Citizen Action Monitor

Republicans and Democrats alike failed to deal effectively with 2020’s pandemic and related economic crises

Their neglect allowed political monopolists to continue to promote their self-interests by supporting private capitalism. —

No 2695 Posted by fw, December 30, 2020 —

For those who prefer a quick read, here is my summary of Richard Wolff’s concise article: “The D.C. Political Monopoly that Just Does Not Get It.”

Richard D. Wolff

Neither Republicans nor Democrats grasp the link between capitalism’s collapse and the pandemic. Recurring crashes every 4 to 7 years are inherent in capitalism, which has already contributed to three collapses in 2000. Moreover, Republicans and Democrats alike failed to deal effectively with 2020’s pandemic and the related economic crisis. Private capitalists covered their own assets, and ignored safeguarding public health during COVID-19 outbreak. Republicans and Democrats championed the full “socialization” of military costs, while characterizing socialization of public health costs as evil “socialism.” Trump’s crude laissez-faire ideology and corrupt political calculations drove his Mr. “Do-Little” COVID inaction. The magnitude of the capitalist crash and pandemic’s spread triggered Trump-Biden’s too-little, too-late response. Both parties show a stunning similarity in their support for private capitalism, and pointing the finger of blame at others. So, what to do? For starters, Wolff suggests breaking the political monopoly of the two-party system combined with creating a new, anti-capitalist party. Failure to act, he warns, frees the existing political monopolists to continue protecting their own self-interests, thereby retaining control of an unfair system.

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Richard David Wolff is an American Marxist economist, known for his work on economic methodology and class analysis. He is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School in New York

Two personal observations on this repost. First, I wouldn’t say that the D.C. political monopoly “Just does not get it.” I would say they get it only too well in the sense that by keeping the working class on the brink of low-wage poverty, in debt, with high privatized healthcare costs, propagandized by privatized, corporate-controlled media, and with huge income and wealth disparity — the 1%, the private financialized neoliberal capitalists, are the beneficiaries as their outrageous, sky-high investment profits flow to the top earners. For example, stock market speculators benefit to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars while the public economy sinks to new lows. And capitalist Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has decided to “donate” a tiny fraction of his trillions to philanthropic causes. With his vast fortunes piling up, tens of millions of workers are drowning in poverty. Absent this obscene “charity of the capitalist oligarchs” it would not be necessary for Boss Bezos to dip into his “pocket cash” to help the working poor meet their critical social needs.

Second, for any who think Canada is not in the same financialized, private capitalist boat as our neighbors to the south, think again. As Canadian ecosocialist Ian Angus pointed out in a September 2016 interview: “So long as making more money is the goal of our economic system, capitalist destruction will continue”

Below is my repost of Wolff’s clear and concise article, featuring my added subheadings, text highlighting, and images. Alternatively, to read Richard’s piece on his website, click on the following linked title.

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The D.C. Political Monopoly Just Does Not Get It by Richard D. Wolff, rdwolff.com, December 29, 2020

Neither Republicans nor Democrats grasp the link between capitalism’s collapse and the pandemic

The spectacle of political “leaders” disconnected from basic social realities survived Trump’s defeat. He and his GOP had shown little grasp of the two great crises of 2020: the crash of capitalism and the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump’s resulting political defeat did not reconnect them. The Biden Democrats already show they learned little from Trump’s loss; disconnection governs them too.

Recurring crashes every 4 to 7 years are inherent in capitalism – there have been three collapses so far in 2000

A basic social reality of the United States is its capitalist economic system that organizes enterprises internally into a small minority (employers) dominating the majority (employees), with markets to distribute resources and products. Like capitalisms everywhere, the U.S. version crashes recurringly. Variously called crises, recessions, or depressions, they have happened, on average, every four to seven years throughout capitalism’s history. With three in this century’s first 20 years (“dot-com” in 2000, “subprime mortgage” in 2008, and “COVID-19” in 2020), the United States illustrates that four-to-seven-year schedule.

Republicans and Democrats alike failed to deal effectively with 2020’s pandemic and related economic crises

The 2020 crash is second only to the Great Depression of the 1930s in its social impact. That fact alone demands major policy interventions on the scale, at least, of what was done then (including the creation of Social Security, federal unemployment insurance, the first minimum wage, and the creation of millions of federal jobs). Moreover, the 1930s were not simultaneously a time of deadly viral pandemic. Given the uniquely immense challenge of 2020’s two crises, no remotely adequate policies were undertaken nor even contemplated by Trump, Biden, Republican or Democratic establishments. They just don’t get it.

Private capitalists covered their own assets, ignored safeguarding public health during COVID-19 outbreak

The COVID-19 pandemic replicates past viral outbreaks: from the deadly 1918 influenza pandemic to recent SARS, MERS, and Ebola outbreaks. Coping with them requires having ready (or quickly acquiring) adequate supplies of tests, masks, ventilators, hospital facilities, and trained personnel. Where supplies of these essential resources were left mostly to the private capitalist sector, fatal failure resulted. It was not privately profitable (and far too risky) to produce, stockpile, and maintain these supplies for years until a pandemic enabled them to be sold. Private capitalists chose other more profitable and/or less risky investments. Private capitalism, as many had forewarned, was unreliable for protecting public health.

Republicans and Democrats championed the full “socialization” of military costs, while characterizing socialization of public health costs as evil “socialism”

Of course, the government could have intervened to offset private capitalism’s failure to safeguard public health. It could have purchased tests, masks, and ventilators as fast as private capitalists produced them at prices profitable for those capitalists. The government could then have stockpiled them at taxpayers’ expense for use when the next dangerous virus threatened. In fact, the U.S. government already does that, but not for public health. It buys and stockpiles missiles, warships, and tanks from private capitalists because profit-driven capitalists would not stockpile them. In the United States, Republican and Democratic establishments promote the government’s full socialization of military costs as patriotism while they demonize and block an equivalent socialization of public health costs as “socialism.”

Trump’s crude laissez-faire ideology and corrupt political calculations drove his do-little COVID inaction

Inadequate preparation for COVID-19 was followed by failure to contain it. Trump and the GOP never considered, let alone implemented, massive government intervention. Many other countries did, mobilizing private and public resources effectively against COVID-19. Crude laissez-faire ideology plus corrupt political calculation drove Trump and the GOP. As to the pandemic’s effects, they just did not get it.

Magnitude of capitalist crash and pandemic’s spread triggered Trump-Biden’s too-little, too-late response

Either a capitalist crash or the COVID-19 pandemic alone would have been a critical challenge for the United States. Having both occur together, a staggering combination, requires just what Trump did not and Biden is not doing: a similarly unprecedented government response. Thus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are not even trying for an adequately large stimulus. Their joint product promises to be a prime example of too little, too late. Neither party leadership advanced policies enlarging upon what worked well in the 1930s: a massive federal jobs program to end unemployment, a Green New Deal, and a national system of COVID-19 testing, tracking, and treatment in additionally constructed hospitals and clinics. Nothing suggests Biden’s centrist Cabinet sees the magnitude of the need. They just don’t get it.

Stunning similarity from both parties of support for private capitalism and scapegoating of others —

For both Republican and Democratic establishments, political strategies are similar.

  • Each endorses, privileges, and supports private capitalism.
  • Each blames the other party for negative results that flow from the social dominance of private capitalism.
  • Neither dares blame private capitalism for social problems like unemployment and pandemic casualties. Instead,
  • each has its preferred set of scapegoats to blame.
    • Republicans blame immigrants, foreign trading partners (especially China), non-whites, pro-abortion rights activists, mainstream media, liberals, and socialists.
    • Democrats blame Russia and Russians, China, gun enthusiasts, white supremacists and racists, Fox News, and Trump and his supporters.

What to do? – Break the political monopoly of the two-party system; Create a new, anti-capitalist party

A solution would be a genuinely level political playing field. It would include a new political party that criticizes and opposes the capitalist system because of its responsibility for critical social problems. It would break the political monopoly run by Republicans and Democrats just as many economic monopolies have ended in the nation’s past.

Failure to act frees the existing political monopolists to continue protecting their own self-interests, thereby retaining control of an unfair system

Today’s crises, inequalities, divisions, and the sufferings of so many deserve no less. Yet the political monopolists want to keep their control.

They just don’t get it.

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