I’ve been seeing these memes and similarly-themed posts on social media:
I also saw (but cannot now find) a response meme that was exactly right: This isn’t a test run of a Sanders presidency, it is an ACTUAL situation under the TRUMP administration.
It is the TRUMP administration that was so lax, so apathetic, so inefficient and corrupt and broken that they could not prepare properly for a crisis even with MONTHS of lead time. It was January when we all knew about this outbreak, because that was when the Chinese New Year was canceled; and then we all knew that it was something serious. January. And what did the Trump administration do to get ready for the inevitable, when the disease came to the United States? As all diseases do, because there is no realistic way to quarantine any nation in this globally-connected world? As SARS did, as MERS did, as swine flu and avian flu did, as even goddamn Ebola did?
Nothing. They did nothing.
Okay, not nothing. They restricted travel by limiting visas, and quarantined people returning from China where the outbreak started in December; and these tactics have some positive effect, because they slow the spread of infection and give the medical community time to react and plan and prepare. Except the Trump administration did not allocate additional resources: did not stockpile test kits or obvious useful supplies like masks and gloves and sanitation materials; did not rapidly begin increasing capacity in intensive care units or even start planning for a possible rapid increase. No: the president tweeted, and his cronies repeated, that the border was locked “airtight” and everything was fine.
And then, when the shit started to hit the fan, and people responded entirely predictably, with panic-buying things they thought they would need, the administration did — absolutely nothing. This is also entirely predictable, because it is a tenet of free market capitalism: let the markets determine supply and demand, price and availability. The market determined that, at the current price, the supply of toilet paper and sanitation supplies was insufficient to meet the demand.
So be it. Sometimes things go sideways, and while there are some fucked up people who do fucked up things, and who should be stopped from pulling that crap — like these guys, who were stopped, and who now just get to sit on their hoard while they are investigated for criminal price-gouging; or these women who fought each other over toilet paper (I will note this happened in Australia) — for the most part, it’s manageable. I mean, some people may run out of toilet paper, but they can still poop.
In the end, as long as we are alive, we can all still poop.
That’s clearly the larger point, here. As maddening as it is that people are panicking, and while it’s certainly true that some people will suffer because they cannot get supplies they need, those things will almost certainly not be life-threatening. (I have not heard that medicines are being hoarded to the point of shortages; if that is happening, then it is life-threatening. I hope not. The novel coronavirus is bad enough without us killing each other.) I don’t believe that life is always the only thing that matters; but certainly it always matters more than toilet paper.
As important as that point is (And as much fun as it is to say it), it was not the point I wanted to make here. The point I wanted to make here comes back to that meme about Bernie Sanders: it has to do with the biggest issue that voters seem to have with Bernie Sanders, and is apparently the reason why Joe Biden is currently winning the race for the Democratic nomination despite being the worst available candidate: it’s because Bernie Sanders is associated with…
Look at it! LOOK AT ALL THAT SOCIALISM!
(That last one is my wife’s favorite. Because skulls. Though she also likes the hammer and chain image. By the way, my wife is the amazing artist found here.)
That’s right, socialism. Scary, spooky socialism. You know: the
political, social and economic philosophy encompassing a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers’ self-management of enterprises. It includes the political theories and movements associated with such systems. Social ownership can be public, collective, cooperative or of equity. While no single definition encapsulates many types of socialism, social ownership is the one common element. It aims to circumvent the inefficiencies and crises traditionally associated with capital accumulation and the profit system in capitalism.
Come on, guys. Come on. Even Wikipedia knows that there are different kinds and layers of socialism. Democratic socialism, which is what Bernie Sanders espouses, is not Marxist state-controlled socialism. The argument that Sanders’s socialism will lead to Castro’s socialism is an absurdly precipitous slippery slope argument — and anyone who has ever got caught drinking or smoking pot, and who then had to listen to their parents tell them that they were going to be shooting heroin within a matter of hours, knows the problem with the slippery slope argument.
Pot is not a gateway to heroin. Neither is alcohol. There is no logical reason to assume that one thing will inevitably lead to another related thing, particularly not when the guy you are accusing of pushing us down that slope has a very clear record of fighting the centralized authoritarianism that is the actual threat in full-blown Marxist socialism; even his opposition to gun control is evidence of his desire to spread power among the people, to reduce the ability of the central government to control its citzens.
Sanders is not a gateway to Mao Zedong.
I know this has been pounded on again and again; I’m sure that people are tired of hearing it, and me saying this is probably not going to change any minds, or any votes. But this current situation seemed like too good of an opportunity for me to let it go by without making this point.
The things that people are doing right now that are driving all of us up the wall? Perfect nutshell depiction of capitalism. Resources are allocated not according to what is most practical or necessary, but according to demand, which is influenced by, among other things, perception and emotion. There are booms and busts, surplus and scarcity; and we just have to roll with the punches in every case. Which is made harder by the assholes doing asshole things, driven by greed, by the profit motive.
The things that people are doing right now that are showing us that we can still have faith in humanity? That’s socialism. People are sharing. Helping one another. Trying to intentionally ration so that other people can get what they need — particularly those who are less independent, who are in greater need. People are sacrificing for the greater good — you know, acting against their own economic self-interest. We are still, to some extent, acting out of self-interest; but the profit we seek is not money: it is perhaps reputation in our community, but most likely, it is simple altruism. Kindness. Our profit is in feeling good about ourselves and our world, because we were able to help someone in need.
I don’t think that this kind of community spirit should become the organizing principle of the country. It wouldn’t work on a national scale, because we can’t always give, but people in need can always take. I don’t think the country should become a classic Marxist state: central planning is deeply inefficient, as has been amply shown by every nation that has tried to pursue it, all of which have turned back to some kind of market economy — which is dangerous in its own right, because individual people can manipulate the market in a hundred terrible ways, and do harm to everyone else in order to profit themselves. And the centralization of power does create opportunities for the rise of authoritarian autocrats like Stalin and Castro. Where capitalism creates opportunities for Jeffrey Epstein, for El Chapo, who could buy the ability to cause enormous suffering with impunity, simply because they were very good at collecting money and then spreading it around.
Clearly, clearly, the answer lies in between: in moderation. In some blend of a market economy, with shared resources managed by some collective body, particularly to create a social safety net for when the market goes ker-blooey. Like now.
There’s no way the free market could handle the coronavirus. Quarantine would never be organized enough to limit the spread; the best a capitalist could do in a pandemic would be to Red Death it: lock themselves away in a castellated abbey and die when the clock strikes midnight on their revels. Any company that could create and charge for the various necessities, particularly tests and vaccines, would charge so much that the rest of the economy would be devastated. Without some kind of central government organization looking after things, there would be so much rampant fraud and exploitation, because everyone is desperate and panicky, that again, the economy would be devastated, and the death toll would be astronomical as people relied on whatever snake oil was offered to them in a compelling way — like the crap being pulled by this shithead, who hasn’t committed a crime (Not this time, at least), but who is at least getting sued by Missouri.
This isn’t even an argument: nobody seriously thinks we should do away with the CDC, with the FDA, with the national guard, with the entire government. So since we are all willing to accept that there are some things that can only be done reasonably by a nationwide government, can we please, please stop pretending that socialism will be the downfall of America? When right now, capitalism and capitalists are clearly the bigger threat?
AS THE NEW CORONAVIRUS spreads illness, death, and catastrophe around the world, virtually no economic sector has been spared from harm. Yet amid the mayhem from the global pandemic, one industry is not only surviving, it is profiting handsomely.
“Pharmaceutical companies view Covid-19 as a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity,” said Gerald Posner, author of “Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America.” The world needs pharmaceutical products, of course. For the new coronavirus outbreak, in particular, we need treatments and vaccines and, in the U.S., tests. Dozens of companies are now vying to make them.
“They’re all in that race,” said Posner, who described the potential payoffs for winning the race as huge. The global crisis “will potentially be a blockbuster for the industry in terms of sales and profits,” he said, adding that “the worse the pandemic gets, the higher their eventual profit.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, my school has been closed temporarily, even though most of my students aren’t in any real danger, so that Covid-19 won’t spread to vulnerable populations. And though I could therefore take a nice, long, paid vacation, I’m going to try to figure out how I can deliver the best possible education I can through remote distance learning to my students. Even though it will take extra work, for which I won’t earn any more money. I’m not in it for the profits — though I am in it for the paycheck. Isn’t that remarkable: a mix of profit motive, and altruism. Sounds pretty American, to me.
Oh– and I’m also going to vote, on Tuesday. For a Democratic Socialist who I know would have handled this crisis better in every way than the billionaire currently sweating on the toilet in the White House.
Do the right thing, everybody. Both with the coronavirus, and your ballot.
Just because it’s the right thing.