The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Issue no. 1111 — August 10 - 24, 2020

The Fight for Jobs Is the Road to Recovery

Aug 10, 2020

There are government officials who pretend that things are getting better, that we are on the verge of a solid economic recovery. They brag about the 1.8 million people called back to work last month. Do they think we don’t know there are tens of millions of people still unemployed—we who live in the midst of this unemployment disaster every day?

This same government, which was unable to organize the simplest public health measures to prevent a rapid spread of coronavirus, today is unable to organize the simplest measures to make the economy run again.

And yet there are many things, basic things, that could have been done. A government controlled by the population would have hired workers to staff all the public services needed by the population. Instead, this government, controlled by the capitalist class, decimated the services with decades of cuts.

Public health departments—federal, state and county—have been cut back and cut back again: in every state in the country. At the point the epidemic hit, public health simply didn’t have enough people or resources to meet the virus head on.

The Post Office can’t keep up with the mail today. Letters take a week or more to be delivered in the same town. All because jobs were cut over many years.

Unemployment offices in most states have been unable to get unemployment checks to many of the people who signed up for benefits. Again, the same problem: too many jobs were cut. Democratic governors just like Republicans cut back on the day-to-day running of departments like this.

Everyone can think of examples. Roads don’t work. Dams collapse. Water systems are poisoned. Sewage runs untreated into waterways. Public transit stagnates. Behind all these examples, there is a simple cause. There is work that needs doing, important work, necessary work. But people weren’t hired, people weren’t trained, people weren’t put to work. Government did not provide services that are desperately needed, and so it added to the unemployment problem. This is what government has done for decades, no matter who has been running it.

The federal government—this supposedly powerful federal government—was not even able to extend the temporary meager $600 support for income to the unemployed before it ran out in the fourth week of July—even though everyone knew the deadline was coming.

The Democrats quickly passed a bill but then waited on the Republicans, while attacking them for doing nothing. The Republicans were busy arguing with each other as their party split into factions. Neither party asked the population to intervene—other than to prepare for the November elections, as though elections could deal with this mess.

Of course, Trump jumped right into the middle of it all, announcing, just like he always does, that he would do something.

Do something? The only thing he did was call a press conference in the middle of a cocktail party at one of his private golf clubs, where he issued a few pieces of “advice”—what headlines called “executive orders” and he called “laws”. His advisers called them “memos”. He called on states to set up a new unemployment system—without providing the money for them to do it. Just like he threw responsibility for dealing with the virus onto the states, he threw responsibility to come up with the money to the states. He “advised” different departments of the federal government to see if they could find something to do about the growing eviction crisis. And he “advised” employers to stop taking out the Medicare and Social Security tax from workers’ paychecks for the next six months—directing them to take it all out instead in one lump sum next January.

In fact, it was nothing but your typical bait-and-switch that street swindlers know so well.

In the middle of the biggest social crisis since the 1930s, this is what we are facing, a bunch of do-nothings waiting on the next election and a bait-and-switch con man running the country.

This government long ago outlived any usefulness it might once have had—a century and a half ago. It’s a government that stands in the way of the population addressing the real problems we are living through right now. It’s a government that needs to be tossed aside, gotten rid of, replaced by the self-organization of working people, the only ones who really know how to run an economy.

This government won’t be replaced in an election. It can only be replaced by the mobilization of working people. Are there enough people who understand this necessity today? It may not seem like it, but in this current situation of crisis—three crises really—the working population can move more quickly than anyone can imagine.

In any case, this is what needs to happen.

Pages 2-3

Vaccine Wars, Health Crisis, Economic Crisis:
The Madness of Capitalism

Aug 10, 2020

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

All the leading pharmaceutical companies have entered the frantic race to find a vaccine against COVID-19. If we are to believe media specialists, four of the hundreds of projects announced around the world have already reached the most advanced stage. They are testing their vaccines on first smaller and then bigger groups of humans, since these four vaccines worked effectively on animals. An official of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi recently explained: “In six to eight months we’re trying to do what normally takes 10 to 20 years.”

There is cause to be impressed by this mobilization of medical research capacity. We should rejoice in the progress this can bring. But nothing is ever that simple under capitalism. For drug company bosses, the quest for a vaccine is first and foremost a race for profit! To win the competition and pocket the jackpot, one of the companies must become the first to find a vaccine and then mass produce it. To get a leg up, some corporate laboratories have already started industrial scale production of their vaccines, even before they know how effective—or worse, how safe—they will be. To “secure” their profits, drug companies are forcing governments in the richest countries to pre-order millions of doses.

So the competition between the drug companies leads governments to wage a war at the scale of billions of dollars, trying to guarantee the delivery of the future vaccine. Three months ago, a Sanofi official said his lab would deliver to the U.S. first when Sanofi finds a vaccine—because the U.S. had paid more than the others. This was their way to put pressure on European governments to open their cash drawers wider. French president Emmanuel Macron then pretended to object in his usual hypocritical style. He announced the vaccine must be a “public good for the world, and not subject to the laws of the market.” What a joke! As he does every time any big boss speaks loudly, Macron had already submitted to Sanofi’s demands, unconditionally promising hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile Sanofi not only posts record profits but is preparing to cut a thousand jobs in France plus another 700 jobs elsewhere in Europe.

When these publicly fattened labs manage to finalize a vaccine, it will be protected by patents and sacrosanct trade secrecy preventing any knowledge sharing. We will have no way of knowing the terms of the deals between governments and drug companies. The corporations are free to pursue whatever business strategy they choose. An executive of U.S. lab Pfizer put it bluntly: “These are extraordinary times, and our pricing will reflect that.” Too bad for those who can’t afford to pay!

In fact, in all spheres of life, society runs up against the greed, parasitism, and irresponsibility of the bourgeoisie, blinded as it is by the pursuit of profit. Society has awesome means of improving human life, thanks to scientific and technological advances. Yet in all countries including the richest, there are many unmet needs in health, education, transportation, housing, and so on! But despite these needs, the economic crisis sinks ever deeper.

The economic crash is not due to the COVID-19 epidemic, although that has sped it up. Humanity has survived many episodes of recession. Now, to handle the consequences of the pandemic, wealth and capital that accumulated during the years of economic growth should be mobilized in the general interest. But these riches are in the hands of a privileged few! Corporations weren’t bombed into nothing. They’re still around! The bosses decide to close them or reduce their activity by cutting their workforces.

In an economic system which was controlled by society, production and distribution would be organized according to need. But this is not possible as long as the capitalist minority can impose their decisions on the whole of society. They are never even held to account.

Expropriate the capitalists! Reorganize the economy according to need and not the profit of a minority! The working class has to demand these objectives. Only these can save society from the bankruptcy where capitalism is dragging us.

A Massive Explosion Years in the Making

Aug 10, 2020

On Tuesday, August 4, a massive explosion rocked the city of Beirut. Homes and businesses were leveled and windows blown out for miles. At least 150 people died, with many more still missing; over 5,000 more were injured. The blast was felt across Lebanon, and was even heard on the island of Cyprus, 125 miles away in the Mediterranean Sea.

The explosion came seemingly out of nowhere for the residents who experienced it. But as they learned very quickly, this was very literally a time bomb that had been sitting in their port for seven years, waiting to go off.

Over 2700 TONS of the highly explosive chemical ammonium nitrate had been sitting in a warehouse at the port since 2013, when a ship carrying the cargo was detained. (By comparison, two tons of the same chemical were used in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.) Starting June 2014, the director of Lebanese customs repeatedly urged the government to remove the ammonium nitrate from the port, citing the extreme danger of having so much explosive material just sitting there, so close to such a heavily populated downtown area. Nothing was done.

To make matters even worse, apparently a cache of fireworks was stored in a warehouse right next to the ammonium nitrate, again, for years.

On August 4, the inevitable finally happened. Apparently, a fire in the warehouse ignited the fireworks. As firefighters were battling the blaze, the ammonium nitrate touched off, flattening the entire area in a massive shockwave that survivors compared to a Hiroshima.

The outrage among residents grew very quickly. The Lebanese population had already been protesting last fall, demanding a change in the government that they see as rife with corruption and incompetence. Since January, they have experienced an economic collapse, rampant inflation and food shortages that have made it very hard for many to pay their bills or feed their families. The Lebanese Lira, the local currency, has lost 80 percent of its value so far this year.

This explosion for many has been the last straw, the embodiment of all that corruption and incompetence enriching people at the top while so many have suffered.

On Thursday, August 6, residents of Beirut expressed their anger against Lebanese political leaders, none of whom bothered to risk themselves in the stricken neighborhoods. Instead, they sent security forces who fired teargas at the demonstrators.

Immediately, a more massive demonstration was planned for Saturday, August 8. Thousands turned out, chanting “The people want the fall of the regime,” and carrying signs reading “Leave, You All Are Killers.” When they approached the Parliament building, police once again tear-gassed them.

Clearly, a not insignificant part of the population still finds the strength, in the midst of this field of ruins, to challenge a political and financial system which is a permanent catastrophe.

Another Reason Johnny Can’t Read

Aug 10, 2020

Thousands of school systems are starting with online teaching in the fall, due to the coronavirus threat.

Millions of dollars have been spent to get computers and tablets to all students. But the plans and devices are useless without high speed Internet.

In the U.S. the Internet is treated like a play toy, on which the richer families can afford the best, while poor ones are lucky to have any.

Other rich countries treat the Internet like a necessary utility, available for all, starting at $50 a month in France, for example. In the U.S., Comcast is a monopoly in many big cities, with the triple play cable, Internet, telephone costing at least $200 a month.

In Baltimore, where Comcast is the only provider, the company offered the funding-starved school system two months of low speed cable, with a few thousand hot spots.

Last year Comcast made so many billions in profit, it came to more than 250 million dollars every week. And the politicians in every city, state and federal government position have kissed their butts to ensure those profits.

So Johnny still doesn’t have what he needs to learn to read.

Pages 4-5

The Long Struggle for Women’s Suffrage

Aug 10, 2020

This summer marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the legal right to vote in all U.S. elections. By June 4th of 1919, the House and Senate had passed the 19th Amendment. But for it to become part of the Constitution, the supposed “supreme law of the land,” three quarters of the then-existing 48 states then had to vote to ratify the amendment. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify.

It took women decades of struggle for this basic democratic right to be legally recognized. As Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, put it, “To get the word male in effect out of the Constitution cost the women of the country 52 years of pauseless campaign... conducting 56 campaigns of referenda to male voters; 480 campaigns to get legislatures to submit suffrage amendments; 47 campaigns to get state constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions ... and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses ... thousands of women gave years of their lives, hundreds of thousands gave constant interest and such aid as they could.”

Two Movements Intertwined

The struggle of women to win the vote was entwined with other struggles of the new United States. The men of property who wrote the U.S. Constitution in 1787 denied the vote to all women, who were considered the property of their husbands or fathers; denied it to all black people enslaved as property of the plantation system; and denied the right to vote to most white men, because they didn’t own enough property. People who fought over one of these issues often saw their fight as part of a bigger struggle.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, some of the first leaders of the struggle for women’s right to vote, started out in the struggle to abolish slavery. And when they worked to convene a women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, they were supported by two well-known abolitionists. Frederick Douglass, former slave and leading abolition speaker, attended and spoke in favor of the right for women to vote. William Lloyd Garrison, editor of an abolitionist newspaper, also attended Seneca Falls and spoke for a woman’s right to vote.

In 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, Susan B. Anthony led some 2,000 women to collect over four hundred thousand signatures on a petition to President Lincoln, the equivalent of four million today. It said, “There can never be true peace in the republic until the civil and political rights of all citizens of African descent and all women are practically established.”

But neither the abolition movement nor the suffrage movement could completely overcome the prejudices of their time. In 1840 Cady Stanton and Mott were part of the U.S. delegation at a conference to end slavery in London, England. A majority of men there voted NOT to seat the women as delegates. Even at Seneca Falls in 1848, the majority of men did NOT vote for Cady Stanton’s proposal giving women the right to vote.

Conversely, those attending women’s rights conferences were usually upper middle class white women, who carried over their milieu’s prejudices. In 1853, when Sojourner Truth, a former slave and abolitionist in New York, spoke at a women’s rights convention, some jeered at her for speaking. She replied, “I know that it feels a kind o’hissin ... to see a colored woman get up and tell you about things and woman’s rights. We have been thrown down so low that nobody thought we’d ever get up again; but ... we will come up again ... we’ll have our rights, see if we don’t; and you can’t stop us from them; see if you can. You may hiss as much as you like, but it is coming....”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton reflected her class’s disdain when the post-Civil War amendments giving the right to vote to male ex-slaves did not give it to women. She wrote, “American women of wealth, education, virtue and refinement, if you do not wish the lower orders of Chinese, Africans, Germans and Irish, with their low ideas of womanhood to make laws for you and your daughters ... demand that women too shall be represented in government.”

Nonetheless these vast social movements influenced each other and reinforced each other.

The Limits of Political Reforms

It took more than social movements to end slavery. It took a second American revolution, the Civil War. What it accomplished was embodied in the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments added to the Constitution.

Yet the limits of what amendments to the constitution can achieve, in the absence of a continuing struggle, were quickly shown by the situation of the ex-slaves. One after the other, the rights enshrined in those amendments were snatched away. The Southern agriculture system became a kind of debt slavery; Jim Crow laws pushed black men into Southern jails, where they were forced to provide free labor for the plantations. Black people—men, women and children—faced ever-increasing violence, torture and lynchings by white men in Ku Klux Klan robes. The judicial system gave a pass to this new form of servitude in the ruling, Plessy v. Ferguson.

Growing Industry Pushes the Labor Movement Forward

The growth of industry required a growing labor supply, so-called “free labor.” When the railroads were built, Irish and Chinese men were brought in to build them, under often deadly conditions. After the Civil War, rapid growth led to the demand for more labor, so thousands and then millions of immigrants, mostly from among the poorest people in Europe, were dragged in. The men of property, having made fortunes on the railroads, formed new companies to gain further fortunes in manufacturing, mining, and construction. The new arrivals, the people without property, faced dangerous, low paid work and crowded, disease-ridden slums in all the larger cities. More than a million children under 16 had to work.

Such conditions led to resistance, and these struggles were often joined by people who had been active in the abolition and women’s movements. By 1864, New York City union activists had gotten at least 200,000 men and women to join unions. The Knights of Labor had organized 50,000 women workers and perhaps 800,000 men workers by 1886. Workingmen’s parties, socialists and anarchists, all tried to organize, and usually they favored equal rights for all, despite ongoing prejudices.

Some women active for the right to vote joined these many struggles. Susan B. Anthony, a woman who had to go to work, protested the lower pay for women teachers compared to men teachers. She and many other women were active in the “temperance” movement, seeing it as a way to prevent women and children from bring brutalized by drunken men. Many working women joined the fight to make birth control legal despite sometimes vicious male opposition.

Immigrants crowded into run-down city dwellings were accused of bringing diseases into the country, deadly diseases like cholera and tuberculosis. Some reformers attempted to demand new laws that all buildings rented out rooms with windows, that multi-story buildings have fire escapes, indoor water and plumbing. Women were active in all these efforts, culminating in the passage of the New York Tenement Act of 1899 and the Hull House movement for immigrants in Chicago, led by Jane Addams.

When a New York politician argued publicly that women organizing interfered with their “feminine nature,” he was answered by textile union organizer Rose Schneiderman: “Women in the laundries ... stand for 13 or 14 hours in the terrible steam ... these women won’t lose any more of their beauty and charm by putting a ballot in a ballot box once a year than they are likely to lose standing in foundries or laundries all year round.”

The West Was More Democratic

The denial of the right to vote for women and for ex-slaves was not universal throughout the U.S. during the 19th century, thanks to the settlement of the Western territories. The frontier needed laborers in the mines and on the farms. And it needed women if the settlements were to grow. Former slaves found work in the West, and women often were able to vote.

Wyoming Territory granted women the vote in December of 1869, followed by Utah in 1870. In some places male politicians, judges and business leaders overturned that right; in other places, women continued to vote, regardless of what the law proscribed.

Suffragists, black and white, organized campaigns for the vote across the Western territories. By 1915, eleven Western states had granted full suffrage.

Increasing Attacks

As in all struggles, those standing up faced many forms of attack. A new generation of women fighting for suffrage in the early 20th century saw what happened in England. English suffragists who demonstrated were beaten, arrested and tortured. Alice Paul, an American woman, helped organize a silent protest at the White House in 1913 against President Wilson, who had opposed women’s suffrage. A march of 500,000 for suffrage followed. She and other organizers faced not only verbal abuse, but physical attacks and arrest. The women went to jails, enduring crowded filthy conditions and force-feedings, like their sisters in England. Afterward, some of those jailed put together a train to carry them across the U.S. They talked about suffrage and their experiences at every town they came to, winning supporters.

President Wilson, looking for a way to gain support for U.S. entry into World War I, shifted his position, publicly supporting a 19th amendment for women’s right to vote in 1916. The next year saw revolution in Russia. Then, the year 1919 saw social explosions in the U.S.—in February a five-day general strike in Seattle involving 60,000; February was the beginning of thousands of immigrant textile workers on strike for better wages and the 8-hour day, starting in Lawrence, Massachusetts. In April steel workers met to form a union, with a September strike involving 350,000; thousands of miners struck in April in Pennsylvania.

Faced with these social upheavals, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives both passed approval for a 19th Amendment, for women’s right to vote. It still needed passage from at least 36 states, but the 11 Western states had already opened that door.

With the August 1920 vote in Tennessee, women finally gained the legal right to vote.

An Amendment Is Not a Guarantee

Helen Keller, like other radicals of the time, had sounded a warning to women in 1911 when she wrote to suffragist friends in England: “Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between ... Tweedledum and Tweedledee.... You ask for votes for women. What good can votes do when ten-elevenths of the land in Great Britain belongs to 200,000 and only one-eleventh to the rest of the 40 million? Have your men with their millions of votes freed themselves from this injustice?”

A few rights were won, after years of struggle and bitter social explosions. That was also true of civil rights legislation passed in 1964 and 1965, after a long and hard-fought campaign during which black people demanded the same rights as white people. But amendments were not enough, laws were insufficient.

For all practical purposes, today these reforms seem to have been lost. Only half the population votes, apparently realizing they have nothing to vote for. Union membership is almost as low as when organizing began. Women remain second-class citizens, first, because some men continue to use and justify violence against them; second, because wages remain lower for women than for men. For black people, the stains of racism remain, with deadly physical attacks continuing; unemployment is higher for black people than it is for white people; wages are lower.

And yet, every one of these fights was worth making. Without them, imagine where we would be. But it’s important that those who fight don’t carry with them the illusion that it is enough to fight to be able to permanently overcome the evils of this system. To do away with them permanently means to do away with the system that has engendered them, today’s capitalist system.

Pages 6-7

One Answer to 2 Crises:
Virus & Joblessness

Aug 10, 2020

The following article was the editorial in SPARK workplace newsletters of August 3.

We are being battered by two crises: one, a public health crisis; the other a collapsing economy. Both stem from the same fundamental cause: the completely anarchic and self-serving way the capitalist system functions.

COVID-19 is spreading rapidly today—even more so than in March and April. Back then, Seattle, New York City, Detroit and New Orleans seemed to be the only real “hot spots.” Today, the “hot spots” are in most states.

It didn’t need to be this way, not in March and April—and certainly not today. Knowing that this virus existed, that it would spread widely when it hit, the government could have prepared for what was to come. Hospitals could have been stocked, nursing and other departments fully staffed, testing supplies and protective equipment produced. Testing could have been started to find those infected before the virus surged out of control.

Instead, most states did all the things that guaranteed the virus would spread, and spread rapidly. They opened up businesses, without requiring adequate protection for people working. State governments gave the priority to business, ignoring the risk to the population’s health.

This virus, it’s true, is contagious. But with adequate testing, it’s possible to know who is infected. And that could have allowed the sick to be quarantined under adequate conditions to ensure their recovery AND prevent them from spreading the disease. This is not complicated. It’s a basic public health procedure.

But the problem is, this requires money—money that the federal government should have directed into providing stockpiles of equipment; money that states should have directed into well-run, fully staffed public health departments.

But little public money was spent on public health—just as not enough public money was spent on roads, bridges, tunnels, water systems, sewage systems, dams, even schools. Public money went, instead, to tax breaks, subsidies, outright gifts for all the big companies in the country, and most of the medium-sized ones.

Public money went to private profit.

And so, in this capitalist system based on the pursuit of profit, we have the worst of both worlds: a public health crisis, which in turn has crushed the economy, causing large parts of daily life to shut down, throwing millions out of work, cutting into most people’s income.

Today, the economy is in a state of collapse. In three-and-a-half months time, the economy fell as much as it did during the first three-and-a-half years of the Great Depression.

The shutdown for the virus may have slammed on the brakes. But even before March and April, the whole economy was skidding around on bald tires, preparing to crash: there was a very high level of real joblessness. Most young people were cut out of regular employment.

In the midst of today’s public health crisis, it’s obvious what should happen. If “essential workers” are needed, their work should be organized with their safety given first and constant priority. Work needs to be spaced out, time spent at work reduced—without pay being reduced—and people’s health checked regularly. Sanitation should be given priority. Wages need to be raised, and sick time automatically provided, so no one feels the pressure to come to work when sick.

All of this would mean that many more people would be hired. In other words, it would be, at the same time, part of the answer to the virus crisis and a partial answer to the jobless crisis.

The same is true looking at the bigger picture. Child care, which answers the developmental needs of children and takes into account their safety and health, can only mean many more people put to work. Protecting elders in ways that respect who they are and the lives they have lived also means more people put to work.

These are obvious answers. But it’s only the working class who thinks of such things.

Sports under COVID-19

Aug 10, 2020

While COVID-19 is raging throughout the country and a thousand or more people are dying every day, the big-money sports leagues are trying to resume their businesses.

The NBA, National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer have already started playing shortened seasons, while the NFL and Division 1 College Football are practicing and making plans to start their seasons in September.

The very nature of all these sports puts the athletes in close physical contact with each other. And since many people who have COVID-19 don’t at first show symptoms, the virus can easily spread from one player to another. Which is exactly what has happened.

As of August 7, over 100 NFL players have tested positive for COVID-19. In College Football, several hundred players came down with the virus, including 37 players at Clemson and 28 players at Rutgers. In Major League Baseball, 18 players for the Miami Marlins and 8 players for the St. Louis Cardinals have COVID-19. And the number of players who test positive for COVID-19 keeps growing every single day.

But none of that matters to the owners and the sports bosses, because they can still make some money off sports. The Athletic Director of the University of Michigan (U-M) said they will lose out on $61 million this year if U-M doesn’t play football. Is there any question why he wants to have a football season?

Currently a football player at Indiana University is hospitalized with heart problems after he got COVID-19. A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association cited a study in which 78 out of 100 people who had recovered from COVID-19 were still showing problems with their hearts. Matthew Martinez, a doctor with a sports cardiology program in New Jersey, said, “We’re starting to find out what we thought was the safer group, the young athlete, may not be as safe as we thought.”

Facing the danger of COVID-19, some athletes are starting to speak up and push back. As of August 7, 66 football players from the NFL have refused to play, giving up most of their salaries. Some baseball players have done the same thing. A group of college football players from the Pac-12 have said they will not play this season unless their demands for COVID-19 safety, as well as racial and economic justice, are met. Over one thousand college football players from the Big Ten signed a statement demanding more protection from COVID-19— “The NCAA … has had ample time to prepare for the safe return of its athletes to competition, yet it has done nothing.”

At the end of the day, it will be the athletes themselves who will have a say in what happens with these sports seasons. Pressure from the athletes, as well as the further spread of the virus, may end up cancelling all the plans that the sports bosses have.

One Million Workers Cheated out of Unemployment Insurance

Aug 10, 2020

About one million people, or roughly one out of nine Californians who have applied for unemployment benefits since March, have not been getting their checks, and many of them not for months.

There are so many ways claims can get stuck. It’s easy to make a mistake because the forms are complicated and confusing, and require a lot of detailed information. Then there are rules like claimants having to verify their identity again and again—or else the weekly payments stop. If an applicant has made a small mistake filling out a form years ago, for example, the state often uses it as an excuse to deny a new application

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) has only one phone line that deals with glitches, and it’s open only from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., and only on weekdays—for the entire state of California, with a population of 40 million! People who don’t get their checks are forced to spend days on the phone, making literally hundreds of calls before they can reach a person to talk to.

EDD officials admit that current wait time for agents to call back claimants is four to six weeks. It’s a staffing problem caused by years and years of budget cuts, not just in the EDD but in every department of the state government, which has only gotten worse over the last months because of more, bigger budget cuts.

Page 8

Maryland Housing Reflects the Great Divide

Aug 10, 2020

Protestors in the Maryland suburb of Chevy Chase along Washington, D.C.’s northwest line recently pushed to remove a plaque commemorating white supremacist developer and senator Francis Griffith Newlands from a traffic circle fountain. But Newland’s racist building scheme still haunts the region.

A very shrewd speculator, Newlands founded a streetcar line in 1888 and then built a series of housing and shopping areas along it from inside Washington into nearby Maryland. He legally prevented black people and certain immigrants from buying these homes. He also convinced the new National Park Service to build a huge park, Rock Creek Park, along the eastern edge of his developments to separate them from the more black and immigrant neighborhoods to the east.

This separation remains today, including as a class divide. Chevy Chase is mostly white but also very expensive, while more working class and affordable housing is east of the park.

Everyone should have comfortable housing near places to eat and relax. Taking down monuments still leaves the social divide of housing based on profit. It will take tearing down capitalism to address the housing problem.

Chicago’s Mercy Hospital to Close

Aug 10, 2020

Mercy Hospital, the oldest in Chicago, announced that it will be closing sometime next spring. 1700 staff currently work there. Needless to say, closing a large hospital will cause unemployment and disrupt care for thousands.

Mercy opened 170 years ago—it survived and treated patients from the Chicago Fire. It is on the Northern edge of Bronzeville, Chicago’s historic black community—a community hit particularly hard by COVID-19. Mercy has one of the busiest emergency departments in the city and is one of few places on the South Side to deliver a baby. Other maternity units on the South Side have already closed to accommodate more coronavirus patients.

Mercy is now part of Trinity Health, which runs 92 hospitals and made 10 billion dollars in operating revenue just in the second half of last year. But Mercy has been losing money. That’s no shock—as a “safety net” hospital, serving the working class and poor, many Mercy patients are on Medicaid. The federal government has cut reimbursements for Medicaid care—in part because the administration was privatized.

In this society, everything is a commodity, including healthcare. If the capitalist crooks can’t make money off of it, they’ll close anything,—even a hospital in the middle of a pandemic.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

Aug 10, 2020

Two students at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia posted videos on social media showing students packed in hallways when they went back to schools. Despite their inability to socially distance in those circumstances, the pictures showed many were also not wearing masks. The videos went viral and national media broadcast them as well, to warn the public about the dangers connected with back-to-school efforts in the midst of a pandemic.

So how did officials at the school respond? They suspended the students who brought attention to the danger for five days. Officials claimed the students violated school policy by using their cell phones and posting to social media during school hours.

How ridiculous! The state of Georgia is one of several currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths, thanks in part to a governor who opened things up too early and is unwilling to insist people wear masks. What’s wrong with this picture? Isn’t this what’s called shooting the messenger?

Fortunately, the school rescinded the suspensions. But only after a huge public outcry!

Hunger and Housing Disaster Looms

Aug 10, 2020

In a federal survey of moms of children under age 13, almost 17 percent reported, “The children in my household were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.” This was backed up by the Brookings Institute, which calculated that over one third of all households with a child 18 or under are lacking necessary food to support an active, healthy life.

This despite the fact that since March, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) has loosened many rules to allow states to provide emergency benefit supplements to struggling families. The rise in the number of SNAP cases in March, April and May of 2020 was faster than what happened in 2008 during the Great Recession.

On top of food worries, experts predict the largest housing disruption since the Great Depression if current moratoriums on evictions and current improved unemployment and food assistance benefits are not renewed.

On August 1, with no political action on the federal level, expanded unemployment benefits to 30 million had lapsed, most eviction protections had lapsed and additions to SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—handled by the states—had lapsed.

With additional layoffs scheduled for August, September and October, experts are describing the scale of potential evictions coming as a disaster.

Twenty-two percent of households said in a Census Bureau survey that they would not be able to make their August rent or mortgage payment. This could have a ripple effect, as about 40 percent of the nation’s 48.2 million rental units are owned by “mom-and-pop” operators who tend to have less financial cushion.

Food and shelter are necessary for human life and this is exponentially true during a pandemic. If society cannot provide this, then a new society is needed!

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