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“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

The Antichrist vs. Jesus

Last Sunday night, in his latest weird Twitter rant, the demented fascistic oligarch (DFO) and level-one malignant narcissist Donald Trump hinted that he may be moving towards blowing off medical scientific opinion by dropping the social distancing recommendations that are so critical to blocking the spread of COVID-19:

@realDonaldTrump

WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!

What sparked this gem from the toxic and indecent beast who Noam Chomsky has accurately called “the most dangerous criminal in human history”? Do you really need to ask? FOX News, of course. Just before the tangerine biohazard launched his all caps-lock tirade, FOX News host Steve Hilton had railed against “our ruling class and their TV mouthpieces whipping up fear” over COVID-19. Hilton warned that shutdowns could cause a recession that could kill one million Americans. Hilton ran a clip of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, saying that social distancing was necessary and that he (Fauci) didn’t care if people thought the closure of public space was an “overreaction.”

“Well, that’s easy for him to say,” Hilton said. “He’ll still have a job at the end of this, whatever happens.”

Never mind that the novel coronavirus could easily kill in excess of 2 million Americans in the coming year.

Trump’s tweet came right after Hilton’s segment.

The next day, Trump used his daily coronavirus update to absurdly claim that he’s moved mountains to stop the virus (absurd since he has contributed significantly to its spread). The sick clown president then informed flabbergasted reporters that it’s getting to be time to “open” the economy and put up the “back in business” sign. When asked if he was worried that “opening” the economy might endanger the lives of American citizens, the orange malignancy said that the economic slowdown was going to kill people anyway.

The highly trusted Dr. Fauci was noticeably absent from Monday’s press gathering. This likely reflected the doctor’s (merely scientific) disagreement with Dear Leader Donald, the nearly illiterate and innumerate Chosen One who calls himself a “stable genius” and considers himself the smartest guy in the world on all topics.

By Tuesday, the science-dissing Antichrist-in Chief was telling Fatherland News that he was looking forward to being able to send everyone back to work by Easter.

The egalitarian healer Jesus would have been horrified.

Two days ago (Wednesday), Trump was still channeling right-wing-nut job Hilton’s call to open things back up even as the World Health Organization cautioned that the United States could soon become the epicenter of the global epidemic and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned of a coming shortage of hospital beds, respirators, and protective gear for medical professionals.

A War Without War Production

Meanwhile, despite his repeated reference to the battle against COVID-19 as a “war” against a “vicious invisible enemy,” Trump has so far refused to follow the pleas of public health experts, mayors, and governors for him to invoke the Defense Production Act. The legislation empowers the White House to order corporations to convert production over to manufacture of items needed to fight the war: masks, medical gowns, ventilators, respirators, test-kits, hospital beds and the like.

Trump has also been idiotically trumpeting an irrelevant malaria drug as part of his catastrophic insistence on portraying COVID-19 as a medical crisis rather than a public health crisis – as something that can easily be solved with a quick fix delivered courtesy of the sacred “private sector” (Big Pharma in this case).

What’s the latest lethal Madness of King Don all about? Beyond his weird addiction to FOX News and his petulant desire to put experts like Fauci and the rest of the medical and public health establishment in their properly subordinate position, it’s about two things: (1) his and his right-wing billionaire backers’ commitment to extreme, supposedly “free market” and anti-government capitalist ideology (more on this below) and (2) his fear of losing the 2020 election (perhaps I should say his fear of having to face blowback for refusing the honor the election’s count or for canceling it in the name of public health when the real reason is the risk of losing) because of the onset of a new Great Depression – a distinct possibility (some economists are projecting 25-30% unemployment by July).

These are the same reasons the Trump administration fatefully failed to properly acknowledge the severity of the crisis and order mass testing regime early on: fear of disruption to the holy high stock market and the destruction of the low unemployment rate Trump has also been touting as a reason Americans “have no choice but to re-elect me.”

Invoking the Defense Production Act and ordering a real public health response sound too much like “socialism” for Trump and his billionaire friends. Meanwhile, as far as Trump and his ruling class comrades are concerned, there’s just too much money not being made by and for the One Percent when working- and middle-class people don’t dutifully report to disease-ridden workplaces and consumption outlets.

Disposable People

Don’t be fooled by Trump and other ruling class politicos’ feigned concern for ordinary Americans who will die because of a recession. Beyond the long overdue introduction of democratic socialism (the real thing, not just Single Payer, green jobs programs and free public college), the obvious democratic and humanistic policy response to people’s vulnerability to capitalist recessions and depressions that recurrently throw millions of people out of work (and off health insurance and decent pensions) through no fault of their own is not to force people back to infected workplaces and shopping centers but instead to implement a guaranteed universal basic income (GUBI) as well as universal national health insurance.

As the left historian and journalist Terry Thomas notes:

“Trump believes rich people should be able to recoup their flagging riches while ‘low risk’ workers, a term that is being bandied about by anxious capitalists worrying about their portfolios, are encouraged or ordered to go back to work to produce the necessary surpluses. What these capitalists really mean isn’t low risk workers, they mean expendable people. The frightening thing is that the ruling class, or at least a large part of it, probably generally supports getting the ‘greatest economy in history’ up and running as soon as possible. Rationalize it like the author in National Review: cost-benefit analysis. How many deaths compared to how much money? They can’t think any other way, and they can’t understand those of us who see these things differently: that perhaps an old geezer who no longer produces surplus value still has a right to live his or her life out in comfort and safety, or young people shouldn’t be thrown to the wolves just because rich people are betting enough of them will not get sick before they generate some profits for the bosses This is a very cynical society. “

Expendable people, indeed. Some other terms come to mind: “disposable” and “surplus.

Thomas Friedman, Neoliberal Barista

It isn’t just Republicans who call for workers to be made into sacrificial lambs on the altar of the blessed marketplace. Last Sunday, the moronic neoliberal doyen Thomas Friedman (who is treated as some kind of intellectual Mandarin king by centrist Democrats and the last remaining Rockefeller Republicans), a Democrat, published a New York Times op-ed calling for Americans to return to work in “weeks, not months.”

We all look forward to pictures of Friedman serving up Grande Americanos and Double Soy Lattes in a midtown Starbucks this coming Easter Sunday.

“The Real Money-Hoarders”

Meanwhile, speaking of the profits system, the source of the crisis, we have the usual price-gouging amidst public panic – another example of the five-century virus called capitalism infecting the Coronavirus response. “Over the past few weeks, investment bankers have been candid on investor calls and during health care conferences about the opportunity to raise drug prices,” reports Lee Fang for The Intercept.

“As media outlets focus on individuals hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer,” the shrewd progressive commentator William Rivers Pitt writes at Truthout:

“the real money hoarders are leaning into this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to peel massive profit from a desperate land. Further: ‘Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF)’, a major health care industry lobbying group that is stoutly opposed to Medicare for All, launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign last week to push back against any effort to fix our broken for-profit system. This comes on the heels of insurance industry efforts against waiving costs for COVID-19 treatments” (emphasis added).

Contemptible Looters: They’re Not “Anti-Government”

Bear in mind that Trump and other right-wing and neoliberal government officials’ problem isn’t with state power per se. It’s with state power in the service of the common good. It’s with the left hand of the state – the parts of government that serve and protect the Many against the ruling Few, reflecting past victories by social movements that valued social justice the people over profits for the owners. The DFO and his buddies are more than happy to exploit the crisis to strengthen the right hand of the state – the parts of government that repress and discipline the Many while lining the pockets and deepening the power of the Few.

Trump has used to virus to advance a bill that would suspend habeas corpus – the right of detainees to appear before a judge after arrest and seek release. That’s about his fascism.

The $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill just passed by the multi-millionaire-laden U.S. Senate and likely to be passed by the House tomorrow (I am writing on Thursday afternoon) creates a slush fund of more than $400 billion to be disbursed to big corporations and financial institutions by the corrupt Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at the command of the Chosen One and with only slight Congressional oversight. The fund can be leveraged multiple times by the Federal Reserve, making it a multi-trillion-dollar giveaway to the shareholders of corporations – that is, to the very rich. The bill lets bailed out firms lay off a tenth of their workforce over the next half year, with no limits afterward. The measure includes no serious restraints on stock buybacks and lets bailed out companies pay dividends to their shareholders.

“In exchange for this takeover,” writes Huffington Post’s Zach Carter:

“Democrats got four months of more generous unemployment benefits for the millions who will be laid off and a one-time check of $1,200 per adult, eliminating a Republican restriction that would have limited poor people to just $600 and phasing out payments for six-figure incomes. These…provisions… pale in comparison to the handout offered to the rich.”

$1,200 isn’t remotely enough to provide a serious cushion to working class people looking at an economic crisis that could soon rival the Great Depression.

Without a hint of embarrassment or shame, Democratic House Speaker Nancy “We’re Capitalist and That’s Just the Way it is,” Pelosi (with a pre-2020 meltdown Net Worth of $120 million) has proclaimed the bill worthy of Democratic support because it was “turned upside down from a Republican corporate focus to a Democratic workers-first focus.” That, as Canadian scholar and activist Gabriel Alan writes me, “is a total lie. How much is going to the working-class vs corporate welfare? More than $1trillion to the latter by my eye-ball estimation. And that is on top of trillions already doled out to financial cartels by the Fed.”

“A bailout at the onset of a killer pandemic without any structural change to the economy that exacerbated the crisis,” writes Counterpunch’s Jeffrey St. Clair, “is the most contemptible kind of looting. What plausible excuse can Sanders, Warren & Merkley offer for lending their support to this act of corporate pillage of the sick, the jobless and the dying?”

Disgustingly enough, a handful of Republican Senators led by the despicable Hell-bound snail Lyndsey Graham are worried that the “rescue” package’s miserly unemployment benefits are too high to ensure that the U.S. South’s lowest-paid wage slaves will be properly incentivized to hand over their labor power to employers for proper surplus-value extraction.

Believe Tara Reade

Speaking of corporate Wall Street Democrats, I hope everyone caught the drowsy Democratic Presidential frontrunner Joe “Look Fat” Biden’s dementia-driven comment on Trump’s call for opening up the U.S. economy: “We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse no matter what.” Spoken like a true “dog-faced pony soldier,” Joe-Boy!

What the Hell did he mean by that? Don’t ask Joe “Vinyl New Deal” (“record players for the poor!”) Biden: he has no idea. He just wants to know what’s for dinner last night.

Now we have credible rape allegations against Biden from the former Biden staffer Tara Reade. For this and for countless other reasons (Google me up on Biden — I’ve done numerous pieces on his abject, mind-boggling awfulness) including his obvious dementia, the right-wing clown Biden must step down NOW.

(One part of me hopes that the Dems run his sorry ass and that their party can never recover. All my life, going back to grade school in the creepy shadow of Dear Leader Richard J. Daley, the principal barrier to getting a real movement of the people going has been the dismal, dollar-drenched Democratic Party. I’m not about to stop it from committing suicide.)

Unconscionable Freedom: We are Not Destroying the Earth

“The priority of the people (for the most part),” Rivers-Pitt, “is to stay safe, to get well if they fall ill, and to do what must be done to eventually return to some semblance of a normal life. The priority of the capitalists is to get the money machine going again, to take full advantage of the crisis, …and to defend their well-staked financial turf from any reforms that may be proposed in the aftermath….U.S.-style capitalism is also a virus, and it has infected every aspect of this situation. Worker safety, insurance coverage and costs, medical preparedness, and vital supplies — even the bill intended to rescue the country from some final financial calamity: All have been perverted and disrupted by the profit motive that never, ever, ever sleeps.”

True dat but how is any of this remotely new or surprising? This is savage class-rule capitalism. Let’s leave national variations out for now. As two young materialist and economically inclined German philosophers and radicals noted in 1848:

“The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors,’ and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment.’ It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

The young radicals added something else worth noting at the outset of their historic manifesto: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles… oppressor and oppressed, …a fight that …end[s] either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”

We are NOT (as I often hear folks say) “destroying the planet.” The planet will outlive us. We are destroying livable ecology. We are destroying our own viability and that of countless other living things in the web of planetary life. It would be more accurate to say that we, under the command and control of capital, are helping the planet destroy us.

It’s eco-socialism or merely barbarism/fascism if we’re lucky.

“Let’s Talk About Which 1%”

In the meantime, as we struggle to survive long enough to save livable ecology and undertake what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the real issue to be faced – the radical reconstruction of society itself,” here are some of the favorite meme-statements I’ve been sent in recent days:

+ “I WILL NOT kill my mother, my father, my grandparents, my best friend for your fucking stock portfolio.”

+ @catvalente: “When the president looks the nation in the eye and says some lives lost are acceptable to save the stock market, he means you. Not some abstract percentage. You. He means your mom, your grandad, your kid. He means you personally should die if it makes him more money.”

+ Sherlyin Ifill: “The have been days when I thought this country could sink no lower. But seeing not just Trump but a sizable swath of business and political leaders attempt to walk this country into catastrophe for the sake of the stock market is the nadir.”

+ Robert Brockway: “So the new GOP talking point is ‘the death toll might me be as low as 1%. We should sacrifice the 1% for a working economy.’ I agree. Let’s talk about which 1%.”

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Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

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