Citizen Action Monitor

Trump is warned reopening business risks lives. But what if he sees risk as “just a cost of doing business?”

For Trump, “malign neglect” is a continuation of his decision-making style that kicked in early in the pandemic

No 2612 Posted by fw, April 13, 2020

“In the course of this week, with nearly 2,000 new deaths every day, a disturbing turn in the media narrative began to take shape. While the week began with grim warnings of the disaster that would unfold, it came to an end with innumerable articles focused on the supposed ‘glimmers of hope’ and the ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’ This shift in the narrative is being used to justify demands for a premature return to work. The most open advocate is President Donald Trump, who has used his daily press briefings to advocate that the United States ‘open with a big bang.’ … On Friday, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration’s own internal figures state that an early rollback of social distancing measures will lead to the deaths of approximately 140,000 people. … What will a return to work mean? The aim of the Trump administration and the American ruling class as a whole is to “normalize” the pandemic, that is, to acclimate the population to the fact that large numbers of people will die for some time to come. Workers are supposed to accept it as something inevitable, with the death toll attracting less and less attention in the news. There is a deeply sinister class logic at work in this demand. Workers are to be treated as expendable. If they die, this is just a cost of doing business, with those who succumb to the disease replaced by others.”Socialist Equality Party, World Socialist Web Site

The article goes on to point out that America’s ruling class has used the pandemic crisis to transfer wealth to the corporate and financial oligarchy –

“The bailout of Wall Street by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, including an additional $2.3 trillion program announced yesterday, far exceeds what was done after the 2008 crisis. This time it was orchestrated in a matter of days.”

Below is my abridged repost of the Socialist Equality Party’s article published by the World Socialist Web Site. I have added subheadings and text highlighting. Alternatively, read the complete piece by clicking on the following linked title.

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Trump’s campaign to reopen businesses risks hundreds of thousands of lives by Socialist Equality Party, World Socialist Web Site, April 11, 2020

Grim news from the US coronavirus frontlines

On Friday, the world passed a grim milestone of 100,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic. At more than 18,700, the United States now has more coronavirus deaths than any other country, surpassing Italy and Spain.

+ For the first time Friday, more than 2,000 people died in the United States.

+ In New York, dozens of corpses are being interred each day in unmarked mass graves in a potter’s field on Hart Island in the Bronx.

+ Refrigerated trucks are stacked high with bodies outside the city’s hospitals.

+ Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit is running out of body bags. “All three coolers are filled,” nurse Jeff Eichenlaub told the Detroit News. “The morgue and the viewing room next to the morgue are full, and right now we’re taking bodies to the sleep lab to store them.”

+ The virus is beginning to spread more rapidly in states beyond the initial centers, including in Massachusetts (2,033 new cases yesterday); Pennsylvania (1,795 new cases); Illinois (1,465 new cases) and Florida (1,142 new cases).

+ It is beginning to move into rural areas, which in many cases lack any facilities to treat those who become ill.

Despite horrific developments, media is promoting good news, cheering “glimmers of hope” and the “light at the end of the tunnel”  

However, in the course of this week, with nearly 2,000 new deaths every day, a disturbing turn in the media narrative began to take shape. While the week began with grim warnings of the disaster that would unfold, it came to an end with innumerable articles focused on the supposed “glimmers of hope” and the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

The “good news” narrative reflects Trump’s press briefing emphasis on reopening businesses “with a bang”

This shift in the narrative is being used to justify demands for a premature return to work. The most open advocate is President Donald Trump, who has used his daily press briefings to advocate that the United States “open with a big bang.”

But rollback of social distancing measures could contribute to wave of 140,000 more deaths

Scientists in the United States and throughout the world have warned against any effort to prematurely open businesses and workplaces. On Friday, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration’s own internal figures state that an early rollback of social distancing measures will lead to the deaths of approximately 140,000 people.

Keeping current distance restrictions in place could cut wave of new deaths

If the administration lifts the 30-day stay-at-home orders, the death total is estimated to reach 200,000, even if schools remain closed until summer,” the Times notes. This contrasts with the government’s current estimates of 60,400 deaths if current restrictions are kept in place through the end of May. There is not a single credible scientist, doctor or epidemiologist who claims that the pandemic is under control in the United States. Scientists have warned that the US lacks the necessary health infrastructure to contain the pandemic if social distancing measures are lifted. The United States is testing only those with the most severe symptoms, and there are no systematic quarantine and contact tracing measures in place in most of the country.

Moreover, Trump intends to roll back testing the week of April 13-17

In fact, the Trump administration is moving to roll back testing, cutting federal funding to drive-through testing facilities this week, leading some of them to close.

By reopening businesses, Trump hopes to “normalize” large numbers of pandemic deaths

What will a return to work mean? The aim of the Trump administration and the American ruling class as a whole is to “normalize” the pandemic, that is, to acclimate the population to the fact that large numbers of people will die for some time to come. Workers are supposed to accept it as something inevitable, with the death toll attracting less and less attention in the news.

To put it more bluntly, workers are to be treated as “just a cost of doing business”

There is a deeply sinister class logic at work in this demand. Workers are to be treated as expendable. If they die, this is just a cost of doing business, with those who succumb to the disease replaced by others.

Workers who refuse to work could be fired, cutting them off for unemployment insurance

In practical terms, moreover, it means that workers who refuse to work risk being fired, making them ineligible for unemployment insurance. The mass joblessness—with 16.8 million filing for unemployment claims in just the last three weeks—will be used as a cudgel to force them to risk their lives by returning to the job. The corporations, which before the pandemic were facing a labor shortage, will once again have the whip in hand to discipline their workforce.

Given the pandemic kills the oldest and most vulnerable, social costs can be diverted to fund share buybacks

To the extent that the pandemic disproportionately kills the oldest and most vulnerable, this will mean that fewer social resources are diverted to caring for the elderly and infirm and can instead be used to fund share buybacks and dividend payments.

“Malign neglect” is simply a continuation of a ruling class policy that kicked in early in the pandemic

The demand for an early return to work is the continuation of the policy of “malign neglect” carried out by the ruling class since the start of the pandemic.

Trump has either downplayed the pandemic threat or, belatedly, exaggerated what a great job he has done

Trump initially downplayed the significance of the pandemic, presenting it as an external enemy to be combatted with travel bans. The United States made no serious effort to carry out testing for months. It was only after the horrific reports emerged, first from Italy, then in Washington and New York, that state governments and finally the White House were forced, amid popular pressures and spontaneous walkouts by workers, to implement widespread social distancing.

The ruling class has used the crisis to transfer wealth to the corporate and financial oligarchy

As the pandemic spread, the ruling class used the crisis atmosphere to implement—on a unanimously bipartisan basis—the largest transfer of wealth to the corporate and financial oligarchy in history. The bailout of Wall Street by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, including an additional $2.3 trillion program announced yesterday, far exceeds what was done after the 2008 crisis. This time it was orchestrated in a matter of days.

Even a prominent New York Times columnist joined the “return to work” push

As this exercise in thievery and plunder on a mass scale was underway, the push for a return to work began almost immediately. And it was not just from the Trump administration. Indeed, the campaign was initiated by the Democratic Party-aligned New York Times, whose columnist Thomas Friedman warned against a “cure—even for a short while—worse than the disease.”

As well, Western European countries have joined the call for a return to work

And what is happening in the United States is repeated throughout Western Europe. The Austrian government has announced plans to return to work as early as next week, while Spain intends to reopen auto plants on April 20.

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