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Coronavirus: For-profit economy breaks down, humanity first is the demand

Tribuno Del Pueblo  |  Issue: May | June 2020
Machete Illustration

Illustration by Eric J. Garcia

 

The coronavirus pandemic sweeps through the country, leaving illness and death in its wake. Following closely on the heels of the still-raging destruction in Italy, it threatens to overwhelm the U.S. health care system, too.

The pandemic has created a crisis of unheard-of proportions, with plummeting stock market prices, massive layoffs of workers, worksite and school closures, cessation of air and cross-border travel, and the near total shutdown of the U.S. capitalist economy.

Without income assistance millions of U.S. citizens and immigrants, including the undocumented, face massive unemployment, food shortages, housing evictions, utility shutoffs, and a lack of health care. The federal aid that has been approved will benefit too few Americans, and not for long. This dramatizes the fact that we as a nation do not have a system designed to deal with crises like this.

If there ever was a need for decisive, unifying leadership, this is the time. But that is not what we get. After weeks of denying the severity of the threat, a crucial window of opportunity was missed for containing the spread of the disease.

We will have to deal with the health consequences as test kits and personal protective equipment are in short supply and hospital intensive care capacity is in danger of being overwhelmed. The situation is compounded by years of neglect and underfunding of public health, as well as by the serious lack of health coverage for millions of Americans.

Even with the soaring death toll, President Trump has shown himself more interested in protecting corporate profits and Wall Street as well as in his reelection in November. As he “spins the truth” in order to keep a critical mass of loyal followers, he and his entourage take advantage of our misery.

Senators of both political parties were recently discovered to have unloaded stocks shortly before the crash allegedly with “inside” information.

Just as Trump blames China by calling the coronavirus the “China virus,” he stokes division, fear, and hate against immigrants, the homeless and the poor. This builds on the fear of immigrants being seen as a “public charge,” ICE detentions and overcrowding of asylum seekers at the border. Moreover, Trump remains determined to destroy the Affordable Care Act and promote onerous “work requirements” to qualify for it when there is no work.

Fortunately, the American people, which includes immigrants and the undocumented, are rising to the occasion. Many are looking out for their neighbors. Youth are volunteering to assist vulnerable elderly and disabled. Health care workers, particularly nurses, are coming out of retirement to prepare for the onslaught of sick. Concern for the common good is growing and must be nurtured.

Just as significantly, Americans are taking matters into their own hands with “social distance” cars driving around immigrant detention centers honking to release detainees. Mothers and children in Los Angeles are taking over abandoned homes to protect themselves. City and county officials are being obliged to open unoccupied homes, hotel rooms and warehouses to shelter those without a roof or frantically to build “surge” capacity in anticipation of hospital overload. Jails are beginning to release nonviolent inmates to prevent spreading the disease. The National Guard is being deployed in various states around the country, assisting in building expanded hospital need, delivering supplies, food, etc., although there are concerns that their deployment might be abused under martial law.

Things cannot go back to the way they were once this crisis is over. Americans now see that looking out for one another is so much better than putting a price tag on everything?  And, there is plenty of wealth to go around.

It is clear that the capitalist class Trump and corporate Republicans and Democrats represent is unfit to rule. We are learning that we can do a much better job ourselves.

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