the country, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. That work rule has been temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 crisis—but at least so far, it has not been suspended for the economic crisis that will continue for who knows how long.

While hunger is growing especially among children, this country has plenty of food—more than can be sold, in fact. Farmers have been plowing under crops, disposing of animals raised for meat, and dumping millions of gallons of milk because they cannot find buyers.

This capitalist system that actively destroys food while leaving millions of children to go hungry belongs in the dustbin of history.

The Unemployment Crisis

May 18, 2020

More than 36 million jobs have been cut since February, according to the U.S. government. By some measures, the U.S. government admits that the unemployment rate hit over 20% in April. The only other time there were such widespread job cuts and such a growth in unemployment was during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The difference is that the loss of jobs during the Depression was more gradual, taking place over a period between 1929 to 1932, while this one is taking place over a matter of days and weeks.

Most of those who lost their jobs have nothing to fall back on because the jobs they lost paid so little. None other than the U.S. Federal Reserve has found that almost half of all households in this country have no savings.

At least half of those who lost their jobs couldn’t even get unemployment benefits. This is not an accident. For decades and decades, the nationwide system of unemployment insurance has been systematically eroded, underfunded and degraded, creating ever more barriers and breakdowns that make it ever more difficult for the unemployed to get coverage.

So, millions of families are without income and in a matter of weeks after the crisis hit, “food insecurity,” or, in plain words—hunger—skyrocketed to levels without modern precedent. Nearly 23% of households in the country reported they lacked money to get enough food. This is almost twice as high as it was during the 2007–2008 Great Recession. Nearly one-fifth of all mothers with young children say their children are not getting enough to eat, according to a survey by the Brookings Institution, a rate three times as high as in 2008 during the worst of the Great Recession.

Of course, in the midst of this catastrophe, the officials at the head of government and business tell the jobless to be patient. They claim most of the job losses are temporary and therefore, the jobs will come back once the economy opens up.

What lies!

In reality, most of those temporary layoffs will turn into permanent layoffs. This was underlined in early May, when such major companies as GE, Boeing and United Airlines announced big job cuts. Mass layoffs were also announced by other companies in auto parts, airlines, aerospace manufacturers, the oil and gas industry, resorts, and even hospitals and health care providers. As for state and local governments and agencies, they also began to announce great big “deficits” that they say will lead to millions more job cuts.

Thus, almost a century after the Great Depression ravaged society, capitalism is creating a new and perhaps even worse crisis right before our eyes.