by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog
TITANIC LARGEST SHIP IN THE WORLD SINKING
personally I am not sure that the twelvehour day is bad for employees especially when they insist on working that long in order to make more money
— John Dos Passos, The 42nd Parallel, part one of the U.S.A. trilogy
What if the bailouts actually work?
Naturally, socialists aren’t inclined to explore this question, but what’s so interesting is that the Western Mainstream Media doesn’t want to admit the truth: the US bailouts for the lower classes have been hugely effective.
Too effective, they fear, and their fears are entirely correct. Make sure to circle August 1 on your calendar because that will be something of a US class war D-Day.
The Mainstream Media does not want to touch this issue with a 10-foot pole, so we cannot find much coverage of the reality that the Great Lockdown payouts to the lower classes have been – by US standards – incredibly generous. (Note: this article was written last week. The latest Fed Beige Book came out yesterday and addressed this issue, so I bumped this column up in the queue.)
2020 saw the very first “People’s QE”, with $1,200 in direct payments and a $600 increase per week in unemployment insurance until July 31.
Even if the bureaucracy sometimes moved too slowly and there were inevitable issues with this enormous and unprecedented redistribution, the verdict was in immediately: this was a hugely popular success with the lower classes. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s the most generous unemployment payout since the 1930s. For the first time in recent memory governmental policy favoured the lower class worker instead of the upper-middle and upper classes.
The average worker went from $378 per week in state unemployment benefits to $978 per week – a jump of 160%. You ever get a 160% raise before? I haven’t. Indeed, a socialist had to have gotten a lump in their throats when this was announced. One study showed that a whopping 68 percent of unemployed workers who can receive benefits are eligible for payments that are greater than their lost earnings. That number seems a bit high, but the massive desire to support the stay-at-home orders was surely a reflection of a desire to support this radically different approach to poverty prevention.
For the incredibly stingy US system the payout was unexpectedly generous and even based on good sense: the payout was $978 per week because the national average salary for unemployment recipients is $970 per week. It passed the smell test, too: $4,000 per month is a pretty good salary in the US… if you have no kids. However, if you have a very good upper-middle class job then it’s a pay cut, but democratically orienting policy to the needs of the lower classes and not the upper and upper-middle classes in the US? Since when?!
This is when socialists had to think – maybe these bailouts will actually work?
But it’s not as if they pulled the plug on capitalist-imperialist culture, so I think the US 1% made a major mistake in suddenly growing a conscience – they have unwittingly done more to raise class consciousness than any union or socialist party has done for many decades.
Buy some popcorn and watch the show – August 1 is going to see public labor-related rage for the first time since the 1930s.
Big, big problems in almost too many ways to count starting August 1
Michiganders demanding their constitutional right to fish was interesting, courageous and an example of ancestor worship any East Asian would be proud of, but let’s talk turkey about why in May – when it became clear that comparisons of coronavirus with the Spanish Flu of 1918 were obviously tabloid journalism – polls showed so many people refused to go back to work:
The early reopening of the economy was shot in the foot by this “unemployment bailout” – why on earth would the lower classes want to return to their low-paid jobs, where they could contract huge corona-related health care costs, when they can be totally safe and paid better to boot?
Don’t get it twisted for even a moment: the problem was NOT an excessive government handout but the TERRIBLE wages lower class workers have to endure since 1980. What “shot the recovery in the foot”, therefore, was capitalist greed and decades of stagnant wages, not “overly-generous government programs”. If the US had paid proper wages, and had shown proper skepticism to the now-unproven claims of corona hysterics, then they wouldn’t have so many employees telling bosses to take their job and shove it.
And the anger will seethe long-term, because the long, long, LONG overdue payout only sowed the seeds of future class discontent: it took a deadly pandemic for America’s most abused workers to finally get a living wage of above $15/hour. How can the lower classes – who are totally denied class consciousness by the US education system and pop culture – now ever forget that money for them really is there, but it is unfairly redistributed?
The US already has 41 million unemployed officially – given that the median weekly income in the US is $865, we are conservatively talking about 20 million workers who will only go back to work grudgingly on August 1.
The long-term cultural ramifications of that should not be underestimated.
Equally necessary to not underestimate: after August 1 many millions of workers won’t have these proper unemployment benefits nor a job either – at least 25% to up to over 40% of jobs aren’t coming back. So, conservatively, 20-30 million workers are going to get a huge pay cut as they have to survive on the “normal” benefit of just $378 per week.
Again, the cultural ramifications add up to massive discontent.
I think there is no chance that the US 1% authorises an extension of the $600 per week extra past August 1 – it was totally out of keeping with US ideology to begin with, and yet another indicator of the hysteria which swept the US regarding coronavirus. If unemployment benefits remained that high the only choice would be for bosses to raise wages to attract workers, and 40 years of recent shows that simply won’t be allowed to happen in the US.
Congress will, however, likely extend the number of weeks workers can live on the inadequate $378 wage (usually around 6 months in the US) but that will hardly be viewed as sufficient. They are talking about giving a $450 back to work bonus to get workers to accept jobs, and this only shows what a huge mistake the US 1% made amid the corona hysteria (thankfully!) and how they are now scrambling to erase it by offering crumbs.
The Democratic leadership has proposed extending the $600/week until 2021, but that’s typically-empty Democratic electioneering: if they really wanted to protect the lower classes and not corporations then they would have included that proposal in the first bailout package. Democrats waited until they knew extending $600 plus had no chance of getting passed
The cultural discontent will also be amplified and extended by the upcoming US elections in November.
Should we expect on August 1st the media to “play ball” with the 1%, like they normally do, and shepherd the masses to go back to work? Not hardly. I think it’s staggeringly unpatriotic to have “played politics” during this pandemic but nobody would doubt that many journalists, politicians and governors have done and are doing exactly that – why would they stop just a few months prior to Trump’s re-election vote?
(Indeed, whereas pre-corona I viewed Trump as a near-lock to be re-elected the odds of him winning amid such economic depression now seems rather illogical. As he is an extreme narcissist Trump views absolutely everything as being all about him, but I can see why he said back in February that corona was being overhyped to damage him politically.)
Will the fake-leftist MSM agitate in favor of labor/the unemployed army, thus against the 1%? That would be rather amazing, and something not seen since the 1970s, but it actually seems likely because they want to better Democratic election chances. It is only a temporary change caused by the corona hysteria and won’t stick long-term, of course.
Countering the fake-leftist MSM will be the always unwanted presence of Austrians/Chicagoans/Republicans who sanctimoniously rail about the “moral hazard” of “incentivising sloth” – people who never knew working hard at a lousy job yet still being unable to pay the most basic bills – will be equating extending the $600/week with the arrival of Satan, whom they are sure is also a Stalinist socialist. These greedy toads had effectively kept a lid on class consciousness for four decades, but no longer.
By August 1 all will be reminded: the problem remains unequal distribution
The term “working class” is so distorted in US culture that the term has no meaning anymore – I prefer the Iranian term “the lower classes” because everybody instinctively knows if they are in the “upper class” or one of all those “lower classes”. And, far more importantly, is that everyone knows whom they politically support: Mao came from a wealthy family but lived his motto of “Serve the People”, whereas plenty of New York City rappers would set an urban housing project on fire just to get on MTV. Many in the US are aware of Eugene “Daddy Socialist” V. Debs’ saying “while there is a soul in prison, I am not free,” but they are not told what preceded it: “while there is a lower class, I am in it”.
So support/opposition to $600 extra per week is going to go a long way in showing who supports which class.
Ultimately, the bailouts will not work – in terms of aiding society – for the three other major components of the US economy: the small- and medium-sized business, corporations and high finance. Addressing “Will the bailouts work?” for those sectors requires another article, but this column democratically addressed the bailouts’ effect on the largest sector of society – the lower classes.
August 1 will mark a critical new era in which domestic disenchantment with the American system reaches an all-time peak, and then only increase from there. Mark your calendars.
It’s not as if American socialism doesn’t have a history to draw upon for strength and guidance, such as John Dos Passos. The U.S.A. trilogy was ranked 23rd on Modern Library’s 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, but today Dos Passos has been banished from schools, academia and public consciousness – he chronicled the early years of American socialism.
Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis.
A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire) March 23, 2020
If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone – March 30, 2020
Pity post-corona Millennials… if they don’t openly push socialism – April 14, 2020
Coronavirus – Macron’s savior. A ‘united Europe’ – France’s murderer – April 22, 2020
The end of globalisation won’t be televised, despite the hopes of the Western 99% (2/2) – April 27, 2020
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the NEW ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.