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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Why Government Mostly Helps People Who Need It the Least…Even During a Crisis

Why Government Mostly Helps People Who Need It the Least…Even During a Crisis


In January 2020, the NASDAQ stock market’s index stood just under 10,000. In the March crash, it fell to 7,000. As of July 10, 2020, it hit 10,600. The U.S. government’s economic policies produced a “recovery” for the rich who own the vast bulk of stocks. Their holdings are worth more now than before COVID-19 hit us. The other major benchmarks for securities, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard and Poor 500, show similarly dramatic, slightly smaller recoveries.

Massive government economic intervention—what most of its current beneficiaries have always denounced—subsidized those recoveries. The Federal Reserve pumped unprecedented amounts of new money into the U.S. economy after mid-March. That money poured into the stock market and fueled its rise. The U.S. Treasury provided unprecedented direct cash supports to much of corporate America.

Over the same time, government economic support for the working class was too little, too late, and totally inadequate to what could and should have been done. In their unequal impacts, government economic policies were cruel and unjust. In this, they resemble government public health policies. With under 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States accounts for about 25 percent of COVID-19 cases and about 24 percent of COVID-19 deaths globally. All but the most ideologically blinded (and government supporters) know what such a statistic means.

I focus here on how the government’s economic policies affected corporations versus employees, the rich versus the middle class and the poor. Direct government support sustained most corporations. Bigger and richer corporations hire more and better lobbyists, make larger actual or potential donations to politicians and parties, and so on. They thus got big portions of government help. In general, the pandemic and crash hurt medium and small businesses more than big ones, while the latter got disproportionate government help.

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There’s a Crisis in US Capitalism

There’s a Crisis in US Capitalism

Capitalism has always had business cycles. The capitalist enterprises that produce goods and services are distinctively organized around the conflicted relationship of employer and employees and the competitive relationship of markets. These central relationships of capitalism together generate cyclical instability. Wherever capitalism became a society’s economic system over the last three centuries, business cycles recurred every four to seven years. Capitalism has mechanisms to survive its cycles, but they are painful, especially when employers fire employees. Widespread pain (unemployment, bankruptcies, disrupted public finances, etc.) brought the label “crisis” to capitalism’s cyclical downturns. Only on special occasions, and rarely, did the cyclical crises in capitalism become crises of capitalism as a system. That has usually required other non-economic problems (political, cultural, and/or natural) to reach crescendo peaks around the same time as a cyclical economic downturn. Today is a time of crisis both in and of U.S. capitalism.

U.S. economic policy now focuses on what is already the worst business cycle downturn since the 1929 crash. As data accumulate, it may well prove to be the worst in global capitalism’s entire history. Forty million jobless U.S. workers find incomes lost, savings disappearing and over-indebted family finances worsening.

Today’s mass unemployment also threatens those still employed, the remaining 120 million members of the U.S. labor force. Mass unemployment always invites employers to cut wages, benefits and working conditions. If any of their employees quit, many among the millions of unemployed will accept those abandoned jobs. Knowing that, most employees accept their employers’ cuts. Employers will justify them as required by “the pandemic” or by what they say are its effects on their profits.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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