Category Archives: Capitalism

US pandemic cover-up responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands

Saving Wall Street, not lives

The deliberate efforts by the federal government to muzzle scientists and downplay the disease, combined with massive delays in the roll-out of testing, led states to begin restrictions far too late.

Source

http://www.wsws.org

Andre Damon

May 22, 2020

 

On Wednesday, researchers from Columbia University released a study showing that the massive US death toll, now approaching 100,000, is a direct consequence of decisions made by the Trump administration.

The study, posted on medRxiv.org, found that if the United States had begun social distancing and other control measures just two weeks earlier, it would have saved the lives of 54,000 people. The implementation of such measures one week earlier would have saved 36,000 lives.

These figures quantify the consequences of the Trump administration’s efforts in January and February to minimize the threat posed by the pandemic. Despite clear evidence and warnings by scientists, Trump and his cabinet members systematically downplayed the significance of the disease. As late as February 28, Trump was still claiming that the coronavirus “is going to disappear” like “a miracle.” Trump condemned those saying that COVID-19 was rapidly spreading throughout the country, declaring, “This is their new hoax.”

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

But within the government, leading scientists had been ringing the alarm for nearly two months in a futile attempt to make the White House take the most basic measures to prepare for a major pandemic. “Public health officials were fully aware of the emerging threat of COVID-19 by early January 2020,” wrote Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, in a whistleblower complaint.

In a subsequent interview, Bright added “I knew that all of the signs for a pandemic were present. A novel virus, causing significant mortality, and spreading. All the signs were there. It was just a matter of time before that virus left China.”

Bright’s statements tear apart the administration’s claims that “no one could have predicted” the pandemic, and that to the extent the response was delayed in the United States, it was because China lied about the spread of the disease.

Rather, the Trump administration, Bright said, was “intent on downplaying this catastrophic threat.”

The deliberate efforts by the federal government to muzzle scientists and downplay the disease, combined with massive delays in the roll-out of testing, led states to begin restrictions far too late.

New York State implemented its stay-at-home order on March 22, more than two months after community transmission began in the United States in mid-January. Lockdowns in most US cities came three and a half months after Chinese researchers discovered the virus, prompting fears of a global pandemic.

While the Trump administration and the media blame China for delaying the release of information, it now emerges that as many as 50,000 deaths were caused by the White House’s decision to postpone as long as possible the ordering of a lockdown.

Chinese scientists announced a cluster of unexplained illnesses on December 31, and the announcement was widely reported in the United States, including by Reuters, the Associated Press and the New York Times.

The World Socialist Web Site, on the basis of only publicly available data, was able to warn on January 24 that “evidence has emerged that person-to-person infection is occurring.” Four days later, the WSWS wrote, “The outbreak has exposed the enormous vulnerability of contemporary society to new strains of infectious disease, dangers for which no capitalist government has adequately prepared.”

But for months, US officials did nothing to prepare for the coming pandemic. It was not until nearly eight weeks after the first public statements by Chinese health officials that any systematic testing for COVID-19 began in the US.

Even as Trump did nothing to prepare for the spread of COVID-19, he imposed a travel ban on China against the advice of the World Health Organization and his own scientific advisors. Within the federal government, Bright and other scientists within the administration were desperately warning that a travel ban would not prevent the disease from entering the United Sates.

Why, despite the warnings of scientists within his administration, did Trump implement a purely cosmetic measure, whose aim would be to construct the narrative that COVID-19 would be kept out of the country?

Driving the White House’s response to the pandemic from the beginning was not the threat of COVID-19 to human lives, but its impact on the stock market. The White House was well aware that the pandemic would have a devastating impact. But it would come under conditions where Wall Street was already under tremendous strain. The markets had been artificially inflated through years of ultra-low interest rates and “quantitative easing,” which had fueled a massive rise in indebtedness that was undermining corporate profitability and threatening a collapse of the already wildly inflated stock market.

Trump and his advisers knew that the impact of the pandemic would trigger a market selloff, which could only be contained and reversed through the infusion of trillions of dollars in cash from the Federal Reserve and Treasury. In order to gain time, the White House suppressed information and misled the public while this bailout could be prepared.

An article by Edward Luce in the Financial Times last week provided a window into this process. “Nothing could be allowed to frighten the Dow Jones,” the Times wrote, explaining the thinking of the Trump administration. “Any signal that the US was bracing for a pandemic—including taking actual steps to prepare for it—was discouraged.”

The Financial Times quoted one person close to the White House as saying, “Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] had been arguing that testing too many people, or ordering too many ventilators, would spook the markets and so we just shouldn’t do it.”

Amid the public silence, there was furious activity in the background as lawmakers were preparing what would be the largest government bailout of major corporations in history. The Trump administration was playing for time, keeping the public in the dark while a complex program for bailing out Wall Street could be put into motion.

This time was used to write what would become an 800-page bill known as the CARES Act, which created the framework for a multitrillion-dollar bailout of the financial system by the Federal Reserve and the funneling of hundreds of billions of dollars into major corporations from the Treasury.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the bill on March 25. Within two days, the CARES Act passed the Senate with a unanimous vote and the House with a voice vote. It was signed into law the same day. In other words, the largest redistribution of public funds in human history took just 48 hours.

An article in Foreign Affairs notes that this bailout would “blur the lines, never clear to begin with, between the public and private sectors and transfer a large portion of the global economy onto government balance sheets. This level of spending has no precedent in history—not even close. Not in war. Not in peacetime. Not ever.”

As soon as this bailout was secured, the media immediately changed its tone. It turned from focusing on images of mass death and overcrowded hospitals to “hopeful signs” and “silver linings” in order to declare that the pandemic was all but over and that workers should get back on the job.

Even as 1,500 Americans continue to die every day from COVID-19, all 50 states have reopened businesses, sending workers back to work in unsafe conditions and setting the stage for a massive resurgence of the disease.

The same total disregard for human life that prompted the White House to downplay the pandemic and hamper the federal response is at work in the back-to-work campaign.

Amid warnings by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield that the United States faces a major resurgence of COVID-19, Trump declared yesterday, “Whether it’s an ember or a flame… we’re not closing our country.”

In other words, no matter how high the death toll climbs, the needs of society will not be allowed to interfere with the profit-making of Wall Street. The priority of the government will continue to be the interests of financial oligarchy, not saving lives.

This is why the fight against the pandemic must be waged not only on the medical front, but on the political front as well. The struggle against COVID-19 is inseparable from the broadest possible fight against the criminal policies of the Trump administration and its supine enablers in the Democratic Party.

As the Socialist Equality Party wrote in its recent statement, “Build rank-and-file factory and workplace committees to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus and save lives,” workers must:

Form rank-and-file safety committees in every factory, office and workplace. These committees, democratically controlled by workers themselves, should formulate, implement, and oversee measures that are necessary to safeguard the health and lives of workers, their families and the broader community.

There can be no “business as usual!” The pandemic exposes the urgent necessity for a complete restructuring of the processes of production, distribution and economic activity in general. The lives of working people and their families must not be sacrificed in the interests of corporate profits and the private wealth of billionaire oligarchs.

We urge all those who agree with these demands to draw the necessary political conclusions and take up the fight for socialism.

 

Hate China

View at Medium.com

Hate China

Caitlin Johnstone
May 22, 2020

It is China’s fault that humans get sick, and that novel viruses sometimes occur.

It is China’s fault that millions of Americans are being thrown off their employer-provided health insurance.

It is China’s fault that your government is unrolling increasingly authoritarian measures during this pandemic instead of ensuring financial security through economic hardship.

It is China’s fault that manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas. Those jobs and money will definitely come back if you just hate China enough.

It is China’s fault that people are scared and confused. It is China’s fault that capitalism isn’t rescuing us.

It is China’s fault that you are hurting. It is China’s fault that life is hard for you.

It is China’s fault that things never seem to get better in your country, no matter who you vote for.

It is China’s fault that it now takes two parents working overtime to feed a family while the wealthy get wealthier and wealthier.

It is China’s fault that everything feels so uncertain now, and that we’ve all got a growing feeling that something’s about to give.

It is China’s fault that you are overworked and undercompensated, and it is China’s fault that you suspect anyone else could possibly be responsible for this besides China.

It is China’s fault that you feel insecure, unloved, inadequate and unworthy. It is China’s fault that you have been betrayed, abused, attacked and abandoned by those who were supposed to love you.

It is China’s fault that early childhood is inherently traumatic, and that this leaves us all living and acting from unconscious pain.

It is China’s fault that we reject love from others because we have not yet learned to love ourselves.

It is China’s fault that we are hurtling through space on a spinning rock in a universe that we do not understand, and that our recently evolved brains have not yet made peace with this reality.

It is China’s fault that our inability to directly experience one another’s inner worlds leaves us with a perpetual background feeling of loneliness and alienation.

It is China’s fault that life is short and full of suffering. It is China’s fault that nothing is certain and meaning is an illusion.

China single-handedly invented the existence of illness.

China single-handedly invented economic hardship.

China single-handedly invented all hardship.

China is the cause of all your suffering.

Not those in your own nation who appear to be responsible.

China.

China did this.

Not your kind and beneficent leaders.

Your kind and beneficent leaders would never hurt you.

Your kind and beneficent leaders love you.

Your kind and beneficent leaders are your friend.

Trust your kind and beneficent leaders.

Hate China.

Hate China with all your might.

Hating China will solve all your problems.

You just keep hating while we roll out the economic sanctions.

Keep hating while we unleash the proxy conflicts.

Keep hating while we deploy the war ships.

Keep hating and trust the movements of our missiles.

Above all keep hating while we tell you what to think.

Hate China and trust your kind and beneficent leaders.

Hate China.

Trust us.

Obey.

____________________

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Covid-19: Cuba’s people-before-profit approach pays off as capitalism proves a bitter pill for the US

Source

rt.com
By Pablo Vivanco, a journalist and analyst specializing in politics and history in the Americas, who served as the Director of teleSUR English. Recent bylines include The Jacobin, Asia Times, The Progressive and Truthout. Follow him on Twitter @pvivancoguzman
Havana has punched above its weight for decades when it comes to health. But never have the differences between its socialist system and the market-based system of its strongest detractor, America, been so apparent.

Even before it reported novel coronavirus cases of its own in March, Cuba’s fingerprints were all over the efforts to stem the global pandemic, from China’s use of antivirals developed on the island to treat the infected, to the docking of a British cruise ship in Havana in order to allow the 1,000 people on board – including five Covid-19 carriers – to return home.

The MS Braemar, filled mostly with British citizens, was refused permission to disembark at several ports it approached. According to some reports, the US – a principal British ally – was one of the countries that turned it down. The ship’s operator, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, has not commented on the US specifically, saying they explored a number of options and would not disclose the details of those negotiations. The fact that the vessel ultimately found refuge on Cuba’s shores serves to illustrate the difference in approaches to this pandemic.

Despite considerable risk factors, including a high percentage of people over the age of 60 and a high number of visitors to the country, Cuba has been able to keep Covid-19 cases to just under 1,370 as of April 27, with just 54 deaths.

This is largely due to the fact that the Caribbean island not only has the highest ratio of doctors to population in the world, but also a free, universal health system based on proactive, community response.

ALSO ON RT.COMEcuador’s Covid-19 catastrophe is man-made disaster — because for political elites ordinary Ecuadorians are just disposablesThe country’s socialist government has been tempered by decades of crisis management – from the devastating Special Period of the 1990s to the almost annual mobilization for hurricane season – and quickly responded to minimize damage and, most importantly, loss of life.

The measures that began in January included training and preparation for medical professionals and facilities, but by March these extended into other sectors and included a virtual shutdown of the tourism industry – a huge chunk of Cuba’s economy.

Still, authorities maintained that Cuban doctors would continue to go to countries that needed support in controlling the spread of the virus. These same medical brigades were instrumental in supporting African nations in curbing and controlling the Ebola outbreak that began in 2014.

ALSO ON RT.COMThe Covid-19 pandemic exposes deep flaws in America’s broken healthcare system

But now, for the first time, Cuban doctors have been received with open arms in European countries like Italy and Andorra, and they have even been welcomed back by some of the very same US-allied governments in Latin America that vilified and kicked them out just months ago.

The number of Cuban-trained doctors working in other countries is even higher when you count the graduates from Havana’s Latin American School of Medicine, which has provided free education to 35,000 doctors in 138 countries since 1999.

All of this has been accomplished under the severe limitations and resources that are the intentional consequence of barbaric US sanctions, which were recently intensified by the Trump administration.

ALSO ON RT.COM‘Immoral & inhumane’: Russian FM denounces US sanctions hampering worlds’ efforts against Covid-19 pandemic

Exporting its doctors and nurses abroad is a vital revenue-earner for Cuba. It brings in around $11 billion each year – a bigger source of income than the island’s tourism industry. At any one time, there are around 50,000 Cuban doctors working across 67 countries, an ‘army of white coats’, as officials describe them.

But while Cubans have put themselves in harm’s way to support people and countries all over the planet, the US has been doing the exact opposite.

In an audacious demonstration of hypocrisy, Washington has pressured countries to not accept Cuban doctors, while offering little support of its own, and has also deliberately (and perhaps illegally) seized shipments of medical equipment meant for other countries, including some of its closest allies.

To be fair, even if it had the will, the US government is not in a position to lend much support to anyone at the moment.

The weaknesses of America’s health system, which paradoxically has the highest per capita funding in the world by far, were laid bare even before the pandemic, as Democratic presidential hopefuls outlined their plans to provide adequate healthcare to the more than 70 million Americans who lack it.

Just a few weeks into this crisis, the picture is even bleaker, with millions more losing access due to job losses, and hospitals lacking proper equipment for patients and staff.

To make matters worse, the discrepancy in measures at the state and local level demonstrates that the country’s overall response is nothing less than schizophrenic. Meanwhile, decisions from the White House – including having tapped a dog breeder to lead the pandemic response and suggesting people inject disinfectant – have become increasingly indiscernible from satire. It’s like ‘Tiger King’, but on healthcare.

In this tragic and farcical situation, the differences between the healthcare systems and approaches in the US and Cuba have become more apparent.

Cuba has long prioritized healthcare as a right that all people should have, while America believes that the market should dictate who has access and who doesn’t. Cuba has exported its doctors across the globe to help stem the pandemic’s tide, while the US has tightened the stranglehold on the island in a futile attempt to stop it from doing so.

ALSO ON RT.COMCuba enraged over ‘cruel & genocidal’ US blockade impeding anti-coronavirus efforts

The schism between the two is less a matter of money than a matter of philosophy. Cuba, for all its shortcomings, has maintained an indomitable commitment to the health and lives of people, and it has been vindicated during this pandemic.

Meanwhile, its wealthy neighbor to the north sinks deeper into a death spiral, intent on proving the superiority of the capitalist orthodoxy its government wants applied to every sphere of life, in every part of the planet.

Reality of American capitalism exposed: Millions line up for food aid as pandemic spreads

“Capitalism is being exposed to a degree without precedent in modern history. Workers must draw the lessons. A system that funnels trillions to a handful of financial parasites while condemning millions to poverty and death must be swept aside.”

Source

http://www.wsws.org

April 13, 2020

“… in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”—John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, April 1939

***

The rapid spread of the coronavirus in the United States is revealing the consequences of decades of ruling-class policy, which have left the center of world capitalism completely unprepared for a significant health care emergency. At the same time, the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic is exposing the reality of widespread poverty and insecurity.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, breadlines became a symbol of social distress. Such scenes are reemerging in the form of massive line-ups for emergency food assistance in every state and community.

On Thursday, 6,000 cars lined up for five miles at a food bank drive-through in San Antonio, Texas. Some families arrived 12 hours early to ensure they received some aid. In Inglewood, California, south of Los Angeles, 5,000 cars lined up to receive food on Friday. Foodbank usage in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has increased by 543 percent in recent days.

Boxes of food are distributed by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, at a drive-thru distribution in downtown Pittsburgh, 10 April, 2020 [Credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar]

Those who are lining up are not just the poorest workers, who typically rely on food banks in hard times, but also broader sections of the working class and middle- class families who have never had to rely on such aid in their lives.

“I’ve never had to go to a food pantry in my life,” Shanell Gray, a recently laid-off hotel worker, told the Columbus Dispatch at a food distribution in Ohio’s capital city this weekend. “This just went really fast. I was able to pay my rent for this month. May is the struggle.”

Nearly 17 million workers have filed for unemployment in the last three weeks, the highest number ever recorded. Even this figure, however, underestimates the scale of layoffs. Millions more are either ineligible for benefits or have been unable to apply due to overloaded websites and call centers.

The vast majority of the population has yet to receive any financial assistance. Just 10,000 people had received a direct deposit to their bank account as of Friday, and most states still have not established a means of sending out the $600 weekly increase in unemployment for four months.

While trillions have been handed over to the banks and gigantic corporations—with no requirement that they wait in lines—every obstacle is being put in place to prevent workers from getting anything and to cut off aid as soon as possible.

Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, son of the late arch-reactionary Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has done everything in his power to limit payments, including by excluding gig workers who use phone apps to find work and making it easier for companies to avoid paying sick and family leave.

“We want workers to have work, not to become dependent on the unemployment system,” Scalia declared in an article posted last week on Fox Business News. The comments mirrored Trump’s outraged response to the fact that “we’re paying people not to go to work.”

The consequences will be catastrophic. According to one survey, nearly three-quarters of all workers live paycheck to paycheck. Almost three in 10 American adults have no savings. With so many hanging on by their fingernails before the pandemic, the often-individual experience that one missed paycheck spells personal disaster has become a mass phenomenon.

Already, one-third of Americans missed paying rent in the first week of April, a figure that is sure to be higher in May as millions deplete their savings accounts to get by without a paycheck. If they are not immediately being evicted, due to a patchwork of local and state level moratoriums, then millions will eventually be thrown into the streets because they cannot afford to pay back the rent they will owe when workplaces reopen.

If the promised stimulus money does arrive from the federal government, it will count for little. The one-time $1,200 payment will not cover the cost of rent in most cases, let alone food and other essentials. The stopgap measures included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed by Republicans and Democrats last month are woefully inadequate to meet social need.

While so many are hungry for food, the anarchy of the capitalist market has been exposed by the fact that farmers are destroying crops of staple foods as orders and prices fall. No measures have been taken to redistribute and process food for consumption even as stores struggle to keep up with demand for basic food items such as milk and eggs.

Instead eggs are smashed by the tens of thousands, countless tons of green beans mulched and plowed into fields, onions buried by the tens of thousands of pounds in trenches to rot. Five percent of the country’s milk supply has been dumped, and it could rise to ten percent with the continued closure of schools, restaurants and hotels.

The massive economic devastation that is unfolding will be exploited by the Trump administration to agitate for a return to work, creating conditions in which those who are unable to find work or refuse to endanger their lives are cut off from unemployment and other aid.

The working class, however, will have its say. Over the past several days, worried comments have begun to appear on the likelihood of mass social unrest.

Bloomberg editorial board member Andreas Kluth warned Saturday that the pandemic will lead to “social revolutions,” which the ruling elites must be prepared to confront.

Kluth explains that countless Americans simply do not have the option to stay home to avoid the coronavirus, putting them at risk of getting sick or infecting their families. He notes that the situation is even worse for the millions who live in slums in countries like South Africa and India, where social distancing is not an option, handwashing is impossible without running water and there are no emergency supplies of face masks.

“In this context, it would be naïve to think that, once this medical emergency is over, either individual countries or the world can carry on as before. Anger and bitterness will find new outlets… In time, these passions could become new populist or radical movements, intent on sweeping aside whatever ancien régime they define as the enemy.”

Capitalism is being exposed to a degree without precedent in modern history. Workers must draw the lessons. A system that funnels trillions to a handful of financial parasites while condemning millions to poverty and death must be swept aside.

Niles Niemuth