Friday, April 03, 2020

American Failure In The Light Of Covid-19

So I still have no intention of voting for Joe Biden, in case you were wondering. In 2016 I begrudgingly voted for Hillary Clinton, thinking “I should vote, on behalf of the people who can’t,” imagining a population of people in prison or who otherwise would get their vote suppressed, people of color who were worried about the prospect of a Trump presidency. In 2020, it feels impossible to make that argument about Joe Biden: His constituency consists of the most powerful people on Earth, and they have consolidated their power to mobilize with the specific intention of demoralizing everyone else, anyone who’s actively vulnerable. I’m talking about health insurance executives and career politicians, and let me be perfectly clear: Any politician who looked at Joe Biden, who at this point is basically a walking corpse, and went on the record to say “That man should be president” I will probably never vote for, as they’ve shown themselves completely untrustworthy.

As COVID-19 ravages the globe, the horrible response of American political parties gives me far more anxiety than seeing line graphs depicting the death toll’s exponential growth. That’s what makes me realize that things will not get better: When a vaccine is developed, two years from now, and people are allowed to return to work, the economic inequality will be even greater, with corporations larger and harder to avoid. This disaster is not nearly as big of a problem as climate change, but we see similarly a Republican denialism which makes everything worse, and a Democratic response that vacillates between ignoring the scale of the problem because it demands more of them than they’re capable of, and actions which are tantamount to denialism, e.g. Joe Biden’s urging people to go out and vote at in-person primaries, rather than push for voting by mail.

The disease is a real thing, resulting in the loss of life, but is being processed primarily as something that will disrupt and ruin the workings of the economy. I basically understand the economy, except for the notion that it’s important it continues to grow, and that this growth is sustainable indefinitely into the long-term. The reason I don’t understand that second part is because it’s obviously a lie.

I really do not understand the thing that happened last week, where 1.5 trillion was authorized by the Fed to go into the stock market, as it was in free fall, and it only slowed the collapse for like 15 minutes. That’s a colossal amount of money, and it just disappeared. It’s almost like it never existed. But: I don’t understand where it came from? Is that debt now? Can money just be printed, set on fire, and then retroactively ruled counterfeit? The amount of the money itself is on a scale I can’t imagine. Is it safe to say it was imaginary? I need this explained to me by way of a comedian’s metaphor. I am OK with the idea of money being fake. If anything, I think more people need to get on board with that idea. I think mortgages should be frozen, rent suspended, where we essentially just declare the economy on time out for the foreseeable future. This would seem to be way more attainable and understandable than what happened with the stock market.

I live in Philadelphia now. There was a huge controversy about a developer/private equity dude who bought a public hospital last year, closed it, and insisted that, if the city want it, they pay him a million a month in rent. When I was calling up my local elected official, to say the people of Philadelphia need a rent suspension, I pointed out that they could, in fact, agree to the scumbag’s terms and then immediately pass a law saying no one needed to pay rent. The woman I was speaking to, who worked in the office of some city council member, was quick to tell me this was illegal. THEY MAKE THE LAWS, and surely it would be up to the courts, which are closed, to decide how illegal such an act would be. It was basically laughed out of the room, never to be referred to our city council, who I’m assured are very liberal and progressive these days. My logic seems airtight to me, it just runs counter to the ideas of a country that value property rights above all else.

We need a rent suspension. We won’t get it without a mortgage freeze. Surely, the rent suspension thing could happen at a city level. But things keep on getting deferred to a higher authority. The reason a mortgage freeze won’t happen is because the banks need the money. I don’t understand why, as our economy is collapsing, the banks are the highest priority. It’s not like people are requesting loans.

Even the idea that everyone would get a check for $2000 a month, (which I do think would effectively keep the economy afloat far better than giving massive sums of money to large corporations organized into self-dealing industries) would be difficult from a logistic level, far more than just putting a freeze on debt and giving that money to cities to give to grocery stores and farmers to distribute food to everyone. Maybe that seems too much like communism to people, but: There is at least a historical precent to communism, and there isn’t really to “giving the stock market a trillion dollars it immediately destroys.” It’s at least a coherent system.

For my part, I’m poor as hell. I was unemployed when this started, but was weeks away from starting a new job. I don’t qualify for unemployment insurance. I qualified for food stamps. Except for the fact that there’s a Trump era rule that says you can’t be on food stamps for more than 3 months if you’re unemployed. That rule has not changed. So what am I to do? Besides steal food. Which I feel literally no guilt over, in terms of who is getting subsidies, and in terms of who, at the grocery store, is already horribly underpaid because every person they interact with puts them and their families more at risk. My goal is to survive, and to help everyone else survive I can. Shoplifting helps achieve that goal better than anything else, honestly. Our politicians are useless, the notion of a society built around the exchange of money for goods and services is outmoded. Anarchism is basically the only recourse left available to normal people.

Beyond any depression I might have faced in the past, that you would think I would need to confront anew now, there is a sense of morbid curiosity that has stalled it in its tracks. Every time I’ve felt suicidal despair in the past, it’s at how difficult it is just to be alive, to function and make money to keep yourself alive. Now it really feels like the only goal of being alive is to continue being alive, and this makes a lot of sense to me as the way things should be. However, the forces are in every way laid out against you, and even that is fine, basically: There is no reason to commit suicide if you might contract a lethal disease, which will kill you in a way that your loved ones will not feel guilty about. My only goal is to maintain my mental and physical health, and do what I can to reassure and care for those close to me. The government’s goal is to keep the economy going, even at the expense of human life. These two goals are diametrically opposed, but it honestly seems, at least at the moment, like the odds are more in my favor than they are the government’s.

(This feels like a good note to end on. There is another post I will write another day, about how much art seems outdated, not just because of "social distancing" and the plague but due to long-running inabilites to address the rise of fascism and the collapse of neoliberalism, and what literature might still be relevant in this moment, and perhaps another post about acceptance of death on an individual level in the collapse of the collective ritual that allows a community to mourn, but for now I should go to bed. This is a me essentially writing down a chunk of the conversations I've been having with friends, you can reach out to me if you want what will effectively be a preview of these posts, combined with advice to a hopefully ameliorative end. I hope you're doing well; I also hope if you're reading this in the future that I am still alive.)

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