You can’t really blame The Donald for exposing the cracks in our system. A tiny virus has ripped the bandaid off of society’s unhealed and oozing wounds.
How long will our economy continue to spiral down the toilet?
Food, shelter, and medical care are all uncertain for millions staring into the abyss. Today’s New York Times (April 17, 2020) reports that employer-based health insurance has ended for millions as they have been laid off by their companies. The country’s largest network of food banks, Feeding America, fed 40 million people last year, well before the virus hit. And now, as we are all aware, lines at food banks stretch for blocks or miles of cars. A survey in San Franciso showed 25% of renters paid only a portion or no rent at all. We were warned long ago by some economists that a huge chunk of our population couldn’t financially handle a $400 emergency; that most people live paycheck to paycheck; that we are drowning in debt. Could it be that our economy, touted by the “President” as the best in history, was all an illusion, a sleight of hand?
People are real. Actual living infinities, each and every one. Hunger, homelessness, and illness are also real. Suffering and despair, due to the lack of basic means of survival, are real. The Jeremiahs of our day have gone unheeded. The arrogant US Empire has lost the Mandate of Heaven. Even in Germany, with its superb handling of the pandemic, hunger and malnutrition are rampant. The world system has exploded.
No one is claiming that anyone or any State could prevent the sickness, death, or damage from such a contagion. But it does expose how vulnerable the vulnerable are.
Andrew Yang, in his book The War on Normal People, devotes a chapter on what he calls the “permanent shadow class.” Mortality rates have gone up sharply in the last 20 years. Death by despair. Mr. Math cites from a study by Case and Deaton: “Jobs have slowly crumbled away and many men are finding themselves in a much more hostile labor market with lower wages, lower quality, and less permanent jobs.” How many of the 22,000,000 people who have lost their jobs in the last few weeks will get them back? How much of their lost wages will be recovered?
In radical circles, a distinction is made between reform and revolution. Reform, it is said, doesn’t change the foundations of an evil system. The conclusion, then, would be a revolution. For most of my life, I have regarded the American Revolution as the prime example of successful revolutions. My country, the United States, was created as a project of Enlightenment ideals. An idea, not a place. The original sin of slavery was redeemed by the blood of 500,000 dead in a Civil War and further expiated by the struggles of the past century. Yet now, after 200+ years, the Idea has faded.
A crisis is a slap in the face. Do we not have the wealth to care for the sick, the elderly, the poor? Surveillance capitalism prefers AI and robots to people. Can we not feed and house our people and give them the means to create?