Category Archives: Wealth Inequality

“If Someone is in Pain, I Am in Pain”: Jack Dorsey (Twitter CEO) Plans To Give All Of His Wealth Away In His Lifetime

themindunleashed.com

 

(TMU) – At the start of the coronavirus crisis, Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey shocked the world with his promise to donate $1 billion, or about 28% of his wealth, to help with the economic fallout from the pandemic. Now, Dorsey says that he plans to give away all of his money within his lifetime.

This week, Dorsey appeared on an episode of the “Yang Speaks” podcast for an interview about artificial intelligence, universal basic income, and meditation, among other topics. During the interview, he spoke about his recent philanthropic efforts, and discussed how the pandemic has accelerated the move towards automation and the need for a universal basic income.

“I live by the principle of everything is connected, so if someone is in pain, I’m in pain, ultimately, over time…I want to make sure that I’m doing whatever I can in my lifetime to help that through my companies’ works, through my own personal giving,” he said.

“I’m in a situation that I never imagined when I was a kid or [even] when I was 25. I didn’t have any aspect of what money would mean until I was, probably 35.I’m so grateful, but part of gratitude is not just saying I’m grateful, it’s doing. I want to give out all my money in my lifetime. I want to see the impacts, selfishly, in my lifetime. I want to make sure that we’re helping people,” he added.

The interview was published as Dorsey was announcing his $5 million contributions to Yang’s universal basic income organization “Humanity Forward.”

Dorsey says that universal basic income is “long overdue” and he believes that “the only way we can change policy is by experimenting and showing case studies of why this works.”

“Every single field is going to be touched by automation, and UBI to me represents a floor. A floor that people can stand on, and have the knowledge and peace of mind that they could survive and eat and feed their children while they are learning how to transition into this new world,” Dorsey says.

Yang says Humanity Forward plans use Dorsey’s donation to distribute small cash payments of $250 to nearly 20,000 people who have been affected by the recent economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. So far, Humanity Forward has given away about $2 million in financial assistance to people struggling in the current economic conditions.

“Not only will Jack’s donation directly impact tens of thousands of people in need during the current economic downturn, it will help Humanity Forward and our movement continue to make a case for universal basic income in the United States. We know UBI for every American is possible, and this $5 million from Start Small is going to help demonstrate what is possible for families across the country,” Yang said in a statement.

This donation to Humanity Forward is a part of the #startsmall initiative that Dorsey launched last month. Dorsey tweeted a link to a document where information about the donations will be posted, including the amount of the donation and the recipient.

jack

@jack

I’m moving $1B of my Square equity (~28% of my wealth) to LLC to fund global COVID-19 relief. After we disarm this pandemic, the focus will shift to girl’s health and education, and UBI. It will operate transparently, all flows tracked here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-eGxq2mMoEGwgSpNVL5j2sa6ToojZUZ-Zun8h2oBAR4 

#startsmall tracker

Donations Total Value Created:, $ 1,478,618,097.67 Total Remaining: , $ 1,405,203,769.67 Total Dispersed:, $ 73,414,328.00 Distributed: Date, Amount ,Category,Grantee,Link,Why? 4/2/2020,$100,000.00…

docs.google.com

80.7K people are talking about this

Dorsey has been known to make radically generous moves that are almost unheard of for people in his position. In 2015, Twitter was forced to lay off about 8 percent of its employees. Dorsey donated $200 million in Twitter stock back to the employee grant pool as a consolation. At the time this was about a third of the stake that he had in Twitter.

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.

____________________

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics onTwitter, checking out my podcast on either YoutubesoundcloudApple podcasts or Spotify, following me on Steemit, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my books Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

‘Propaganda machine says it’s OK for there to be Bezos and Zuckerberg’: Roger Waters tells RT how media shields Covid-19 villains

rt.com
‘Propaganda machine says it's OK for there to be Bezos & Zuckerberg’: Roger Waters tells RT how media shields Covid-19 villains
Mankind is headed for annihilation unless societies reject unjust economic systems and media war propaganda, Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters told RT, noting that the Covid-19 crisis could serve as a much-needed wake-up call.

“Clearly what Covid-19 has told us all is that in order to face a common enemy, like a virulent virus, we’re going to need to cooperate, to act together… as a global community,” Waters told RT’s Rick Sanchez on Friday.

If we don’t cooperate, we’re all dead. The planet’s over. We’re heading for the cliff of omnicidal destruction of everything. So will this be a wake-up call? I hope so.

Calling “neoliberal economics” the “elephant in the room,” Waters said such cooperation is made near-impossible when public policy is driven by a “motive to maximize the bottom line of profit for the corporations that run our countries.” As many struggle to afford rent or put food on the table, some nations have responded to the pandemic by printing “billions, trillions of dollars” to dole out to the politically well-connected.

ALSO ON RT.COM‘Interests of elites v human rights’? UN warns against hasty lockdown lifting as global death toll tops 300,000

Fortunately, the rockstar went on, the internet has shattered the “constraints of the mainstream media,” allowing a community of like-minded people interested in human rights and “the truth” to flourish and grow.

“The main focal point of our conversation often is: How do we combat the huge propaganda machine that has persuaded most of our brothers and sisters that this is normal – that it’s OK for there to be Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg… and everybody else is on the bread line?” he said.

The propaganda that we’re faced with everyday is: ‘Ah don’t worry about that, leave it to your leaders, we’ll figure it out – what’s important is that we have a war with the Chinese or the Russians or the Iranians or the Venezuelans.’

Despite the obstacles, Waters said countless people are “slowly waking up” and growing more skeptical of corrupt institutions, encouraging them to keep up the pressure and continue speaking out.

“We refuse to shut up, we refuse to be quiet, we continue to rebel,” Waters said when asked about solutions to the social ills he diagnosed. “We say ‘No, this is bulls**t, this is just not good enough.’”

Are We on the Verge of a Global Financial Collapse?

Coronavirus financial collapse Feature photo
COVID-19

 

As jobs disappear and our everyday lives are disrupted in the name of flattening the coronavirus curve, a picture of what tomorrow will look like is still too uncertain to make out, but all indications show that we are close to a breaking point.

No options: The choice between Trump and Biden is meaningless and proves US democracy is a ‘sham / Roger Waters

No options: The choice between Trump & Biden is meaningless & proves US democracy is a ‘sham,’ Roger Waters tells RT
With US President Donald Trump preparing to square off with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 race, Americans might as well be choosing between Orwell and Huxley, Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters told RT.

Though the current US president is a “failed landlord” who somehow managed to become “the most powerful man in the Western world,” Biden, his likely rival, does not present a better option, Waters said in an interview with Rafael Correa, the former president of Ecuador who now hosts a show on RT Spanish.

“There’s no choice to be made by the American people, this is why the idea that the United States is a democracy is such a sham,” Waters said, adding that the Democratic Party ruined any chance for a real alternative when it “crushed” the Bernie Sanders campaign, as the socialist senator would not serve the interests of “the people who actually run the country” – Wall Street and the “war machine.”

ALSO ON RT.COMJoe Biden is more Trump than you know, particularly when it comes to China

But the “most dangerous thing” in the current political moment, Waters argued, is “propaganda” which seeks to transform “the truth” into an “extreme point of view,” citing the vicious treatment of WikiLeaks co-founder and anti-secrecy crusader Julian Assange as an example.

There’s been a debate continuing about which dystopia our current world is more like, Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ or George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ But the one thing that is common… is propaganda, it’s the Ministry of Truth

‘US healthcare system designed for the rich’

Beyond the political system, US healthcare has also left many Americans with few options, with crippling medical bills a leading cause of middle-class bankruptcies, even amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

“New York has been terrible, but you would expect it because there’s no health service in the United States of America,” Waters said. “Well, there is a health service, but it’s only for the very wealthy, and in consequence, they’re completely unprepared to face something like this.”

The US has long been the world’s top coronavirus hotspot, counting nearly 1.3 million cases of the illness and more than 77,000 fatalities. Though the country boasts more intensive care beds per capita than much of the world, the healthcare systems of the hardest-hit areas – such as New York and New Jersey – have strained under the pandemic. At some hospitals in New York City, federal agencies and even the military have stepped in to deploy refrigerated mobile morgue trucks just to cope with the surge of deaths from the virus.

Even as new medicines are developed to combat the pathogen, around one in seven Americans say they would be unable to afford treatment, according to a recent Gallup poll, leaving tens of millions of citizens largely helpless during a major health crisis.

ALSO ON RT.COMONE IN SEVEN Americans would avoid Covid-19 treatment for fear of cost, even as pricey new pill shows promise against virus

On a more optimistic note, the rockstar said greater numbers of people are taking notice of corrupt political leaders and their media allies, not only in the United States but around the world, predicting that protests will again erupt in the streets once the pandemic crisis dies down, especially across Latin America.

“So there is a light. It’s a long, narrow tunnel, but there is more than a pinprick of light,” he continued. “The walls of the tunnel are crumbling because the people are demanding it.”

The Russians And The Chinese Are Your Enemy

 

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the oligarchic class in your own country that has been exploiting, propagandizing, deceiving, oppressing and robbing you every moment of your life since you were born.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the people who have been engineering and advancing endless bloodbaths around the world at no benefit to you using your money and your resources and your political energy.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the political/media class and their plutocratic puppeteers who’ve been manipulating your mind to accept omnicide, ecocide, austerity and increasingly Orwellian dystopia as normal and not to be opposed.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the sociopathic manipulators who give you two thieving, warmongering, power-worshipping sock puppets to choose from in fake election after fake election to give you the illusion of control.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the people who pour vast troves of treasure into convincing your countrymen that it’d be evil and insane to demand the same social safety nets afforded to everyone else in every major country on earth.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the people who could have paid you a living wage to stay home safely but instead chose to give you $1200 and tell you to fuck off while transferring trillions to the plutocratic class.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the war profiteers and ecocidal devourers who are destroying your ecosystem and endangering the life of every organism on this planet.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the billionaire class who has a vested interest in making sure you stay poor in a system where money equals power and power is relative.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the people who are doing everything they can to roll out systems of internet censorship, surveillance and police militarization as quickly as possible in your own country.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the authoritarian rulers who demand complete control over what substances you put in your body while creating the largest prison population in the history of human civilization.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the two-headed one-party system which repeatedly threatens to destroy the rights and lives of marginalized groups if you don’t give at least one of those heads your full unbridled support.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the nationless alliance of oligarchs who use your resources to encircle the planet with military bases, wage countless undeclared wars and destroy any nation which refuses to bow to their empire.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the people who infiltrate, undermine, sabotage and smear any political movement which tries to help ordinary people the moment it begins gaining any traction.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the people who are working to normalize the extradition and life imprisonment of any journalist anywhere in the world who exposes the war crimes of your government.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the thugs who demand the unthinking loyalty of not just you and your countrymen but everyone in the world on pain of violent retribution.
The Russians and the Chinese.

The Russians and the Chinese are your enemy.
Not the media-owning class who uses their unrivaled narrative control to sow division among your brothers and sisters at home and around the world so you don’t realize who’s really been fucking you over.
The Russians and the Chinese.

Inequality and the Coronavirus: How to Destroy American Society From the Top Down

Inequality and the Coronavirus: How to Destroy American Society From the Top Down

 

Photograph Source: Mitchell Haindfield – CC BY 2.0

My mom contracted polio when she was 14. She survived and learned to walk again, but my life was deeply affected by that virus. Today, as our larger society attempts to self-distance and self-isolate, my family has texted about the polio quarantine my mom was put under: how my grandma fearfully checked my aunt’s temperature every night because she shared a bedroom with my mom; how they had to put a sign on the front door of the house that read “quarantine” so that no one would visit.

Growing up with a polio survivor, I learned lessons about epidemics, sickness, disability, and inequality that have forever shaped my world. From a young age, I saw that all of us should be valued for our intrinsic worth as human beings; that there is no line between the supposedly deserving and the undeserving; that we should be loved for who we are, not what we do or how much money we have. My mom modeled for me what’s possible when those most impacted by inequality and injustice dedicate their lives to protecting others from what hurts us all. She taught me that the dividing line between sickness and wellbeing loses its meaning in a society that doesn’t care for everyone.

Here’s the simple truth of twenty-first-century America: all of us live in a time and in an economic system that values our lives relative to our ability to produce profits for the rich or in the context of the wealth we possess. Our wellness is measured by our efficiency and — a particular lesson in the age of the coronavirus — our sickness, when considered at all, is seen as an indication of individual limitations or moral failures, rather than as a symptom of a sick society.

About 31 million people are today uninsured in America and 14 states have not even expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The healthcare system is seemingly structured in defiance of the people it should serve, functioning as yet another way to maximize profits at the expense of millions. In this coronavirus moment, many more Americans are finally awakening to the bitter consequences, the damage, wrought when even a single person does not have access to the resources he or she needs to live decently or, for that matter, survive. With the spread of a pandemic, the cost to a nation that often treats collective care as, at best, an afterthought should become apparent. After all, more than 9,000 medical workers, many not adequately protected from the disease, have already contracted it.

For decades, both political parties have pushed the narrative that illness, homelessness, poverty, and inequality are minor aberrations in an otherwise healthy society. Even now, as the possibility of a potentially historic depression looms, assurances that the mechanics of our economy are fundamentally strong (and Covid-19 an unexpected fluke) remain commonplace. And yet, while that economy’s productivity has indeed increased strikingly since the 1970s, the gains from it have gone to an increasingly small number of people (and corporations), while real wages have stagnated for the majority of workers. Don’t be fooled. This crisis didn’t start with the coronavirus: our collapsing oil and gas industry, for instance, points to an energy system that was already on the brink and a majority of economists agree that a manufacturing decline had actually begun in August 2019.

The Cost of Inequality

It should no longer be possible to ignore the structural crisis of poverty and inequality that has been eating away at American society over these last decades. Historic unemployment numbers in recent weeks only reveal how expendable the majority of workers are in a crunch. This is happening at a moment when it’s ever clearer how many of the most “essential” tasks in our economy are done by the least well-paid workers. The ranks of the poor are widening at a startling clip, as many more of us are now experiencing what dire insecurity feels like in an economy built on non-unionized, low-wage work and part-time jobs.

In order to respond to such a crisis and the growing needs of millions, it’s important to first acknowledge the deeper history of injustice and pain that brought us all here. In the last years of his life, Martin Luther King, Jr., put it well when he said that “the prescription for the cure rests with an accurate diagnosis of the disease.” To develop a cure not just for this virus but for a nation with the deepest kind of inequality at its core, what’s first needed (as with any disease) is an accurate diagnosis.

Today, more than 38 million people officially live below the federal poverty line, and, in truth, that figure should have shocked the nation into action before the coronavirus even arrived here. No such luck and here’s the real story anyway: the official measure of poverty, developed in 1964, doesn’t even take into account household expenses like health care, child care, housing, and transportation, not to speak of other costs that have burgeoned in recent decades. The world has undergone profound economic transformations over the last 66 years and yet this out-of-date measure, based on three times a family’s food budget, continues to shape policymaking at every level of government as well as the contours of the American political and moral imagination.

Two years ago, the Poor People’s Campaign (which I co-chair alongside Reverend William Barber II) and the Institute for Policy Studies released an audit of America. Its centerpiece was a far more realistic assessment of poverty and economic precariousness in this country. Using the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure as a baseline, which, among other things, measures family income after taxes and out-of-pocket expenses for food, clothing,
housing, and utilities, there are at least 140 million people who are poor — or just a $400 emergency from that state. (Of that, there are now untold examples in this pandemic moment.)

As poverty has grown and spread, one of the great political weapons of politicians and the ruling elite over the past decades (only emphasized in the age of Trump) has been to minimize, dismiss, and racialize it. In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” coded it into Republican national politics; in the 1980s, in the years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the fabricated image of “the welfare queen” gained symbolic prominence. In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton’s welfare “reforms” enshrined such thinking in the arguments of both parties. Today, given the outright racism and xenophobia that has become the hallmark of Donald Trump’s presidency, “poor” has become a curse word.

It is, of course, true that, among the 140 million poor people in the U.S., a disproportionate number are indeed people of color. The inheritance of slavery, Jim Crow, never-ending discrimination, and the mass incarceration of black men in particular, as well as a generational disinvestment in such populations, could have resulted in nothing less. And yet the reality of poverty stretches deep into every community in this country. According to that audit of America, the poor or low-income today consist of 24 million blacks, 38 million Latinos, eight million Asian-Americans, two million Native peoples, and 66 million whites.

Those staggering numbers, already a deadweight for the nation, are likely to prove a grotesque underestimate in the coronaviral world we now inhabit, and yet none of this should be a surprise. Although we couldn’t have predicted the exact circumstances of this pandemic, social theorists remind us that conditions were ripe for just this kind of economic dislocation.

Over the past 50 years, for instance, rents have risen faster than income in every city. Before the coronavirus outbreak, there was not a single county in this country where a person making a minimum wage with a family could afford a two-bedroom apartment. No surprise then that, throughout this crisis, there has been a rise in rent strikeshousing takeovers, and calls for moratoriums on evictions. The quiet fact is that, in the last few decades, unemployment, underemployment, poverty, and homelessness have become ever more deeply and permanently structured into this society.

Covid-19 and the Descent Into Poverty

Over the years, one political narrative has been trumpeted by both parties: that we don’t have enough to provide for every American. This scarcity argument has undergirded every federal budget in recent history and yet it falls flat when we look at the 53% of every federal discretionary dollar that goes to the Pentagon, the trillions of dollars that have been squandered in this country’s never-ending war on terror, not to speak of the unprecedented financial gains the wealthiest have made (even in the midst of the current crisis). Of course, this economic order becomes a genuine moral scandal the moment attention is focused on the three billionaires who possess more wealth than the bottom half of society.

Since the government began transferring wealth from the poor to the very rich under the guise of “trickle-down” (but actually gusher-up) economics, key public institutions, labor unions, and the electoral process have been under attack. The healthcare system has been further privatized, public housing has been demolished, public water and sanitation systems have been held hostage by emergency managers, and the social safety net has been eviscerated.

In these same years, core government functions have been turned over to the private sector and the free market. The result: levels of poverty and inequality in this country now outmatch the Gilded Age. All of this, in turn, laid the groundwork for the rapid spread of death and disease via the Covid-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on poor people and people of color.

When the coronavirus first became a national emergency, the Fed materialized $1.5 trillion dollars in loans to Wall Street, a form of corporate welfare that may never be paid back. In the following weeks, the Fed and a congressional bipartisan stimulus package funneled trillions more in bailouts to the largest corporations. Meanwhile, tens of millions of Americans were left out of that CARES Act: 48% of the workforce did not receive paid sick leave; 27 million uninsured people and 10% of the insured who couldn’t even afford a doctor’s visit have no guarantee of free or reasonably priced medical treatment; 11 million undocumented immigrants and their five million children will receive no emergency provisions; 2.3 million of the incarcerated have been left in the petri dish of prison; three million Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients saw no increase in their benefits; and homeless assistance funds were targeted at only about 500,000 people, although eight to 11 million are homeless or housing insecure. Such omissions are guaranteed to prove debilitating, even potentially lethal, for many. They also represent cracks in a dam ready to break in a nation without a guaranteed living wage or universal healthcare as debt mounts, wages stagnate, and the pressures of ecological devastation and climate change intensify.

Recently, news reports have made it far clearer just where (and whom) Covid-19 is hitting hardest. In New York City, now the global epicenter of the pandemic, for instance, the areas with the highest rates of positive tests overlap almost exactly with neighborhoods where the most “essential workers” live — and you undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn that most of them are poor or low-income ones, 79% of them black or Latino. The five zip codes with the most coronavirus cases have an average income of under $27,000; while, in the five zip codes with the least, the average income is $118,000.

Across the Black Belt of the southern states, the poor and black are dying from the coronavirus at an alarming rate. In many of those states, wages are tied to industries that rely on now interrupted regular household spending. They also have among the least resources and the most vehement anti-union and wage-suppression laws. That, in turn, leaves so many Americans all that more vulnerable to the Covid-19 crisis, the end of which is nowhere in sight. Chalk this up, among other things, to decades of divestment in public institutions and the entrenchment of extremist agendas in state legislatures. The Black Belt accounts for nine of the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid and for 60% of all rural hospital closures.

Nor are these the only places now feeling the consequences of hospitals being bought up or closed for private profit. In Philadelphia, for instance, Hahnemann Hospital, which had served that city’s poorest patients for more than 170 years, was recently bought and closed by a real-estate speculator who then attempted to extract a million dollars a month from the local government to reopen it. Now, as the coronavirus ravages Philadelphia, Hahnemann’s beds sit empty, reminiscent of the notorious shuttering of New Orleans’ Charity Hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In fact, lessons from the catastrophe of Katrina resonate heavily today, as the poor suffer and die while the rich and their political allies begin to circle the ruins, seeing opportunities to further enhance their power. After Katrina, many poor and black residents of New Orleans who had to evacuate were unable to return, while the city became a laboratory for a new onslaught of neoliberal reforms from health care to housing. One state legislator was overheard telling lobbyists, “We finally cleaned out public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” It hardly takes a stretch of the imagination to envision similar braggadocio in the post-coronavirus era.

Inescapably Bound Together

The dual crises of pandemic and inequality are revealing ever more clearly how the descent into poverty is helping to destroy American society from the inside out. In a remarkably brief span of time, these crises have also highlighted our collective interdependence.

One of my earliest memories is of helping my mom walk when I was younger than my youngest child is now. As we slid down the wintry streets of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, my small hand in hers, she suddenly fell and I went down alongside her. I had been unable to keep us from crashing to the ground.

And yet, even when I couldn’t do what needed to be done alone, I recognized, with the clarity that perhaps only a child can have, how much we as a family (and, by extension, as a people) were inescapably bound together — that when one of us falls, so many of us fall. And that’s why, whatever Donald Trump or Jared Kushner or the rest of that crew in Washington and across the country may think, we can no longer tolerate leaving anybody out.

Hasn’t the time finally come to reject the false narrative of scarcity? Isn’t it time to demand a transformative moral agenda that reaches from the bottom up?

If the wealthy were to pay a relatively modest amount more in taxes and we shrank our war economy to support the common good, then universal health care, living wages, and a guaranteed income, decent and affordable housing, strong programs for the poor, and even more might finally be within reach. This crisis is offering us a striking demonstration of how an economy-oriented around the whims of the rich brings death and destruction in its wake.

A society organized around the needs of the poor, on the other hand, would improve life for all of us — and especially in this Covid-19 moment, exactly this might be possible.

Liz Theoharis is a theologian, ordained minister, and anti-poverty activist. Director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, she is the author of Always With Us? What Jesus Really Said About the Poor. She teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

This article first appeared on TomDispatch.

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Corbett: Let Them Eat Ice Cream! (10 min)

Could this Coronavirus crisis be the end of these useless and vapid celebrities? I hope so. They really do not matter.
April 22, 2020
Marie Antoinette didn’t actually say “Let them eat cake” but you won’t believe who is saying “Let them eat ice cream.” Join James for this edition of #PropagandaWatch as he explores the latest fad among the celebrities and political puppets: Shaming poor people!

 

How the rich reacted to the bubonic plague has eerie similarities to today’s pandemic

Franz Xavier Winterhalter’s ‘The Decameron’ (1837). Heritage Images via Getty Images

 

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theconversation.com

Kathryn McKinleyUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore County

The coronavirus can infect anyone, but recent reporting has shown your socioeconomic status can play a big role, with a combination of job security, access to health care and mobility widening the gap in infection and mortality rates between rich and poor.

The wealthy work remotely and flee to resorts or pastoral second homes, while the urban poor are packed into small apartments and compelled to keep showing up to work.

As a medievalist, I’ve seen a version of this story before.

Following the 1348 Black Death in Italy, the Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio wrote a collection of 100 novellas titled, “The Decameron.” These stories, though fictional, give us a window into medieval life during the Black Death – and how some of the same fissures opened up between the rich and the poor. Cultural historians today see “The Decameron” as an invaluable source of information on everyday life in 14th-century Italy.

Giovanni Boccaccio. Leemage via Getty Images

Boccaccio was born in 1313 as the illegitimate son of a Florentine banker. A product of the middle class, he wrote, in “The Decameron,” stories about merchants and servants. This was unusual for his time, as medieval literature tended to focus on the lives of the nobility.

“The Decameron” begins with a gripping, graphic description of the Black Death, which was so virulent that a person who contracted it would die within four to seven days. Between 1347 and 1351, it killed between 40% and 50% of Europe’s population. Some of Boccaccio’s own family members died.

In this opening section, Boccaccio describes the rich secluding themselves at home, where they enjoy quality wines and provisions, music and other entertainment. The very wealthiest – whom Boccaccio describes as “ruthless” – deserted their neighborhoods altogether, retreating to comfortable estates in the countryside, “as though the plague was meant to harry only those remaining within their city walls.”

Meanwhile, the middle class or poor, forced to stay at home, “caught the plague by the thousand right there in their own neighborhood, day after day” and swiftly passed away. Servants dutifully attended to the sick in wealthy households, often succumbing to the illness themselves. Many, unable to leave Florence and convinced of their imminent death, decided to simply drink and party away their final days in nihilistic revelries, while in rural areas, laborers died “like brute beasts rather than human beings; night and day, with never a doctor to attend them.”

Josse Lieferinxe’s ‘Saint Sebastian Interceding for the Plague Stricken’ (c. 1498). Wikimedia Commons

After the bleak description of the plague, Boccaccio shifts to the 100 stories. They’re narrated by 10 nobles who have fled the pallor of death hanging over Florence to luxuriate in amply stocked country mansions. From there, they tell their tales.

One key issue in “The Decameron” is how wealth and advantage can impair people’s abilities to empathize with the hardships of others. Boccaccio begins the forward with the proverb, “It is inherently human to show pity to those who are afflicted.” Yet in many of the tales he goes on to present characters who are sharply indifferent to the pain of others, blinded by their own drives and ambition.

In one fantasy story, a dead man returns from hell every Friday and ritually slaughters the same woman who had rejected him when he was alive. In another, a widow fends off a leering priest by tricking him into sleeping with her maid. In a third, the narrator praises a character for his undying loyalty to his friend when, in fact, he has profoundly betrayed that friend over many years.

Humans, Boccaccio seems to be saying, can think of themselves as upstanding and moral – but unawares, they may show indifference to others. We see this in the 10 storytellers themselves: They make a pact to live virtuously in their well-appointed retreats. Yet while they pamper themselves, they indulge in some stories that illustrate brutality, betrayal and exploitation.

Boccaccio wanted to challenge his readers, and make them think about their responsibilities to others. “The Decameron” raises the questions: How do the rich relate to the poor during times of widespread suffering? What is the value of a life?

In our own pandemic, with millions unemployed due to a virus that has killed thousands, these issues are strikingly relevant.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on April 16, 2020.

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Kathryn McKinley does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Tax the rich? It might not be enough

We all have to adjust our instinctive horror of taxing wealth if we are to survive the economic fallout of coronavirus.

The Holland America Line cruise ship MS Zaandam pictured, where passengers have died on board, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues, in Panama City, Panama March 28, 2020 [Erick Marciscano/Reuters]
The Holland America Line cruise ship MS Zaandam pictured, where passengers have died on board, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues, in Panama City, Panama March 28, 2020 [Erick Marciscano/Reuters]
 

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered three crises in parallel: The epidemic itself; a global recession that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts will be bigger than the one that followed the Wall Street Crash of 1929; and new geopolitical tensions, with Trump blocking IMF aid to Iran and China, and defunding the World Health Organization (WHO).

Only one thing is certain: When it is over, most countries will be deeper in debt and there will inevitably be calls for yet more austerity.

On the eve of the pandemic, the combined debts of all the governments, companies and households in the world totalled 322 percent of global GDP.

If the global economy now contracts, while governments spend undreamed-of amounts to support businesses and families, we will be in uncharted territory: there will wartime levels of government debt which, for many middle-income countries, will become unsustainable, alongside squeezed household finances and bankrupt companies.

Once things stabilise, there are only four ways to reduce a debt burden of this size, and none of them look pretty. High inflation can erode the value of the debts – but that means eroding the wealth of the middle class, as well as the rich.

If you are a developed country, with its own currency, you can get the central bank to buy the debt – and that has already started – but you risk the value of your currency falling as a result. Countries that cannot meet their debt repayments can ask for them to be written off – as happened with Greece between 2011 and 2015 – but that only transfers the pain to banks and savers in other countries.

Which leaves austerity. Austerity means making cuts in public spending in order to rebalance the books. The UK, for example, slashed government spending from 46 percent of GDP to 39 percent over a decade after the global financial crisis of 2008. In the process, it destroyed the resilience of its health service, depleted its armed forces and reduced policing and local government services to a bare minimum, with the result that it looked completely unprepared for the coronavirus.

Austerity programmes imposed after 2011, when numerous Eurozone countries had to be bailed out by the IMF and the European Central Bank (ECB), raised unemployment in Greece to 25 percent, and in Spain to 22 percent, triggering social turmoil.

Repeating this, with another 10 years of overcrowded doctors’ surgeries, uncollected rubbish and underpaid nurses and social care workers is, given the public mood in the UK and across Europe, a non-starter. So, what is the answer?

From the left the answer comes, as always: “Tax the rich”. But it is not so easy. First, because so much of the wealth of the top 1 percent is held offshore.

According to research by lawyer James S Henry, companies and rich individuals could be sheltering up to $32 trillion from the tax authorities in tax havens like Panama, Switzerland and the British Virgin Islands.

The year 2019 saw multilateral institutions like the IMF and OECD call for an end to the principle of treating multinational companies as a series of separate national entities, with the power to account away their tax obligations via subsidiaries based offshore.

But calling for stuff is not the same as doing it. And the COVID-19 crisis has, so far, actually weakened the leverage of multilateral institutions. Trump’s decision to remove funds from the WHO, and to block the IMF from helping Iran and China, for example, reflect a trend to make every part of the global order a geopolitical battleground.

The second reason it is going to be hard to rely on taxing the rich alone is that – as the French economist, Thomas Piketty, has shown – the 21st century economy is increasingly geared to generating wealth from assets, not operating profits. Today’s economic elites typically inherit their wealth rather than work for it.

If you have lived through a house-price boom, you will have heard astonished homeowners saying: “My house is earning more than I am.” If your wages are $30,000 a year, but your house rises in value by more than that, it sounds literally true.

Well, for the super-rich, and for banks and other financial companies, that experience is normal. Why innovate and take risks in the real economy when your existing financial assets can “earn” more than you could make by doing so?

Though growth is low, and productivity is poor across the world, the repeated decisions by central banks to pump free money into the financial system – through interest rate cuts and quantitative easing (where they effectively print new money and buy up government debt with it) – creates a one-way bet for anyone who has enough money to seriously invest.

When the dot-com boom collapsed in 2001, the US Federal Reserve slashed interest rates; when the subprime property boom collapsed in 2008, it did the same again and began printing money. Now, with coronavirus – you guessed it – interest rate cuts and free money for those who already have it are the order of the day.

That money – totalling $20 trillion and now set to rise again – is not simply being used to keep airlines running and hi-tech automobile factories from going bust: it inevitably boosts the value of assets too.

Piketty’s solution is to tax wealth on top of the actual incomes of the rich. In a country like the UK, that could mean taxing every stock market transaction; slapping extra taxes on the owners of speculative luxury apartments and second homes; heavily taxing inheritances; and closing the loopholes that let families move their wealth offshore. But when left wing figures like Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders have suggested doing this, the powerful finance sector lobby has mobilised against them.

At root, many ordinary people are hostile to raising taxes. They see their employer as a lifeline, economic stability as fragile, and are wary about anything that might make their company move to China or the value of their home currency come under threat. And after 40 years of being told to see themselves as acquisitive, competitive individual atoms in a chaotic marketplace, some people are alienated by the very idea of collective investment for the common good.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, it is inevitable that we will see states play a bigger part in economic life: propping up airlines, airports, railway companies and insurers so that life can return to normal. Central banks, which are making extraordinary moves to buy up government debt, will be even more powerful than before. If so, we need a regime change of the mind, too.

Voters need to understand that healthcare services and care homes are struggling because too little taxpayers’ money has been spent on them for decades. We will all have to pay more tax, but rich people and large corporations need to bear the biggest burden.

To achieve that we will have to aggressively shut down the loopholes in the global system, bringing trillions of dollars-worth of wealth out of tax havens and back onshore. We need, in short, to rediscover our belief in collective action.

But I doubt a revolution in attitudes to taxation alone will enough. The long-term stagnation in profits, interest rates and growth are a feature of, not a glitch in, the free market system. To kickstart the transition beyond a carbon economy, and to redistribute wealth downwards – through comprehensive health and welfare systems – you would need to deter rich people and companies from hoarding money at the scale they currently do.

Higher inflation, controls on the cross-border mobility of capital and higher real wages are the traditional ways you do this. And let us not forget – horrifying though these measures sound to today’s elite – they were the basis of “30 glorious years” of growth and innovation after the Second World War.

Right now, conservative politicians all over the world are being forced to take drastic action that goes against every theory in their textbooks. So, we need to rewrite the textbooks and reset the economic model.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.


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