No More “How Will You Pay For It?”

Stony Brook University professor of economics Stephanie Kelton wrote about the recently passed $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus for the Intercept:

Congress has ignored millions of people who have existed in a state of crisis for decades. The people of Flint, Michigan, (and elsewhere) still do not have safe drinking water. Millions of kids go hungry each day. Half a million people, before the pandemic, were homeless on any given night. And on it goes. There has been no multitrillion-dollar spending bill to combat these and other domestic emergencies. Instead, lawmakers have deprived communities of critical investments that could have attenuated their emergencies, often hiding behind the excuse that there isn’t enough money in the budget to deal with problems like these.

She would know. Kelton served as the chief economist for the DNC on the U.S. Senate Budget committee (2015/2016). This article elucidates the methods Congress uses to pass a budget that is ‘paid for’. But the stimulus is not paid for.

That is not what Congress is doing today. Instead of writing a bill that would send two sets of instructions to the Fed, Congress is pushing through a $2 trillion spending bill that will send just one set of instructions. No one is bothering to try to offset — i.e. “pay for” — that spending, because the goal is to get lots of money to people (and companies) without subtracting a lot away.

I keep thinking about republicans and liberals hyperventilating about the ‘cost’ of some of the progressive movement’s policies: Medicare for All, cancelling student debt, tuition-free college, etc. Many of these could be ‘paid for’ yes, by raising taxes on the wealthy. Or they could have been wiped away with a stimulus similar to this one. Arguably keeping money in everyday working people’s pockets during a crisis would have eased the trauma.

Beyond Bernie: Assessing the New Politics by the Collective Power Network

Collective Power Network, a Democratic Socialists of America caucus “focused on realizing DSA’s potential to become a mass political organization of the working class”, wrote a statement in their publication The Organizer about the crossroads the left finds itself in with the Bernie campaign winding down and the global pandemic ratcheting up:

Even though we are in the midst of a crisis, it would be a serious mistake to believe that left politics are off the table or to resort to doomerism. Democratic socialist demands, which eight years ago were the fringe of the fringe, have gone mainstream, with demands like Medicare for All polling with incredibly high favorability and “socialism” polling at 47% in states like Tennessee. This is a jaw dropping shift in consciousness in the U.S., one likely to be heightened by the exigencies of widespread public health and economic crisis. While both right-ward and left-ward shifts are possible neither are by any means certain. […]

These campaigns are especially powerful when DSA acts within an alliance of organizations raising common demands. At a moment when elected officials and neoliberal institutions are scrambling for solutions, forceful demands from broad coalitions have an opportunity to shift official responses towards meaningful social-democratic reforms, simply by reacting quickly and being loud.

It’s also important that such campaigns do not remain confined to the local level, and that we take advantage of our capacity as a national organization to apply local campaign lessons across chapters and regions. The recovery from the immediate effects of the pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout will be a sustained national political issue. This creates an opening for socialists to advocate for lasting social democratic reforms on a national scale.

A Humane Approach to Dealing with the Coronavirus

In These Times web editor and writer Miles Kampf-Lassin wrote about the intersection of coronavirus and social policies during last night’s democratic debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders:

The crisis shows not just the callousness of the current system but the potential for radical change. Pushed by necessity, governments have been responding with measures socialists have long called for: Cities such as Miami and New York are halting evictions. Others like Detroit are reversing their water shutoff policies. Even Trump has announced that those with student loans administered by the government will see their interest fees waived during the crisis.

These policy changes reveal that government has always had the power, and the ability, to protect the most vulnerable residents—it’s just previously chosen not to pursue them. But with the virus becoming a clear and present danger, Americans are realizing more and more that the function of our government must be to provide safety and care for its people. According to a new Morning Consult poll, 41% of adults now say that the outbreak has made them more likely to “support universal healthcare proposals, where all Americans would get their health insurance from the government.”

Joe Biden continually sought to downplay the necessary action of every major crisis that is unfolding in the United States and the world; climate, public health, inequality, fascism.

I will shout it from the rooftops of our quarantined, locked-down country with the capital as the new epicenter of this virus; there is no going back to a pre-crises world. This is the new normal. Let’s rise to the challenge and act accordingly.

We’re All on This Sick Planet Together

Kate Aronoff writing about the intersection of climate change and coronavirus in the current moment in The New Republic:

The image of foreigners spreading disease is rich terrain for the far right. It’s a version of what the American eugenicist-ecologist Garrett Hardin termed “lifeboat ethics.” An inspiration for the far right, Hardin in the 1970s imagined a zero-sum game for planetary survival, where the world’s mostly black and brown poor would compete with the wealthy for resources, threatening to pollute air, water, and bloodlines alike toward disastrous ends. Keeping people out, Hardin argued, prevents them from being a drain on nature and allows the rest of the population to stay healthier and more genetically pure. In addition to draconian immigration measures, he pushed for population control. “We never really conquer any diseases finally,” Hardin argued in an interview toward the end of his life, “and the bigger the population is, the harder it is to control.”

White supremacy and closed borders are as poor an answer to the coronavirus as they are to the climate crisis and certainly won’t solve either problem, making life far more dangerous for many as the world warms. Like it or not, we’re all in this boat together. As pointed out yesterday even by the thoroughly Republican Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, “We cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus.”

There are, in fact, well-known and effective steps an interested government could take to defend against the coronavirus. Yet few places seem as ill-suited for dealing with a pandemic as the U.S. under the current administration. Our patchy, expensive, and inefficient health care system is already charging people thousands of dollars to get tested for the coronavirus, discouraging the kind of early diagnosis necessary for containment. The expense could prevent millions from seeking treatment, spurring the spread and death count alike. Meanwhile, 40-plus years of right-wing attacks on the public sphere have drained capacity and talent from the government, making it harder to take on big problems at scale. And a bipartisan panic about budget deficits has made large-scale spending on anything but wars virtually unthinkable.

A Republican Plutocrat Tries To Buy The Democratic Nomination

Bloomberg does not see anything wrong with trying to purchase the presidency for a billion dollars. When asked about whether this is fair, he has become annoyed, as if it is a stupid question.

I’ll link this exposé of Michael Bloomberg by Nathan J. Robinson of Current Affairs here, but obviously it won’t do much to the people on television or in town halls across America jumping on board the Bloomberg 2020 train.

Mask off for American democracy.