Poor Americans not only hit hardest with COVID-19 deaths, but also with lockdowns
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The argument over lockdown seems to have crystallized into a simple – and simplistic – binary: health versus the economy. If you position yourself on the left, you value health over money, and so support the lockdown. That’s a mistake.
The “health versus the economy” frame ignores how disastrous the lockdown has been to America’s poor. Despite rhetoric about “shared sacrifice”, the ability to self-isolate is overwhelmingly correlated to income. While middle-class professionals congratulate themselves for staying inside, their isolation is dependent on a class of workers who often labor without essential equipment or while ill. Making matters worse, these exposed workers also tend to have more of the health conditions – including hypertension and diabetes – that make Covid-19 so deadly. In America, getting sick is a class condition.
This pandemic is an X-ray, exposing the racial and class inequalities of our society. Look at the data on the communities that are hardest hit by the virus. New York City is often described as the “center of the pandemic”, but a map of the most affected areas clearly shows that poorer neighborhoods are bearing the brunt. In Chicago, 70 of the first 100 Covid-19 victims were black; Milwaukee tells a similar story.
To make matters worse, the government’s measures to mitigate the economic effects of Covid-19 lockdowns exacerbate previously existing inequalities. Trump’s much-vaunted bailout has created a multitrillion-dollar money supply for the largest corporations in the country, with almost no critical oversight requirements. At the same time, people whose livelihoods are being destroyed are being asked to make do with a one-off $1,200 payment, the conditions for which exclude many of those who need it most.
This amounts to a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. Just like in 2008, capital has taken hold of the crisis, and turned it to its own advantage.
The strategy adopted by some northern European countries – such as Sweden – was another possibility. Keeping the economy going, while offering quality healthcare and other benefits to those who get sick, is less irrational than it might seem. That approach involves less economic disruption. Whether it leads to more deaths in the long run is still an open question. The problem is that the Swedish model pre-supposes a well-functioning healthcare system, whereas American healthcare has suffered decades of contraction under the brunt of neoliberal policies; South Korea has three times as many hospital beds per 1,000 people as the US does.
Neither the Swedish nor South Korean models are possible in America today, and neither resolve the true crisis that the US faces, which is dealing with the disaster caused by the lockdown. Rather than insisting on staying at home, the left should argue for implementing an end to the lockdown that actually answers the demands of the workers striking at Amazon, Checkers, Instacart, and elsewhere for safe working conditions and worker’s rights.
May 16, 2020 at 11:18 PM #316191ThouArtThatParticipant
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Yep – all good observations – other countries and the US. Yet, we all know that Americans in America are expendable; so nothing will ever change.
Sooner or later we all sit down to a banquet of consequences.
- Robert Louis Stevenson
Politics is the entertainment division of the Military Industrial Complex.
- Frank Zappa
May 16, 2020 at 11:32 PM #316193Ohio BarbarianModerator
- Total Posts: 14,449
You are unimportant.
That is Nancy Pelosi’s message for us. That is Donald Trump’s message for us. That is capitalism’s message for us.
It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs
Show me a man that gets rich by being a politician, and I'll show you a crook.--Harry Truman
May 17, 2020 at 12:19 AM #316201N2DocParticipant
- Total Posts: 7,442
- Standard crisis opportunism- take advantage of distressed housing, buildings, buisinesses, etc to buy at cheap prices.
- Distraction- while people are distracted, pollute, loot, otherwise do whatever would normally be hard to do in the light of day.
- culling the herd- After the initial reports came in that COVID was mostly (not all, but to them it is all) hammering elderly, poor, and especially minorities and immigrants, hey! They see this as a great opportunity to reduce the number of ‘useless eaters’ (as Kissinger puts it).
- Another opportunity to keep wages low and workers desperate. Forever, they hope.
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