DSA COVID-19 Bulletin #5

DSA COVID19 Bulletin

The DSA COVID-19 Bulletin from the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is designed to keep working-class people informed about the evolving COVID-19 crisis and its political implications. If you’d like to get the DSA COVID-19 Bulletin by email, sign up here, and share this link with your friends and comrades! Anyone can sign up. New bulletins come out several times a week.

In This Issue

Billionaires Get Bailed Out — Again

Capitalism is premised on a fragile accumulation of profit, a pile of sand that always eventually comes tumbling down. COVID-19 was just a tipping point. From the brink of collapse, neoliberal capitalism is about to be rescued by the largest state intervention in American history: the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The third economic stimulus bill in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it passed the Senate on March 25th, 96-0. If it gets through the Democratic-controlled House, this stimulus package will only succeed in redistributing from the poor to the rich, driving up profits and inequality, and entrenching the power of the capitalist class.

The 2008 crisis is still fresh in our memory. Many will say it was the virus that did it this time, but things have been on the downswing for quite a while. The prioritization of big business in this bill is not just an effort to protect their profits — it’s a last-ditch effort to save capitalism as a system. And capitalism is why this pandemic is so deadly, leading governments to prioritize private profits for a wealthy few over the health and safety of everyone else.

The United States now leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases. But while the working class struggles to survive, the ruling class is looting America.

Here’s what’s projected inside the largest stimulus package in American history:

$4.5 trillion for businesses through a government lending program (a slush fund)

$350 billion in loans for small businesses

$250 billion in cash grants to individuals

$250 billion for expanded unemployment insurance

$150 billion for state, local and tribal governments

$100 billion for healthcare providers

$50 billion tax credit for employee retention

$46 billion in grants for airlines, cargo companies, & defense-related industries (mostly Boeing)

$45 billion for disaster relief managed by FEMA for emergency Covid-19 responses.

$32 billion in grants to the airline industry, for wages and benefits.

$30 billion for K-12 education

$30 billion for medical supplies

$25 billion for public transit agencies

$24 billion in relief and direct aid via USDA to the agriculture sector, including cattle ranchers

$16 billion for food stamps (SNAP)

$9 billion for child nutrition programs

$10 billion Treasury loan for U.S. Postal Service

$9.5 billion to the Pentagon (without nearly enough civilian oversight)

$4.3 billion for the Center for Disease Control to support public health agencies

$4 billion for homelessness assistance

Increase in Medicare payments for treating COVID-19 patients

Delay in scheduled Medicaid cuts until November

6-month federal student loan payment pause (no loan forgiveness)

And more! Totalling… $6 TRILLION

You’ll notice that the first line dwarfs the rest of the bill’s provisions combined. Mainstream media has reported this payout for big business at $500 billion, but what they often miss is the $4 trillion in Federal Reserve lending, snuck indirectly into the provision. This flood of government cash comes with little to no oversight. What few strings are attached can be waived by the Treasury (headed by former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin). The capitalist class can take trillions in free money, pay themselves out, and lay off millions of workers.

Despite the many limitations of the stimulus package, one of the few unambiguous victories for workers is the guarantee of $31 billion in direct payroll subsidies for workers in the airline industry. This money is exclusively for employee wages and benefits. Airline companies that receive the assistance are barred from making furloughs, pay cuts, or stock buybacks through September. Credit goes to the militant flight attendants union headed by Sarah Nelson, who called it an “unprecedented win.” This is what workers can win through powerful bargaining.

The bill also gives the federal government the power to take equity stakes in airlines that receive this cash. This is one way to bail out corporations without bailing out their owners. If companies have to create new shares to hand over to the public, the remaining shares held by shareholders lose value (think of a cake cut into more slices). If we’re going to cough up money, we should get something in return — in this case, a slice of ownership.

Next to this avalanche of business bailouts, the direct payments to individuals pale in comparison. Every adult making less than $75,000 a year in single income will receive a one-time $1,200 check, with an additional $500 for every child under 16. The means-testing will be based on your 2019 or 2018 tax return, whichever is most recently filed with the IRS. The size of the check shrinks the more you make above $75K, all the way to zero after $99K in single income. There is no application required. If the IRS has your bank account info, it is estimated that it will be deposited directly within three weeks.

For many, $1,200 won’t cover rent. It won’t cover the cost of treating COVID-19. And it certainly won’t make up for the trillions robbed from us by the wealthy few.

Thanks to Bernie Sanders, a bright spot in the stimulus package is a $250 billion expansion of unemployment insurance. In addition to what states already offer in unemployment benefits (the average in January was $385 per week), there will be an extra $600 per week. And all state level benefits will be extended by 13 weeks. These expanded benefits are eligible to self-employed, partially employed, and part-time workers (e.g. gig workers and freelancers).

The stimulus package is not at Trump’s desk yet. Now that the bill has passed the Republican-controlled Senate, it will be taken up by the Democrat-controlled House today. Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she is “confident” it will pass. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called it like it is in her House floor speech. Pelosi should use her power to cut the slush fund, but her failure to do so will prove which side she’s on.

DSA has joined with other organizations in calling for a People’s Bailout and Green Stimulus. We want a federal relief package for the many, not the wealthy few. This has five principles:

  1. Health is the top priority, for all people, with no exceptions.

  2. Provide economic relief directly to the people.

  3. Rescue workers and communities, not corporate executives.

  4. Make a down payment on a regenerative economy, while preventing future crises.

  5. Protect our democratic process while protecting each other.

Bernie Fights for Us

One giant win in the bill is Bernie Sanders’s amendment — a $600 weekly increase in unemployment benefits that includes gig and tipped workers for four months — which passed against a last-minute attack from GOP senators largely because of Bernie’s ferocious defense.

Bernie’s influence and power in this particular fight were outsized, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the Senate speak so powerfully for the working class. Watch his amazing Senate floor speech here.

Another silver lining: fending off a huge pandemic grift from Big Pharma giant Gilead, which tried to seek a special status to restrict the supply of its coronavirus drug to boost its own profits. Bernie was among those who took up the charge against their profiteering attempt; in short order, Gilead backed off its monopoly claim. Against the specter of a Green New Deal, the GOP failed to secure a much-coveted oil industry bailout.

Other democratic socialists in Congress were outspoken critics of the billionaire-friendly bailout process. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ripped the Senate for threatening to adjourn for a full month after this bill during the ongoing crisis, and Rashida Tlaib blasted the bill for neglecting water shutoffs, while also proposing a novel plan to “mint a trillion-dollar coin” to provide direct monthly cash relief for workers throughout the crisis.

Capitalism or Democracy?

Meanwhile, democracy is in peril. Many states have postponed their primaries to the hopeful date of June 2nd, with no clear indication that normal elections will even be possible by then, or even by November. One of the most galling pieces of the stimulus is the meager support for states to safely run those elections. Out of at least $2 billion that civil rights advocates calculate is necessary to support expanded early voting, online registration, and voting by mail, states got a mere $400 million — less than one one-thousandth of the $500 billion slush fund to boost corporate profits. That’s how much this Congress values propping up capitalism over protecting democracy.

Workers Strike Back

We are most definitely in a new terrain of struggle, with new groups of workers walking off the job almost every single day.

Sanitation workers in Pittsburgh went on strike over a lack of protective equipment, and so did doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe.

Healthcare workers have continued to stand up for their patients and their co-workers by demanding personal protective equipment and safe staffing levels. Listen to healthcare workers from Illinois, New York, and California talk about fighting to get what they need to save all of our lives. Within hours of a rally that county hospital workers in Oakland, California held yesterday to protest mismanagement and a shortage of protective supplies, they won some concessions from management including paid leave for workers exposed to coronavirus.

Even with shut-down orders for non-essential businesses across the county, many stores are refusing to close, claiming that they are “part of the critical infrastructure” of our society, like grocery stores or hospitals. The idea that craft supplies and custom-built closets are as essential as food and healthcare doesn’t convince employees who are trying to protect themselves, their families, and our whole society. So, they are fighting back: employees at a JoAnn Fabrics store in Colorado went on strike to protest the absurdity of selling fabric during a global pandemic.

Instacart gig workers are planning a strike on Monday, demanding hazard pay, safety gear an paid sick leave.

DSA Announcements

  • DSA’s Socialist Forum is looking for submissions for its next issue, themed “Social Responses to Crisis.” Editors will blind-review pitches and notify you about the status of your submission by Monday, April 27th. If your pitch is chosen, Socialist Forum will expect a full first draft by Monday, May 11th. Submit here.
  • Want to organize a COVID-19 response in your workplace or know someone who does? Fill this out, and share it far and wide.
  • Is your chapter organizing to fight back in this crisis? Let us know. And, if you want to start a project and need help getting it off the ground, email [email protected].

  • Want tips on organizing in the time of coronavirus? Have tips to share? Check out the Collaborative DSA Covid-19 Resources One-Stop!
  • If you haven’t yet, please sign and share DSA’s petition demanding a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 crisis that prioritizes #PeopleOverProfit.

Online Political Education Events

From readers:

“First, in all sincerity, thanks so much for the hard work you’re doing on production, it’s a great resource. There is a small but significant error in #4. The bulletin claims that 50% of deaths of COVID-19 are due to secondary antibiotic resistance infection. However, the source for this claim does not say this. It says 50% of those who have died showed evidence of having these infections. These are two different things and I’m concerned we may have just given bulletin readers a very incorrect medical impression.” — Anonymous

How’s it going out there? We want to hear about your mutual aid efforts, organizing wins, and how you’re taking care of one another and avoiding despair. We’ll be featuring stories from chapters across the country — submit your stories!

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Global health crisis, economic collapse, and a democracy in peril. It’s hard to imagine a better time to join the largest socialist organization in America.

During the pandemic, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is practicing social distancing for our members’ safety and to slow the spread of COVID-19.

As the largest socialist organization in the US, we believe it’s essential to share information about what is going on in the world during these unprecedented times — the nature of the pandemic, the looming depression, the responses (or lack thereof) of our government, the deadly negligence and abuses of for-profit corporations, as well as the heroic organizing, resistance, and mutual aid by workers fighting for a working-class solution to the coronavirus pandemic. We also want to share ways that you can get involved in this fight.

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