Money before lives

Money before lives

Senate President of Texas calls on older Americans to sacrifice for the economy and the "American way of life" on – Notes from a Broken Country

While on Twitter right now the hashtag #NotDying4WallStreet# is being shared thousands of times, Acting Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, the second most powerful politician in the state of Texas, made the following comment in an interview on Fox News on Monday of this week (paraphrased):

"If someone were to ask me whether I would be willing at this point in time to go to the United States and possibly risk my life in order to help the American economy and our country, I would say: "I would be willing to go to the United States and risk my life in order to help the American economy and our country "Way of Life" To secure the future of my grandchildren, of course I would take that risk; and I believe countless other grandparents in our country would act just as patriotically."

This statement by a public figure, which can hardly be surpassed in terms of contempt for humanity, gains additional explosiveness through the medium in which it was made. Fox News, as we all know, is the president’s home station, so it is hardly surprising that Trump, in a press conference a few days later, hinted at a new turnaround by the White House in the fight against the virus in the United States.

The president, contrary to any medical expertise, amed that by Easter at the latest the Corona haunting would be over; the Americans could then go back to their normal business, which should mean as much as to stimulate the economy as consumers of goods and services. Easter will, according to Trump, "a beautiful time", and the churches and shopping centers of the country will be filled again. It makes absolutely no sense to fight the Corona crisis with a therapy that in the end causes more damage than the virus itself.

Cold logic of a capitalist system geared to profit maximization

The damage addressed here is, of course, primarily an economic one. Trump squints unabashedly at the stock market index that is supposed to secure his and the Republicans’ re-election in the fall and millions of Americans’ pensions. For this reason, the president dismissed the severity of the pandemic from the start, leading his countrymen to believe it was little more than a common cold.

The fact that he has put the health and lives of thousands of Americans at risk has been pointed out many times in the meantime by many representatives of the individual states who feel that they have been left alone by Washington in the greatest social and logistical challenge since the Second World War.

The nonchalance with which the president and parts of the Republicans now put the economy above the lives of the people themselves can only shock and relegates all relativizing downplaying analyses of the development of the USA under Trump to the realm of naivety. What is at work here is the cold logic of a capitalist system geared to maximizing profits, even at the cost of human lives.

In contrast, it seems almost harmless that in the face of this most severe crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Republican-controlled Senate has proposed a support fund that – as in 2001 and 2008 – will probably again mainly benefit the rough companies, the airlines and the financial sector. However, it will hardly be possible to alleviate the threat of 20 percent unemployment and the plight of people in urban and rural areas whose livelihoods have been lost due to the pandemic.

Precautionary Just-in-Time Capitalism

As Jeffrey Sachs, the world-renowned economist and director of the Institute for Sustainable Economic Development at Columbia University in New York, pointed out in an interview with Democracy Now, Trump is the most incompetent president in U.S. history! the current political and social crisis in the U.S. is not entirely Trump’s fault. While he is by far the most incompetent president in U.S. history, whose vulgar narcissism and contempt for humanity are hard to beat, many of the parameters that have led to this life-threatening situation for the country are systemic and go back longer than Trump’s term in office.

America, and in this respect many other Western countries have followed him in the course of globalization, has perfected a form of just-in-time capitalism in which no provision can be made for extraordinary events such as national and supranational crises. It is only the economic success (or failure) that manifests itself in the short term that pays off pundits and bean counters of the borsen reports and the media finance (Bloomberg News, CNN, MSNBC etc.), who determine the daily events with their analyses and predictions.

What stabilizes the system – and this is also a phenomenon that can now be observed worldwide – is the fatal, blatant entanglement of the media and educational institutions in this system, which as a result can hardly perform their social function as a critical corrective. And finally, the obscene profits possible in the age of global turbo-capitalism allow a few companies with a monopoly position to buy influence over Congress, its composition and thus its decision-making in the interest of perpetuating the status quo.

Wherever the profit maximization of a few is targeted instead of the well-being and security of all members of society, imbalances arise and there is a lack of medical equipment, of well-trained and well-motivated (because well-paid) medical professionals in case of emergency. Worse, it lacks the imagination that a functioning polity that prudently provides for its members is worth ‘more’ in the long run than the stability of Dow Jones and economic data. That such a – in the best sense of the word – caring economic order needs reserves and wants to be financed is beyond question.

As Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist from Vermont and a contender for the Democratic candidacy in November’s election, will not hesitate to point out, the current policy in the U.S. could therefore also be described as a "crisis" socialism for the rich describe. Whenever crises – whether self-inflicted or pubic-induced – narrow profit prospects or even threaten the survival of systemically relevant industries, the state comes to the aid of the threatened companies with billions in capital injections. The deceived and the victimized, as in the financial crisis of 2008, or the old and the sick of the year 2020, on the other hand, usually go away empty-handed. The fact that the latter are now called upon, at least according to the lieutenant governor of Texas on Fox News, to vouch with their bare lives for the continuation of this profoundly inhumane system, marks a policy of money in the U.S. that has never before been expressed with such clarity: money before lives!

Were there not the many admonishing voices, the volunteers and frontline workers of the health care system, the governors and congressmen of states like California, Washington or Vermont, the experts, journalists and intellectuals who for years have been exposing this indescribable decay of political culture in the U.S. on platforms like Democracy Now! critically accompany, one had to despair indeed at this country.

And there is something else that must make one feel comforting (and not a bit gleeful). As reported by several media yesterday, the "jerky" Cuba a brigade of doctors and medical personnel to assist countries such as Italy, but also Venezuela, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Surinam and Grenada in the Corona crisis.

As Peter Kornbluh of the "Cuba Documentation Project" of the National Security Archives at George Washington University notes, the fact that a rough European country like Italy accepts medical aid from a small Caribbean island sanctioned for years by its American neighbor is a remarkable historical event. It shows how committed this small, economically underdeveloped country is to international solidarity and humanity. Whether Cuba’s unprecedented gesture will be noticed in Washington, however, is doubtful.

The author is Chair of North American Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich.

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