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.