Home > Uncategorized > Why COVID-19 is the great unequalizer

Why COVID-19 is the great unequalizer

from Marshall Auerback and RWER issue no.92

In the daily TV press conferences that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo conducted throughout the spring, he referred to COVID-19 as “the great equalizer.” In the sense that anybody can be infected by the virus, the governor is right. Yet after several months, the data shows clearly the impact is unequally landing on the shoulders of people of color and all but the wealthiest. The health impacts and absence of economic measures to protect them are so extreme that Cuomo’s statements are more than hollow – they are cruel cover-ups.

If anything, COVID-19 has been little more than a novelty for the 1 percent and a dystopian nightmare for the rest of us. The U.S. now has the highest number of cases in the world. Nearly 2.1 million people have been infected by the disease and more than 115,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Had we experienced a repeat economic crash more along the lines of what happened in 2008, that might have forced a true reckoning and consequent reform in our system. Instead, we have a pandemic that is facilitating public looting under the cover of a collective surgical mask as it is entrenching pre- existing inequities. A toxic mix of racial, financial, and geographic disadvantage is literally proving to be a death sentence.

In the first instance, workers of color, particularly black Americans, who have long been overrepresented in the lowest-paying service and domestic occupations, are again being hit with a double whammy. Their jobs and income have evaporated with the shutdown, and they have long had minimal household savings relative to Caucasians to act as a buffer against unexpected layoffs or lost wages.

As Time reporter Abby Vesoulis writes, many low-income jobs – meat processing, agricultural work, nannies, and store clerks – “can’t be done remotely” (to say nothing of the digital divide that also divides on income grounds), “and the majority of low-income jobs don’t offer paid sick days.” People with these jobs are also “disproportionately more likely to be uninsured or underinsured for medical care,” even though the government has agreed to cover COVID-19 related health coverage.

That brings to the fore another significant “unequalizer”.  read more

  1. Ikonoclast
    July 2, 2020 at 11:35 pm

    COVID-19 is the “Great Collapser”. What is being overlooked in most quarters is that the COVID-19 pandemic, plus other crises, are the beginning of the “Long Collapse” or the Long Emergency as James Howard Kunstler termed it. It has been the case for decades now that comprehensive ecological and economic collapse is a baked-in component of endless growth capitalism. Without complete change, including a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, and fundamental changes to our production, energy and waste stream systems, there is no hope of civilizational survival. One wonders at what point the people of the USA would recognize this. They will be late recognizers for sure which simply places them in danger of even worse collapse.

    Indeed, I have begun to wonder how such our life-destroying false beliefs can persist. Perhaps they can persist indefinitely until civilization fully collapses. It’s a grim thought but I see no signs of serious change yet in the life-destroying false beliefs of capitalist teleology.

    “I have noticed a marked tendency to think that once the coronavirus blows over everything will go back to the way it was before—or even better, because of Elon Musk’s electric flying cars … or what have you.” – Dmitry Orlov.

    No, people have to accept that everything has to change including themselves. The mature, elderly and financially secure will never accept that there is this need for change. The plain fact is that they will have to pass away or be dispossessed of power and wealth before the necessary changes can go forward. I say this as an old person who can see the writing on the world. Only the young are truly revolutionary. Revolution will have to be carried through by them, if it is to occur at all. Revolution or collapse. Socialism or barbarism. These are the stark realistic choices.

  2. Ikonoclast
    July 2, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    I apologize for quoting Orlov. I hadn’t realized the tenor of some of his other writings until I read further.

  3. Ikonoclast
    July 3, 2020 at 12:06 am

    OMG, I have to apologize for referencing Kunstler too. He and Orlov are now showing their true reactionary colors. Clearly, a realization of the dangers of collapse does not guarantee clear sight in other matters. Sorry folks, I am very embarrassed about this. I hadn’t read either for a long time. Both appear to have morphed into complete reactionaries. Or perhaps they were all along and I missed it.

    • July 3, 2020 at 11:45 am

      “The mature, elderly and financially secure will never accept that there is this need for change. The plain fact is that they will have to pass away or be dispossessed of power and wealth before the necessary changes can go forward.”

      Orlov and Kunstler may be reactionaries because they are old me, but so are you, Ikonoclast. Be a bit more positive and remember that we oldies were young once, and that physical revolution has to follow having our interpretation of events turned upside down. “The plain fact” is that if what we now call ‘money’ is seen as an ‘IOU’ rather than a banker’s “You owe me”, then the monetised wealth of the rich is seen for what it is (an illusion if not a lie), dispossessing them of the power we have been assuming it gives them. If you say that can’t be done to an established word like ‘money’, than how come it has been perversely done to the established word ‘marriage’, dispossessing parents from responsibility for their children?

      I prefer to look back a lot further than Orlov and Kunster to memories of when travel was a problem and international holidays were perforce restricted to a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage. When I was a mere 61 I remembered something the poet Blake wrote when he was 47. Legend has it that Jesus visited England as a young man, accompanied by Joseph of Arimathea. At Glastonbury in Somerset is a very ancient flowering thorn tree, said to be Joseph’s walking stick, which had taken root when Jesus stuck it int the ground. (Cf. the stockage in Danel Defoe’s story “Robinson Crusoe”). So well favoured is Britain (well-watered, neither too hot nor too cold, and scenically beautiful) that the medievals called it “Mary’s Dowry”. For Blake in 1804, anyway (after thirty years of Adam Smith), Jesus having been here made England a holy land, and its despoilation during the Industrial Revolution a blasphemy. Hence his poem “Jerusalem”, later given magnificent music by Hubert Parry.

      “And did those feet in ancient times
      Walk upon England’s mountains green?
      And was the holy Lamb of God
      On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
      And did the countenance divine
      Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
      And was Jerusalem builded here
      Among these dark satanic mills?

      Bring me my bow of burning gold!
      Bring me my arrows of desire!
      Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!
      Bring me my chariot of fire!
      I will not cease from mental fight,
      Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
      Till we have built Jerusalem
      In England’s green and pleasant land”.

      In our more globalised world it is fitting to understand it in a Catholic spirit. Let us proclaim that Jesus once walked upon our once wonderfully green and pleasant earth, and fire our ambitions accordingly. For Ikonoclast: realise this. We all start off seeing no further than our mothers, and unless we old folk and young folk like Greta Thunberg fill our children with ideas worth pursuing, revolution will take the forms we are increasingly seeing now: active young men in particular diverted from institutional reform into righteous anger at injustice, expressed by vandalism and ever-more suicidal self-harm.

  4. Craig
    July 3, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    How ironic it is that the additional purchasing power enabled by the paradigm changing policies of a 50% discount/rebate at retail sale and also at the point of note/loan signing will actually enable us to eliminate inflation, direct industrial policy toward green products and make possible the mega fiscal projects needed to off planet the most carbon releasing industries. Irony/inversion of present problematic realities has always been one of the primary signatures of paradigm change. That irony is enlightening when one also realizes that:

    1) one of the primary aspects of the natural philosophical concept of grace is the resolution of problematic dualisms/conflicts

    2) grace is (a) flow and gestalt, (b) the essence of present time reality is the continuous swirl of electro-magnetic emanation that we humans, caught up in our abstract fugues, miss, and (c) every major wisdom tradition preaches either contemplation of one’s own consciousness which is a manifestation of the graceful flow of the physical universe or a direct integration of same with the present electro-magnetic moment

    3) the primary consequential effects of every historical paradigm change have always been aspects of the concept of grace

    Book suggestion: The Master Game by R. S. De Ropp.

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