Pennsylvania begins peeking out from behind the lockdown

Pandemic

GX-NEWreopeningPhases
Fig. 2. Graphic converted from portable document format (PDF) to a jpeg, May 8, 2020. Original from TribLive article, May 8, 2020.[1]

I think there has to be some question about Tom Wolf’s order moving some Pennsylvania counties to “green” and others to “yellow,”[2] given the possible ramifications of Memorial Day travel. The timing seems bad, with the virus still out of control in many places, including some not all that far from Pennsylvania.[3]

Understand, I’m not saying it’s feasible for Wolf to have done otherwise, given a building resistance to the lockdown in Pennsylvania and elsewhere,[4] but with an average incubation period of five days,[5] we won’t know what Memorial Day does, really, until some time in June. I wish he could have waited a couple more weeks.

Joel Achenbach, Rachel Weiner, and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “Study estimates 24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread,” Washington Post, May 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/study-estimates-24-states-still-have-uncontrolled-coronavirus-spread/2020/05/22/d3032470-9c43-11ea-ac72-3841fcc9b35f_story.html

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, “Gov. Wolf Adds Eight Counties to Yellow and 17 to Green on May 29, Remainder to Yellow on June 5,” May 22, 2020, https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/gov-wolf-adds-eight-counties-to-yellow-and-17-to-green-on-may-29-remainder-to-yellow-on-june-5/

Natasha Lindstrom, “What moving into ‘green’ zone does, does not mean under Gov. Wolf’s reopening plan,” TribLive, May 22, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/what-moving-into-green-zone-does-does-not-mean-under-gov-wolfs-reopening-plan/


Horse race

There are things I leave to Blacks to settle among themselves and I think this is as it should be. Whether they use the n-word to refer to each other and whether they accept each other as Black are examples of things that are, and should be, up to them. Even where I disagree, it isn’t for me to say, and whites cannot intrude here without, at minimum, some form of appropriation.

And so it is that there is no way Joe Biden’s “you ain’t Black” remark is anything other racist bigotry on the order of the n-word. This is something no white person should ever say to a Black under any circumstances. But especially not Biden and especially when, as Derecka Purnell concludes,

Joe Biden refuses to reckon with the harm that he has caused to people all over the world. His best line is that he is better than the other guy, and that is exactly how abusive relationships function. Black people – all people – deserve better than Biden and the Democratic party. And yes, we are still black.[6]

More strategically, a lot of what Purnell points to[7] suggests that Biden can write off the progressive vote. He can’t help himself and, at the risk of repeating Biden’s mistake with Blacks, I really have to wonder how you can be progressive and support a bigoted neoliberal rapist. I mean, seriously, this really does seem like a contradiction to me.

Derecka Purnell, “Black Americans are in an abusive relationship with the Democratic party,” Guardian, May 22, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/22/black-americans-joe-biden-democratic-party-relationship


  1. [1]Megan Guza, “Gov. Wolf announces most of Western Pa. moving to yellow phase May 15,” TribLive, May 8, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/gov-wolf-to-announce-most-of-western-pa-moving-to-yellow-phase-next-week/
  2. [2]Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, “Gov. Wolf Adds Eight Counties to Yellow and 17 to Green on May 29, Remainder to Yellow on June 5,” May 22, 2020, https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/gov-wolf-adds-eight-counties-to-yellow-and-17-to-green-on-may-29-remainder-to-yellow-on-june-5/
  3. [3]Joel Achenbach et al., “Coronavirus hot spots erupt across the country; experts warn of second wave in South,” Washington Post, May 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/coronavirus-hot-spots-erupt-across-the-country-experts-warn-of-possible-outbreaks-in-south/2020/05/20/49bc6d10-9ab4-11ea-a282-386f56d579e6_story.html; Joel Achenbach, Rachel Weiner, and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “Study estimates 24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread,” Washington Post, May 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/study-estimates-24-states-still-have-uncontrolled-coronavirus-spread/2020/05/22/d3032470-9c43-11ea-ac72-3841fcc9b35f_story.html
  4. [4]Moriah Balingit, “Armed militia helped a Michigan barbershop open, a coronavirus defiance that puts Republican lawmakers in a bind,” Washington Post, May 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-michigan-republicans-whitmer/2020/05/12/54975e1a-9466-11ea-82b4-c8db161ff6e5_story.html; Ryan Deto, “Photos: About 120 protest in Downtown Pittsburgh, calling for Pennsylvania to reopen during coronavirus pandemic,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 20, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/photos-about-120-protest-in-downtown-pittsburgh-calling-for-pennsylvania-to-reopen-during-coronavirus-pandemic/Content?oid=17167012; Bryan Armen Graham, “‘Swastikas and nooses’: governor slams ‘racism’ of Michigan lockdown protest,” Guardian, May 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/03/michigan-gretchen-whitmer-lockdown-protest-racism; Jamie Martines And Tom Davidson, “Protesters in Pittsburgh demand Gov. Wolf to reopen businesses amid coronavirus pandemic,” TribLive, April 20, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/protesters-gather-in-pittsburgh-demanding-gov-wolf-reopen-businesses-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/
  5. [5]Rich Haridy, “Study affirms average Covid-19 incubation period is 5 days,” New Atlas, March 9, 2020, https://newatlas.com/health-wellbeing/covid-19-coronavirus-incubation-five-days-study-average/
  6. [6]Derecka Purnell, “Black Americans are in an abusive relationship with the Democratic party,” Guardian, May 22, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/22/black-americans-joe-biden-democratic-party-relationship
  7. [7]Derecka Purnell, “Black Americans are in an abusive relationship with the Democratic party,” Guardian, May 22, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/22/black-americans-joe-biden-democratic-party-relationship

I hope you all are enjoying the show. I’m sure not.

Updates

  1. Originally published, May 21, 10:20 am.
  2. May 21, 9:37 pm:
    • Facebook has now also announced more (which is better than none, but in Facebook’s case, not much better than none) opportunities to work from home permanently.[1] The offer comes in stark contrast to Twitter’s somewhat more generous offer.[2]
  3. May 22, 8:58 am:
    • Donald Trump defied company requests and Michigan state law in addressing workers at a Ford plant without a face mask.[3] There are a number of issues with wearing face masks but a large part of it is that it is a marker for support for or opposition to Trump[4] in contrast to trust in medical authorities and compliance with state governors and their authority.[5] The politicization of the pandemic is certainly a possible path to our downfall.
    • The Wall Street Journal adds to the story already reported here about unemployment claims[6] by explaining that the number of people collecting unemployment benefits is up to over 25 million. This number, the paper explains, lags initial filings by a week.[7] For me, this story underscores the callousness of a bipartisan political decision to reduce the question of further economic relief to politics as usual[8] and we, as a society, should be asking what the fuck our system of social organization is good for if it doesn’t actually take care of people. Unfortunately, the answer at present has been reduced to protests against the lockdown and the decision to wear or not wear masks (see the immediately preceding bullet point above).
    • Just as a further comment on the Facebook story[9] in the earlier update (above), if you haven’t been by Facebook’s campus in Menlo Park, it is huge and Google Maps really doesn’t do justice to the visual impression. It is difficult to compare to Google’s headquarters (which I suspect are nonetheless larger) in Mountain View visually because the layouts and building designs are so different (one might suspect that this reflects vastly different corporate cultures). But when Mark Zuckerberg says he still thinks Facebook needs the space with the restrictions on working at home his company is imposing and with social distancing requirements that will be imposed within the offices[10] (their cubicles might be a little less hellish?), one is still entitled to suspect that his decision-making is influenced by a desire to justify the existence of that office space.

Pandemic

MasterCard will not send workers back to offices, it says, without a vaccine.[11] That could be a while. A long while.[12] And the company is considering consolidating offices,[13] which brings my warning yesterday more sharply into focus.[14]

Overall, however, we seem to be in a rush to reopen, even as the pandemic continues to rage in some areas and health care systems in some areas are overwhelmed,[15] and despite medical warnings against a hasty reopening.[16] That puts the rest of us at risk: Nobody’s borders—not even North Korea’s—are hermetically sealed.

It’s almost as if we are in a rush to rubberneck at the trainwreck that is the economy,[17] a trainwreck made all the more spectacular by our adamance in continuing to embrace neoliberalism and the corresponding refusal to embrace obviously correct progressive proposals.[18]

I hope you all are enjoying the show. I’m sure not. Rather, I’m at a loss for words at just how brain-dead all of this is.

Joel Achenbach et al., “Coronavirus hot spots erupt across the country; experts warn of second wave in South,” Washington Post, May 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/coronavirus-hot-spots-erupt-across-the-country-experts-warn-of-possible-outbreaks-in-south/2020/05/20/49bc6d10-9ab4-11ea-a282-386f56d579e6_story.html

Associated Press, “2.4 million Americans sought jobless aid last week; 39 million since coronavirus struck,” Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-21/coronavirus-jobless-unemployment-benefits

Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Workers File 2.4 Million Unemployment Claims,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-employed-arent-counted-in-wave-of-unemployment-claims-11590053402

Jeff Horwitz, “Facebook to Shift Permanently Toward More Remote Work After Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-to-shift-permanently-toward-more-remote-work-after-coronavirus-11590081300

Noor Zainab Hussain, “Mastercard won’t send staff back to office without coronavirus vaccine,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 21, 2020, https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/mastercard-won-t-send-staff-back-to-office-without-coronavirus-vaccine-20200521-p54v12.html

Chong Koh Ping and Matthew Dalton, “Coronavirus Case Count Tops Five Million World-Wide,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-latest-news-05-21-2020-11590043161

Alison Rourke, “Global report: don’t count on vaccine, US scientist warns, as cases pass 5m,” Guardian, May 21, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/21/global-report-coronavirus-vaccine-us-scientist-cases-5-million

Joanna Walters, “Donald Trump goes without mask at Michigan Ford plant despite company request,” Guardian, May 22, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/21/trump-ford-factory-mask-michigan


  1. [1]Jeff Horwitz, “Facebook to Shift Permanently Toward More Remote Work After Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-to-shift-permanently-toward-more-remote-work-after-coronavirus-11590081300
  2. [2]Heather Kelly, “Twitter employees don’t ever have to go back to the office (unless they want to),” Washington Post, May 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/05/12/twitter-work-home/
  3. [3]Joanna Walters, “Donald Trump goes without mask at Michigan Ford plant despite company request,” Guardian, May 22, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/21/trump-ford-factory-mask-michigan
  4. [4]Marc Fisher, Clarence Williams, and Lori Rozsa, “Will Americans wear masks to prevent coronavirus spread? Politics, history, race and crime factor into tough decision,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-masks-america/2020/04/18/bdb16bf2-7a85-11ea-a130-df573469f094_story.html
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Don’t just say #COVIDIOTS,” Not Housebroken, April 19, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/19/dont-just-say-covidiots/; David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, May 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/; David Benfell, “The pandemic and a crisis of illegitimate authority,” Not Housebroken, May 14, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/12/the-pandemic-and-a-crisis-of-illegitimate-authority/
  6. [6]Associated Press, “2.4 million Americans sought jobless aid last week; 39 million since coronavirus struck,” Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-21/coronavirus-jobless-unemployment-benefits
  7. [7]Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Workers File 2.4 Million Unemployment Claims,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-employed-arent-counted-in-wave-of-unemployment-claims-11590053402
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Yet again, a season for cynicism,” Not Housebroken, May 10, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/10/yet-again-a-season-for-cynicism/
  9. [9]Jeff Horwitz, “Facebook to Shift Permanently Toward More Remote Work After Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-to-shift-permanently-toward-more-remote-work-after-coronavirus-11590081300
  10. [10]Jeff Horwitz, “Facebook to Shift Permanently Toward More Remote Work After Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-to-shift-permanently-toward-more-remote-work-after-coronavirus-11590081300
  11. [11]Noor Zainab Hussain, “Mastercard won’t send staff back to office without coronavirus vaccine,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 21, 2020, https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/mastercard-won-t-send-staff-back-to-office-without-coronavirus-vaccine-20200521-p54v12.html
  12. [12]Andrew Nikiforuk, “Don’t Bet on a Vaccine,” Tyee, May 13, 2020, https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/05/13/Vaccine-Not-Likely/; Alison Rourke, “Global report: don’t count on vaccine, US scientist warns, as cases pass 5m,” Guardian, May 21, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/21/global-report-coronavirus-vaccine-us-scientist-cases-5-million
  13. [13]Noor Zainab Hussain, “Mastercard won’t send staff back to office without coronavirus vaccine,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 21, 2020, https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/mastercard-won-t-send-staff-back-to-office-without-coronavirus-vaccine-20200521-p54v12.html
  14. [14]David Benfell, “COVID-19 points to a future gone entirely wrong,” Not Housebroken, May 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/20/covid-19-points-to-a-future-gone-entirely-wrong/
  15. [15]Joel Achenbach et al., “Coronavirus hot spots erupt across the country; experts warn of second wave in South,” Washington Post, May 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/coronavirus-hot-spots-erupt-across-the-country-experts-warn-of-possible-outbreaks-in-south/2020/05/20/49bc6d10-9ab4-11ea-a282-386f56d579e6_story.html; John F. Harris, “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/30/coronavirus-shutdown-altitude-ethics-223569; Chong Koh Ping and Matthew Dalton, “Coronavirus Case Count Tops Five Million World-Wide,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-latest-news-05-21-2020-11590043161
  16. [16]Adam Cancryn and Nancy Cook, “Health officials want Trump to ‘double down, not lighten up’ restrictions,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/coronavirus-economy-trump-restart-145222; David Wallace-Wells, “We Are Probably Only One-Tenth of the Way Through This Pandemic,” New York, April 17, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/we-are-probably-only-a-tenth-of-the-way-through-the-pandemic.html; David Wallace-Wells, “There Is Still No Plan,” New York, May 7, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/white-house-plan-for-ending-coronavirus-stay-at-home-orders.html; Holly Yan, “5 common arguments for reopening the economy — and why experts say they are flawed,” CNN, May 11, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/11/us/reopening-the-economy-flawed-arguments-trnd/index.html
  17. [17]Associated Press, “2.4 million Americans sought jobless aid last week; 39 million since coronavirus struck,” Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-21/coronavirus-jobless-unemployment-benefits; John Cassidy, “The Most Alarming Thing About the Worst Jobs Report in History,” New Yorker, May 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-most-alarming-thing-about-the-worst-jobs-report-in-history; Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Workers File 2.4 Million Unemployment Claims,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-employed-arent-counted-in-wave-of-unemployment-claims-11590053402; William Gumede, “The impact of coronavirus could compare to the Great Depression,” Al Jazeera, May 3, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/impact-coronavirus-compare-great-depression-200420070542882.html; Faiz Siddiqui, “Tesla’s Elon Musk reopens factory, defying county orders and daring officials to arrest him,” Washington Post, May 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/05/11/musk-tesla-factory/; Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Eileen Sullivan, “As Trump Pushes to Reopen, Government Sees Virus Toll Nearly Doubling,” New York Times, May 4, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/04/us/politics/trump-coronavirus-death-toll.html; Charles Thompson, “Two central Pa. counties say they plan to reopen ahead of Gov. Wolf’s schedule,” Harrisburg Patriot-News, May 8, 2020, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2020/05/dauphin-lebanon-county-officials-declare-themselves-ready-to-reopen-say-they-will-break-from-gov-wolfs-plan.html;
  18. [18]David Benfell, “We are not going to be alright,” Not Housebroken, March 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/21/we-are-not-going-to-be-alright/; David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/; David Benfell, “When nothing happened next,” Not Housebroken, March 29, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/29/when-nothing-happened-next/; David Benfell, “The worst of times and the worst of humanity,” Not Housebroken, April 2, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/02/the-worst-of-times-and-the-worst-of-humanity/; David Benfell, “As we cower in our apartments,” Not Housebroken, April 6, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/06/as-we-cower-in-our-apartments/; David Benfell, “I fear for our world,” Not Housebroken, April 9, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/09/i-fear-for-our-world/; David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/; David Benfell, “Don’t just say #COVIDIOTS,” Not Housebroken, April 19, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/19/dont-just-say-covidiots/; David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/; David Benfell, “Elite priorities: Why social, animal, and environmental justice remains essential with COVID-19,” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/26/elite-priorities-why-social-animal-and-environmental-justice-remains-essential-with-covid-19/; David Benfell, “We may die at home or we may die alone but we are surely dying,” Not Housebroken, April 28, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/28/we-may-die-at-home-or-we-may-die-alone-but-we-are-surely-dying/; Jonathan Chait, “Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe,” New York, April 20, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/trump-coronavirus-open-state-governors-protests.html; David Frum, “Why Mitch McConnell Wants States to Go Bankrupt,” Atlantic, April 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/04/why-mitch-mcconnell-wants-states-go-bankrupt/610714/; Ed Kilgore, “Could Trump Go the Way of Herbert Hoover?” New York, May 4, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/could-herbert-hoovers-fate-be-trumps.html; Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america; Robert McCartney, “McConnell’s rejection of federal aid for states risks causing a depression, analysts say,” Washington Post, April 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/mcconnells-rejection-of-federal-aid-for-states-risks-causing-a-depression-analysts-say/2020/04/26/1fd4731c-8632-11ea-a3eb-e9fc93160703_story.html; Jennifer Rubin, “Mitch McConnell cries ‘Uncle!’” Washington Post, April 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/28/mcconnell-cries-uncle/

I may have a housing problem next year

Housekeeping

I’ve been trying to sort out the question of what I will do about moving by next June 29, 2021. It looks like affordable rents in major metropolitan areas are hard to come by,[1] even around here.[2]

One of the oddities of my current situation is that where I’ve seen Aion, which owns the complex I live in now, before, on the San Francisco peninsula, the apartments are all high-end luxury complexes meant to appeal to well-paid tech workers. So I have to very strongly suspect that what’s going on here is what Alison Johnson said of Atlanta: “Landlords want to raise rents as high as possible to attract higher-income people into those units.”[3]

My apartment isn’t large—536 square feet—and an initial perusal finds many around Pittsburgh, even in outlying areas, with even less space renting for a lot more. It’s an old complex, even if my apartment is relatively nice on the inside, occupied mainly by working class and poor people, many of color. Hence, I suspect, figure 1, just a very short drive away. This complex is distinctly out of character for what I’ve seen with Aion on the San Francisco peninsula.
IMG_0038
Fig. 1. Gratuitous gun on display at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post on Cochrans Mill Road in South Park, Pennsylvania. Photograph by author, October 27, 2019.

Do I suspect gentrification? Hell, yes. I’ve suspected it very nearly since I moved in. I don’t know how well it will work, although there’s a new complex, only partly complete and still under construction, nearby that’s very clearly meant for better off folks.

Meanwhile, I’m hearing enough horror stories from passengers to know that there are plenty of slumlords around here who operate pretty much with impunity.
upinarms-map-large
Fig. 2. Colin Woodard’s sociocultural regions.[4]

At the moment, I’m very much feeling damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I’m not really comfortable moving into a more conservative area, like West Virginia or Ohio, or really any county around Allegheny County, which I’m finding plenty conservative enough (although Butler County might work).

On a recent foray into Beaver County, I saw lots of “Why I Stand” banners prominently displayed in multiple locations, featuring the U.S. flag. I’m pretty sure these refer to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest.[5] I think Colin Woodard’s mapping of Greater Appalachia (figure 2) does not extend far enough north.

If I move north, say into what Woodard calls Yankeedom (figure 2), I face a more severe climate, which could also mean even less business for Uber and Lyft in winter. It was hard enough even getting through this last winter in Pittsburgh.

The known random element in all this is the pandemic, which as a country, the U.S. is just handling all wrong. As the economy gets worse,[6] Aion might find a wrench in its monkey works.


Pandemic

Nesrine Malik, “It’s no accident Britain and America are the world’s biggest coronavirus losers,” Guardian, May 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/10/anglo-american-coronavirus-crisis


  1. [1]Kate Gibson, “Minimum wage doesn’t cover the rent anywhere in the U.S.,” CBS News, June 14, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/minimum-wage-doesnt-cover-the-rent-anywhere-in-the-u-s/; Michael Sainato, “‘We’re technically homeless’: the eviction epidemic plaguing the US,” Guardian, February 11, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/11/us-eviction-rates-causes-richmond-atlanta
  2. [2]Ryan Deto, “The displacement of Anthony Hardison from his Lawrenceville apartment is a microcosm of a neighborhood epidemic,” Pittsburgh City Paper, January 15, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/the-displacement-of-anthony-hardison-from-his-lawrenceville-apartment-is-a-microcosm-of-a-neighborhood-epidemic/Content?oid=16556108
  3. [3]Alison Johnson, quoted in Michael Sainato, “‘We’re technically homeless’: the eviction epidemic plaguing the US,” Guardian, February 11, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/11/us-eviction-rates-causes-richmond-atlanta
  4. [4]I believe I found this map in an online article, probably at Colin Woodard, “Up in Arms,” Tufts, Fall, 2013, http://www.tufts.edu/alumni/magazine/fall2013/fe
    atures/up-in-arms.html
    , which is presently off line, but that pointed me to the book by Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011) whereupon a similar map, but not in color, appears on the cover.
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Colin Kaepernick is right,” Not Housebroken, July 3, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/03/colin-kaepernick-is-right/
  6. [6]Adam Serwer, “The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying,” Atlantic, May 9, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/americas-racial-contract-showing/611389/; David Benfell, “Yet again, a season for cynicism,” Not Housebroken, May 10, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/10/yet-again-a-season-for-cynicism/; Aaron Blake, “The timeline of Trump’s coronavirus response is increasingly damning,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/07/timeline-trumps-coronavirus-response-is-increasingly-damning/; John Cassidy, “The Most Alarming Thing About the Worst Jobs Report in History,” New Yorker, May 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-most-alarming-thing-about-the-worst-jobs-report-in-history; Jonathan Chait, “Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe,” New York, April 20, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/trump-coronavirus-open-state-governors-protests.html; Zak Cheney-Rice, “Even Naked, America Cannot See Itself,” New York, April 27, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/coronavirus-inequality-america.html; Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/first-the-coronavirus-pandemic-took-their-jobs-then-it-wiped-out-their-health-insurance/2020/04/18/1c2cb5bc-7d7c-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html; William Gumede, “The impact of coronavirus could compare to the Great Depression,” Al Jazeera, May 3, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/impact-coronavirus-compare-great-depression-200420070542882.html; John F. Harris, “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/30/coronavirus-shutdown-altitude-ethics-223569; Zoë Hu, “A New Age of Destructive Austerity After the Coronavirus,” New Republic, April 23, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157417/new-age-destructive-austerity-coronavirus; Sarah Jones, “Dear Rich People: Please Stop Hoarding Things,” New York, March 30, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/things-are-bad-and-rich-people-arent-helping.html; Laura Kalmes, “It’s our fault young people refuse to stay home,” Ozy, March 26, 2020, https://www.ozy.com/news-and-politics/its-our-fault-young-people-refuse-to-stay-home/293136/; Justin Lahart, “Great Depression Unemployment Levels Are on Tap,” Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/great-depression-unemployment-levels-are-on-tap-11587053071; Justin Lahart, “Why the Economy Was Even Worse than the GDP Report,” Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-economy-was-even-worse-than-the-gdp-report-11588176851; Heather Long, “U.S. now has 22 million unemployed as economy sinks toward Depression-like scenario,” Washington Post, April 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/16/unemployment-claims-coronavirus/; Heather Long, “U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in first quarter, biggest decline since the Great Recession,” April 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/29/gdp-coronavirus/; Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/; Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america; Nesrine Malik, “It’s no accident Britain and America are the world’s biggest coronavirus losers,” Guardian, May 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/10/anglo-american-coronavirus-crisis; Eric Morath, Harriet Torry, and Gwynn Guilford, “A Second Round of Coronavirus Layoffs Has Begun. Few Are Safe,” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-second-round-of-coronavirus-layoffs-has-begun-no-one-is-safe-11586872387; Joe Pinsker, “The Four Possible Timelines for Life Returning to Normal,” Atlantic, March 30, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-social-distancing-over-back-to-normal/608752/; David Roth, “The Enduring Delusion of a Chastened Trump,” New Republic, April 3, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157154/enduring-delusion-chastened-trump; Eugene Scott, “4 reasons coronavirus is hitting black communities so hard,” Washington Post, April 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/10/4-reasons-coronavirus-is-hitting-black-communities-so-hard/; Andy Sullivan and Brad Brooks, “‘The government is failing us’: Laid-off Americans struggle in coronavirus crisis,” Reuters, May 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-07/coronavirus-weekly-jobless-unemployment-numbers; David Wallace-Wells, “We Are Probably Only One-Tenth of the Way Through This Pandemic,” New York, April 17, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/we-are-probably-only-a-tenth-of-the-way-through-the-pandemic.html; William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and Joel Achenbach, “States rushing to reopen are likely making a deadly error, coronavirus models and experts warn,” Washington Post, April 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/22/reopening-america-states-coronavirus/; Ben White, “Trump faces the risk of a coronavirus cliff,” Politico, April 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/28/trump-reopening-coronavirus-213535; Dawson White and Chacour Koop, “Confirmed coronavirus cases top 1 million in US. ‘We have to have a breakthrough,’” Sacramento Bee, April 28, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/site-services/newsletters/breaking-news-alerts/article242302716.html; Matt Zapotosky et al., “Trump administration pushing to reopen much of the U.S. next month,” Washington Post, April 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/trump-reopen-us-economy/2020/04/09/10d42b4a-7a7b-11ea-9bee-c5bf9d2e3288_story.html

The new geography of economics: ‘Coronavirus cliffs’

Today marks the completion of my 61st journey around the sun. There is, as there has been on numerous previous such milestones, absolutely nothing to celebrate.


Recession

Mitch McConnell continues to play the ‘bad guy,’ helping to defend neoliberal priorities.[1] This enables Democrats to pretend to want much more spending—they don’t and would be sounding a very similar note to what we hear from McConnell if they controlled the presidency and the Senate—in the name of economic recovery, for which read, reasserting economic power relationships.[2] This way, the Republicans continue to appeal to so-called “fiscal conservatives” (mostly capitalist libertarians and neoconservatives) while Donald Trump holds on to his authoritarian populist and social conservative base, the Democrats appeal to functionalist conservatives, neoconservatives, and progressives, and both parties are happy, at least through November, no matter who wins. But as usual, workers will get stiffed and the environment will get stiffed. In other words, politics as usual.

What remains to be seen is how well it all works and what happens when, as now seems almost certain, we plunge over what Ben White calls the ‘coronavirus cliff’[3] because neither party really wants the stimulus that is needed.[4]

On May 8, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its monthly unemployment report. Watch this report and the one in the following month, on June 5.[5] These are the first reports that will fully reflect the ‘cliff’ we have in fact already fallen over and are still tumbling down.[6] As these numbers sink in, watch the reaction. That will tell you much more than what we’re hearing right now.

There is a new blog post entitled, “On a baffling presumption of goodwill toward ‘essential’ workers.”

Martina Hund-Mejean and Marcela Escobari, “Our employment system has failed low-wage workers. How can we rebuild?” Brookings, April 28, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/04/28/our-employment-system-is-failing-low-wage-workers-how-do-we-make-it-more-resilient/

Ben White, “Trump faces the risk of a coronavirus cliff,” Politico, April 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/28/trump-reopening-coronavirus-213535

Justin Lahart, “Why the Economy Was Even Worse than the GDP Report,” Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-economy-was-even-worse-than-the-gdp-report-11588176851

Heather Long, “U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in first quarter, biggest decline since the Great Recession,” April 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/29/gdp-coronavirus/


Pandemic

I’m guessing there is going to be a run on four-ply microfiber cloth.[7]

Matthew Cox, “Army Says It Has Found the Best Fabric for DIY Face Masks,” Military.com, April 28, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/04/28/army-says-it-has-found-best-fabric-face-masks.html

Taylor Telford and Kimberly Kindy, “Trump to order meat plants to stay open in pandemic, person familiar with action says,” Washington Post, April 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/28/trump-meat-plants-dpa/


  1. [1]Ben White, “Trump faces the risk of a coronavirus cliff,” Politico, April 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/28/trump-reopening-coronavirus-213535
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/
  3. [3]Ben White, “Trump faces the risk of a coronavirus cliff,” Politico, April 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/28/trump-reopening-coronavirus-213535
  4. [4]Anne Applebaum, “The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff,” Atlantic, March 15, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-showed-america-wasnt-task/608023/; David Benfell, “Elite priorities: Why social, animal, and environmental justice remains essential with COVID-19,” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/26/elite-priorities-why-social-animal-and-environmental-justice-remains-essential-with-covid-19/; David Blanchflower, “Pandemic Economics: ‘Much Worse, Very Quickly,” New York Review of Books, March 26, 2020, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/03/26/pandemic-economics-much-worse-very-quickly/; Kim Hart, “The coronavirus economy will devastate those who can least afford it,” Axios, March 23, 2020, https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-economy-layoffs-children-families-bad-d588cc93-ff26-4031-8be8-5654cce05a15.html; Zoë Hu, “A New Age of Destructive Austerity After the Coronavirus,” New Republic, April 23, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157417/new-age-destructive-austerity-coronavirus; Sarah Jones, “Dear Rich People: Please Stop Hoarding Things,” New York, March 30, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/things-are-bad-and-rich-people-arent-helping.html; Hanna Kozlowska, “Coronavirus is revealing ugly truths about social structure in the US,” Quartz, March 14, 2020, https://qz.com/1818548/coronavirus-is-revealing-ugly-truths-about-social-structure-in-the-us/; Eric Levitz, “In the Age of the Coronavirus, Biden’s ‘Results’ Require Bernie’s ‘Revolution,’” New York, March 16, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/who-won-the-democratic-debate-between-biden-and-bernie-coronavirus.html; Tony Romm, “Uber drivers and other gig economy workers were promised unemployment benefits. It may be a long wait,” Washington Post, April 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/02/uber-airbnb-lyft-unemployment-coronavirus/; Jenny Schuetz, “America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus,” Brookings, March 12, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/03/12/americas-inequitable-housing-system-is-completely-unprepared-for-coronavirus/; Luke Taylor, “When coronavirus is behind us, will you still think of restaurant and bar workers?” Vox, March 21, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/3/21/21188210/coronavirus-restaurant-bar-workers-economy-service-industry; Reis Thebault, Andrew Ba Tran, and Vanessa Williams, “The coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/07/coronavirus-is-infecting-killing-black-americans-an-alarmingly-high-rate-post-analysis-shows/; Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020, https://newint.org/features/2020/03/18/untenable-luxury-self-isolation; Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Denise Lu, and Gabriel J.X. Dance, “Location Data Says It All: Staying at Home During Coronavirus Is a Luxury,” New York Times, April 3, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/03/us/coronavirus-stay-home-rich-poor.html
  5. [5]Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Schedule of Releases for the Employment Situation,” n.d., https://www.bls.gov/schedule/news_release/empsit.htm
  6. [6]David Blanchflower, “Pandemic Economics: ‘Much Worse, Very Quickly,” New York Review of Books, March 26, 2020, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/03/26/pandemic-economics-much-worse-very-quickly/; Justin Lahart, “Washington’s Trillions Alone Can’t Stop the Jobpocalypse,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/washingtons-trillions-alone-cant-stop-the-jobpocalypse-11585235110; Justin Lahart, “Why the Economy Was Even Worse than the GDP Report,” Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-economy-was-even-worse-than-the-gdp-report-11588176851; Heather Long, “U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in first quarter, biggest decline since the Great Recession,” April 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/29/gdp-coronavirus/; Derek Thompson, “All the Coronavirus Statistics Are Flawed,” Atlantic, March 26, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/fog-pandemic/608764/
  7. [7]Matthew Cox, “Army Says It Has Found the Best Fabric for DIY Face Masks,” Military.com, April 28, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/04/28/army-says-it-has-found-best-fabric-face-masks.html

Journalists chasing their own tails

Mostly, about now, journalists are chasing their tails.


Recession

Right now, there is bullshit that cancels itself out. In disgust, I might post on Twitter about it, but not see fit to post here about it. For example,

What’s happening here? A neoliberal is lying, again, trying to sound progressive, again, but absolutely nothing of substance. A big fat zero. I didn’t even look at the CNN story and I certainly didn’t archive it.

To get an idea how far off the table further stimulus really is, consider that while Nancy Pelosi ostensibly wants to force the inclusion of aid for states in the next stimulus package, Donald Trump wants to force states into reopening early by withholding further aid.[1] In addition, Mitch McConnell blames richer states’ liberal budget priorities and wants them to use bankruptcy instead, even though this would likely lead to another big-D Depression.[2] Which means none of this is going anywhere.

My standards for bullshit are higher than this.

Which meant that yesterday, I really didn’t have enough to publish here. Hell, I couldn’t even come up with a headline for what I had.

Robert McCartney, “McConnell’s rejection of federal aid for states risks causing a depression, analysts say,” Washington Post, April 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/mcconnells-rejection-of-federal-aid-for-states-risks-causing-a-depression-analysts-say/2020/04/26/1fd4731c-8632-11ea-a3eb-e9fc93160703_story.html

Pandemic

That said, yesterday, there was a new blog post entitled, “Elite priorities: Why social, animal, and environmental justice remains essential with COVID-19.”

Phoebe Weston, “‘We did it to ourselves’: scientist says intrusion into nature led to pandemic,” Guardian, April 25, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/25/ourselves-scientist-says-human-intrusion-nature-pandemic-aoe


North Korea

To the outside world, North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un has gone missing. Rumors are flying. Nobody really knows what’s going on.[3] This has been going on for a few days now, and it seems to me the tenor of the speculation has reached a certain pitch even as the South Koreans, who should be (but aren’t necessarily) better at reading these tea leaves than anyone, say there’s nothing to it.[4] Here, I archive these stories more as a precaution, but really, they’re just a summary of, well, nothing.

Choe Sang-Hun, “South Korea Confident That Rumors of Kim Jong-un Illness Are Wrong,” New York Times, April 27, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/26/world/asia/kim-jong-un-health.html

Didi Tang, “South Korean officials say Kim Jong‑un is ‘alive and well,’” Times, April 27, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/kim-jong-uns-train-offers-clue-to-north-korean-despots-mystery-absence-q9g5h3fq2


  1. [1]Jonathan Chait, “Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe,” New York, April 20, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/trump-coronavirus-open-state-governors-protests.html
  2. [2]David Frum, “Why Mitch McConnell Wants States to Go Bankrupt,” Atlantic, April 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/04/why-mitch-mcconnell-wants-states-go-bankrupt/610714/; Robert McCartney, “McConnell’s rejection of federal aid for states risks causing a depression, analysts say,” Washington Post, April 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/mcconnells-rejection-of-federal-aid-for-states-risks-causing-a-depression-analysts-say/2020/04/26/1fd4731c-8632-11ea-a3eb-e9fc93160703_story.html
  3. [3]Didi Tang, “South Korean officials say Kim Jong‑un is ‘alive and well,’” Times, April 27, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/kim-jong-uns-train-offers-clue-to-north-korean-despots-mystery-absence-q9g5h3fq2
  4. [4]Choe Sang-Hun, “South Korea Confident That Rumors of Kim Jong-un Illness Are Wrong,” New York Times, April 27, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/26/world/asia/kim-jong-un-health.html

A sickness more deadly than COVID-19 itself

Pandemic

In March, the History Channel published an article on the Spanish Flu—this is what they’re talking about when you hear about 1918 in reference to hasty reopenings of the economy. The story then is complicated by war with troops being sent even as, it turned out, they were infected, spreading a deadlier mutation of the virus disastrously to Europe.[1] But the rationale for the lockdown has peer reviewed backing in the Journal of the American Medical Association. History may not repeat, but it rhymes, and it’d be smart not to repeat the mistakes some U.S. cities made with the Spanish Flu.[2] As a country, we seem unwilling to learn from that history.[3]

The trouble, of course, is the economy,[4] and an unemployment rate estimated at between 15 and 20 percent.[5] But what this really says is that we are unwilling to actually take care of people, to give them money to tide them over, even, allegedly, to save their lives. Because neoliberalism, you know, is more fucking important than anything.[6]

So be sure to whisper your devotion to the “invisible hand” as you or your loved ones get sick, as you or they drown in their own lung fluids, in a panic, desperately trying to breathe. The capitalist god demands your sacrifice and theirs.[7]

William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and Joel Achenbach, “States rushing to reopen are likely making a deadly error, coronavirus models and experts warn,” Washington Post, April 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/22/reopening-america-states-coronavirus/

Zoë Hu, “A New Age of Destructive Austerity After the Coronavirus,” New Republic, April 23, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157417/new-age-destructive-austerity-coronavirus

George Packer, “We Are Living in a Failed State,” Atlantic, June 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/06/underlying-conditions/610261/


  1. [1]Dave Roos, “Why the Second Wave of the 1918 Spanish Flu Was So Deadly,” History Channel, March 30, 2020, https://www.history.com/news/spanish-flu-second-wave-resurgence
  2. [2]Howard Markel et al., “Nonpharmaceutical Interventions Implemented by US Cities During the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic,” Journal of the American Medical Association 298, no. 6 (2007), doi: 10.1001/jama.298.6.644
  3. [3]William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and Joel Achenbach, “States rushing to reopen are likely making a deadly error, coronavirus models and experts warn,” Washington Post, April 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/22/reopening-america-states-coronavirus/
  4. [4]William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and Joel Achenbach, “States rushing to reopen are likely making a deadly error, coronavirus models and experts warn,” Washington Post, April 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/22/reopening-america-states-coronavirus/
  5. [5]Rachel Siegel and Andrew Van Dam, “4.4 million Americans sought jobless benefits last week, as economic pain continued across the United States,” Washington Post, April 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/23/economy-coronavirus-unemployment/
  6. [6]Zoë Hu, “A New Age of Destructive Austerity After the Coronavirus,” New Republic, April 23, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157417/new-age-destructive-austerity-coronavirus
  7. [7]David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/

Caste in the U.S.A.

Class

David Atkins is arrogant, but there’s a key word “persuadable” that I think those who respond to him fail to consider. Atkins is really talking about political ramifications, how the shots of Nancy Pelosi’s refrigerators, filled with an exclusive brand of ice cream, will affect the election.

His respondents are talking, importantly, about class. And there is a real problem in that the poor lack a substantive—except through its absence—voice in politics, in a system, we should note, that is designed to exclude their voices.[1]

So the question arises as to whether the Democrats, more properly called neoliberals, can in fact win without the poor and the progressives. It didn’t work in 2016 and there’s reason to suspect it won’t in 2020:

There is a new blog post entitled, “A constitutional oligarchy: Deconstructing Federalist No. 10.”

Kanishk Tharoor, “The Exclusivity Economy,” review of The Velvet Rope Economy: How Inequality Became Big Business by Nelson D. Schwartz, New Republic, April 21, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157153/velvet-rope-economy-book-review-rich-exclusivity-hides-inequality


Pandemic


  1. [1]David Benfell, “A constitutional oligarchy: Deconstructing Federalist No. 10,” Not Housebroken, April 22, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/22/a-constitutional-oligarchy-deconstructing-federalist-no-10/

Don’t call it a recession. This is what neoliberals call a ‘vacation.’

Recession

Mark Blyth wrote of European Union-imposed austerity in the recession precipitated by the financial crisis of 2008,

The notion that unemployment is voluntary is, in the context of the current self-inflicted wound in Europe, downright offensive. Real workers must pay bills and feed families from jobs that have fixed hours and fixed wage rates. The idea that workers “trade off” labor against leisure by figuring out the real wage rate and then slacking off or going on an indefinite unpaid leave is the type of thinking that leads us to see the Great Depression as a giant, unexpected, and astonishingly long unpaid vacation for millions of people: original, yes; helpful, no.[1]

Intellectually, neoliberalism stands utterly discredited,[2] but it remains mainstream Democratic Party ideology and an ideology professed by Republicans even when they run up huge deficits on their turns in power.[3] I have concluded, in fact, that the defense of neoliberalism is a higher priority for Democrats even than winning elections—the latter is merely a means to the former.[4] And certainly Nancy Pelosi’s dithering on economic relief[5] does nothing to dispel this conclusion.

Meanwhile, Luke Taylor offers an introduction to some of my passengers,[6] although I doubt many of them are nearly so creative as he claims. Whatever. They aren’t going anywhere now.

David J. Lynch and Heather Long, “U.S. economy deteriorating faster than anticipated as 80 million Americans are forced to stay at home,” Washington Post, March 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/20/us-economy-deteriorating-faster-than-anticipated-80-million-americans-forced-stay-home/

Luke Taylor, “When coronavirus is behind us, will you still think of restaurant and bar workers?” Vox, March 21, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/3/21/21188210/coronavirus-restaurant-bar-workers-economy-service-industry


  1. [1]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University, 2013), 159.
  2. [2]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013); Amir Fleischmann, “The Myth of the Fiscal Conservative,” Jacobin, March 5, 2017, https://jacobinmag.com/2017/03/fiscal-conservative-social-services-austerity-save-money; Jason Hickel, “Progress and its discontents,” New Internationalist, August 7, 2019, https://newint.org/features/2019/07/01/long-read-progress-and-its-discontents; Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); Robert Kuttner, “Austerity never works: Deficit hawks are amoral — and wrong,” Salon, May 5, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/05/austerity_never_works_deficit_hawks_are_amoral_and_wrong/; Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead, 2011); Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, “Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel,” Nation, July 6, 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/austerity-has-failed-an-open-letter-from-thomas-piketty-to-angela-merkel/; John Quiggin, “Austerity Has Been Tested, and It Failed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013, http://chronicle.com/article/Austerity-Has-Been-Tested-and/139255/; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “How Austerity Kills,” New York Times, May 12, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/opinion/how-austerity-kills.html; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills,” Salon, May 19, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/19/paul_krugmans_right_austerity_kills/
  3. [3]Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156994/democrats-screwed
  4. [4]David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/
  5. [5]Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156994/democrats-screwed; Jeff Stein et al., “Senate Republicans release massive economic stimulus bill for coronavirus response,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/
  6. [6]Luke Taylor, “When coronavirus is behind us, will you still think of restaurant and bar workers?” Vox, March 21, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/3/21/21188210/coronavirus-restaurant-bar-workers-economy-service-industry

The neoliberal speed bump

Recession

I don’t recall Barack Obama ever even in the slightest way apologizing for this “painful legacy:”

Yet the need to rescue large parts of the economy is running into the painful legacy of the 2008 bailout, which was criticized for putting banks and other companies that helped cause the financial crisis before struggling homeowners and workers ravaged by the Great Recession. The $700 billion bank bailout elicited a voter backlash, which means any aid this time is likely to have large strings attached. Those could include limits on executive compensation, prohibitions on stock buybacks and, most prominent, measures to force bailed out companies to keep workers on their payrolls.[1]

Neoliberals are as self-righteous as any evangelical Protestant. While just about everyone else is emphasizing a need for speed over “getting it right,”[2]

“Nancy Pelosi is officially to the right of Tom Cotton on economic support for American families,” HuffPost reporter Zach Carter tweeted on Sunday. “This is a total failure of Democratic Party leadership.”[3]

Now, rather than apologize for painfully prolonging the “Great Recession,” neoliberals are delaying a badly needed bailout.

Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic

Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html


  1. [1]Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html
  2. [2]Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic; Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html
  3. [3]Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic