When the going gets tough

If socialism is what we (rightly) resort to in a crisis….then think of how much better things would be if we did socialism all the time….

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

37 thoughts on “When the going gets tough”

  1. Yeah… welfare is good for banks and corporations, but if you are poor, black, and uneducated, it’s a problem.

    Double standards… I have noticed them a long time now.

    I’m not gonna lie. I see us turning in a crisis right to the things we say we hate under normal times. This is twice in just over a decade. Really calls into question if the crap we been calling good is defective.

    Hey… let me invite you to this onslaught:


    Liked by 2 people

  2. This ought to be one of those wake-up moments…when we realize that to take proper precautions to slow the spread of a contagion, workers find themselves out of work without a paycheck and no built-in financial safety net…that capitalism is a failure.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Workers laid off or with reduced work hours due to coronavirus are eligible for unemployment insurance. The worker gets about 50% of their lost pay for 20-26 weeks. The average US worker makes $4K per month, so a laid-off worker would be eligible for $2,000 per month in unemployment insurance for 5-6 months.

    Unemployment insurance is financed mostly by the payroll tax — which Trump wants to suspend. The states administer the unemployment insurance funds. If the states run out of money they can borrow from a federal unemployment trust fund. The US federal government should agree to cover the full costs of the unemployment insurance programs in every state, without payback by the state governments, for as long as the corona downturn lasts. Will Congress propose this? Would Trump sign off?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but following the general 50% rule on unemployment benefits, for low wage workers who scrape by on salaries below the median 4K/month, a 50% pay cut would be inadequate to supplement lost wages which were already inadequate. SARS-CoV-2 or not, it seems to me that a better society would be one in which having to choose between food or medication prescriptions or paying utilities wouldn’t be a “thing” in the first place, if we made better use of our pooled resources. This current issue has merely exposed weaknesses in our system, and we’re rushing to try and temporarily make up for them.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. I agree, Steven. It’s worth noting that Mitt’s $1,000 check per person is equivalent to one month’s unemployment compensation for somebody who makes $24,000 per year, or $12 per hour. Inadequate. Minimum unemployment compensation is $815/month, but at least it would continue for several months after Mitt’s one-time-only $1K check. I.e., Mitt’s cure is real weak tea. But even unemployment compensation isn’t going to be enough for most.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s a sensitive situation for the Powers That Be. They’ve got to keep the capitalist ship afloat, which means investing in corporations, which typically leaves little resources for regular folks. However, if enough people are unhappy enough, then the revolutionaries will stir up the masses. It’s basically the age old question that we humans have to ask, while living under hierarchies of domination and control: is it time to take up the pitch forks and storm the castle?

    Bernie offered us a bloodless political revolution, but the Democrat Party was not down.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When does a coppertop know it’s a coppertop? As long as you THINK this gruel is a fine steak, then you are pacified. OR as long as you think your steak is just one more treadmill away, you are pacified.

      But even that does not account for all pacification. It is not merely delusion that keeps us from rebellion. That keeps us pacified.

      I certainly remember working for GM in Arizona almost 30 years ago, and the miserably failed attempts to get unionized. We certainly had all the cause, the time was right, and we just might have had enough clout IF we all really got our act together very, very tight, but I also had a nagging feeling that my saviors (the organizers) were smuggling in a bigger cut of pie for themselves on the one hand, and a whole lot more red tape for me on the other, and I saw both of those cutting into the profits I was told to expect too.

      There are matters of just shear complication.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. How likely is it that the masses, fed up with layoffs and less-than-minimum wages, will get fed up with social distancing and let the virus spike? It’s the old and chronically impaired who are going to face the biggest risk. The elderly don’t work but they get free money (Social Security) and cheap comprehensive healthcare (Medicare), and they’re the ones who are going to overwhelm the healthcare system when they catch the disease. In short, the old are a poor return on investment. Flattening the contagion curve just makes it possible for more of these drains on society to use up valuable resources to keep them alive. Just get it over with: send people back to work and school, open the restaurants, gather in large crowds. Spread the contagion as fast as possible to build herd immunity, at the same time winnowing the herd of the unfit and the expensive by letting them die waiting for an ICU room to open up. If the old and infirm want to survive, let them self-isolate. That’s pretty much what Los Angeles is doing, isn’t it?

    Maybe the main restraint on this sort of herd-wide plunge into contagion is that the rich capitalists also tend to be old. But the elderly rich can self-isolate inside their gated compounds, vacation at sanitized islands and resorts, hire concierge doctors and fully equipped private hospitals, recover in deluxe retreat centers…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t expect Americans to respond to the crisis in this way. I’m thinking more about what happens in the economic fallout of the virus, which promises to be quite intense. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to spend our way out of this one. If we spent wisely, in a Bernie Sanders and FDR sort of way, we could simultaneously reboot the economy, redirect it toward rewarding and empowering workers and defang the pernicious influence of corporations. But the Dems rejected Bernie’s vision.

      I expect people to respond well, initially, as the virus spreads. And the more hopeful part of me is eager to see some of the right wing nuts lose their arrogance and perhaps even pop a chill pill or two. This is something that could bring us together, but if people start to realize that they are in for a real hard time, economically, then things could get violent and potentially revolutionary. Occupy Wall Street but ratcheted up a few levels. Who knows?

      What do you expect to see on this count?

      Interestingly, it’s the right-wing pundits (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity et al.) who have been most active in downplaying the potential harm of the virus. Not sure what the strategy is on that count, since it’s the elderly Trump base that is positioned to be harmed the most by the virus. I’ve heard some of the more dark and cynical of our young folks are calling COVID-19 the “Boomer Remover.”

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Now you’re sounding like Mr. Brightside, JE 😉 Boomer Remover indeed. I just ordered a t-shirt with the Biohazard symbol emblazoned across the front — maybe people will keep their distance when I’m out and about. It’s probably a matter not of *if* but of *when* we get all infected; I just want my shot at a ventilator when my time comes. Hell, I’ll even share — me and some other old fart can synchronize our breathing.

      The current social isolation protocols will probably accelerate many of the economic trends that are already underway. Less brick-and-mortar retail, more e-shopping and home delivery. Fewer service workers at groceries and restaurants. More AIs doing office work. A permanent contraction of the labor force seems likely.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. I’ve been thinking about that as well. Thinking about how this will impact education. In California we have University of California strikes by grad students. They want a COLA, a cost of living adjustment. The strike started here, at UC Santa Cruz, led by some comrades from DSA. They were making good progress, but with the virus, the school can move toward online courses and mute the effect of the protests. At least that’s what they’ll try. And certainly administration officials at many education institutions, college but also high schools, will certainly salivate at the possible budgetary savings that online learning would certainly accomplish.

        Like you I expect that coronavirus will hasten automation.

        A biohazard t-shirt….Nice one 😆

        Liked by 1 person

  6. As of 20 minutes ago there’s been 6,500 verified corona cases in the US. That number has been doubling every three days. It’s estimated that there are probably ten times as many cases as have been confirmed, the undercount due both to inadequate testing and to the large proportion of cases that are presymptomatic. So, let’s assume that there are actually 50,000 cases nationwide. If the 3-day doubling rate continues, the entire US population will have been infected by the end of April. Even if there’s some modest effects of social isolation, that might push the date back to the end of May. Most of those severely effected will be seniors: based on current estimates 20% of infected seniors will require hospitalization, 4% will need ICU, 1% will die.

    I picture the capitalist policy wonks doing the math. Give everybody $1K right now, maybe do it again next month. Make a public call for social isolation, but expect it to be too little too late. When summer rolls around and the new infection numbers have dropped significantly, declare victory and start reopening everything. Some people will have missed paychecks for a couple of months, but everybody will have gotten $2K bonuses courtesy of Uncle Sam. Maybe a million people will have died, half of them seniors. But hey, as Trump says about the flu, life goes on…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The best-case scenario flattens the curve in the near term, but then the virus returns in the fall stronger, with a second larger surge in infection rate. Maybe only half as many people get infected and die under those best-case circumstances. But will Trump want a dramatic resurgence of the virus during the November election? Or will he want to get it over with quickly, so that by the time the election rolls around economic recovery will be well underway?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Such a scenario doesn’t sound good for a “winner” like Trump, and I’m sure that Biden will use this against Trump. It’s hard to see Trump pulling it off.

      And it’s possible that we could get an actual universal healthcare law passed, with casualties like that. It’s an indictment on our culture that it takes a plague to do the right thing, but such is the hold that capitalism propaganda has on the U.S.

      At the end of the day, though, I don’t trust Biden to do single-payer, even if he had a clear path and could walk the ball in to the End Zone. It think he’ll continue to protect his friends and fund raiders in the healthcare profit industrial complex. There’s an outside chance, though, that we could pull Biden on this one. Maybe we can convince old Uncle Joe to help the kids out a little….


    3. It also might be a year where a strong third party candidate could win an upset. It’s conceivable. It won’t be Bernie, he’s committed to supporting the Dem nominee and I can’t see him breaking that promise. But if a charismatic candidate who already has name recognition ran as an independent, promising populist programs but without the toxic old red-v.-blue feuding…..that just might catch on…..a true outsider candidate, with Bernie-like policies…..that could be a winning third party ticket….


    4. People forget what Trump has done from one day to the next, let alone what he did a few months back. Voters will remember what he tells them in the campaign: that he strongly encouraged social distancing, that he did a yuge stimulus package, that he paid everybody $2K, that everything is back on the upswing. So far the precautions are far from adequate to quell the surge — no widespread testing even of people with symptoms, no tracking down contacts of infected people and quarantining them, etc. I could be wrong and the doubling every 3 days will slow down dramatically over the next week or two. Hopefully it will. I don’t think it’s likely.

      Given that I’m in the high-risk age demographic, right now I’m way more concerned about actually living until the election than about single-payer or getting my $1K check in the mail. Btw, people who get a serious case of the virus but survive tend to wind up with lung damage, resulting in shortness of breath and oxygen deficit that might last the rest of their lives. So I don’t want to survive the plague; I want to avoid it. I’m going to the grocery at 6am tomorrow and that’s going to be my last trip to any sort of venue outside of my home, at least until the surge subsides. I don’t expect it to be much of a hardship; like you, I have hermit-like tendencies anyhow.

      Also worth noting is that investors have taken a big hit over the past couple of weeks. It’s not just the rich; it’s also people like me who rely on 401Ks and IRAs rather than paychecks to pay the rent and to buy groceries. Would Sanders make efforts to restore retirees’ lost income streams along with workers’ lost wages? Not likely.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As of my 6am comment there were 6500 confirmed corona cases in the US. Now at 2pm there are 7700 cases. That’s an 18% increase over the last 8 hours. Have you seen the photos of all the party people who gathered in droves for St. Patrick’s Day in Miami Beach, Nashville, Chicago, pretty much all the urban hot spots? We’re young, it’ll be mild if we get it, what do we care?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I can’t imagine a Sanders recovery program that didn’t compensate workers and subsidize retiree income, at least to make sure that folks have the basics. But that’s sort of the socialist thing: people in a wealthy nation ought to share in that wealth and at least have the basics: good food, water, housing, healthcare, and education.

        But yeah, stay safe my friend. I’d be doing the same, if I were in your situation. I’m already pretty much locked down, at least for this week, I’m sticking to the house.

        I’ve been surprised by how many folks over sixty are still out and about. Our over-sixty clients were still dropping off taxes, etc, and many seemed unconcerned or relatively untroubled.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Trump and his supporters: poor people are losers, war casualties are losers, sick people are losers. Plus it’s hard to respond to threats that are statistical, even for progressives.

          Who’s more self-absorbed: the Boomer who wants to survive the plague, or the GenZer who wants to party like it’s 1999? Hopefully socialism isn’t just a set of government programs; it’s a collective endeavor on behalf of the common good.

          And now I get the word that I can’t go to the grocery at 6am tomorrow because the store is going to delay opening till 7am. So I’ll go at 7, when the aisles will be more crowded than they would have been at 6, increasing my exposure.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. “Hopefully socialism isn’t just a set of government programs; it’s a collective endeavor on behalf of the common good.”

            Well said. We need a change of our mind set and way of being, which won’t come easily. The individualism of capitalism is toxic and it’s poisoned our perception of our place in the world. It’s brought us to the brink, with the MAGA movement and a Democratic Party incapable of reform. That’s a large part of what I think is required of a “cultural revolution” and a “spiritual revolution,” which seems a necessary component of a political revolution.

            One thing I’ve kicked around that you may be able to speak to….The Boomers, as I understand, grew up with Civics classes, which were given in order to convey that a person isn’t just an isolated entity, an island to one’s self, but a member of a greater community, a collective greater than the sum of the individual parts. Civics classes or no, there seemed to be, in the past, an effort to teach folks that being a citizen was both a privilege and a responsibility. Am I romanticizing the past? Perhaps you can speak to that.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. No, I don’t remember taking civics classes. Boomers are as self-centered as anyone else. As you know, it’s argued that Boomers launched the “me generation” as part of a reaction against fifties conformity and groupthink. Were the fifties generation more civic-minded? I doubt it. There probably was more cultural homogeneity, which the MAGA crowd nostalgically longs for. But that seemed to foster a kind of fascistic us-versus-them orientation — against blacks, commies, dope fiends, etc.

              Like you, I tend to think that self-centeredness is a consequence of capitalism, which thrives on satisfaction of individual desires and motivates through competition. But there’s some intrinsic motivation to thrive, succeed, have one’s desires fulfilled, etc. Must people suppress their individualism for the sake of the group, or can individuals be fulfilled more satisfyingly and on a wider scale through cooperation? I’d hope for the latter.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. Yesterday when I commented on this post at 6am Eastern time there were 6,500 confirmed cases in the US. Today at 5:30 pm the count is up to 13,300. That’s double the cases in a day and a half. The curve isn’t flattening, it’s getting steeper.


    1. The only way the curve-flattening might work would be: (a) all non-essential workers sent home with full pay, (b) diligent testing and tracking of active cases and people they’ve contacted, (c) close monitoring and strict enforcement of social isolation and quarantine. None of that is likely to happen in the US, and if it were to start now it’d probably be too late to stem the tide before the whole population has been exposed. Hopefully there won’t be a second wave in the fall.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The CA governor is making sense, with a widespread stay-at-home order and a call for federal funding for state unemployment insurance and an attempt to outfit hospitals for the coming spike in cases. He’s expecting the people of the state to comply voluntarily with stay-at-home — presumably employers as well. His forecasters call for a 56% infection rate by early May; as far as I can tell there’s no estimate as to whether or by how much the stay-at-home order will reduce or delay that number.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Corona update… On the morning of March 18 I reported on this thread that there were 6,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US. As of 7 this morning, 3/29, the count was 124,000 — a twenty-fold increase over the last 11 days. It’s certain that the actual numbers are much higher. The people whose positive test results are being counted today probably got tested 5 days ago, first got symptomatic a week before that, and got infected a week before that. So the count is nearly 3 weeks behind. Besides that, only those who get seriously ill are being tested in this country, which seems to be a pretty small percentage of those infected. So the true count might be as high as 30 million, or nearly 10 percent of the US population. At the present rate of increase, half of the population will be infected by the middle of April.

    That estimate is supported by a report issued March 26 by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation. Per the report, the corona hospitalization wave will crest on April 14, dropping off rapidly thereafter. Around 80,000 will die from the disease, nearly all of them by the end of May. This means that efforts to flatten the curve have been too little too late, that the curve will be really steep, and that the wave of infections will crash over the population catastrophically during the next month. The relatively good news: “only” 80K people are expected to die from the virus over the next 2 months, rather than the 1 million or more that seemed like a best estimate as recently as two weeks ago. I.e., the virus is proving to be more virulently contagious but less lethal than earlier estimates.

    So I’m diligently self-quarantining for the next couple of months. Maybe by June the ecosystem start returning to some semblance of post-catastrophic normalcy.


    1. You can kind of glimpse the Trump rationale. In two weeks most of the people who are going to catch the disease will already be infected, and the already-infected ones who are going to get really sick and/or die from it are inevitably headed there regardless. If you’re old and retired, stay home and protect yourself; everybody else go back to work. Just ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Earlier in this thread there was discussion about unemployment insurance for those laid off due to corona. Usual unemployment compensation covers half of the person’s wage for up to 6 months, which we agreed wasn’t nearly enough for most people. The $1200 per person check, personally signed by The Boss, isn’t enough either. But the so-called Cares Act — the same stimulus package providing for those bonus checks — also expanded unemployment benefits, to the tune of an additional $600 per week until the end of July.

    So if someone was making the US average wage of $4K/month before being laid off for corona, that person would be entitled to $2,000/month ordinary unemployment compensation plus the extra $2,600/month from the Cares Act, totaling $4,600/month. That’s more than the person was being paid while still employed. Plus the $1200 bonus check.

    That’s pretty darned good, and would support most people adequately during lockdown through July. But it sounds like it’s been hell for the millions of the newly unemployed to start getting their checks. Some states seem really efficient in processing all those new claims, while others (like Florida) go out of their way to make it hard for applicants to get through the online signup and the bureaucracy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This post was back in mid March, just about the time when I started sheltering in place. Now it’s only ten days until May, and some of the MAGA crowd has had just about enough of this virus telling them what to do with their bodies.

    I’m hopeful that Alaska relaxes their state mandates by early May so that I can get back up their. Alaska has, perhaps, the tightest lockdown, restricting all in-state travel between communities. But it seems to be working. The remote communities haven’t seen outbreaks, and there were only five reported cases last week and zero cases reported in Fairbanks.

    Even if things ease up for the summer, there’s always the predicted surge again in the fall.

    Liked by 1 person

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