Pandemic omni-crisis shows off the hypocrisy of ‘emergency aid’
Thursday, March 19, 2020
The U.S.’ class-divided society is starkly displayed in national emergencies/crisis moments such as the viral present. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 exhibited how power and resource access dictates survival — wrestling the “survival of the fittest” concept out of history’s dustbin and placing it in today’s more diffuse but nonetheless detectable social engineering machinations.
Real and imagined variations of scarcity, which are constantly lived as reality by working-class and under/unemployed people, panics Wall Street and boardrooms — closing down classrooms, offices, ticket counters, and assembly lines. Layoffs, free time from work, remote work from home, self-quarantining, sheltering in place, and lockdown status are all realities now, and a battle for grocery and drug store goods ensues, while movie theatres, sports arenas, churches, and restaurants are closed and even the presidential election is an uncertainty.
The new normal is the exposed workings of capitalism, laid bare for all to witness in discussions of lack and excess, as well as state actions to mitigate a high-profile death spectacle that could have even neoliberals reconsidering token grad school copies of “The Communist Manifesto.”
Crisis moments, like this coronavirus pandemic, hide a grassroots socialist agenda percolating just beneath the surface of the facade of capitalism’s short-term and always short-sided emergency aid.
Look with a microscope in the cracks and fissures of what U.S. government functionaries offer in a crisis, and you’ll find socialist seedlings sprouting. (Given how paltry the remains will be for other expenses after healthcare bills are paid, you will be hard-pressed to even connect the government’s offerings to any real socialist principles of fairness or resource equity.)
“Emergency aid” is the stuff socialist platforms are made of, minus the socialist platform. Or the aid. And who declares the emergency over? Who decides the criteria? When will normal deprivation and public assistance cuts return?
Class war continues along viral pathogen routes, as this crisis moment requires a spectacular spin job, given this is an election year. Trump’s aid package promises to keep or return some of the very social expenditures, such as food stamps, that were being gutted just yesterday.
Even Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents feel compelled to spin a tale that mass raids are suspended to favor only worse-case scenario arrests. However, it is also reported that more mass arrests are occurring because so many people are at home. If ICE lets up on arrests, the agents will commence digging mass graves in the desert.
Anyone following bipartisan mass deportation policies knows that ICE’s power would not be suspended, but transferred, to another authoritarian policing wing anyway.
Non-citizen residents endure coronavirus’ arrival just as Homeland Security’s public charge rule took effect in late February. This rule states: “An alien who is likely at any time to become a public charge is generally inadmissible to the United States and ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident. Under the final rule, a public charge is defined as an alien who has received one or more public benefits, as defined in the rule, for more than 12 months within any 36-month period.”
If you plan to use Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), General Assistance (GA), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps), or Section 8 Public Housing, then you can be deemed ineligible for lawful permanent citizen status.
But, of course, now they are saying that the public charge rule won’t apply in this emergency. How is this guaranteed? The extreme hardship wrought by non-citizen residents is a chronic crisis, closed or open borders aside.
Trump’s coronavirus aid package shifts his assault on social service infrastructure by throwing some money at a growing pandemic while closing border traffic, too. (Did he close Canada’s northern border first so his southern border restrictions seem less like the political opportunism they so obviously are?)
As these detailed charts show, U.S. cases are on the rise — increasing by 40% in 24 hours. It begs to be stated that this emergency aid package does not build well-stocked hospitals overnight, or a healthy and robust population with hardy immune systems. That would be what universal healthcare would have helped build.
Instead, we are a nation of overworked, stressed out, immune-compromised people: the stuff of Emma Lazarus’ sonnet “The New Colossus.”
Socialist principles lurk in the neoliberal and neo-con bipartisan rhetoric of the Band-Aid emergency aid package and appeals to help the vulnerable while providing major corporate bailouts. Make no mistakes here: enduring socialist principles, or platforms if you will permit, are the true fixes.
The cries of the huddled masses long for universal healthcare; empty prisons; strong unions; free quality public K-12 and higher education; concrete climate change mitigation measures; clean energy transition plans; nationalized essential industries are heard over the din of bipartisan political opportunism.
Coronavirus becomes Trump’s vir(tu)al border wall. Even battling Democratic presidential contenders can set aside differences for a collective humanitarian appeal.
This early March letter about the public charge rule, signed by Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and others, acknowledges that the emergency climate should suspend at least some unjust policies: “We cannot allow the fear this ill-considered rule creates to scare families away from getting the help that they may need if they come into contact with people with COVID-19 or become ill themselves. It is in the public's interest that people are able to come forward free of fear of immigration authorities to mitigate the serious impacts of this public health emergency.”
The above quote says it all: “It is in the public interest,” not the patients’ own interest, that people be tested free of fear. Calling for “...an immediate moratorium on any enforcement-related actions at sensitive medical locations” is fine if “sensitive medical locations” includes homes, neighborhoods, and borders.
What is the definition of “sensitive medical locations” when people are all but forced to stay home or risk life-threatening viral contamination? Meanwhile, asylum seekers crossing the southern border are not mentioned in the letter. And what is “asylum” during a globally recognized pandemic, anyway?
Please note that in these omni-crisis conditions, for asylum seekers; workers and poor people; the uninsured; the religiously persecuted; non-citizen residents; women and gender non-conforming individuals; sexually/racially profiled and targeted groups; and elderly/disabled people, the emergency is capitalism.
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