Waiting for “Rooseveltian Relief”: An Oversimplified Framework for the Employment Situation

I’ve always loved the term “Employment Situation,” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, because employment is indeed so often a “situation.” Like now, where the unemployment numbers are Great Depression-level (and probably undercounted, because of methodological issues at BLS and technical issues at the state level). Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says “the reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better.” It’s not clear that the lost jobs will come back. 42 million americans are in danger of losing their employer-based health insurance. In the midst of pandemic. According to Brookings, Among mothers with young children, almost 20% say their children are not getting enough to eat, a rate three times as high as in 2008, during the worst of the last collapse. It’s bad out there. How bad is it?

Anybody remember “the scariest chart in the world“? That was nothing!

Naturally, using education as a proxy for class, the working class is hit hardest, and the worse off among them the hardest:

Finally, Wall Street seems to be looking forward and not back, and has taken to discussing the shape of the recovery:

Democrats have promised that this bailout — the phase 4 coronavirus relief package (CARES 2) — will be “Rooseveltian” in scope, but we haven’t seen a bill, and prospects don’t look good. Via Axios:

Details: The legislation, which is still being drafted and is subject to change, is expected to include:

  • Roughly $1 trillion for state and local governments. They want to split this money into separate revenue streams to ensure each community can access it.
  • More money for hospitals and COVID-19 testing.
  • Roughly $25 billion to keep the U.S. Postal Service afloat.
  • Expanded nutritional benefits, Medicaid funding and unemployment insurance (which they call “paycheck guarantee”).
  • Another round of direct payments to Americans.

I don’t have time or the inclination to visit Roosevelt’s grave to see if he’s spinning in it, but I doubt very much that Roosevelt would have allowed himself to get wrapped round the axle on complex eligibility requirements:

House leadership is also working on narrowing down the guidelines for how these funds are allocated to ensure that people aren't "double dipping" into the different pots of money, a senior Democratic aide told Axios.

  • For example, they do not want someone who is receiving more unemployment money to also receive money through the Paycheck Protection Program. However, it’s still unclear whether the PPP fund will be replenished.
  • "We're trying to limit the amount of overlap so people aren't abusing the system," the aide said.

We’ll have to pry means-testing from liberal Democrats’ cold dead hands….

Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, the burning issue is “re-opening,” with protests, culture war framing, and so forth. CNN:

With the economy plummeting and unemployment rates soaring, some states have reopened businesses despite falling short of guidelines recommended by the White House and other health experts.

Among the guidelines for “Opening Up America Again,” states shouldn’t start to reopen until they have a downward trajectory of positive cases in a 14-day period or a “downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period.”

It would be smart for states to meet those guidelines first, said infectious disease expert Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine and global health at Emory University.

Otherwise, they risk a second wave of increased infections and deaths that could overwhelm hospitals and hit more Americans with expensive medical bills.

Even states that stick to their stay-at-home orders can be affected by neighboring states that lift their restrictions.

“It’s like having a peeing section in a swimming pool,” del Rio said. “All the time, we’re crossing state lines.”

So Federalism cannot address pandemics. Good to know.

Now, with that overly long summary of the employment situation, let me pivot to the promised oversimplified framework for understanding the relationship between it and the COVID-19 pandemic that induced it. That framework is class, as the Bearded One would understand it; I learned it — and I’d extremely happy to have scholars correct my misunderstanding — when I was working in factories. It made sense to me then, and it makes sense to me now. I’m really writing this post as a reponse to Amfortas the Hippie, who wrote this comment, which I hoist (having added capitalization; sorry!):

I obtained E.P. Thompson’s “Making of the English Working Class” the week before I became aware of a pandemic, in late Feb.

And i’ve found it difficult to read an actual book ever since,lol… Exhaustion and chaos, etc.

So I’m only maybe a fifth of the way into it… but he goes into great detail about [contradictory class locations].

The initial takeaway: It takes a lot of work and education and a willingness to be punished and a tolerance for long haul and resistance to backstabbing and etc.

It was a little easier back then to define the Classes, given lords and ladies and the long history of feudalism…. But there was still the same confusion of tongues we see here: Shopkeeper? How big counts? etc. Thinking about my grandad… small sheet metal manufacturing in Houston, 50’s-late 80’s. Came up from nothing, from a country shop much like the one I have now.

Kept care of his people, and was upset when the unions… which he had always supported, and even been a member of, back when… went on strike.

Perhaps… Just like with the whole Red-Brown alliance, and finding commonality with rednecks… “Working class” must be defined subjectively.

Although I would have a hard time believing the two bankers I know (small town single branch banks) were they to express solidarity, lol.

I’d need to see some orthopraxis (right action=”works”), rather than kind words and orthodoxy (right belief).

As i’ve said, the PMC I know… the local petite bourgeoisie… exhibit little class consciousness… Remember, it’s been hammered into them that we are a classless society.

So how could they?

These proverbial “Karens” haven’t the means to see things that way… And, interacting with them, there’s not much thought going on at all… merely Certainty that they are Right, full stop.

I’ve never had the opportunity to separate any of these folks from the herd like I have with feedstore workers and farmhands… Too pretentious to have a beer with the likes of me, and far too satisfied and holier than thou…. All virtue and status signaling to their peers, and a blind disregard for anyone below their station.

I’ll be watching their near-term descent closely, to see how they handle it… I reckon that will shed some light on all this.

What I’m hoping to do in the remainder of the post is provide some back-of-a-napkin diagrams to “separate… these folks from the herd.” I also hope the framework will clarify the politics of the coming “Rooseveltian” CARES 2, and the, er, resistance to it. I will present three figures. Each describes a cycle. The cycle of the working class is shown in red; capital is shown in black. C stands for “Commodity.” M stands for “Money.” (We will skip over the unfortunate fact that money can be a commodity, because we are not talking finance here.)

Figure 1: Wages

(The Bearded One’s notation for this figure is C-M-C’.) So I don’t think that “working class” need be defined subjectively at all. The members of the working class begin by selling their labor power (a commodity) in exchange for a wage (money). With that wage, they purchase the means of subsistence to reproduce their labor power[1] (food, shelter, clothing, and on up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). If you work for wages, you see how your daily round is shown in that cycle: Get up, go to work, get paid, come home, eat, sleep. Rinse, repeat. Now, one could argue that Amfortas’ PMC are special, due to their credentials, intellectual skills, and so forth. And to an extent, owing to accidents of history, they are. However, (a) they are still selling a more rarified form of labor power for a wage (or a salary, fundamentally the same), and (b) one of the trends of the last decades, especially among youth, is that the PMC are being pushed downward into the working class. Adjuncts, rather than full professors, for example.[2] The PMC’s situation is, in fact, extremely precarious.

Figure 2: Capital

(The Bearded One’s notation for this figure is M-C-M’.) Now we add a second cycle for capital. The members of the capitalist class begin with money. They purchase labor power (and other commodities), combine them, and collect more money. (The source of profit is another topic not covered here). Get up, go to work, write the checks, go to the bank, come home, eat, sleep. Rinse, repeat. Capital’s position — as opposed to the individual capitalist’s — is not precarious at all, except to the extent that workers withhold their labor (through, e.g., strikes or other actions.) Of course, there are capitalist class traitors — Engels comes to mind — who are always to be encouraged.

Figure 3: Provisioning

To the above two interlocking and seemingly perpetual cycles, I add the concept of “provisioning,” connecting it to the means of subsistence. Provisioning means providing the means of subsistence to workers not through wages: mainly through government, but also through charity, mutual aid, nature (victory gardens), and so forth. (It looks exogenous because in this simple framework it is.) Now, if you are a capitalist, and want total control over your working class, you will want all their means of subsistence to come from wages, because that maximizes your power over them, and allows you maximum control over their wages, working conditions, etc. You will want as little provisioning as possible, and whatever there is should not empower workers. You will also regard capital, as opposed to labor, as the driver. For example, in the current pandemic, Peggy Noonan writes:

We can’t grapple only with the illness, we have to grapple with the crash. The bias now should be toward opening, doing everything we can to allow the economy to become itself again, to the degree that’s possible.

Toward that end, two thoughts… The first is that we must unleash the creativity of businessmen and -women, an uncalled-on brigade in this battle. Not only doctors and scientists will get us out of this, business must be on the lines, too….

[George Shultz says: “We have a potentially vibrant private sector. There’s an immense amount of energy and ingenuity and fresh thinking there. They think about how to get themselves in a profitable position, and to do that they have to take into account a lot—supply chains, the health of their employees, the safety of customers. We have to open things up and say to the private sector, ‘Do your job.’ They have creativity, they want to get things up and going again.”

The a priori case for leaving public health to the capitalists is not clear to me, but let that pass. The key point is that conservatives like Noonan want to keep provisioning to an absolute minimum.

So now we can forget about the moralizing and see what the “re-opening” debate is really all about (yes, people with guns in the Kentucky state house give me the creeps, but that’s at least partially the political class jerking my chain in the culture wars.

First, the working class needs to keep its C-M-C’ cycle going. Absent a minimum level of provisioning — unemployment is hard to get, and is not universal; health care is horrible; the rent is too high; the car payments aren’t paused; and on and on and on — There Is No Alternative to going back to work and collecting wages. And there’s no point moralizing about people who need to do that (entertaining though that is).

Second, the capitalists would like to keep their M-C-M’ cycle going. They too have rent to pay, debts to service, and on and on. I say “would like to” as opposed to “need,” because money tends to flow to those who already have it. Small business, of course, will have the hardest time, and will die and be snapped up by bigger businesses. Big business will do well, as is the way of the world.

Third, despite the yelling and screaming on the teebee, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans have any wish to disturb the sanctity of the wage relation (C-M-C’). The initial relief package was funneled through unemployment insurance and the PPP precisely for that reason (and not only because our sclerotic relief systems have a hard time writing checks and making bank deposits.) The only generic form of relief — the absurdly low $1200 payment — was carefully made for one time only, and changes to provisioning mechanisms — a UBI, even a Jobs Guarantee — were carefully kept off the table. If you take a second look at the Democrat’s “Rooseveltian” program, you will see that Democrats are still forcing relief through existing channels. These are the forms of provisinng proposed:

  • Expanded nutritional benefits, Medicaid funding and unemployment insurance (which they call “paycheck guarantee”).
  • Another round of direct payments to Americans.

No doubt the Republicans will fight all this tooth and nail, but in terms of changing the balance of forces between workers and capital, a change that the New Deal recognized, “nothing fundamental will change.” If the Democrats really do not want C-M-C’ to force workers back to work in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, then they need to think seriously about provisioning, and not this pissant stuff. That is our employment situation.

NOTES

[1] Labor power because “no one is essential.” Grocery workers are essential workers, but no one grocery worker is irreplaceable. Labor, Marx argues, is not alienable and cannot be sold. When a worker complains that management is not treating them as human, they are putting their finger on that distinction. In fact, the tendency is for capital not treat them as human, any more than cattle in a slaughterhouse are treated as human, except insofar as doing to meets whatever temporary requirements that capital might have.

[2] Heaven forfend we should pursue our labors for the sheer love of doing so.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

34 comments

  1. DHG

    Dont look for Americans to be paying those hospital bills unless they are in the upper echelons, they just dont have the funds, the feds will have to pick up the tab.

    1. HotFlash

      But, the lower echelons still have assets, such as houses, 401K’s, future SSI payments, blood plasma, alla that, that can be transferred upward. That ol’ turnip isn’t drained dry yet.

      1. JBird4049

        And there is always organ harvesting and long pork.

        This feels too close to reality already. Just how is prison slave labor and the discarding the elderly and sick for money’s sake any different? It is still the rendering of human lives into profit.

        1. ambrit

          Are we seeing a form of Social Darwinism triumphing?
          I know that it is a meta whinge, but haven’t those Masters of the Universe read their history? Peasant revolts anyone? One generally unremarked consequence of even small scale Peasant Revolts is the weakening of the Elite’s power inside the polity. That increases the chance and odds of success for outside actors to come in and try for a “hostile takeover.”
          History is most assuredly not dead. It is not even pining for the fjords.

  2. heresy101

    Whether you agree with his proscriptions, or not, Charles Hugh Smith has an article that shows what is happening and will continue to happen with coronavirus funds — they will all go to the .001%!! The charts are shocking even though one knows how the system works.
    https://www.oftwominds.com/blogmay20/Fed-revolt5-20.html

    The most amazing visualization of the .001%’s (400 richest Americans) ill gotten gains is a small link in the article: https://mkorostoff.github.io/1-pixel-wealth/

    This is well worth an half-hour or hour of your time. The visualization is amazing and striking – you get a real feel of how totally screwed up capitalism is!! The authors make notes on the use of the money as you go along. Look at the billions as they pass in the lower left while you press the right scroll button.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Waiting anxiously for your announcement of completing the movie and a link … and mp3 files would also be very much appreciated. I like to listen while I drive.

  3. sd

    Western States Pact jointly requesting $1 trillion from federal government, Gov. Newsom says
    https://abc7.com/health/gov-newsom-western-states-requesting-$1-trillion-in-federal-aid/6172820/

    The Western States Pact is turning to the federal government for financial help, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in a press conference Monday.

    The leaders of California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Colorado have signed a joint letter requesting $1 trillion in aid from the federal government.

    1. Oregoncharles

      NYT, as of 6 days ago: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/05/us/coronavirus-death-toll-us.html

      States are ranked; New York stands out. Based on deaths in excess of normal. New York is at 323%; Oregon at 1%; Washington 10%; California 6%. The West Coast is doing pretty well, not exactly first in line for the money – although all have locked down, after a fashion (no enforcement around here), so the economic damage may be extensive. And of course, California is a very large state.

  4. Tom Stone

    The USA is the only advanced Nation that ties Health Insurance to Jobs, which gives more power to Capital.
    I don’t think that’s accidental.

    1. Grayce

      In one sense, it is historical. Corporate charters were given in the context of community, not markets. In an economic cycle, there can be unwritten social contracts that work together. So, the old cradle-to-grave labor jobs were matched with health benefits (a pooled risk-sharing) and pensions (before the offer of lump-sum and the change from defined benefit to defined contribution). Both of the post-retirement benefits extended the social ties and kept a sort of community in balance. It is a separate discussion that it also kept people in their economic class, though nobody starved if they had a job.

      Now, unwritten social contracts are in the same dustbin as giving one’s word or following the golden rule.

      So, tying health insurance to jobs has run its course, but no improved risk-sharing has come along to take its place that does not have draconian premiums. Look to the 1960s “demutualization” period for the beginning of the marketization of insurance companies that had been principally not-for-profits. It is Benjamin Franklin who is rolling in his grave.

  5. Jason Boxman

    Thanks for posting this; I’ve been considering this myself of late. The rush to reopen is to ensure that the working class fully understands who the master is. If you want to eat, you gotta work. Period. So they cosign the working class to our deaths, one way or another.

  6. coboarts

    We could do a lot worse than spring off of that ole hippy’s observations, but “we” can’t get anywhere before we quit being so g’d skeerd about every – f”n – thing. Fear is what is being sold’ya. “OMG, she didn’t wear a mask” – we’re all gonna die… When god wants ya back it’s your time, and only if you give it up are you going, then…

    1. Darius

      The USA is a failed state. South Korea has accomplished a rough opening without all your drama. They have a fraction of the cases, proportionately, that we do. And yes. They all wear masks.

      Japan has been as craven and disorganized as we. The big difference is they all wear masks. Things are under control there. What’s wrong? You’re embarrassed to wear a mask. Doesn’t fit your notions of masculinity? Maybe it’s time to put on big boy pants. The “patriots” in this country aren’t actually interested in figuring out a way forward. They just want to act out their “issues.”

      1. coboarts

        I do, in fact, wear a mask in public. I don’t have any problem with that. I do have a problem with the constant use of fear. At one time, American leadership would have done what it could to reassure the population and gotten on with the work of handling what may or may not be a crisis. That isn’t what we have here, now. Everything is hard sell fear mongering. The drama is being whipped up to a frenzy, and don’t big boys like you ever wonder why? A handful of supposedly right-wing, bible-thumping, gun-nuts are presented as the only ones crazy enough to question the MSM/corporate/political panic – and we believe them about everything else, too – right?

        1. neplusultra

          You think you’re smarter than you actually are. That is the crux of the issue with the majority of these conspiracy theory nuts. They managed to figure it out and all the experts are actually wrong. This country is a nation of overconfident morons and we’re seeing the results of that. Also, there is no God.

        2. Oso

          “American leadership would have done what it could to reassure the population and gotten on with the work of handling what may or may not be a crisis”

          all due respect, there was never a time like that. trump is the current culmination of the horror of the founding fathers, capitalism and exceptionalism. but there was never a time when there was effective leadership for anything but colonial policy and nascent/ongoing capitalism.

          1. JBird4049

            FDR’s famous “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself?” Or JFK’s put a man on the Moon speech? How about Teddy Roosevelt’s support of the Progressives as well as his speeches on the malefactors of great wealth? Although they were both deeply flawed men, I would add Woodrow Wilson, and Lydon B. Johnson.

            All of these presidents were striving for the better nature of our country, and in Wilson’s case, the world. The administrations of all them would have handled this pandemic and the collapsing economy much better than the current government. Whether they would have made right chooses is debatable, but they would have acted, ultimately, mostly for the greater good. Although Wilson’s virulent, even for the time, racism would probably limited any help the black population. Still.

            The current Presidency and Congress have decades information, technology and wealth, but are deliberately using lies, theatrics, contempt for the the entire lower 90%, and greed to do as little good as possible while enriching themselves, their courtiers, and the top 1%.

            It is suicidal stupid because without a large, continuous infusing of cash to the lower 90% of Americans and a reorganizing of the healthcare system to give free, universal care especially to COVID-19, there be a depression worse than the Great Depression. We might already be in one, which means the collapse of their authority or respect for their position.

            Once that goes only inertia and the barrel of the gun keeps them in power. In a country with more guns than people, including many leftists who are arming themselves, and the many veterans whose class sympathies would be for their own generally poor, working, at best lower middle class communities, this is a problem.

            1. Oso

              FDR, who kept brown and black people out of the New Deal by precluding agricultural and domestic workers from its largess?
              or Teddy Roosevelt “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are. And I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”
              you wrote “All of these presidents were striving for the better nature of our country, and in Wilson’s case, the world” with no sense of irony or the inclusiveness it describes.
              your privilege enables you to see freedom from repression as a concept, a subject for discourse, part of an ideology. for black and indigenous people it’s literally life and death, continually staving off genocide.
              do you have the slightest idea what it is to be an afterthought whose existence is of no import to those who feel the ‘greater good’ applies only to themselves?
              and yet the left still deludes itself that its inability to recognize the need for a serious black and brown presence leads to exclusion of said presence, in particular excluding the role of black and brown women who lead our struggles will not significantly attenuate the revolutionary change it pretends to believe in.

              1. JBird4049

                You mean the Southern Democrats who blocked the passage of Social Security until farm labor and domestic workers were dropped from the Bill?

                Or do you mean the extreme anger, complete with newspaper opinions written in the most disgustingly racist language, veiled and not so veil remarks about Mrs. Roosevelt’s sexual virtue, and warnings from political allies about losing their support, perhaps even public violence, if President Roosevelt ever dared again to invite a black man, even a man like Booker T. Washington to a meal at the White House?

                “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

                If you were either Roosevelt what would you have done?

                The Nadir was still a decade away and the lynchings of blacks for some supposed crime was normal. The KKK in its vile glory was rising again. Then again there were the death squads and crooked sheriff departments working for the rich company owners. Reformers, union leaders, socialist, suffragettes (although they were just beaten and jailed) protesters, even civil rights advocates. Beaten, shot, fired, evicted, framed. Men, women, and children had on a few occasions had machine guns, crew operated weapons, used on them. The kind that they used in the trenches of the First World War. IIRC, nobody was ever convicted and in case, nobody was even charged.

                In the previous thirty years socialist, Republican, and reformist political parties comprised of blacks and whites, pushing for economic reforms and in control of several Southern states and municipalities were extirpated. Sometimes by the fist. Sometimes the rope. Often the gun. Mostly in a coordinated, near simultaneous mass coup, banana republic style. The whites were often given a slightly better chance to run.

                During the Great Depression the Southern Democrats were willing and able to block the New Deal unless blacks were excluded. They were willing to block programs that they often agreed with, and let their constituents suffer, so great was their racism.

                So, again what would you have done in the Presidents’ places?

                I could spend hours on the eugenics movement in United States under which thousands of Americans were sterilized, sometimes illegally, frequently used without telling the victims, often under court orders (ruled legal by the Supreme Court) in clinics, jails, prisons, mental institutions, and in a few communities dragged off the street by law enforcement and taken to a “health” clinic.

                Pretty much always the poor and the disadvantage. Black or white mostly of no matter although the stealth sterilizations done in the clinics tended to be for blacks. But then they also existed in Appalachia. We taught the Nazis well (where did you think much of their eugenics planning came from? Everything but the killing we had already done, including the “scientific research,” the anti race mixing laws, and the forced sterilizations. Henry Ford got a medal from Hitler) The United States only began the process of stopping it all after seeing just where it all could lead to in 1945.

                Considering that California and one of the Carolinas actually did sterilizations into the 70s. Well, the California women’s prisons were covertly and very illegally sterilizing women into the first few years into the 2000s. Hell, considering how it keeps popping up every decade or so and the news media all but dead, it’s probably still happening.

                Then there are the Native Americans, Indians, who have suffered even more than anyone in our country. Any statistics on any American group you care to name will not have it as bad as them.

                So, you do have the right of it when complaining about being ignored or considered less nothing. I suggest though rather than using a simplistic view of Good vs Evil in which a single characteristic is the determining trait, that seeing that life is usually shades grey. Power, wealth, status, or just trying to survive. Messed up people trying to survive a craptastic world.

                Our nation has a rich, full darkness in its heart. I could go on for days. But I’ve ranted enough on the historical(?) evils.

                Rather than seeing evil as simple, look at its complexity. Like, for example, how all the alliances, parties, organizations, even churches that were integrated across native, white, and black communities always got immediate, often violent, attention during the four hundred plus years that the American and Dutch colonies were first founded. It’s quite an impressive, often suppressed history of American on American violence.

                Claiming the mantle of being the oppressed is an intoxicating feeling. Just do not tell the deaf man who has been able to replace his hearing aids, gone days without eating, sat in the dark, been unable to feed my cats, and lost, in part, my better half because of poverty. Do not complain about being considered of no import as if that is unusual when hundreds of thousands of Americans are homeless, often for years, including entire families. Millions of Americans have been going hungry for decades. Using GoFundMe to pay for life saving medications and operations or losing loved ones because you did not have the damn money is a regular meme. So common as to normal.

                I am tired of the Victim Olympics. Whenever misery and want of tens of millions of Americans are mentioned, the various rights issues and bigotries are used to shout down the mentioning. “Let’s see what social rights issue is best used this time?” Hunger of children has to fight the rights crusade of the moment. The needs of poor families have to compete with #metoo, which is then ignored when wealthy, influential women deem it necessary to save rapey Joe Biden. The homeless are absolutely of no import unless they become too unsightly enough, too inconveniencing, and then come the police, not the social workers. And the often enslaved inmate population just do not exist.

                But the average American does not matter, does he? Unless he has money. Then he suddenly becomes human.

                I will certainly agree that being white does make it more likely to be treated as a human being, of not being shot dead for crime of existing. It is is wrong, but it is still the truth.

                However, I would take issue with someone calling me privileged. It is merely another attempt to make me into a caricature that can then be devalued and ignored. Do not use the same tactics that our mutual oppressors have successfully used since Jamestown and New Amsterdam.

      2. Dwight

        Japan does have public health offices throughout the country that seem to have been fairly effective in cluster tracing. Most of what we hear from Tokyo big media correspondents is how backwards they are to send reports by fax, and there have been incidents of misentry into databases, but that is trivial IMO in comparison to the structure. Testing may have been insufficient, and Japan isn’t out of the woods, but I’m not sure I would call them as disorganized as us. Your broader point stands though – it’s individual and communal behavior like masks, more than government action, that slowed spread of the virus to what I hope will be a manageable level.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      As an old curmudgeon who reads, greatly values, and seriously regards “that ole hippy’s observations” I concede that we live in a Society where fears are a tool very consciously used for the application of control. But some fears are well founded and ignored at peril — and used as a means of control — to provoke fear.

      Your statement “When god wants ya back it’s your time, and only if you give it up are you going …” is most odd. I would much prefer that god might wait if I am cautious about what I do — and giving up is the very last thing I would ever do.

  7. Oregoncharles

    ” Among mothers with young children, almost 20% say their children are not getting enough to eat, a rate three times as high as in 2008, during the worst of the last collapse.”

    Missing a few months of school will not hurt most kids – they can easily make up what they missed, if the school lets them. Not getting enough to eat WILL hurt them, permanently if it goes on very long.

    This, while farmers are destroying food (granted, mostly fo rlack of processing capacity.)

  8. stefan

    America is killing herself with her addiction to cheap–cheap prices, cheap labor, cheap food, cheap gas, cheap construction, cheap morals–now she wants a cheap cure to coronavirus.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I do not believe “Cheap food” is a bad thing in-itself — although some ways of providing “cheap food” are morally questionable.

      The rest of your comment is … strange. You mix cheap prices for labor, food, gas, construction, morals … with a cheap cure for coronavirus together as though they were similar to each other. Consider that the word ‘cheap’ describes not absolute cost but relative cost — the relative value attached by Society. I sympathize with what I perceive as the issue underlying your comment. Society’s relative valuation of the contributions made by its different members is becoming remarkably skew of the value they actually contribute to society. The costs for labor and more particularly construction are relatively low compared to the costs for a programmer or other member of groups whose relative pay I trust you [with me] resent. As a former programmer-analyst I fully agree. And I believe the costs for programmers is seriously low compared to the costs for supervisors and the vague category of ‘upper management”. … And so — as we grab at the feet of the crabs directly above us in the pot — we all forget who owns the pot and turns up the gas to bring the pot to boil.

      You may notice I missed including “a cheap cure to coronavirus” — and I cannot believe that you believe such cure should be other than cheap — or better free — to all. A cure for a communicable disease must be available to all, and more than available … pressed upon all to assure the eradication of that disease from Society.

      I also omitted “cheap morals”. Far too many would ‘clarify’ what is and is not moral for the rest of us. Please confine your morals to judgments of members of your own group … and remember the essential Truth that we are all but human.

  9. Oso

    I believe the new (at least to me) term “essential workers” can be used in the way ‘first responder’ was used then misused following 9/11. first responders to my recollection meant something heroic, specifically the firemen who perished, then it came to mean cops and soldiers and became part of all the lies and false lexicon of capitalism and white supremacy. since most of us understand for the economy to perform we need everybody back to work at some point, that infers all work is essential work so we must stress this in the message we get out to our folks, be it online or with groups.
    possibly masking up against covid (per yves smith post yesterday) can be a symbol of unity. due to disproportionate indigenous/black covid-19 deaths masking up in the hood/varrio is widespread, at least in urban california. local activists/hip hop culture/respected elders push this. we understand class consciousness and also the fact that race must be considered. even if covid is under some semblance of control we can all mask up as a sign of unity. the same way disaster capitalism works, workers need to take advantage and not settle. if there is no existing framework in your area, not difficult to find like minded people in your area and do like occupy. not necessarily the encampments, but the way GA’s were done. Anyway that’s my two cents worth this morning.

  10. Rick

    I’ve updated some of the charts I made while unemployed in 2009 to include the current “situation”, including my version of the ‘scariest chart’.

    Economic Charts

  11. Jeremy Grimm

    I am an avid reader and sometimes commenter on NakedCapitalism. If you are here following the link from Google I welcome you and hope you will return. I am NOT affiliated in any way with those who run this site … indeed I am not infrequently ‘spanked’ for some of my comments. I have followed this site since the 2007-2008 finance crash. It is and remains my first and foremost site for seeking understanding of the what and why of the happenings in economics, politics, and in the world. I have no interests but my own in promoting this website … and I am purely interested in learning what is happening, why, and what can or should I expect from the future. For more than a decade I have not been disappointed by this website — indeed I am overwhelmed by its abilities to see through bull-shit to the Truth.

    A warning however — comments to this site are ‘well-curated’ — which is to say — Trolls Beware. Others fear not! — Posting well-thought arguments contrary to anything posted or commented is expected and rewarded with counter arguments and-or constrained agreement. Please join the thoughtful commentariat! [And do not be surprised if I make comment to respectfully disagree with you or agree and attempt to augment your comment.}

  12. Scott1

    Our chicken pox got infected. Mother watched us. There was pus. If you didn’t move at all you might not feel the torture. Mom watched. We watched “Underdog” on the television. “Underdog” What a concept.
    I need to see if I can find an episode on You Tube, which is the closest thing to UNTV going. UNTV is not for you to really watch unless you missed the meeting. It’s a Pandemic. Depression means people in other countries don’t buy and we don’t. Better pool medical science. One world pragmatism instead of rabid ideologies & econ war.
    Not even Roosevelt could do it all. Hitler and Churchill, and Poland was given to Stalin.
    Far as the US and Labor, there is no party for labor if Biden is the Candidate and therefore the leader.
    It has been long understood that the Drug War was a war on us. Us baby boomers hated war. Many of us
    had fathers that didn’t want us to go.
    It’s really bad now. It was bad and the disease.
    Pragmatism is the only recognized American Philosophy. It forces us to extremes of eclecticism.
    Goals matter. Time matters. Function determines the system. Logistics.
    There are too many people who are being forced to starve. Hunger is the result of the
    GOP and the Democrats inability to unite for one goal where all have enough
    to breath.
    Thanks.

  13. J4Zonian

    Republicans are motivated to deny all help to the 99% because 1) they think they can control the media and blame everyone’s increasingly dire poverty on Democrats, 2) because they’re emptying the store with disaster capitalism now and expect that to continue at least as long as people are isolated, for a long time after the infection declines and in general, because people will be desperate enough to take pay cuts and do whatever it takes to barely survive. The corporate duopoly is giving trillions in bailouts to corporations and rich people (so they can buy back stock and pay their CEOs more). As long as Democrats keep pretending they’re helping regular people, or are about to, the Republicans can keep the packages coming to their own.

    Democrats are motivated to deny all help to the 99% because they hope to wreck the economy, keep it in chaos until November and blame it on Trump. They have the weakest presidential candidate in history, and causing destruction is the only hope they have of overcoming small state bias, gerrymandering, caging lists, intentionally endless voting lines in blue districts, (rigged machines?) and all the rest, plus the insane 35% who would stand by Trump even if he personally torched their house.

    If people want substantial help to get through this, and then stave off climate catastrophe, there will have to be a hostile takeover of at least one of the parties–a peaceful revolution by the left.

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