The mysterious expectation that elites give a damn

It’s not like it hasn’t been quite well known we have been approaching a cliff at full speed. We went over it yesterday [July 31] because the elites can’t agree on further economic relief for the pandemic. Which means a whole lot more people are going to have trouble paying their bills, paying their rent, buying groceries.[1] Which in turn means that a lot of people won’t be spending money and a lot of people will lose their jobs permanently.[2] Which means we are no longer talking about a recession. We are talking about a depression.

It took three years to climb out of the Great Recession and more than a decade to recover from the Great Depression of the 1930s. Economists say the government was too slow to act and too stingy with aid in the past, mistakes that should not be repeated now.[3]

The reference to the “Great Recession” should dissuade us from any imagination that either major political party is better than the other. In the financial crisis, Barack Obama bailed out banks, while leaving underwater homeowners[4] and the unemployed[5] to twist on the vine. If we had single payer health care, instead of Obama’s bailout, also known as “Obamacare,” of health insurance and pharmaceutical industries that didn’t even need a bailout,[6] people wouldn’t be losing their health care in a pandemic along with their jobs.[7]

We went over this cliff, repeating mistakes we were repeatedly warned against,[8] because we adhere to this social construction called money[9] as if bullshit was a finite resource;[10] because that social construction—money— has assumed a greater importance even than human life,[11] let alone human dignity; because we adhere to an intellectually utterly discredited neoliberal ideology;[12] and because it isn’t elites who’ve lost their jobs, it isn’t elites who will have trouble buying groceries, it isn’t elites who are facing evictions, it isn’t elites who will fail to pay their bills, it isn’t elites who really give a damn.

Elites are more interested in trading blame[13] when, in fact, all of them are to blame, all of them are jockeying for the power and privilege they exercise over the rest of us.[14] But hey, come November, we’re supposed to choose between a racist authoritarian populist rapist who, along with his acolytes, can’t wait to offer human sacrifices to the capitalist god[15] because he thinks it will help him get reelected[16] and a racist neoliberal rapist who thinks Medicare For All is an insult to his dead son.[17]

It is long past time to change all that, long past time to stop acquiescing to this bullshit, long past time to get rid of them and this whole rotten constitutional oligarchy, long past time to get rid of an economic system that prefers wealth and power for a few at everyone else’s expense, at the cost of everyone else’s dignity.[18]

  1. [1]Eli Rosenberg, Erica Werner, and Jeff Stein, “30 million unemployed lose extra jobless benefits, as talks between Congress and the White House are at an impasse,” Washington Post, July 31, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2020/07/31/congress-bailout-unemployment-insurance/
  2. [2]Heather Long, “This recession is already deep. If Congress fails to act, a lot of damage could be permanent,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/30/economists-favor-big-stimulus/
  3. [3]Heather Long, “U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in first quarter, biggest decline since the Great Recession,” April 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/29/gdp-coronavirus/
  4. [4]Neil Barofsky, Bailout (New York: Free, 2012).
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Dickens redux,” Not Housebroken, August 3, 2011, https://disunitedstates.org/2011/08/03/dickens-redux/
  6. [6]Brad Jacobson, “Obama received $20 million from healthcare industry in 2008 campaign,” Raw Story, January 12, 2010, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/01/12/obama-received-20-million-healthcare-industry-money-2008/; Gaius Publius [pseud.], “Obama Got $20 Million from Healthcare Industry in 2008. Was Killing Single-Payer Part of the Deal?” Naked Capitalism, February 5, 2014, http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/02/gaius-publius-obama-got-20-million-healthcare-industry-2008-killing-single-payer-part-deal.html
  7. [7]Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/first-the-coronavirus-pandemic-took-their-jobs-then-it-wiped-out-their-health-insurance/2020/04/18/1c2cb5bc-7d7c-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html
  8. [8]Jonathan Allen and Steve Holland, “Life upended for Americans as U.S. scrambles to contain coronavirus threat,” Reuters, March 12, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa/life-upended-for-americans-as-u-s-scrambles-to-contain-coronavirus-threat-idUSKBN20Z1OT; AnnaMaria Andriotis, “Americans Skip Millions of Loan Payments as Coronavirus Takes Economic Toll,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-skip-millions-of-loan-payments-as-coronavirus-takes-economic-toll-11592472601; Anne Applebaum, “The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff,” Atlantic, March 15, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-showed-america-wasnt-task/608023/; Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156994/democrats-screwed; Associated Press, “U.S. stocks climb 6% the day after biggest loss since 1987,” Los Angeles Times, March 17, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-03-17/us-stocks-coronavirus; Associated Press, “3.2 million more filed jobless claims last week; more than 30 million since coronavirus hit,” Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-07/coronavirus-weekly-jobless-unemployment-numbers; Associated Press, “2.4 million Americans sought jobless aid last week; 39 million since coronavirus struck,” Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-21/coronavirus-jobless-unemployment-benefits; Associated Press, “1.9 million seek jobless aid even as reopenings slow layoffs,” Los Angeles Times, June 4, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-06-04/jobless-unemployment-claims-coronavirus; Associated Press, “Tenants Behind on Rent in Pandemic Face Harassment, Eviction,” U.S. News and World Report, June 14, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/virginia/articles/2020-06-13/tenants-behind-on-rent-in-pandemic-face-harassment-eviction; David Blanchflower, “Pandemic Economics: ‘Much Worse, Very Quickly,” New York Review of Books, March 26, 2020, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/03/26/pandemic-economics-much-worse-very-quickly/; John Cassidy, “What Would a Proper Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Look Like?” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/what-would-a-proper-coronavirus-stimulus-plan-look-like; Kriston Capps, “What Happens When the Eviction Bans End?” CityLab, May 29, 2020, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2020/05/pay-rent-eviction-ban-coronavirus-housing-crisis-landlord/612277/; John Cassidy, “Who’s Right About the Economy—Jared Kushner or the Chairman of the Federal Reserve?” New Yorker, April 30, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/whos-right-about-the-economy-jared-kushner-or-the-chairman-of-the-federal-reserve; John Cassidy, “The Most Alarming Thing About the Worst Jobs Report in History,” New Yorker, May 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-most-alarming-thing-about-the-worst-jobs-report-in-history; Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Over 3.8 Million Americans Filed for Jobless Benefits Last Week as States Struggle With Coronavirus Claims Surge,” Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/states-struggle-with-coronavirus-unemployment-claims-surge-11588239004; Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Workers File 2.4 Million Unemployment Claims,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-employed-arent-counted-in-wave-of-unemployment-claims-11590053402; Zak Cheney-Rice, “Even Naked, America Cannot See Itself,” New York, April 27, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/coronavirus-inequality-america.html; Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-05/op-ed-time-to-ramp-up-medicaid-to-pay-for-universal-coronavirus-care; Megan Rose Dickey, “Senator urges Uber, Lyft, Instacart and others to offer gig workers financial security in light of COVID-19 concerns,” TechCrunch, March 6, 2020, https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/06/senator-urges-uber-lyft-instacart-and-others-to-offer-gig-workers-financial-security-in-light-of-covid-19-concerns/; Hannah Dineen, “Uber driver denies unmasked riders, fired for complaints,” News Center Maine, July 1, 2020, https://www.newscentermaine.com/article/life/uber-driver-denies-unmasked-riders-fired-for-complaints/97-80794869-0c8b-4aa1-8ec8-e340d4e6fed5; Ben Eisen and David Benoit, “‘This Is Not a Normal Recession’: Banks Ready for Wave of Coronavirus Defaults,” Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/this-is-not-a-normal-recession-banks-ready-for-wave-of-coronavirus-defaults-11594746008; Benjamin Fearnow, “Biden, Sanders demand 3-month freeze on rent payments, eviction of tenants across U.S.,” Newsweek, March 28, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/biden-sanders-demand-3-month-freeze-rent-payments-eviction-tenants-across-us-1494839; Sarah Ferris et al., “House passes sweeping coronavirus response package,” Politico, March 14, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/13/congress-coronavirus-stimulus-package-deal-friday-128140; David Fickling, “The Gig Economy Compromised Our Immune System,” Yahoo!, July 25, 2020, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/gig-economy-compromised-immune-system-000048670.html; Mariel Garza, “Why aren’t we paying people with the coronavirus to stay home?” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-06/opinion-why-arent-we-paying-people-with-the-coronavirus-to-stay-home; Susan B. Glasser, “A President Unequal to the Moment,” New Yorker, March 12, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/a-president-unequal-to-the-moment; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/worries-about-medical-bills-and-lost-pay-may-hamper-coronavirus-efforts-in-the-united-states/2020/03/02/75825be0-5c9c-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/first-the-coronavirus-pandemic-took-their-jobs-then-it-wiped-out-their-health-insurance/2020/04/18/1c2cb5bc-7d7c-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html; William Gumede, “The impact of coronavirus could compare to the Great Depression,” Al Jazeera, May 3, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/impact-coronavirus-compare-great-depression-200420070542882.html; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/; Paul Hannon, “Economic Recovery Is Under Way but Fighting Flare-Ups Is Key,” Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/economic-recovery-is-under-way-but-fighting-flare-ups-is-key-11595167200; David Harrison, “Lack of Savings Worsens the Pain of Coronavirus Downturn,” Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/lack-ofsavingsworsens-the-pain-of-coronavirus-downturn-11586943001; Kim Hart, “The coronavirus economy will devastate those who can least afford it,” Axios, March 23, 2020, https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-economy-layoffs-children-families-bad-d588cc93-ff26-4031-8be8-5654cce05a15.html; Thomas Heath and Jacob Bogage, “Dow caps worst-ever first quarter with a more than 400-point slide,” Washington Post, March 31, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/31/stocks-markets-today-coronavirus/; Thomas Heath and Taylor Telford, “U.S. markets wrap up worst week since the 2008 financial crisis,” Washington Post, March 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/20/stocks-markets-today-coronavirus/; Thomas Heath, Taylor Telford, and Heather Long, “Dow plunges 10 percent despite Fed lifeline as coronavirus panic grips investors,” Washington Post, March 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/12/markets-live-updates-coronavirus-economy/; Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic; Michael Hirsh, “Is $2 Trillion Too Little, Too Late?” Foreign Policy, March 25, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/24/us-congress-2-trillion-rescue-package-too-little-too-late/; Michael Hudson, “A debt jubilee is the only way to avoid a depression,” Washington Post, March 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/21/debt-jubilee-is-only-way-avoid-depression/; Greg Ip, “A Recovery That Started Out Like a V Is Changing Shape,” Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-reverse-square-root-recovery-11593602775; Sarah Jones, “Dear Rich People: Please Stop Hoarding Things,” New York, March 30, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/things-are-bad-and-rich-people-arent-helping.html; Ed Kilgore, “Could Trump Go the Way of Herbert Hoover?” New York, May 4, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/could-herbert-hoovers-fate-be-trumps.html; Ian Kullgren, “Congress should bail out gig workers, Cohn says,” Politico, March 22, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/22/congress-gig-economy-workers-cohn-141886; Justin Lahart, “Washington’s Trillions Alone Can’t Stop the Jobpocalypse,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/washingtons-trillions-alone-cant-stop-the-jobpocalypse-11585235110; Justin Lahart, “Great Depression Unemployment Levels Are on Tap,” Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/great-depression-unemployment-levels-are-on-tap-11587053071; Justin Lahart, “Why the Economy Was Even Worse than the GDP Report,” Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-economy-was-even-worse-than-the-gdp-report-11588176851; Justin Lahart, “Jobs Warning Light Starts Flashing,” Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/jobs-warning-light-starts-flashing-11595516312; Sam Levin, “California landlords are locking out struggling tenants. A ‘tsunami of evictions’ may be next,” Guardian, July 30, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/30/california-covid-19-evictions-landlords-tenants; Eric Levitz, “In the Age of the Coronavirus, Biden’s ‘Results’ Require Bernie’s ‘Revolution,’” New York, March 16, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/who-won-the-democratic-debate-between-biden-and-bernie-coronavirus.html; Eric Levitz, “Coronavirus Creates an Opening for Progressivism — Also Barbarism,” New York, April 1, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/coronavirus-undocumented-nationalism-socialism-climate-progressives.html; Eric Levitz, “Why the Shockingly Good Jobs Report Might Be Bad News,” New York, June 5, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/06/unemployment-jobs-report-congress-bls.html; Eric Levitz, “This Recession Is a Bigger Housing Crisis Than 2008,” New York, July 13, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/07/coronavirus-recession-evictions-crisis-congress.html; Rong-Gong Lin, II, Melody Gutierrez, and Anita Chabria, “Coronavirus ravages California’s Central Valley, following a cruel and familiar path,” Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-07-28/coronavirus-ravages-californias-central-valley-following-a-cruel-and-familiar-path; Heather Long, “Over 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in March as economy collapsed,” Washington Post, April 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/02/jobless-march-coronavirus/; Heather Long, “U.S. now has 22 million unemployed as economy sinks toward Depression-like scenario,” Washington Post, April 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/16/unemployment-claims-coronavirus/; Heather Long, “U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in first quarter, biggest decline since the Great Recession,” April 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/29/gdp-coronavirus/; Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/; Heather Long, “This recession is already deep. If Congress fails to act, a lot of damage could be permanent,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/30/economists-favor-big-stimulus/; Heather Long and Alyssa Fowers, “A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slams economy,” Washington Post, March 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/26/unemployment-claims-coronavirus-3-million/; Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam, “6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing the pandemic total to over 17 million,” Washington Post, April 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/09/66-million-americans-filed-unemployed-last-week-bringing-pandemic-total-over-17-million/; Annie Lowrey, “The Second Great Depression,” Atlantic, June 23, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/06/second-great-depression/613360/; David J. Lynch and Heather Long, “U.S. economy deteriorating faster than anticipated as 80 million Americans are forced to stay at home,” Washington Post, March 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/20/us-economy-deteriorating-faster-than-anticipated-80-million-americans-forced-stay-home/; David J. Lynch, Thomas Heath, and Taylor Telford, “U.S. markets fall sharply as rampant volatility takes hold,” Washington Post, March 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/18/stocks-markets-today-coronavirus/; Dylan Matthews, “Coronavirus could lead to the highest unemployment levels since the Great Depression,” Vox, April 1, 2020, https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/4/1/21201700/coronavirus-covid-19-unemployment-rate; Renae Merle, “Evictions are likely to skyrocket this summer as jobs remain scarce. Black renters will be hard hit,” Washington Post, July 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/06/eviction-moratoriums-starwood/; Eric Morath, “The Job Market’s Long Road Back,” Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-job-markets-long-road-back-11590206400; Eric Morath, Harriet Torry, and Gwynn Guilford, “A Second Round of Coronavirus Layoffs Has Begun. Few Are Safe,” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-second-round-of-coronavirus-layoffs-has-begun-no-one-is-safe-11586872387; New York Times, “There’s a Giant Hole in Pelosi’s Coronavirus Bill,” March 14, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/14/opinion/coronavirus-pelosi-sick-leave.html; Neil Paine and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, “What Economists Fear Most During This Recovery,” FiveThirtyEight, June 23, 2020, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-economists-fear-most-during-this-recovery/; Mekhla Raina, “Uber says it will compensate drivers diagnosed with coronavirus,” Reuters, March 7, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-uber-idUSKBN20U105; Manu Raju et al., “White House, Senate reach historic $2 trillion stimulus deal amid growing coronavirus fears,” CNN, March 25, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/25/politics/stimulus-senate-action-coronavirus/index.html; Preetika Rana, “U.S. Spending on Ride-Hailing With Uber, Lyft Falls as Coronavirus Spreads,” Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-spending-on-ride-hailing-with-uber-lyft-falls-as-coronavirus-spreads-11584525600; Catherine Rampell, “The U.S. job market is still in very bad shape. Just wait until the fiscal time bomb goes off,” Washington Post, July 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/07/02/us-job-market-is-still-very-bad-shape-just-wait-until-fiscal-time-bomb-goes-off/; Olivia Rockeman and Jill Ward, “Millions of Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent,” Bloomberg, June 14, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-14/millions-of-jobs-could-be-permanently-lost-in-reallocation-shock; Tony Romm, “Uber drivers and other gig economy workers were promised unemployment benefits. It may be a long wait,” Washington Post, April 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/02/uber-airbnb-lyft-unemployment-coronavirus/; Tony Romm, “3 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, pushing eight-week total to 36.5 million,” Washington Post, May 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/14/unemployment-jobless-claims-coronavirus/; Tony Romm, “Americans have filed more than 40 million jobless claims in past 10 weeks, as another 2.1 million filed for benefits last week,” Washington Post, May 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/28/unemployment-claims-coronavirus/; Eli Rosenberg, “Unemployment rate drops to 13 percent, as the economy picked up jobs as states reopened,” Washington Post, June 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/05/may-2020-jobs-report/; Eli Rosenberg, “‘A Band-Aid on a bullet wound’: Workers are getting laid off anew as PPP runs out,” Washington Post, July 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/23/ppp-layoffs/; Eli Rosenberg, Heather Long, and Jeff Stein, “The U.S. economy added 4.8 million jobs in June, but fierce new headwinds have emerged,” Washington Post, July 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/02/june-2020-jobs-report/; Eli Rosenberg, Erica Werner, and Jeff Stein, “30 million unemployed lose extra jobless benefits, as talks between Congress and the White House are at an impasse,” Washington Post, July 31, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2020/07/31/congress-bailout-unemployment-insurance/; Marc Santia, “Lyft Driver Says He Was Attacked, Then Arrested After Refusing Rider Without Mask,” WNBC, July 24, 2020, https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/lyft-driver-says-he-was-attacked-after-refusing-rider-without-mask-then-he-was-arrested/2529101/; Isabel V. 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4 thoughts on “The mysterious expectation that elites give a damn

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