• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal


Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.

Workingman’s Blues (COVID 19 Version)

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

I went back to work last week. Even though neither I most of my fellow workers are convinced library books are an essential service, the fact that we are once again loaning them out appeals to a certain pretense that they are. This is despite the fact that libraries—both public and academic—are often the first entities to be cut during times of austerity. That in itself, seems to indicate their non-essentialness in the minds of the politicians and their paymasters. Indeed, this might be why so many public libraries across the US are providing some level of curbside service in spite of the risks the COVID-19 pandemic presents. Perhaps if their borrowing statistics are at least equal to those statistics prior to the various quarantine orders, libraries will not suffer as much from the layoffs and cutbacks sure to come in the new fiscal year.

I have to be honest. I am glad to be back in the library building I work at. The database maintenance work I was being tasked with while I worked from home is not something I like doing. In essence, it was little more than busywork that would never have been done if the building had not been closed. One assumes the city administration was unwilling to just keep us on the payroll without doing some kind of work, no matter how pointless. Naturally, I am thankful that I continued to get paid and could keep my health insurance. At the same time, I am quite mindful that, since the money was already budgeted for salaries and health insurance, there was no real reason for the fairly meaningless work we were assigned.

Although I am glad to be back in the library building working with actual books, my fellow workers and I are a bit nervous about the health issues involved. As it stands right now, there are no patrons in the building and only three staffers at any time. We keep our distance while working and patrons can only come to the door of the building to pick up their book requests. In other words, our process is similar to that in place for many restaurants, marijuana dispensaries, pharmacies and other retail businesses. Furthermore, the pressure to re-open interiors of these establishments in Vermont is still minimal. The one right wing rally to open for business in Vermont drew no more than a dozen participants. A car rally two days later demanding better protection for essential workers, guaranteed income for all those unemployed due to the virus, prisoner release and residences for the houseless (among other demands) attracted close to five hundred vehicles and many sidewalk supporters. The governor, despite his GOP membership and ALEC-inspired politics, listened at first to medical experts more than Trumpists and libertarians. Consequently, like his fellow GOP governor in Maryland, he mostly erred on the side of caution. In recent days however, he is pushing harder to re-open businesses without insisting on precautions like customers wearing masks or free testing for anyone requesting it. His true colors will become ever more apparent when the state government begins implementing austerity measures.

Already, municipal and state workers are wondering if they will be laid off permanently. Restaurant and microbrewery workers fear their employers will not re-open and musicians wonder when it will be okay for them to perform again. Undocumented workers fear a crackdown on their status is in the works as pressures from the anti-immigrant administration in DC demands that any jobs that do come back be filled by US citizens. Small businesspeople are beginning to understand that—just like in 2008—the federal government is much more interested in propping up banks and financial houses deemed to big to fail than it is in helping them restart. Students maintain a youthful optimism and hope their future is considerably better than the Spring 2020 semester was.

Cracks that were once fissures continue to expand. The US capitalist experiment is struggling to reinvent itself once again. Neoliberalism—which was merely the latest stage of monopoly capitalism—is looking for more public services to consume in the name of recovery. The Trumpist approach is one that ramps up the war of words with Washington’s capitalist rivals overseas, while continuing to do business with them. Profits once again validate the theory that profiteers have no allegiances to anything but more profit. Politicians in the service of the profiteers scramble for ways to keep their paymasters solvent. Those with some semblance of a conscience introduce legislation to help out workers, while those whose selfishness is their only motivation reject everything but the most basic assistance all the while searching for ways to deny that, too. As a friend of mine likes to say: It’s the least they could do, and don’t let it ever be said that they didn’t do the least they could do. Mitch McConnell, you know I’m talking about you (for starters).

If neoliberalism is the ultimate expression of capitalism—where everything has a price and nothing has any intrinsic value—the response to the pandemic in uber-capitalist nations like the United States confirms that this ultimately immoral economic philosophy considers human life just another mark on its ledger. The only value in human lives is in the profit that can be squeezed from each and every one.

So, wish me and everyone else told to go back to work to earn a living some good luck. It’s quite apparent that US capitalism isn’t going to cut us any slack. We’re not really in this all together, after all.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

June 01, 2020
Joshua Frank
It’s a Class War Now Too
Richard D. Wolff
Why the Neoliberal Agenda is a Failure at Fighting Coronavirus
Henry Giroux
Racial Domestic Terrorism and the Legacy of State Violence
Ron Jacobs
The Second Longest War in the United States
Kanishka Chowdhury
The Return of the “Outside Agitator”
Lee Hall
“You Loot; We Shoot”
Dave Lindorff
Eruptions of Rage
Jake Johnston
An Impending Crisis: COVID-19 in Haiti, Ongoing Instability, and the Dangers of Continued U.S. Deportations
Nick Pemberton
What is Capitalism?
Linda G. Ford
“Do Not Resuscitate”: My Experience with Hospice, Inc.
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Who Are the Secret Puppet-Masters Behind Trump’s War on Iran?
Manuel García, Jr.
A Simple Model for Global Warming
Howard Lisnoff
Is the Pandemic Creating a Resurgence of Unionism? 
Frances Madeson
Federal Prisons Should Not be Death Chambers
Hayley Brown – Dean Baker
The Impact of Upward Redistribution on Social Security Solvency
Raúl Carrillo
We Need a Public Option for Banking
Kathy Kelly
Our Disaster: Why the United States Bears Responsibility for Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
An Open Letter to Joe Biden on Race
Scott Owen
On Sheep, Shepherds, Wolves and Other Political Creatures
John Kendall Hawkins
All Night Jazz All The Time
Weekend Edition
May 29, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Tim Wise
Protest, Uprisings, and Race War
Nick Pemberton
White Supremacy is the Virus; Police are the Vector
T.J. Coles
What’s NATO Up to These Days? Provoking Russia, Draining Healthcare Budgets and Protecting Its Own from COVID
Benjamin Dangl
Bibles at the Barricades: How the Right Seized Power in Bolivia
Kevin Alexander Gray - Jeffrey St. Clair - JoAnn Wypijewski
There is No Peace: an Incitement to Justice
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Few Good Sadists
Jeff Mackler
The Plague of Racist Cop Murders: Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Joshua Frank
In Search of a Lost Socialism
Charles Pierson
Who are the “Wrong Hands” in Yemen?
David Schultz
Trump isn’t the Pope and This Ain’t the Middle Ages
Andrew Levine
Trump Is Unbeatable in the Race to the Bottom and So Is the GOP
Ramzy Baroud
Political Ambiguity or a Doomsday Weapon: Why Abbas Abandoned Oslo
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
A Growing Wave of Bankruptcies Threatens U.S. Recovery
Joseph Natoli
Conditions Close at Hand
N.D. Jayaprakash
No Lessons Learned From Bhopal: the Toxic Chemical Leak at LG Polymers India 
Ron Jacobs
The Odyssey of Elias Demetracopoulos
J.P. Linstroth
Arundhati Roy on Indian Migrant-Worker Oppression and India’s Fateful COVID Crisis
Melvin Goodman
Goodness Gracious, David Ignatius!!
Roger Harris
Blaming the COVID-19 Pandemic on Too Many Humans:  a Critique of Overpopulation Ideology
Sonali Kolhatkar
For America’s Wealthiest, the Pandemic is a Time to Profit
Prabir Purkayastha
U.S. Declares a Vaccine War on the World
David Rosen
Coronavirus and the Telecom Crisis
Paul Buhle
Why Does W.E.B. Du Bois Matter Today?
Mike Bader
The Only Way to Save Grizzlies: Connect Their Habitats
Dave Lindorff
Pandemic Crisis and Recession Can Spark a Fight for Real Change in the US