Home > Uncategorized > From “Death Panels” to “Death Pits” – Government Matters. Collapse Exposed By Covid And Climate Catastrophes

From “Death Panels” to “Death Pits” – Government Matters. Collapse Exposed By Covid And Climate Catastrophes

COVID Exposes The Rot Created By Neoliberal Finance Capitalism

The US Is A Failed State – Corporate Coup Consolidated

[Updates below]

I’ve been thinking about writing about how the COVID catastrophe shares many of the same dynamics as the climate catastrophe.

I actually made a list of shared features – e.g. 1) denial of science [update: 4/28/20 – even the NY Times agrees! ~ end update]); 2) the dominance of corporate power and greed; 3) deregulated finance capitalism; 4) global markets, deindustrialization, and “just in time” logistics and inventory management (or running a hospital as a business); 5) Neoliberal austerity policy for the public sector; 6) disinvestment, discrediting, and dismantling of government (“small enough to drown in the bathtub”); 7) rejection of planning in favor of markets to allocate resources; 8) abandonment of the public sphere, notions of the public good (including public health), and a progressive government obligation to redistribute wealth to promote fairness and equality and tame capitalism; and 9) the hollowing out of democratic institutions, consolidation of a corporate coup, and the rise of what Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism”.

But, as the COVID crisis exploded, I rejected the idea as un-necessary, because it was all becoming so blatantly obvious (read Chris Floyd’s devastating “Death of a Nation”).

But, today’s NY Times ran two major stories that drove me to make the argument, however briefly.

The first story is a shocking and horrific tale of how we warehouse the elderly in “death pits”. Reader warning: it could  prompt nightmares.

The title of the second piece caught my eye: “I am the portrait of downward mobility”.

For that story, The Times solicited and published life experience stories from readers about how they were doing in comparison with their parents.

The individual stories are compelling, but the NYT coverage and the stories themselves totally lack historical context, particularly on issues of political-economy. It is as if the weather caused all the problems in these peoples lives. The stories virtually ignore the role of public policy and government in shaping the outcomes and life prospects of the people they profile.

So, I felt compelled to submit a comment of my own story, told in the proper context, with examples of how government matters:

I’m 62. Both my parents were born in 1929 and grew up during the Depression. My mom loved FDR. They both benefited from the New Deal and the GI bill. My dad drove a public transit system bus for 40 years, a stable job with a decent salary, healthcare, and pension. My mom was an Ex. Assistant at an urban development focused planning and architectural firm. They both benefitted from massive government investments in transportation and urban redevelopment, particularly from JFK and LBJ’s Great Society. Neither had college degrees, yet they owned a home, 2 cars, and we never worried about if we could afford going to the doctor.

I was born the year of Sputnik, and benefitted from massive government investments in education, particularly science and math. My SUNY system public university was created and sustained by massive government investments (legacy of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller). My undergraduate education was affordable and funded by low tuition, federal Pell grants, and student work programs. My graduate University, Cornell, was built in an earlier era of massive government investments in “Morrill land grant” colleges (legacy of President Lincoln). I paid a small tuition and had a subsidized job as graduate fellow. My professional career was made possible by government regulation to protect the environment and promote the public interest. Virtually the same story for my wife.

My kids enjoyed a high quality suburban lifestyle and education, made possible by massive government investments in roads, water, sewer, education, and communications infrastructure. They too attended government subsidized world class universities for undergraduate and PhD degrees. Their careers are shaped by government investments and partnerships with the private sector.

Bottom line: Government matters.

The values, public institutions, and policies that made this possible have been dismantled by dark forces and replaced by a Corporate Coup, which COVID effectively has consolidated.

[End Note: this prescient 2018 essay explains a lot:

Donald Trump did not hijack American conservatism; in him it reached its logical culmination. The defining characteristics of post-1980 conservatism—its authoritarianism; denigration of reason and education; obsession with power at all costs; Manichean, black and white thinking; apocalyptic, religious fundamentalist mentality; paranoia and sense of being besieged even when in power; and gangsterish deceit, bad faith, and lack of principle, whether practiced by a transparent swindler like Trump or a supposed intellectual like Newt Gingrichmust lead to nihilism and mindless destruction. […]

If our institutions, flawed and wounded as they are, cannot check the present conservative assault on ethical principles, humanitarian ideals, and objective reality itself, we may be doomed all too soon to live—or die—in the second great nihilistic revolution of the past hundred years.

[Update: 5/11/20 Henry Giroux agrees:

In my view, the pandemic has revealed the toxic underside of neoliberal capitalism with its assault on the welfare state, its undermining of public health, its attack on workers’ rights and its affirmation of the economy and the accumulation of capital over human needs and life itself. […]

The pandemic crisis has shattered the myth that each of us are defined exclusively by our self-interest and as individuals are solely responsible for the problems we face. Both myths have completely broken down as it becomes obvious that as the pandemic unfolds shortages in crucial medical equipment, lack of testing, lack of public investments, and failed public health services are largely due to right-wing neoliberal measures and regressive tax policies that have drained resources from public health, public goods, and other vital social institutions. ~~~ end update]

[Update: 5/7/20 – Chris Floyd agrees. ~~~ ed update]

[Update: 4/30/20 – Chomsky agrees. ~~~ end update]

[Update: 4/26/20: For those who think I exaggerate, even liberals at The Atlantic agree:

[Update: 4/19/20 – In a Sunday NY Times Op-Ed Bernie Sanders notes collapse, but he leaves a lot out. The bastards at the Times give Sanders a platform only after he conceded and endorsed Biden. Bernie highlighted FDR, The New Deal, and FDR’s “economic bill of rights”. Way too late for that! He should have done a lot more of that during the campaign to discredit the “radical” criticism. And note that Joe Biden did not co-author that piece. So much for the Biden – Sanders Task Force bullshit. Has anyone noted that those Taskforces do NOT include healthcare? ~~~ end update]

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