Rich Corporations Get $500 Billion, No Strings Attached

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

It is beyond obscene that the U.S. government used the Covid-19 panic to ram through a $500 billion loan giveaway to rich corporations. Loans with no strings attached. How did the geniuses in Washington conclude that stuffing cash into the pockets of oligarchs would help the 30 million dumped out of work? Those plutocrats have proved time and again, since Ronald Reagan first started throwing money to them, that when you give them dollars it does not trickle down to ordinary people. It goes to stock buybacks and multimillion-dollar ceo bonuses and raises. It is money flushed down the toilet.

A government that burns money like this can afford Medicare for All. Especially during a lethal pandemic. But our senators, congressmen and white house officials clearly prefer to let people die of plague while they make inequality great again. Their motto is the haves get it all, the have-nots get crumbs. A government that can squander $500 billion on the super rich can afford a universal basic income for its citizens. But our political elites prefer to loot the country and pass the cash to people already swimming in it. No lifeline for the millions who just lost their income. Nothing besides a one-time check for $1200 and unemployment. Which they get from their states. Which are going bankrupt and can’t expect money from Trump, Mnuchin or Mitch McConnell, because no – that trio is too busy bashing Democratic governors and passing out the plunder like candy to corporate cronies and donors.

Adding insult to injury, the political elite who rigged this pillage didn’t even bother to conceal it, cover it up, make excuses or lie about it. Nope. The stock market sank, so without further ado Trump et alia pushed through a bailout for the people who need it least. They didn’t conceal it, because they just assume everybody who matters agrees – when there’s stock-market trouble, the U.S. opens its coffers to corporations, because this is the United States of Corporations not of Citizens, especially not citizens without substantial portfolios. Those people don’t matter. The 30 million who lost their jobs don’t count. And in case they were deluded enough to think they did, Trump, Mnuchin and McConnell just gave a fortune to plutocrats to make it crystal clear: in the U.S. the rich have all the rights – especially the right to government money.

But, you may ask, what about the small business loan program? Well, the first time around that didn’t go so well, with lots of money grabbed by publicly traded corporations. We’ll see how the re-do fares. But even that cannot conceal the brazenness of the $500 billion corporate loan giveaway, which requires no job hirings or worker retentions. At least the small business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) does that. The $500 billion corporate gift should be redirected, tout de suite, to the states or to the PPP – where at least it could do some good for ordinary people. But Washington doesn’t think much of ordinary people.

What our rulers really do think of us is best demonstrated by how Republicans treat meat packers, who do hard, dirty, disgusting, dangerous work. Many meat packing plants have become Covid-19 hothouses, with workers dying. On May 1, the CDC announced that almost 5000 meat packers are infected. So some plants temporarily shut down. Trump freaked out over this and designated slaughterhouses an essential industry. Workers evinced reluctance to return to work, since for many the pestilence could be a death sentence. But governors in states with slaughterhouses threatened to stop these workers’ unemployment checks if they did not clock in. So meat packers have a choice: starve or get the plague. Either way, Washington and their governors clearly regard them as expendable.

One irony is that many meat packers are undocumented workers – you know, the people Trump loves to vilify. Suddenly he says they’re essential to ongoing American life. But many of them, presumably, could not get unemployment funds anyway, due to their immigration status. We’ll see if they risk infection and possibly death for a president who routinely belittles and insults them and whose only concern for them thus far has been to kick them out of the U.S. as fast as possible.

So $500 billion for plutocrats, peanuts for everyone else, forced labor and forced exposure to a deadly virus for “essential” workers. If that sounds like a democracy to you, check the dictionary definition. It spells oligarchy, maybe even tyranny.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Lizard People. She can be reached at her website.