As COVID-19 spreads exponentially in most of the United States where the ruling class has rushed to “open” the capitalist economy, unemployment has again exploded. Personal economic disaster looms for most working people.
Congress must pass new emergency measures to aid the tens of millions of workers — disproportionately Black, Brown, Indigenous and all other people who experience systemic racism — who now face economic catastrophe.
The virus has thrown a spotlight on the contradictions and inequalities at the core of capitalism. Millions see that the capitalist system itself is responsible for their suffering. In the most blatant way, U.S. society under Trump exposes capitalism’s failures.
CARES Act 1, the “stimulus package” that bailed out the biggest capitalist corporations and banks in March and kept small businesses alive, while grudgingly feeding and sheltering tens of millions of workers — although not the undocumented nor many gig workers — ends on Aug. 1.
For those tens of millions of people, the abyss looms: Weekly payments of $600 for all unemployed workers stop. Protection from evictions stops. The one-time $1,200 payment is long spent.
This election year both big capitalist parties — Republicans and Democrats — must come through with an emergency program, CARES 2, to avoid chaos. They must agree very soon. Right now, July 28, the Republicans have yet to announce their own program — but what they are discussing is so bad for the workers, it makes the Democratic Party program look good in comparison.
The Republicans want unemployment payments to be 70 percent of each worker’s salary and no more. The bigger the salaries, the bigger the unemployment payments. Essential workers with small salaries go hungry.
The Democrats propose extending the flat $600 supplement until Jan. 1, 2021. This provides more benefits for more workers and reduces inequality.
Republicans oppose the flat $600, calling it an incentive to stay unemployed. If that were the real reason, they should immediately increase the federal minimum wage to at least $20, support union drives, raise salaries across the board, while insisting that bosses provide personal protective equipment. The truth is: They despise workers.
Another vital protection is the moratorium on evictions. For unemployed workers whose payments arrive late or not at all, a moratorium is absolutely necessary to stop them from being thrown on the streets — in blatant contradiction to the fact that many have to stay home to stop the spread of the virus.
Free testing and medical care for COVID-19 are vital, as are subsidies for public schools to provide equal access to safe education for all — including students with disabilities, educational workers and families.
Much more is needed. Some of that will be argued about in Congress — though mostly behind closed doors. The points raised here are the absolute minimum that the capitalist class and its representatives must ensure that Congress passes in CARES 2.
Let the Democrats also feel the fire of rebellion to stop them from trading away the most desperate needs of the workers. If the parties provide less than this minimum, they demonstrate that they and the ruling class they represent are incapable of running society.