we’d all love to see the plan (but we’d have to join the socialist equality party first)

Coronavirus deaths in Pindo nearing 4,000 as Trump washes his hands of responsibility
Benjamin Mateus, Patrick Martin, WSWS, Apr 1 2020

The coronavirus killed at least 812 people in Pindostan Tuesday, the highest death toll since the pandemic began, while nearly 25,000 new cases were reported, bringing the total number infected to more than 188,000, the largest number in the world by far. Along with the unprecedented scale of the infection, its sheer speed is staggering. On Mar 10, there were only 1,000 reported coronavirus infections in Pindostan. Three weeks later, it is nearing 200 times that level. Another such three weeks would see 40 million people infected in Pindostan. The Pindo death toll has not yet reached the level of Italy (12,428) or Spain (8,464), but that is only a matter of days. And White House officials continue to escalate their projections of the total number of deaths in a “best-case” scenario, setting the figure at a staggering 240,000, with Trump himself hinting that the total could be double that. Four countries, Italy, Spain, Pindostan and France, have now seen more deaths than China, where the epidemic first broke out in the city of Wuhan last December. After 3,305 deaths, China claims to have largely suppressed the outbreak through systematic testing, contact tracing and quarantining of those exposed to the coronavirus. The Pindo media and the Trump administration continually describe efforts to counteract the coronavirus as a war, where the front-lines are being drawn in emergency rooms and ICUs throughout Pindostan, and especially in the NYC metropolitan area, where half of all COVID-19 cases are located. On Tuesday the death toll in NYC itself hit 1,096, and 10,000 people were hospitalized, with 2,700 of them requiring ventilators.

But in this war, under the incompetent “commander-in-chief” Trump and his hapless lieutenants among the state governors, the troops are being sent into battle haphazardly, without weapons and largely without regard for their own safety. Health-care workers lack sufficient personal protection equipment, and they are being infected and incapacitated at an alarming rate, with many deaths. In Spain, the health-care workers accounted for 14% of the country’s cases, while in Italy, they accounted for 10%. The same process is under way in Pindostan. NPR reported that 345 employees of Boston’s four largest hospitals have tested positive for COVID-19. In NYC, hundreds of workers have fallen ill. At Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Manhattan, 50% of the intensive-care staff have been infected. The result is that in addition to the shortages of hospital rooms, ICU beds, masks and ventilators, there is a growing shortage of medical staff who can cope with the increasing volume of patients seeking medical attention. Meanwhile, hospitals and health-care systems are threatening doctors and nurses who make their concerns over working conditions public. An emergency room physician, Dr Ming Lin, in Faschingstein state, was fired because he gave an interview to a newspaper complaining about inadequate protective equipment. Ruth Schubert, a spox for the Washington State Nurses Association, told Bloomberg:

Hospitals are muzzling nurses and other healthcare workers in an attempt to preserve their image.

Nurses who have spoken under conditions of anonymity with WSW S reporters said that they have been told they would be fired if they talked to the media. In some cases, state governors have made statements that amount to a confession of bankruptcy. On CNN Live, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland said:

We are all trying to get more testing, but this is a pinch point on testing, on supplies, and materials, and PPE and ventilators. Everybody in Pindostan knows we don’t have enough of these things, and without the tests we are really flying blind. We are guessing about where the outbreaks are, what the infection rates in the hospitals are, and the mortality rates.

However, the Trump White House manages to combine moronic expressions of optimism (largely in the form of testimonials to Trump’s personal genius) with ever more ominous declarations that the death toll in Pindostan will reach six or even seven figures. On Sunday, White House adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said that 100k to 200k deaths was a mid-range figure that could be substantially lowered if proper measures were taken. On Monday, White House coronavirus coordinator Dr Deborah Birx said that 100,000 to 200,000 was now the floor, the best-case scenario if everything went perfectly, while Trump himself declared that a death toll in that range would represent “a good job” by his administration. On Tuesday, Fauci and Birx presented a slide show to a press briefing indicating projections that without severe mitigation, total deaths due to COVID-19 could reach 1.2m to 2.2m. Birx admitted that even with strict mitigation efforts throughout the month of April, the number of deaths could range as high as 240,000. At the peak of such a “best-case” outcome, 4,000 to 5,000 people would be dying every day. Shocking as such figures are, even more outrageous is the blithe indifference displayed by Trump personally and his closest aides to the likely results of their own policy of refusing to conduct a serious struggle to contain the pandemic, not merely mitigate it. Trump himself, towards the end of the press “briefing” that lasted more than two hours, a clear indication, in and of itself, that the White House antivirus campaign is an exercise in political propaganda and media manipulation, made comments that amounted to a self-indictment for criminal negligence on a monumental scale. He said:

We’re going through the worst thing this country has probably ever seen. Look, we had the Civil War. We lost 600,000 people, right? Had we not done anything, we would have lost many times that, but we did something, so it’s going to be hopefully way under that. But you know, we lose more here potentially than you lose in world wars as a country.

Given that the Pindo death toll in WW2 was 405,000, Trump is saying, in his semiliterate and meandering way, that the Pindo death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic could well be between 400,000 and 600,000. There was remarkably little push-back from the journalists of the corporate media who appeared to be in a daze. While several media outlets had taken note that on Tuesday morning, more Pindos had died from coronavirus than were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, not even this comparison, inadequate as it is, was made. The Pindo government’s response is best characterized as malign neglect to a pandemic that was both foreseen and preventable. With complete indifference to the fate of the people, the Trump administration’s primary focus was on ensuring the financial markets were protected. Only when the markets began to implode did the government’s machinery begin to churn to prevent its complete collapse. Everything else was deemed an afterthought. First, on Mar 3, the Federal Reserve slashed rates by 0.5%, the most significant cut since the 2008 financial crisis. On Mar 12, the Federal Reserve added $1.5t of liquidity into the banking systems by massively expanding short-term loans to the banks to keep money markets stable and provide banks with cash in hand. When the markets continued to plummet on Mar 15, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by a full percentage point, down to almost 0.00%. They also resumed quantitative easing by purchasing $500b in treasuries and $200b in mortgage-backed securities. Then Congress rushed through a record $2.2t economic “rescue” bill, whose main purpose was to provide the Treasury and the Federal Reserve the necessary authority to bail out corporate Pindostan and Wall Street.

Comparing the gargantuan and energetic efforts to save the markets with the slapdash, indifferent and grossly incompetent actions in relation to public health, it is easy to see what are the priorities of the Pindo financial aristocracy. But there is another force to be heard from in this crisis, the working class. Instacart, Amazon, and Whole Foods workers have initiated strike actions against forced work under unsafe conditions. Workers at General Electric have protested, demanding their company begin producing ventilators. Many other workers are rebelling against being forced to remain on the job without protective gear. As the crisis escalates, the decisive question is for the working class to develop a conscious political response, recognizing that it must fight the capitalist system as a whole, based on a socialist program.

Airlines, auto companies cut pay even as US government bails out corporations
Shannon Jones, WSWS, Apr 1 2020

Citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, major employers in the US are announcing significant pay reductions and other cost-cutting measures despite the billions that corporations are slated to receive from the recently enacted stimulus package. Workers at major Pindo-based airlines are having their hours and pay reduced, and pay cuts and pay deferments are spreading to other sections of industry as well as state and local governments. The loans and grants provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) stipulate that to be eligible businesses must not reduce their workforce before Sep 30 2020. The CARES Act earmarks $58b for airlines, which is essentially free money, comprising $29b in loans and $29b in grants. An ABC News/WaPo poll found that one-third of Pindos reported a job loss by themselves or a family member, and one half experienced a pay cut or reduction of hours due to the coronavirus pandemic. Further, the poll found a higher impact of job losses or pay cuts on lower income workers. At United Airlines, flight attendants will be paid the minimum required under the terms of their union contract, normally 71 to 78 hours a month. Typically, a flight attendant would work 85 to 110 hours or more. Management is therefore, in effect, cutting pay by 20% to 35%. In a letter to employees, United CEO Oscar Munoz said staff cuts would likely be imposed after Sep 30. Delta is imposing a cut in the workweek to three or four days instead of the normal five. CEO Ed Bastian told employees the cuts would impact ground employees. Invoking demagogy about “shared sacrifice,” Bastian, who made $15m in total compensation last year, said he would take a 100% cut in his base pay, although he will not forgo stock awards, option awards, and other types of compensation. Some 21,000 of 91,000 Delta employees have reportedly taken voluntary short-term unpaid leaves. While Bastian framed the reduction in hours as “voluntary,” managers were reportedly telling employees the cuts were mandatory. In effect the company is furloughing workers, despite preparing to accept federal bailout money stipulating no job reductions. Southwest Airlines has imposed similar measures, and American Airlines is expected to follow the lead of United and Delta. While going hat in hand to the Treasury, it is reported that the top 6 Pindo airlines spent 96% of free cash flow over the past 10 years, not to reinvest in the business or improve employee pay, but on stock buy-backs and dividends to benefit top executives and wealthy investors. One angry Delta worker posted on Facebook:

Call it whatever you want, but if your check is 25% smaller, it’s a PAY CUT.

Another wrote:

They will keep the bailout $$$ for CEO bonuses and shareholders. It will be a miracle if workers actually see it.

Underscoring the hazards faced by airline workers, CNN reported last week that a Philadelphia-based flight attendant with American Airlines, Paul Frishkorn, died of suspected coronavirus infection. Friskhorn was in his 60s and had won awards from American Airlines for customer service. The Detroit-based Pindo auto companies have announced partial salary deferments for their white-collar workforce. In a letter to employees, Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley said that salaried workers not already affected by layoffs would be asked to take a 20% salary deferral, supposedly to be repaid by Mar 15 2021. The move affects some 15,000 employees in Pindostan. The FCA boss hauled in $14.4m in compensation in 2019, including a $1.3m bonus and “incentive” of $9.6m. General Motors previously announced similar pay deferments for all of its 69,000 salaried employees. In addition, the company will furlough 6,500 salaried workers who are not able to work from home, paying them 75% of regular pay. Ford said it would cut pay for 300 executives and take other measures to try to generate cash. The company said that job cuts may be in the offing as conditions warrant. These measures come on top of the savage job cuts already imposed in the auto industry on engineers and other white-collar employees as well as hourly workers. Last year Ford announced the cuts of 7,000 salaried workers from its global operations. Those job reductions were far short of demands by analysts for even more ruthless cost-cutting. The cuts to white-collar workers presages inevitable demands by the auto companies for “shared sacrifice” by hourly workers including lay-offs, wage and benefit cuts and attacks on already seriously eroded working conditions. Demands for pay cuts are not limited to auto and airlines, but are spreading across the economy. General Electric has announced it will cut 10% of jobs in its aviation division. The company also announced a hiring freeze, the cancellation of merit pay increases and will furlough half of its maintenance, repair and engine overhaul workers for 90 days. The layoffs will impact 2,600 hourly and salaried workers. Boeing last month announced it plans to cut 10% of its aviation division workforce. It has cancelled a scheduled salary merit pay increase and will cut non-essential spending while laying off its contingent workers. The company, meanwhile, had requested a $60b bailout by the government. Boeing has spent $43b on stock buybacks since 2009 and was responsible for hundreds of passenger deaths with its defective 737 MAX aircraft.

The past weeks have seen state legislatures in a number of states, including Florida, Georgia and Tennessee reducing scheduled pay raises for teachers. The state of Kentucky seems poised to eliminate a promised $2k pay raise for teachers. Many other states appear ready to follow. Planned protests by teachers demanding pay raises in Tennessee and South Carolina had to be cancelled because of concerns over coronavirus. In Kentucky, teachers drove their cars around the state capitol, horns blaring. Even though the federal government has provided billions to bail out corporations and Wall Street, it has provided nothing to state and local governments whose tax revenues, as in the 2008-2009 financial crisis, stand to be devastated. In the wake of the Great Recession, state budgets were decimated and hundreds of thousands of teaching positions eliminated as the Obama administration refused any aid. Many states and localities never fully recovered. In a sign of what is coming, Utah’s biggest healthcare provider, Intermountain Healthcare, announced cuts to the pay of some 2,400 doctors and nurse practitioners even as the coronavirus pandemic explodes in Pindostan. In justifying the cuts, management said it needed to be “flexible” because the company wasn’t bringing in as much money due to cancelled appointments and the cancellation of elective surgery. One medical worker told the Salt Lakes Tribune the cuts were a “slap in the face” to workers who were risking their lives “on the front lines.” The company is not providing hazard pay to those working with coronavirus patients. Former Intermountain patient Debra May called the move “despicable,” writing:

I am livid that the hospital organization I have used for years has chosen at this time, when doctors and nurses are risking their lives to save others, that your organization would have the audacity to begin cutting salaries. What you have shown is that you are money-hungry, and you put your bottom line above the health and welfare of your workers.

Over the past several days there have been a spate of announcements by smaller companies asking for sacrifice from employees. CEO Paul Bascobert of newspaper company Gannett in a company-wide email Monday called for “sacrifice,” speaking of furloughs and other unspecified cuts. Gannet publishes USA Today, the Detroit News and Free Press and many other regional newspapers. Other recently-announced austerity measures include Kentucky-based Lexmark, cutting pay for all of its 8,200 global employees; small engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton, cutting the pay of salaried employees by 25% to 30% and ending their 401(k) match, and the National Hockey League temporarily cutting the pay of league office employees by as much as 25%, starting Apr 1. The Philadelphia Orchestra said musicians are taking a 20% pay cut through the middle of September, along with other staff.

St Louis Fed says 50m Pindos could be unemployed by July
Gabriel Black, WSWS, Apr 1 2020

An estimate by St Louis Federal Reserve economist Miguel Faria-e-Castro posted last week on the bank’s Web site predicts that 52.81 million Pindos will be unemployed by the beginning of July. This would result in an official unemployment rate of 32.1%, exceeding the record 24.9% jobless rate recorded at the height of the Great Depression. Faria-e-Castro made his forecast by averaging a more pessimistic prognosis (40% unemployment) and a more optimistic one (10%). The estimate excludes those who give up looking for work and does not calculate the impact of whatever support may be given to small businesses. Meanwhile, as the public health and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic grows at an exponential rate, fueled by government delay, indifference and incompetence, and the ruling class’s focus on propping up the financial markets, major corporations in Pindostan are announcing massive furloughs and wage cuts.

  • Macy’s, which owns Bloomingdale’s, announced it will furlough the majority of its 125,000 employees this week, citing the collapse of sales. All of the chain’s stores are closed. Its stock is down 68% since January.
  • Gap, which owns Banana Republic and Old Navy, will furlough 80,000 of its 129,000 employees.
  • Kohl’s will furlough 85,000 of its 120,000 employees.
  • Landry’s Inc, which owns Del Frisco’s, Golden Nugget Casinos and Bubba Gump Shrimp, will furlough 40,000 of its workers.
  • The parent-company of shoe giant DSW will furlough 80% of its workforce.
  • Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, is laying off tens of thousands of its 130,000-strong Pindo workforce.
  • Leaked documents from Delta show that airlines are making plans to reduce all workers’ pay by 20% to 35%. Currently, 21,000 Delta workers have been placed on unpaid leave.

These companies are only the largest that have announced lay-offs. Hundreds of thousands of smaller businesses across the country and millions around the world have either laid workers off or placed them on indefinite paid leave. Hotels, airlines, restaurants, bars, casinos, resorts, coffee shops, airports, rental car services, museums, cinemas, conference venues and retailers have all shut down or significantly reduced operations, leaving workers without pay. Goldman Sachs now predicts that between April and June, the Pindo economy will contract at an annualized rate of 34%, one of the biggest contractions in history. During the week ending Mar 21, a record 3.28m people in the Pindo applied for unemployment benefits. Goldman Sachs expects that this week’s Labor Dept report will show that during the week ending Mar 28, another 5.5m people applied. The investment bank upwardly revised its estimate of unemployment from 9% to 15% by July. In New York, the Dept of Labor received over 7m calls last week regarding unemployment and over 1m just this past Monday. The program is reportedly so overrun that some workers have called thousands of times over several days and been able to speak to a representative for only five minutes. The wave of lay-offs and the dire economic forecasts expose the fraud of the claims by Demagogs as well as Thugs that the bipartisan multi-trillion-dollar corporate bail-out enacted last week is a measure to protect the jobs and livelihoods of workers. While it hands over, directly and via the Federal Reserve, more than $6t to the banks and corporations, it contains no serious protections against lay-offs. Nor does it really prohibit corporate CEOs from funneling the cash windfalls stolen from the public purse into their own coffers and those of the hedge funds and big investors by means of stock buybacks and dividends. The temporary extension of jobless benefits will not prevent the permanent loss of millions of jobs and the slashing of wages and benefits when workers are called back to work. In fact, the law explicitly permits companies that receive loans and grants to lay off up to 10% of their workforce through the end of September, with no restraints of job-cutting thereafter. And even this supposed “ban” on layoffs is rendered meaningless by the caveat that it applies only in so far as “practicable.” Major retail chains around the world were already struggling before the global pandemic. Prior to the shutdown, Macy’s had announced plans to shut down 125 of its stores in the coming three years, and Gap was in the process of closing 230 of its stores. Coresight Research forecasts that a record 15,000 stores in Pindostan will permanently close this year. For Pindo restaurant chains, 2019 recorded the lowest rate of growth in more than 20 years, following years of decline as market share was lost to online alternatives. Michael Halen, a Bloomberg analyst, said of the restaurant sector:

You’re going to see a lot of bankruptcies. You’re going to see more chains go under.

The pandemic is greatly accelerating transformations that were already taking place in the global economy. Replacing the lost jobs at brick-and-mortar restaurants and retailers will be even lower-paid, more-contingent “flex” jobs, such as those at Uber Eats and Amazon Fresh. Smaller businesses of all types, starved of sales and saddled with debt, will close down, further consolidating capital among a handful or gigantic banks and corporations. The pandemic will also fuel the replacement of human labor with robotics and automation. A survey of corporate executives by the UK-based auditing firm EY found that 41% of companies were speeding up their transition to automation in response to the crisis. Supermarkets and restaurants will speed up the replacement of cashiers with automated check-outs and online delivery services. Manufacturing companies will accelerate the adoption of labor-replacing machines. A report by the Economic Policy Institute predicts that the extent of joblessness will vary state-by-state. States such as Nevada and Hawaii that rely heavily on the tourism, entertainment and leisure industries will likely be devastated by the contraction, experiencing significantly higher rates of unemployment. In Nevada, 40% of all workers are in either the leisure, hospitality or retail sectors. States such as Texas that rely heavily on oil production will also be hard hit as the price of oil plummets and drilling grinds to a halt.

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