If Capitalism Fosters Self-Governance, It’s Hard To Tell
A few days ago, I watched the movie “Slay The Dragon”. It was a fantastic story of grass-roots activism. But the thing that I took with me from watching that movie was not the outcome, that one person started with an idea and could foment lasting and positive change. What I saw was a lot of people giving up time and money they could earn with that time to change their collective fate. Everyone involved was a volunteer or working pro bono.
I felt it was an interesting juxtaposition to watch a movie about volunteer activism for a worthy cause at a time when 10 million people have lost their jobs. Millions more self-employed people have lost stable incomes from their businesses. All because of a virus.
We don’t have enough masks, personal protective equipment, or even hospital beds to take care of all of the sick and dying in this pandemic. We are woefully underinsured to cover the costs of the coronavirus. Millions of people are still going to work despite the risk of coronavirus. We were not prepared in any sense of the word, to manage the chaos created by the coronavirus.
You know, Trump had plenty of intelligence briefings about the virus before the first confirmed case hit our shores on January 20th. South Korea had its first confirmed case on the same day and had a test ready for distribution in 2 weeks. Us? We had NOTHING. No plan, no readiness, just chaos. We’re getting better, but as The Guardian notes, Trump delayed an organized government response by 6 weeks. That seems to be just about enough time to sideline the economy and an election.
I know, I know. “Better to assume ignorance before malice.”
The Guardian has also noted that Trump thinks that if he gave the Democrats the voting reform they asked for in the stimulus bills, that Republicans would never win any elections. Perhaps he has had time to reflect on this quote:
“I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich, an influential conservative activist, said in 1980. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
You know, I can’t help but wonder if Trump was thinking like this, “Hmm. The GOP does better when the turnout is lower. I think I’ll wait a few weeks before responding to the coronavirus. It’s probably a hoax by the Democrats anyway. How bad could it really be?”
That bad, huh? Still no plan on how to vote by mail. Still no plan on how to manage the elections. Still no real plan on how to help the hospitals. But he’s talking about Medicare for All Coronavirus Victims. That might be a start. Yet, I still see a pattern biased against self-governance in capitalism.
Trump has been saying over and over again how important it is to get people back to work again. I agree that it’s important to keep people working so that they can pay for their keep, their homes, their insurance, and to keep the lights on. He wants to hang an “open” sign on America again. But are we willing to exchange our health for money? That depends on your perspective. Do you want to be *that* company with an employee who died from someone coughing in their face?
Look at the events leading up to Flint, Michigan. The government declared a state of emergency as a result of the change in water source for municipal drinking water. The water was contaminated with lead from the pipes carrying the water. But what is interesting about it is that the decision to change the water source had nothing to do with saving money. It was a political decision.
In the movie, “Slay The Dragon”, I learned that Katie Fahey was motivated by the events in Flint to reform the redistricting process in Michigan. She saw that as elected officials were elected to “safe seats”, they were detached from the people they represented. They made decisions without regard to the will of the people, even despite protests because their seats were safe.
This is the problem I see with capitalism. Capitalism without restraint leads to abuses. Do you know someone with dependents who has to work in a front line job just to pay the bills, even with the danger of coronavirus? That’s capitalism at work. When hospital employees can’t get the protection they need to service their patients, that’s because we’ve outsourced production of what they need to China. That’s capitalism at work. When 10 million people file for unemployment because the economy is tanked from a pandemic, employers are cutting and running. That’s capitalism at work.
Already, I see that Bernie Sanders and some economists are talking about government intervention on a much larger scale than has so far been contemplated. We know that $1200 isn’t going to last long for most people. In a recent interview with The Nation, Bernie had this to say:
One of the things that we’re not talking about is that when people lose their jobs, they’re losing their health insurance as well. So what we have got to do, I think, is what a number of other countries are doing — Norway is doing it, the UK is doing it, Denmark is doing it — and that is to say to employers, “If you do not fire your employees, we will cover the cost of your payroll.” That’s a radical step, and it will be expensive, but it means that we will do for all workers what we have done for workers in the airline industry, and that is — at least for four months — guarantee their pay even if they are at home not working.
There are capitalists doing that? Yes, in Norway, Denmark and the UK. If you’re in America, you’re on your own, bub. Or, gasp!, we could elect Bernie Sanders for president. Biden is silent on this point, btw.
Looking at all the events leading up to where we are now, I see a common thread: Only people with incomes detached from work have time for and influence in politics.
The people who are the most involved in politics don’t punch the clock. That means the wealthy have time for politics because they’re earning dividend income, they’re working part-time on million-dollar incomes. They’re loaded with stocks, bonds and a seat on the board of directors at a few large companies for $250k a year, for each seat. Donald Trump could not run for president without income guaranteed from other people’s efforts. Same is true for all of the US Senate. We are a nation ruled by money.
A nation that worships money is an invitation to what is happening now. Millions of people are on the edge of destitution in the middle of a pandemic, or one paycheck away from it. And that’s really scary.