Opening the Economy, Closing the Coffins

The government’s handling of this pandemic has pulled back the curtain, exposing the sick priorities of this system for all to see. Profits are protected at all costs and human lives are tossed aside. As the U.S. coronavirus death toll continues to climb, 41 states are rushing to reopen their economies and send workers back into workplaces that can be sources of mass infection. The Trump administration, the governors pushing to open their states, and the wealthy elite they represent are ready to kill tens of thousands of people to jump start their economy, and they don’t care how many coffins they fill.

There have been over 77,000 deaths in the U.S. in three months. That’s 25% of all coronavirus deaths worldwide, the most of any country in the world. That’s more deaths than the number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. It’s more deaths than if the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack happened every day for almost a month.

All of this urgency to relax social distancing and remove stay at home orders goes against all recommendations from scientists and health experts. They warn that the death toll is likely to keep climbing to more than 130,000 deaths by the end of the summer. According to medical experts, not a single state or territory in the U.S. has met all of the White House’s own guidelines for safely reopening the economy. We’ve already seen workplaces become breeding grounds of mass infection. The crammed conditions of slaughterhouses have already led to an infection of more than 10,000 meatpacking workers across the country. We’ve seen similar mass outbreaks in warehouses, grocery stores, nursing homes and hospitals. Sending people back to work under these conditions just risks another mass outbreak.

Politicians across the country have tried to twist their blatant obedience to the demands of corporations into some sort of support for working people. They try to justify their dangerous relaxation of restrictions by citing that people want to go back to work. Of course people want to go back to work!

This pandemic and quarantine has been a living hell. Unemployment is approaching 30 percent, numbers not seen since the Great Depression. At least 20 million more people have been thrown into desperate poverty in the last two months. Across the country food banks are running out of food and have lines that stretch for miles while an estimated 20% of children under twelve now go hungry. Millions more people face losing everything they spent their whole lives working for, and record numbers of small family businesses are about to close their doors forever. This pandemic has been a nightmare we can’t awake from, and all we want is for it to stop.

But we shouldn’t have to choose between mass misery and mass infection. Real relief could be given to the millions of unemployed workers, to those who’ve lost wages, to small businesses. There is more than enough money to provide working families with real security until workplaces can be reopened safely.

If concern for working people had anything to do with the decisions to recklessly reopen the economy, we would see protective equipment for all workers, mass testing at every work site, and we’d see an enormous effort to track down infections. Nothing close to this is being planned or implemented. Instead, trillions of dollars has been gifted to the largest banks and corporations.

Even if some Democrats may have criticized some aspects of Trump’s push to reopen the economy, they have overwhelmingly supported these unprecedented hand-outs to the wealthy. And what are they proposing to get us out of this nightmare – to vote for Joe Biden in November. That’s not going to fix any of this. We are under attack now and we need to fight back now!

When have the lives of working people ever mattered in this system? When has the safety of workers ever been more important than the safety of profits? If our well-being was of any concern to those who claim to run this society, we wouldn’t see farmers destroying millions of pounds of food while millions of people go hungry. We wouldn’t see tens of thousands of people living in the streets while tens of thousands of hotel rooms sit empty. And we certainly wouldn’t see the richest companies receive trillions of dollars while working families lose everything.

If the defenders of the capitalist system valued the lives of working people, they would never weigh the lives of workers against the profits of banks and corporations. Their ruthless reasoning to reopen the economy is exactly why it took so long for them to lock it down in the first place. The only concern they have is for their skyrocketing profits, not the skyrocketing death tolls.

Trump and the other politicians might open the economy, but just because it’s open doesn’t mean we have to go to work and run it for them. We can decide when to go back to work and on our own terms. We can demand real safety measures to deal with this virus. We can demand real relief for those of us who’ve already lost so much. And we can demand a society that meets our needs rather than sacrifices us to the needs of capitalism.

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