Coronavirus recession

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The coronavirus recession, also known as the Great Lockdown or the Great Shutdown, is a severe and ongoing global recession. An economic consequence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the first major sign of the coronavirus recession was the 2020 stock market crash on 20 February.

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  • The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is urging the federal government to provide wage subsidies to workers, equivalent in value to Newstart to all businesses experiencing a sharp downturn. It is also asking the government to provide concessional loans of up to half a million dollars, with 80 percent of the debt guaranteed by government, as well as wage subsidies to cover sick leave entitlements. Nothing but corporate welfare of a kind that they have long decried when applied to workers themselves. In the short term, working class households will get some benefits from this cash splash. In Australia welfare beneficiaries will be getting $750 in their bank accounts. In the United States it is likely that Americans will receiving close to $1,000. But this is just short term relief to get the economy moving. The long term benefits will go to the capitalist class in the form of tax cuts and other financial concessions. The current crisis demonstrates not only that all the ideological nonsense about the virtues of the free market is quickly thrown overboard when capitalist interests are threatened, but also that the idea that governments are essentially powerless in the face of the markets is rubbish. Governments are not helpless victims who cannot do anything in the face of "economic reality". In the normal course of events, when we demand things like better welfare, health care or education, governments tell us that it isn't possible.
  • It's not that governments have suddenly discovered a big pot of gold in the basement of the central banks. They say that they are taking these measures to both protect public health and to save the economy. But it's obvious which takes priority. The new measures constitute the largest bailout bonanza in world history, carried out through state-administered transfers of public wealth and current and future debt to billionaires and big business: socialisation of losses, privatisation of profits. The outcome will be to further transfer, consolidate and concentrate wealth, just as has occurred since the GFC. While there is discussion about small handouts, nothing serious is being proposed to halt the mass layoffs now gathering steam.
  • In pretty much every spending package, subsidies to business, government loans and tax concessions account for two-thirds or more of the funds outlaid. Things that directly benefit workers – the big majority of the population – account for only one-third of the money.
  • It turns out that these things, too, can be done. So, in an economic emergency, few of the usual rules apply. Governments can marshal the resources and can threaten the narrow interests of private businesses. Hardcore libertarians despise these measures as rampant socialism. From their perspective, they're right: the very existence of such programs is condemnation of the free market capitalist model that they promote. But they are best seen only as another approach to the management of the capitalist economy. The fact that governments across the OECD are now prepared to spend trillions of dollar to save the financial system from collapse only confirms that the world economy cannot be left safely in the hands of "the market". And, the situation clearly confirms that when the capitalist class and governments deem it necessary to save their system, lots of measures they once denounced as "unaffordable", not permitted by the condition of "the economy", are actually affordable and permitted. Governments can act when required. The ideological justifications of yesterday are revealed as threadbare. But nor are government interventions of this nature geared towards the interests of the working class, only the interests of the bosses.
  • We are entering an alarming situation where many poorer countries will face increasingly burdensome debt repayments while simultaneously attempting to manage an unprecedented public health crisis – all in the context of a very deep global recession. And let us not harbor any illusions that these intersecting crises might bring an end to structural adjustment or the emergence of some kind of "global social democracy." As we have repeatedly seen over the last decade, capital frequently seizes moments of crisis as a moment of opportunity — a chance to implement radical change that was previously blocked or appeared impossible.
  • As the coronavirus epidemic stretches on, working people are facing an economic collapse, the likes of which have not been seen since the Great Depression. Organizing to fight for an immediate ban on all layoffs has to be an essential part of any program to protect the working class and to make the capitalist's pay for their crisis.
  • Working people are facing what could be the biggest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression. As states and cities across the country continue to shut down schools, libraries, restaurants, bars, and other non-essential services in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of workers have already lost their jobs, and millions more will soon follow. While restaurant, theatre, hotel and hospitality workers have been some of the first to see massive layoffs, huge losses in travel, retail, and oil drilling and extraction industries are also expected, as more and more people are quarantined. [...] Such job losses would mean dire poverty for huge sections of the working class.
  • While capitalists and their paid politicians will scoff at these demands, claiming they are economically infeasible or impossible, this is because they only understand the language of profit and cannot imagine a world run for the benefit of all. Nonetheless, the fact remains that capital has significant resources that could and must be made available to all working people. Most major corporations such as Amazon, Walmart, Disney, Delta, GM, etc., have enough reserves and more than enough credit to continue to pay their employees the full amount of their wages for the length of the health crisis. Therefore, in the case of private corporations, working people must demand that the federal government make any future market aid contingent upon a wholesale indefinite ban on all layoffs, with full wages and continued benefits for all employees, whether they are working or not. States must likewise make all operating licenses for private companies and corporations contingent upon the same demand. Industries that refuse, particularly health, transportation, and manufacturing industries should immediately be subject to nationalization under workers' control.
  • Of course, working people ultimately cannot rely upon the federal government or the state governments (whose purpose is to maintain the hegemony of the markets and the rule of capital) to fix this crisis in any equitable way. Only the working class has the power to make this happen through mass strikes and work actions. In order to act swiftly in the case of any layoffs, lockouts, or shutdowns, working people ultimately must organize themselves at their workplaces and in the streets, whether they are in a union or not, and be prepared to use their collective power to demand that all necessary resources be employed for the well being of the whole class with full compensation and benefits, that full back pay be provided to all workers upon returning to work, and that everyone has access to well compensated employment.
  • This is unlike almost any other shock that we have seen in how quickly everything has ground to a halt, not just in the stock market but in everyday lives. And I truly do not believe that there is an action we can consider right now that is too small. I certainly have not seen any proposal that I would say is too large for us to be considering right now...We have to examine why there wasn't political appetite to do more in 2008. And the reason for that was because there was a package that was entirely designed to favor corporations, to bail out Wall Street that was more concerned with stock prices than wages and the health of Wall Street than the actual healthcare system. And that's why there wasn't political appetite to do more because we passed out billions of dollars and then the CEOs came in flying in on their private jets, asking for more... Now is a very different time. If we focus our package on immediate bailouts for everyday people, making sure that we're issuing things like mortgage and rent and student loan debt moratoriums, making sure that we're getting cash into people's hands, ensuring the fact that if they have to go to the hospital, coronavirus related or not because as we know this can trigger a series of other health issues, that you will be financially okay. And that is the number one thing that we need to do right now.
  • We need to be introducing stabilizers to working families. And Katie Porter is absolutely right on the point of tax credits. You know, I think sometimes with all due respect to my colleagues, we get into this, you know, there's a lot of like this 90s wonkery going on where if we do a backdoor tax credit, oh, that's a clever way of helping people. But it doesn't address the core issue, which is that people are experiencing a shock right now. We need to get checks into people's hands. If you're concerned about it being means-based, tax it on the other end. Get everyone a check right now. And then if you want to make sure that the millionaire's don't get 1,000 bucks, do an extra, you know, tax them on the other end of that and make sure that they can't wriggle out of that.
  • Just as in the 1930s, world capitalism, as it had existed until then, had reached a dead-end, and the need for it to be altered for the sake of preserving the system itself, was emphasised by many perceptive bourgeois thinkers, exactly in a similar manner contemporary world capitalism too has reached a dead-end and cannot continue as before. [...] Any change in capitalism, however, including a revival of the so-called "welfare capitalism" of the post-War period, will entail a loosening of the hegemony of international finance capital and hence will face stiff opposition from it. The fact that the need for such change is clear to bourgeois thinkers, does not mean that finance capital will simply voluntarily make a sacrifice of the hegemony it currently enjoys. Indeed the history of the 1930s itself bears witness to this fact. [...] Any change in capitalism, however, including a revival of the so-called "welfare capitalism" of the post-War period, will entail a loosening of the hegemony of international finance capital and hence will face stiff opposition from it. The fact that the need for such change is clear to bourgeois thinkers, does not mean that finance capital will simply voluntarily make a sacrifice of the hegemony it currently enjoys. Indeed the history of the 1930s itself bears witness to this fact.
  • It is real-life class struggle, informed no doubt by ideas, that ultimately determines which way the world will move. Hence even for altering contemporary capitalism in the direction of the so-called “welfare capitalism” of yore, it would be essential to have the working class fighting for such an agenda. But when it does so, and when international finance capital resists such an agenda, we would be in the thick of class struggle. Time alone will tell whether this struggle would remain merely at the level of achieving a revival of “welfare capitalism” or whether it would go beyond capitalism altogether towards a socialist alternative. Once class struggle, for changing the system in its present form, acquires momentum, its outcome would depend on praxis and may not necessarily remain bounded within the system itself.
  • The chief fearmonger of the Trump Administration is without a doubt Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Fauci is all over the media, serving up outright falsehoods to stir up even more panic. He testified to Congress that the death rate for the coronavirus is ten times that of the seasonal flu, a claim without any scientific basis. On Face the Nation, Fauci did his best to further damage an already tanking economy by stating, "Right now, personally, myself, I wouldn't go to a restaurant." He has pushed for closing the entire country down for 14 days. Over what? A virus that has thus far killed just over 5,000 worldwide and less than 100 in the United States? By contrast, tuberculosis, an old disease not much discussed these days, killed nearly 1.6 million people in 2017. Where's the panic over this? If anything, what people like Fauci and the other fearmongers are demanding will likely make the disease worse. The martial law they dream about will leave people hunkered down inside their homes instead of going outdoors or to the beach where the sunshine and fresh air would help boost immunity. The panic produced by these fearmongers is likely helping spread the disease, as massive crowds rush into Walmart and Costco for that last roll of toilet paper. […] People should ask themselves whether this coronavirus "pandemic" could be a big hoax, with the actual danger of the disease massively exaggerated by those who seek to profit – financially or politically – from the ensuing panic. That is not to say the disease is harmless. Without question people will die from coronavirus. Those in vulnerable categories should take precautions to limit their risk of exposure. But we have seen this movie before. Government over-hypes a threat as an excuse to grab more of our freedoms. When the "threat" is over, however, they never give us our freedoms back.
  • Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus package for which the American taxpayer will be held entirely responsible. Even worse, the new legislation contains a $500 billion allocation (another corporate giveaway) that the Federal Reserve will use as a capital base for borrowing $4.5 trillion. That massive sum of money will be used to buy toxic bonds in the corporate bond market. Just as Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) were used to fleece millions of investors out of their hard-earned savings in the run-up to the 2008 Financial Crisis, so too, "toxic" corporate bonds were the weapon of choice that was used to pilfer trillions of dollars from investors in the run-up to today's crisis. (Same scam, different instrument) The virus was merely the proximate cause that tipped the sector into meltdown. The problem had been festering for years and everyone in the financial community (Including the Fed, the BIS and the IMF) knew that it was only a matter of time before the market would blow sky-high. Which it did.
  • The problem of policies aimed to return the economy to what it was before the virus hit is this: Global capitalism, by 2019, was itself a major cause of the collapse in 2020. Capitalism's scars from the crashes of 2000 and 2008-2009 had not healed. Years of low interest rates had enabled corporations and governments to "solve" all their problems by borrowing limitlessly at almost zero interest rate cost. All the new money pumped into economies by central banks had indeed caused the feared inflation, but chiefly in stock markets whose prices consequently spiraled dangerously far away from underlying economic values and realities. Inequalities of income and wealth reached historic highs. ​In short, capitalism had built up vulnerabilities to another crash that any number of possible triggers could unleash. The trigger this time was not the dot.com meltdown of 2000 or the sub-prime meltdown of 2008/9; it was a virus. And of course, mainstream ideology requires focusing on the trigger, not the vulnerability. Thus mainstream policies aim to reestablish pre-virus capitalism. Even if they succeed, that will return us to a capitalist system whose accumulated vulnerabilities will soon again collapse from yet another trigger.
  • The second reason I focus on capitalism is that the responses to today's economic collapse by Trump, the GOP and most Democrats carefully avoid any criticism of capitalism. They all debate the virus, China, foreigners, other politicians, but never the system they all serve. When Trump and others press people to return to churches and jobs—despite risking their and others' lives—they place reviving a collapsed capitalism ahead of public health.

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External links[edit]

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