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- One of the most prevalent ideological mantras of Western capitalism is that the market should rule. But as the latest health and economic crises demonstrate, capitalists soon forget their worship of the market when times get tough. They scream for government money, and plenty of it. It turns out that “the market” is fine when it comes to whipping workers to accept lower wages, but when it comes to lower profits, the market can go hang.
- Capitalists preach “the market” for the working class – stand on your own two feet, don’t rely on the government – but themselves sponge off the public big time. Just look at the billions in subsidies and tax concessions the fossil fuel companies, huge enterprises for the most part, extract from state and federal governments in Australia. The vehicle manufacturers raked in hundreds of millions a year from the Australian government for decades until deciding it wasn’t enough and went overseas. This is why big companies and industry groups hire armies of former politicians to lobby on their behalf in the offices of premiers and prime ministers – there’s money in government coffers and they want it. And while the capitalists talk about “the market” setting wages for workers, in reality, they don’t really allow the market to do the job. They use the whole apparatus of state repression, the industrial tribunals, the police, the courts to suppress workers’ rights to organise to pursue their demands. But when a crisis hits all the bullshit about the market is thrown to the winds. And that is just what we are seeing now. Faced with the collapse of the capitalist economy, for the second time in a dozen years, with massive bankruptcies on the table and the stock market plunging by more than 30 percent and more to come, fervent advocates of the free market are now embracing government intervention to save their skins.
- 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 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.
- The Pentagon will get an extra $165 billion over the next two years—that’s even more than Donald Trump asked for...The figures contained in the recent budget deal that kept Congress open, as well as in President Trump’s budget proposal for 2019, are a case in point: $700 billion for the Pentagon and related programs in 2018 and $716 billion the following year. Remarkably, such numbers far exceeded even the Pentagon’s own expansive expectations.... The majority of Republican fiscal conservatives were thrilled to sign off on a Pentagon increase that, combined with the Trump tax cut for the rich, funds ballooning deficits as far as the eye can see—a total of $7.7 trillion worth of them over the next decade.
- William D. Hartung, The Military-Industrial Complex Is on Corporate Welfare (February 27, 2018), The Nation
- The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health, social and economic crisis. Historical comparisons are few, particularly in recent decades. This tragedy constitutes nothing less than a trial for all humanity. [...] The pandemic, in other words, is now testing the capacity of our political and economic systems to cope with a global problem situated at the level of our individual interdependence, which is to say at the very foundation of our social life. [...] We equally depend on the state to help businesses of all sizes endure this trial by providing them with the financial assistance and guaranteed loans they require in order to avoid bankruptcy and retain as much of their workforce as possible. States no longer have any qualms about spending without limits in order to save the economy — "whatever it takes!" — while just weeks ago states opposed any request to increase hospital staff, hospital beds, or emergency services, out of its obsessive concern for budgetary constraint and limiting the public debt. States have since rediscovered the virtues of interventionism, at least when it comes to funding private enterprise and shoring up the financial system.
- Christian Laval, The pandemic as political trial: the case for a global commons (March 28, 2020), co-written with Pierre Dardot, ROAR Magazine
- The desperate policies of panic-driven governments involve throwing huge amounts of money at the economies collapsed in response to the coronavirus threat. Monetary authorities create money and lend it at extremely low interest rates to the major corporations and especially big banks "to get them through the crisis." Government treasuries borrow vast sums to get the collapsed economy back into what they imagine is "the normal, pre-virus economy." Capitalism's leaders are rushing into policy failures because of their ideological blinders.