Even as Republican and Democratic leadership double down on attempts to preserve our market-based economy the people can feel an underlying worry that something is fundamentally wrong at the core of it all. The COVID 19 pandemic couldn’t have happened at a worse time for the nation as an inept, to the extent of being clownish, administration lashes out at any progressive thought of providing for people in dire need of a support system that is capable of making a positive impact on their situation.
The entirety of the most powerful government and the wealthiest economic mechanism in the history of the world has, to date, failed miserably to provide such support. The truth is that it can’t, or at least it can’t while preserving the massive misinformation and propaganda campaign that it has successfully promoted over the last half-century that has created the current failed condition. Fintan O’Toole of The Irish Times nailed it when he wrote;
“The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity, and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicenter of the pandemic.”
I’m not one to promote absolute socialism, or even to denigrate capitalism as the source of all evil in the world as many do. It was, after all, capitalism that provided all of those advantages. What capitalism can’t do is “deploy” those to the benefit of the society outside of the profit-oriented system that makes them possible. The first question to arise in any meaningful effort to mitigate the worst of the impact of the virus is “How will we pay for it?”, and that can’t be answered in the language of capitalists.
If we, as a society, decide that only those who can afford treatment and are strong enough to survive the virus should live, then nothing would need to change and Darwin would be the winner of the day. Remember that the shortages of ventilators and protective gear/clothing now hindering treatment of the virus’s victims so badly was a product of the “efficiency” that capitalism demands. Hospitals cannot provide maximum return on investment for shareholders if they foolishly purchase what “might” be needed in the future.
A government that issues its own sovereign currency “can” provide for such contingencies and pay for the treatment of the victims entirely without constraint from revenue, but that would require representatives that fully understand the economics of a sovereign fiat currency-issuing government which would be detrimental to corporate profits and share values. Much of our current suffering from this virus is due to efforts to make the federal government “efficient” by reducing its staffing, specifically the very team that was assembled to predict and forewarn of such pandemics.
As O’Toole pointed out, there was sufficient advance notice to enable the US to be completely prepared for the worst, only it wasn’t acted upon. The disconnect this displays is shockingly absurd from the perspective through which most other nations’ citizens see the role of their governments, as it should be to any logical thinking adult.
Even as many are facing eviction from their homes and very real food insecurity our government is attempting to downsize by cutting programs that were designed to supplement the people through economic downturns and our federal government is actively competing with hospitals for vital supplies.
We haven’t even addressed the fact that Americans, many without a realistic way to afford adequate health insurance, will not be subsidized for the cost of their treatment should they contract this very deadly and easily transmitted virus. Given that those “essential” workers now supporting what is left of our economy and supply chains, placing themselves at extreme risk, are primarily at the bottom of the income distribution, this could easily bankrupt our entire healthcare system and tip an already shaky consumer-driven economy over the edge. It costs the same to save a poor person as it does to save a rich person.
In our collective denial of our failure, we, however, have no current politicians in positions to win office that support a universal single-payer system and the income support that is the only way we come out of the other end of this pandemic with an intact economy. We 1) elect Bernie and replace a majority of Congress with like-minded progressives, 2) all candidates become Bernie, or 3) we fail catastrophically. Those are the available options.
Even before this pandemic, we had vast food deserts where the only source of nutrition for purchase is convenience stores and fast food joints. Those are not just a factor in the cities and a product of urban decay. They are a very real part of the degradation of our mid-American small town as well. With the move toward mega-suppliers and retailers, many now live in areas where food is being destroyed by producers but don’t have access to sufficient nutrition, or the income to afford it if they did.
When hunger is a problem in the midst of the richest farming areas of our country while farmers are dumping milk and eggs and euthanizing livestock, failure is the only word to describe our system accurately.
The thing that can connect those lacking such support or access to adequate income and the suppliers that are overabundantly burdened with resources but lacking a market for them is money. By treating money as a precious and scarce commodity, and not simply the common denominator for commerce that it is, we enable nonsensical disconnections such as these to the great advantage of those who have the most money. People can be literally subjected to wage slavery without options by their employers and bankers can become kingmakers.
We were always just one pandemic away from slicing the supply/demand equation down the middle, leaving both sides wondering what happened and unable to reconnect. Those much-vilified automatic stabilizers, such as unemployment insurance and SNAP benefits, were simply ways to interject money between the supply and demand of our economy when the capitalist free market failed, which it does quite regularly. Economists have even named this failure “business cycles” to make it more palatable to its victims and avoid the pitchforks and torches that have taken down previous interpretations of “capitalism” in the past.
Capital will always have the advantage of being able to ride out those cycles, and often even take advantage of them to gain leverage on labor. In fact, our monetary policy has for years been aimed at maintaining a set percentage of involuntary unemployment to further disadvantage labor. The “little people” are told it is to prevent inflation, but we haven’t had sufficient inflation to even meet Fed targets in spite of rapidly growing deficits resulting from inequitable tax policy. Even those not proficient in the language of economics should by now, begin to sense they are being had.
What Bernie offers is not just a progressive policy that better levels the playing field, but a proper perspective of how our money is created and moves through the economy. He knows it doesn’t grow on rich people and that we don’t even need to “get” money to enable spending on the public purpose where the goal of spending enriches our society. He knows that our taxes don’t actually “fund” anything and are destroyed by the debt immediately upon entry to the government sector.
He knows that Congress, as the monopoly issuer of our currency, can never fail to pay for any obligation it mandates as long as the real resources and labor the money is deployed to purchase are available and can be purchased with dollars.