the pindo charnel house

Pindo coronavirus case count soars past 3m
Bryan Dyne, WSWS, Jul 8 2020

There have been more than 1m new confirmed coronavirus cases in Pindostan in the past month, bringing the total to just under 3.1m. A further 20k human lives were lost during that time, bringing the official death toll to more than 133k, more than the total number of Pindo soldiers killed in WW1 and nearly three times the number of lives lost to the flu each year. Including the fatalities in Pindostan, there have been 544k deaths worldwide and more than 11.8m cases. Next to Pindostan, Brazil, India and Russia have the most cases, while Brazil, the UK, Italy and Mexico have the most deaths from the disease. Every day that the pandemic is not brought under control leaves at least another 4k people dead. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at yesterday’s press briefing:

The outbreak is accelerating, and we have clearly not reached the peak of the pandemic. I will say it again. National unity and global solidarity are more important than ever to defeat a common enemy, a virus that has taken the world hostage. This is our only road out of this pandemic.

The WHO leader’s remarks contrasted sharply to the nationalist action by Trump, who yesterday formally issued notice to Congress that Pindostan is withdrawing from the WHO. According to a State Dept boxtop who spoke to CNN, the letter addressed to UN Sec-Gen António Guterres notes that the withdrawal will be effective on Jul 6 2021. When Trump first announced this move, it was decried by Lancet editor-in-chief Richard Horton as a “crime against humanity.” Trump is also pushing for a full reopening of in-person classes this fall. He tweeted Monday:

His hysterical comment was followed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who tweeted:

The Trump administration views sending students back to school as a necessary precondition for the next stage of the back-to-work campaign. Forcing workers back on the job despite the acute risk of infection and even death is essential for the extraction of surplus value and profit from the labor of workers to back up the trillions in debt piled up to bail out Wall Street. Trump’s policy would entail all 60m K-12 students returning to enclosed spaces for several hours each school day as the pandemic gains strength across the country, a recipe for giving the virus to every young person in the country. In that scenario, according to the existing data, some 0.06% of students would die, a total of 36k children. The rest would bring the disease back home, further spreading the contagion to untold millions of their older and more vulnerable parents and grandparents. The record number of cases and deaths being reported by various states underscores these mortal dangers. Arizona counted 117 deaths yesterday, 33% higher than the previous record set a week earlier. The state has had an average of more than 3k cases per day since Jun 28, and the overwhelmed health system has forced the state’s Dept of Health Services to draw up a “crisis of standards care” plan. Patients in Tucson are already being moved to Phoenix because of a lack of available beds. It is expected that Arizona’s medical facilities are only days away from being forced to determine who lives and who dies because of a lack of medical personnel and equipment.

One of the reasons for the pandemic spiraling out of control in the state is the lack of testing. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego has repeatedly asked for federal aid, including a FEMA mass-testing site, and has been told that the county’s case numbers, which are over 67k, are not high enough for that level of support. As a result, there are many testing sites in the city and around the country, such as the one at South Mountain Community College, where people are forced to wait in their cars for hours to get tested. Currently, a quarter of those who do eventually get tested are being told they have COVID-19, indicating essentially uncontrolled spread in the region. Arizona’s situation reaffirms the recent warning by the country’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, who stated “We are still knee deep in the first wave” of the pandemic. Fauci, who stressed that he was extremely concerned and that the situation was getting worse, was referring both to the record number of coronavirus cases and to the low rates of testing and high rates of hospitalization. Pindostan is currently testing about 0.5m people a day, about half of the 0.9m tests per day at minimum recommended by Ashish Jha, the director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. This is the lowest number, Jha’s team estimated, required to find everyone who contracts the virus each day and confirm whether or not their contacts also caught the infection. Other public health experts have said that Pindostan needs to do up to 3m tests per day in order to truly know the full extent of the pandemic.

The situation as known is already dire. Nine states (New York, California, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Arizona and Georgia) report more than 100k total cases. Nine are currently reporting more than 1k new cases each day, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, California, North Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri. Only 10 states are reporting fewer than 100 daily cases. 22 states have seen an increase in hospitalizations over the past 14 days, including Arizona, California, Georgia, Florida and Texas. Despite such perils, states are continuing with their reopening plans or at most putting them on hold. One of the most significant reopenings will be the Walt Disney World theme parks in Orlando, Fl, and Anaheim, Cal, starting this weekend. While company and park officials insist that safety measures will be put in place, multiple petitions with tens of thousands of signatures, including those of theme park workers, have been circulated demanding that the parks remain closed to keep workers and guests safe. No section of the Pindo political or media establishment is calling for the shutdown of non-essential production and business to halt the explosive spread of the disease. The policy of “reopening” without adequate testing, contact-tracing and quarantining, that is the policy of “herd immunity,” is supported by both big business parties, the Demagogs no less than the Thugs.

Florida orders schools to reopen as COVID-19 cases surge
David Brown, WSWS, Jul 8 2020

On Monday, the Florida Dept of Education issued an emergency order requiring school districts to reopen all “brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students” in August in order to facilitate “a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride.” The order, which specifically complains that school closures “limit many parents and guardians from returning to work,” is part of the murderous back-to-work campaign that has led to a spike in COVID-19 cases across Florida and dozens of other states. The number of new cases in Florida has surged from an average of 700 each day at the beginning of June to a seven-day moving average of 8,587 daily cases on Jul 6. With the number of cases continuing to escalate, it is certain that COVID-19 will be present throughout the school system next month and face-to-face instruction would become a significant vector for further transmission. Teachers, including those nearing retirement or with health vulnerabilities, will almost certainly contract the deadly disease, while countless students will bring it home to their parents and grandparents. The order immediately sparked outrage and protests from teachers and parents across the state. Teachers in Orange County, which includes Orlando, organized a protest caravan that blocked traffic. On Facebook, an Orange County teacher, Mia, wrote:

We, the People, can’t let the Governor and the head of the DOE make these decisions without the input of the Teachers. We’re the ones risking our lives. We need to make our voices heard and stand together. This is literally life and death.

A parent, Angela, added:

I’m a Mom and at risk due to an autoimmune issue. Why for political reasons am I being forced to expose my child, her teachers, our families and communities to a virus that is not under control. Hell No! We won’t go!

The Florida order comes as part of a nationwide push to end lockdown measures, “reopen” the economy and force workers into unsafe conditions. The same day as the Florida order, Trump tweeted:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos repeated in a tweet:

Schools across the country, in many cases under pressure from teachers and parents, shut down in-person instruction in March in order to slow the spread of the pandemic. School districts have struggled to come up with any effective plans to reopen schools under conditions where state and federal governments have rejected efforts to contain the virus and pursued a policy of mass infection. During the nearly four months since Florida schools were closed—when there were only 217 confirmed cases acknowledged in the state—no effective measures were implemented to contain or mitigate the disease, such as contact tracing. Now that there are 1k times as many confirmed cases in the state, they are trying to open up schools. In early May, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis rushed to reopen the economy even as his administration was deliberately undercounting the number of COVID-19 deaths and infections. This included firing a state employee in charge of Florida’s coronavirus database after she refused to manipulate the data to justify the governor’s back-to-work order.

The Trump administration and Governor DeSantis are so adamant about getting children physically into school regardless of health cost or educational value, because they need schools as day care centers in order to push parents back to work. Safer, more effective distance learning would require that families take care of children during the day. The conditions of schools make it effectively impossible to safely have in-person instruction when there is community transmission. Outside of prisons and meatpacking and other industrial facilities there are few environments that squeeze people into such close contact throughout the day as a school. Underfunded districts cram over 30 students into classrooms, making any pretense of social distancing absurd. A high school English or math classroom can easily have over 100 students cycle through during the day. Cafeterias and playgrounds see almost continuous use and cannot be feasibly cleaned between classes. Proposed measures to minimize transmission at schools are either unworkable or undercut the academic advantages of in-person instruction. Mandatory masks, as proposed in Lake County, cannot prevent transmission in an environment where children eat and play. Daily temperature checks, as suggested in Orange, Osceola and Polk Counties, won’t catch pre-symptomatic students.

Many districts in Florida and across the country have proposed a complicated hybrid model of online teaching with occasional weekly face-to-face instruction to minimize student time on campus. Every proposal made runs into hard limits stemming from decades of underfunding the public education system. There are not enough teachers to adapt and implement the curriculum to small, socially distanced classrooms. There are not enough facilities to handle the student body. There are not enough janitors and facilities staff to disinfect facilities. In January, thousands of teachers rallied for more funding at the state capital in Tallahassee. Per student funding in Florida has dropped when adjusted for inflation by $1k since the 2008 economic crisis. The recently passed state budget only makes the deficit worse. DeSantis has repeatedly stated that school districts have plenty of money and praised the insulting $40 rise in per student funding in this year’s budget. The very same budget has shifted $233 in pension costs from the state to the districts and cut $134.6m in school recognition funds (rewards for meeting “student performance” targets). Adding it all together makes a net cut of $90 per student.

The Florida order cynically claims that schools must reopen because the “nutrition, socialization, counseling, and extra-curricular activities” they provide “are critical to the well-being of students and families.” The politicians, having created a health and social crisis, are now insisting that teachers risk their lives and those of their students to address these massive social problems, and to do so with a smaller budget! The resources exist in society, not just to contain the pandemic but also to revitalize public education. When the pandemic initially sent the stock market into a tailspin, the CARES Act was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support to funnel trillions of dollars into the banks and corporations to prop up the stock market. The program worked and Pindo billionaires increased their wealth by $584b, up 19%, since the market hit its low point near the beginning of the pandemic. At the same time millions of workers lost their jobs and states across the country are facing a $230b public education budget shortfall.

Before the pandemic, more than 700k teachers and other educators in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, LA, Oakland, Chicago and other locations engaged in strikes and mass protests over austerity and inequality in 2018-19. Many of the struggles were launched in opposition to the unions, which have colluded with the Demagogs & Thugs in decades of budget-cutting and school privatization. These initial battles, however, were betrayed by the National Education Association and the Pindo Federation of Teachers, which blocked a nationwide strike by educators and accepted the austerity demands by the Demagogs & Thugs. The growth of opposition and the political radicalization of teachers expressed in these struggles, however, will only intensify as the corporate-controlled parties try to force educators back into unsafe classrooms and accept massive austerity measures after handing trillions to Wall Street. To oppose the rush to reopen the schools, teachers need new organizations of struggle, which are independent of the NEA and AFT. Educators should follow the lead of autoworkers in Michigan, who have formed rank-and-file safety committees to oversee the health and safety of workers and shutdown production when working conditions are not safe. This must be combined with a political struggle against Trump, Biden and all the capitalist politicians, and for a socialist program, including a radical redistribution of wealth to meet society’s needs.

Chicago mayor uses rise in social distress, violent crime to advance “law and order” policing
Kristina Betinis, WSWS, Jul 8 2020

As the public health and social disaster triggered by the coronavirus pandemic has taken an ever-greater toll on the jobs, lives and physical and mental health of millions across Pindostan, a number of cities have seen a surge in violent crime and shootings. A grim spate of gun violence in Chicago in recent weeks has taken the lives of more than 140 people, including several young children, after several years of declining homicides since 2016. Seventy-nine people were shot in Chicago over the Jul 4 holiday weekend, with reports indicating that 15 were killed and 64 wounded. Twelve of the victims were children under 18, including seven-year-old Natalia Wallace, shot and killed in a drive-by shooting at a July 4th celebration in the west side neighborhood of Austin, and 14-year-old Vernado Jones Jr in Englewood. The last weekend in June saw 65 people shot, 18 of whom were killed. Three young children were killed in the last 10 days of June, including 20-month-old Sincere Gaston in Englewood, three-year-old Mekhi James in Austin, and ten-year-old Lena Nunez Anaya in Logan Square.

Already in the first half of 2020, more than 300 people have been killed in Chicago, many from the gang-related gun violence that plagues the black neighborhoods hit hardest by deindustrialization and cuts to basic social services. The NYT reports the city is on track to reach roughly the same number of murders as in 2016, when 776 were killed. The neighborhoods suffering the highest rates of coronavirus infection and death are the areas suffering the highest levels of gun violence. The pandemic has worsened every measure of poverty and social distress, which were already at epidemic levels in the poorest communities in cities such as Chicago. Many workers have been unable to file for unemployment benefits with state agencies overwhelmed by the flood of claims. Some families receiving the $600 weekly federal unemployment bonus have received a cut in their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP food stamp) benefit due to their very temporary rise in income.

Under these conditions, the Trump administration and boxtops of both parties at state and local levels are using the spurt in violent crime, coinciding with the ongoing protests against police violence, to justify a heightening of police repression. In Chicago, Demagog Mayor Lori Lightfoot has responded to the pandemic and the anti-police violence protests with substantial increases in the numbers of police on the streets and more aggressive policies, rejecting calls to “defund” police and divert a portion of the $1.8b allotted to the Chicago PD in 2020 to increase funding for social services. While the political right wing has long attempted to portray the city of Chicago as chaotic and lawless, the violence tends to be centered in deeply impoverished neighborhoods that have the most gang activity. These are neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by deindustrialization and the closure of schools, mental health facilities and other social services, policies carried out by the city’s Demagog Party machine in the service of corporate interests.

Now, Mayor Lightfoot is criticizing the press for reporting statements made by recently appointed Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown. On Jun 29, Brown announced that preemptive arrests of youth would be made ahead of the July Fourth holiday weekend. Brown told reporters that the Chicago PD would round up teenagers who are hanging around what he called “drug corners.” To carry out the arrests, the city announced that an additional 1.2k officers would be deployed to the poorest sections of the city on Chicago’s south and west sides. In response to critics of the plan for the sweeps, including the ACLU of Illinois and the Chicago Community Bond Fund, Mayor Lightfoot said:

You need to have your attitude adjusted.

Lightfoot later complained that the local press had taken Brown’s statements out of context, insisting that the preemptive arrests were aimed at adults and not minor children. Lightfoot said last Thursday afternoon:

That is not what he said.

Local public radio station WBEZ answered Lightfoot’s criticism by publishing a transcript of Brown’s remarks in their entirety, in which he clearly named “kids” and identified the ages of minor children to be picked up by police. He also implored the courts and the jails to agree to hold the youth for the duration of the weekend. Referring to “these evil bastards behind those guns,” Brown demanded longer sentences, higher bond amounts and more electronic monitoring. Brown said:

We are tapping every resource at our disposal to ensure these killers never have a chance to get their hands on another gun and take another life. But make no mistake. As I said last week, and as I continue to repeat, we cannot do this alone. We need the help of the entire criminal justice system, our city partners and, most importantly, our community members, to step up and not only help us identify these perpetrators of violence, but to keep them off our streets until they get their day in court and to keep these violent offenders locked up and off our streets. The street corner, open-air drug market is the pipeline to shootings and murders in Chicago.

Brown acknowledged the desperate social conditions underlying petty crime and gang activity, pointing to “the failures in many social services” and lack of jobs, but then complained that despite “cops arresting these young people, 15, 16, 17, 18 years old,” the youth were too quickly released from custody. Even before the pandemic, Lightfoot had been a “law and order” candidate. A corporate lawyer and former federal prosecutor, she was appointed by her predecessor Rahm Emanuel to whitewash rampant violence and murder by the Chicago Police Department and ran her election campaign for mayor in part on promises to bring corruption under control. Meanwhile, Thug Party Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Monday declared a state of emergency and ordered 1k National Guard troops to Atlanta, citing as justification a series of shootings over the Jul 4 weekend. 31 people were shot and five killed in 11 separate shooting incidents across the city. Among the victims was an 8-year-old girl who was shot and killed in a parking lot in the same area where Atlanta police killed Rayshard Brooks last month. In a deliberate effort to conflate the random acts of violence in a city reeling from both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic crisis with ongoing protests against police killings, Kemp said:

City boxtops have failed to quell ongoing violence, with armed individuals threatening citizens, shooting at passers-by, blocking streets, destroying local businesses and defying orders to disperse. This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city.

The Demagog mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who backed the deployment of the National Guard when protests first erupted against the May 25 police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, denounced the new deployment, which is in line with Trump’s repeated threats to mobilize troops to restore “law and order” in Demagog-controlled states and cities.

Border Patrol deployed against anti-police violence protestors
Minakshi Jagadisan, WSWS, Jul 8 2020

Over the Jul 4 holiday weekend, as protests in Portland, Oregon, continued for the 38th straight day, Customs & Border Patrol agents joined agents from the Federal Marshals Service, the Federal Protective Services and Dept of Homeland Security to aid police in asserting “law and order” in the city. The federal agencies have claimed that their task is to “protect federal property.” This has entailed “clearing the streets” in downtown Portland using impact munitions, shoving journalists covering their actions and carrying out arrests of protesters on charges ranging from assault to disorderly conduct. The deployment of CBP agents has been presented by the Trump administration and its supporters as an essential step to restore some semblance of normalcy in a city that has allegedly been taken over by criminal elements. Speaking on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends” Sunday, acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan declared:

What we saw in Portland last night was criminal and we stood strong with our federal partners to resist that.

The “criminal” situation that Morgan was describing was the ongoing protests against police brutality that have consistently attracted huge multi-racial crowds to downtown Portland over the past two months. This past week, the situation escalated rapidly on Tuesday and Thursday with the Portland Police categorizing the demonstrations as “riots” and using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds. It is worth noting that both times, largely peaceful gatherings involving speeches and fireworks suddenly morphed into what the police categorized as “criminal activity” with the intervention of the police themselves.

The deployment of the federal law enforcement agents by the Trump administration is part of a dangerous, growing trend of coordination and integration with police forces, especially since the same rules do not seem to apply to local officers and federal agents. In Portland, for instance, a federal court order temporarily prohibits the police department from using pepper spray unless there is a threat to public safety or the lives of the officers. There is also a temporary restraining order that governs the interaction of officers with journalists covering the protests. Neither rule apparently applied to the federal agents who were active in “clearing the streets” this past week. When asked who controls when and how federal officers are deployed, Portland Police Bureau spox Lt Kristina Jones gave a typically vague answer:

PPB is the lead agency for Portland City property. The Federal agencies are primary for federal properties.

In practice, however, this distinction did not seem to hold as the federal police agents actively participated in the dispersal of the crowds well-beyond just guarding federal buildings. Morgan defended the actions of the federal agents as necessitated by the dereliction of duty by local officials:

These are not protesters, these are criminals who got together and organized and planned and actually brought weapons. Where are the local political leaders, standing up, saying this is unconscionable, this is wrong, and these individuals should cease and desist and be arrested? Where are they?

The claim that the protests are fundamentally criminal in nature is one that Trump and his supporters have been reiterating from the very beginning without any shred of evidence. Buffered by baseless reports from a host of right-wing provocateurs, these claims have served to justify deployment of the National Guard and other armed federal forces in direct violation of the constitutional rights of American citizens. The CBP’s intervention against protesters has not been restricted to Portland. On May 29, a CBP Predator drone flew over the Twin Cities to monitor the protests that erupted in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. At that time, a CBP spox claimed that the drone had been sent “at the request of our federal law enforcement partners in Minneapolis,” without specifying which agency had asked for it.

A few days later, 350 CBP troops were deployed to confront protestors in Faschingstein. In a typically inflammatory tweet, acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan claimed:

The CBP is a peculiar federal agency in that it actually has authority over a zone that runs from the border to 100 miles inland, all around the perimeter of Pindostan. This zone encompasses Faschingstein, along with nine of the ten largest cities and the entirety of ten states, including Hawaii, Connecticut and Florida. This is an area with a population of over 200m, the overwhelming majority of Pindo residents. Within this zone, CBP officers can stop individuals and conduct searches without warrants in violation of the Fourth Amendment right against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Such searches could include the confiscation or copying of electronic devices like cell phones or computers and even manual searches of body cavities, so long as there is a “reasonable suspicion,” a much lower threshold than the “probable cause” required by local law enforcement to get a search warrants, that a border-crosser may be hiding contraband. These powers make the agency a particularly dangerous tool of the oppressive apparatus of the state, and thus extremely attractive to the ruling elite. It is not an accident that Trump has spent a substantial amount of time, effort and resources in further militarizing CBP and ICE. The fact that CBP could fly a Predator drone over Minneapolis, a city that is 250 miles from the closest international border, in violation of the DoJ’s 100-mile zone rule and not face any consequences, should be a warning to the working class on how future protests and strikes will be dealt with. The powers that have been built up in the war on immigrant workers are now being turned against the entire working class. In this context, Morgan’s claim about CBP’s presence in Portland is even more ominous:

We’re going to escalate to the use of force that’s needed to repel these criminals and apprehend them and prosecute them. We’re not walking away from our federal facilities like police departments have in some communities. We’re staying.

Billionaires & politicians cash in on “small business” loan program
Jacob Crosse, WSWS, Jul 8 2020

After resisting lawsuits by 11 media organizations, including the WaPo, ProPublica and the NYT, the Treasury and Small Business Administration (SBA) on Monday released an 18-page report providing information on the 660k recipients of over $521.5b in funds distributed through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). In a statement announcing the release of the data, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin commented:

Today’s release of loan data strikes the appropriate balance of providing the Pindo sheeple with transparency, while protecting sensitive payroll and personal income information of small businesses, sole proprietors, and independent contractors.

The limited “transparency” gives some insight into the grotesque levels of corruption and self-dealing carried out by politicians, corporate heads and well-connected individuals who took advantage of the program, which was presented as a lifeline to small businesses and employees hit by the COVID-19 lockdown. Among the Congress critturs linked to businesses that received low interest, forgivable loans was Nancy Pelosi, the Demagog speaker of the House.

While it is true that thousands of businesses have been able to make use of the loan program to stay afloat, a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 3.3m, or nearly 22%, of small businesses closed their doors permanently between February and April of this year. The SBA report claimed that the program “saved” an estimated 51m jobs. Under the PPP, loans can be turned into grants if more than 60% of the loan is used for payroll. What Mnuchin neglected to mention at his Monday press conference is that nearly 90k companies either left the job retention question on the loan application blank or reported retaining zero jobs in the dataset. Trump signed a bill on Saturday extending until Aug 8 the corporate-government slush fund, with an estimated $132b left in its coffers, after the House and Senate voted unanimously for the extension. The day before, Congress adjourned until Jul 20 without taking any action to extend the federal $600 weekly unemployment supplement, which has kept millions of workers and their families in their homes and able to afford basic necessities and is set to expire on Jul 25.

The PPP was established as part of the $2.2t Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. That legislation, which was passed unanimously in the Senate and by a near-majority voice vote in the House, launched the program, which got underway in early April with $349b in funding. These funds were depleted in less than two weeks, and Congress moved quickly to approve another $310b in funding, despite widespread reports of abuse and fraud. In the first round of the program, sports teams, restaurant and hotel chains and other billion-dollar businesses collected millions of dollars in loans, while small “mom and pop” businesses were frozen out. Wall Street banks such as J P Morgan Chase and Bank of America took in billions in loan processing fees. The SBA and Treasury information released by Mnuchin on Monday includes the names of all the organizations that received PPP loans of $150k or more, as well as some data, but not the names, of those that received less than $150k. Mnuchin attempted to shield the fact that nearly three-fourths of the total loan dollars went to companies and businesses requesting more than $150k. He said:

The average loan size is approximately $100k, demonstrating that the program is serving the smallest of businesses.

The SBA report notes that the average loan amount was $107k. The release of the report revealed that of the 4,885,388 loans approved, 86.5% were for less than $150k. However, those loans accounted for only 27.2% of the money distributed. An AP report concluded that nearly half of all PPP support for major industries was utilized by the health-care, professional, construction and manufacturing sectors. Four states, California, Texas, New York and Florida, accounted for one-third of all loans approved.

A large majority of the loans approved, 3,262,529, or roughly 66.8%, were for under $50k, yet they made up only 11.2% of the total dollar amount. The distribution was geared toward large borrowers, with nearly 22% of the loan amount issued to borrowers requesting between $350k and $1m. And while loans between $1m and $5m made up only 1.6% of the total, they accounted for 28.3% of the total dollar amount. Multimillionaires, businesses connected to the Trump family, governors of at least eight states as well as members of Congress from both parties received loans anywhere from $150k to $10m. Political organizations such as the Ohio Democratic Party and the Black Republican Caucus in Florida got at least $150,000 each, while the Florida Demagog Party Building Fund and the Women’s National Thug Club of New York received at least $350k. The Ayn Rand Institute, named for the libertarian arch-reactionary, was approved for a PPP loan between $350k and $1m. The Catholic Church also got in on the action, with the Archdiocese of New York receiving a loan between $5m and $10m. Catholic charities of the archdioceses of San Francisco, Faschingstein, New York and Boston all received loans valued at more than $2m. The AP reported that as much as $273m was loaned out to over 100 companies that are owned or operated by donors to the Trump campaign. Of the businesses approved, only eight had to wait until early May, after the second round of funding was approved by Congress, to receive their loans. Trump supporters who run these companies have contributed at least $11.1m since May 2015 to Trump’s campaign committee, the RNC or the Pindostan First Action Super-PAC that has been endorsed by Trump.

A Forbes report found that at least 44 companies backed by 15 billionaires received loans. This includes billionaire clothes designer, potential presidential candidate and rapper Kanye West and Hobby Lobby founder David Green, worth an estimated $7.9b. Green’s son chairs the board of the Faschingstein-based museum known as “The Museum of the Bible,” which received a PPP loan of between $2m and $5m supposedly to retain 249 jobs. The richest person in the state of West Virginia, Governor Jim Justice, with a reported net worth of $1.2b, also made generous use of the program. Companies owned by the Justice family received at least $11.1m from the federal relief program. Of those companies, four, including the inherited luxury resort Greenbrier Hotel and coal companies such as Blackstone Energy, Bluestone Coke and Justice Energy took out millions in loans yet reported retaining zero jobs. The largest loan in the state, between $5 million and $10 million, went to Justice’s luxury membership club, the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, while Justice’s Greenbrier Sporting Club took out a loan worth between $1m and $2m, while reportedly retaining only 120 jobs. In addition to Justice, businesses linked to Thug governors Mike DeWine of Ohio, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Larry Hogan of Maryland and Tate Reeves of Mississippi received loans. Businesses tied to Demagog governors Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Gavin Newsom of California and Ralph Northam of Virginia also received loans. Monday’s report also revealed that Thug Reps Kevin Hern and Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania were loan recipients. Demagog House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul was also on the gravy train. Paul Pelosi is an investor in the firm EDI Associates, which received a loan of between $350k and $1m. Previous disclosures had revealed that Thug Reps Roger Williams of Texas and Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, as well as Demagog Reps Susie Lee of Nevada and Debbie Mucarsel Powell of Florida, were connected to businesses that received PPP loans.

NYC Demagogs ensure budget protects NYPD and guts social services
Sam Dalton, WSWS, Jul 8 2020

On Monday, NYC’s “progressive” mayor Bill de Blasio and the Demagog Party-controlled City Council announced the final figures for the huge cutbacks in next year’s city budget. The justification for the latest set of austerity measures was the economic devastation caused by the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19, which has left the city with a spending deficit of $9b for FY 2020-21. The budget was passed by the 51 members of the city’s Council, 48 of whom are Demagogs, by a vote of 32 to 17. The new budget marks an escalation of the years-long cutbacks to social welfare and cultural services, overseen by local Democratic and Republican politicians alike. To placate anti-police violence protesters, the budget includes a highly-publicized $1b “cut” to the NYPD. Far from acceding to the calls to abolish or defund the NYPD that dominated the anti-police violence protests that rocked the city in June, however, the $1b figure is a fabrication.

At least $350m in “savings” were proposed through the transfer of School Safety Agents, poorly paid and unarmed security guards who work inside public school buildings, and school crossing guards from their current status under the NYPD to the Dept of Education. Documents released last Thursday show that even this accounting trick was a gimmick, with Safety Agents remaining under the jurisdiction of the NYPD. Another $350m is to be cut from the police budget by reductions in overtime. The NYPD has not stated how these reductions will be enforced. In the past, city agencies that have been instructed to cut overtime have ended up paying it out in full regardless. The only tangible cuts to the police budget are the cancellation of Jul 2020’s academy class, which will save $55m, and delaying a new delivery of fleet vehicles, which will save $5m. The cut of 1.2k new officers will only undo an increase to police numbers sanctioned by Mayor de Blasio in 2015. The NYPD will continue to maintain a force of 34k officers. Whether even these minimal cuts take place remains to be seen. While the NYPD budget has barely been touched, NYC’s social services, already in a decrepit state from years of austerity, face further crippling cuts. These come at a time when workers in NYC have filed 1.4m new claims for unemployment benefits since the pandemic began in March. The cuts include:

  • Social Services: $1.1b will be cut from the Dept of Social Services, which supplies services such as emergency rental assistance, SNAP benefits and other food assistance to workers.
  • Housing: The budget deal cut $1.04b from the capital budget for the city Dept of Housing Preservation and Development for FY 2020-2021. The 40% reduction shrinks the agency’s funding this year and next from $2.68b in the pre-COVID budget plan to $1.64b in the current one. This will have a huge effect on the city’s homeless and temporarily housed, who number in the hundreds of thousands. A $127m federal grant for COVID-19 outbreaks in homeless shelters is being classified as a savings, as it will be used to offset regular operating costs.
  • Arts and Culture: The Dept of Cultural Affairs had its budget cut 11%, from $212m to $189m. This includes cuts to arts instruction in schools, museums and after-school programs, cultural initiatives for immigrants and theatre programs. The Brooklyn, New York, Queens and Central Research libraries will suffer budget cuts totaling almost $5m.
  • Education: Following through on proposed cuts of $827m to education over the next four years, the new budget slashed $773m from the city’s Dept of Education budget for 2021. It is currently unclear how the additional $350m expense from the transfer of school safety officers to the DOE will affect school budgets. In anticipation of its loss of $112m, CUNY announced last week that it was laying off thousands of adjunct professors.
  • Transit: $65m is being cut from the Fair Fares program, which subsidizes mass transit for low-income New Yorkers. This program serves over 190k of the city’s poorest workers, who rely on the transit system for their livelihoods. The city has also reiterated its refusal to provide additional funding to the MTA, which faces an acute financial crisis of its own.
  • Jobs: The budget includes $1b in labor savings; it is unclear exactly how this will be achieved. A major component will be job cuts. De Blasio has already warned that without further federal assistance at least 22k municipal employees will be fired on Oct 1. The city is now negotiating these cuts with the unions, on whom they will depend to suppress any opposition to lay-offs among city workers.
  • Sanitation: Over $100m will be cut from the Sanitation Dept’s budget. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, this will undermine composting initiatives for organic waste and overburden garbage transfer stations, which are in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

Even with wholesale attacks to social programs and municipal jobs, questions are already being raised over whether the cuts will meaningfully alleviate the city’s acute financial crisis. The Demagog speaker of the City Council, Corey Johnson, defended the new budget as a “hard-fought battle.” Parodying his own betrayal of his constituents, he claimed it shows that the Council is focused “on achieving equity, particularly for low-income communities of color.” Furthermore, Johnson stated that the Council is “proud of the work we did to save the types of programs and initiatives we need to rebuild after COVID-19,” acting as if the rapidly accelerating coronavirus is no longer a deadly threat to millions of New Yorkers.

Some voices from within the city’s Demagog establishment voiced token opposition to the budget. Citing a failure to enforce a full NYPD hiring freeze and a commitment to school safety reform, NYC Public Advocate Jumaane D Williams threatened to invoke a clause in the NYC charter that would prevent the execution of the budget. This is a hollow threat without legal standing, however. Soon after Williams announced his intention, NYU Law Professor Roderick Hills described the Advocate’s interpretation of the charter as “completely absurd.” Others around the Demagog Party who have criticized the budget have done so along purely racial lines. The campaign group Justice Committee said that de Blasio and Johnson’s budget has “demonstrated that they don’t value Black and Brown lives.” While it is true that many black and Hispanic individuals and families will be devastated by the new cuts, it is the working class that is being targeted.

The duplicitous role of the Demagog Party-dominated City Council is exemplified by the fact that not one of its membes has called for a wealth tax on the city’s superrich or even drawn attention to the vast resources of the billionaires. According to Forbes, in New York state alone there are 118 billionaires, with a combined wealth of over $521.5b. The claim that there is no money to fund vital programs for the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society is not only absurd, it is criminal. The failure to even make such calls reflects the rightward shift of the NYC Demagog establishment in recent years. In 2013, during his mayoral campaign de Blasio called for a wealth tax to cover the costs of expanding child daycare in the city. Earlier in the year, legislators in Queens and a state coalition of unions both made hollow calls for a wealth tax. Such calls, following years of complicity in cuts by these forces and the fact such proposals are made with the knowledge that they will be not even be considered by their bosses in the Demagog Party hierarchy, are worse than cynical.

It is noteworthy that one of the most prominent NYC politicians on the national scene and a member of the pseudo-left Democratic Socialists of America, Demagog Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said nothing about taxing the billionaires, but instead squabbled with de Blasio about how much is actually being cut from the NYPD budget. NY state’s debt stands at nearly $92b and NYC’s at over $120b, by far the largest of any major Pindo city. In early June, the NYT editorial board warned of a return to the city’s near-insolvency of the 1970s. Reflecting the mood of the city’s ruling class, it called for more cuts, writing:

Before yoking New Yorkers (the superrich) with even a fraction of this burden, the mayor needs to get serious about belt-tightening.

As far as the ruling class and its political and media representatives are concerned, it is the city’s working class who must be made to pay. The most recent budget is yet another wholesale assault on the living standards and social rights of working people in NYC. It has been drawn up and forced through by the corporate-owned Demagog Party. Furthermore, despite overwhelming popular hostility to the NYPD, the Council’s refusal to impose any substantive cuts in the police budget reflects its unwavering commitment to the protection of the wealth and power of the capitalist class.

NYC EMS worker commits suicide
Ali Elhassan, WSWS, Jul 8 2020

The tragic suicide of Emergency Medical Services Lt Matthew Keene on Jun 20 marks the second suicide by a NYC EMS worker since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in New York. Lt Keene’s coworkers found him dead from a self-inflicted gunshot when they went to his home in Nyack after he didn’t show up for his shift at his EMS station in the Bronx. The last time he had been seen alive was three days earlier. In interviews, colleagues have stated that Keene, 38, an NYC EMS employee for close to a decade, had been under a lot of stress and that he had been suffering from PTSD deriving from his experiences in the COVID-19 pandemic. About six weeks before Keene’s suicide, on Apr 24, another EMS worker, 23-year-old newly hired Emergency Medical Technician John Mondello, ended his life from a gun that belonged to his father, a retired detective from the NYPD. At the time, New York was the epicenter of the global pandemic. Mondello had just recently graduated from the EMS academy in February and was sent to work in the Bronx, the most impoverished and hardest hit borough by the pandemic. Friends told media outlets:

He was usually very peppy, very happy,, but he was overwhelmed and experienced a lot of anxiety witnessing a lot of death. It was a heavy experience for him when he’d fail to save a life.

Two days after Mondello’s suicide, on Apr 26, Dr Lorna Breen, a 49-year-old ER doctor at New York Presbyterian Allen hospital, also took her own life. Like Mondello, she had served patients from the Bronx. Mental health experts have long warned that the coronavirus pandemic threatens to take a tremendous emotional and psychological toll on health-care workers who have been left to fight the virus without proper PPE, risking infection and death for themselves and their families, while austerity and layoffs are being implemented across the health-care system. These warnings are now being tragically borne out. Among health-care workers, emergency personnel have been most directly confronted with the horrifying impact of the virus, especially on the working class population. At the height of the pandemic in March and April, the city’s roughly 4.2k EMS workers, along with voluntary hospital EMS workers who also participate in the NYC 911 system and comprise roughly 35% of the total NYC EMS work-force, were quickly overwhelmed as new records were being set for 911 medical calls, with the highest reaching 7.2k calls in a single day.

In response to the massive influx of COVID-19 patients, long held practices and protocols were supplanted by ever-changing crisis care standards that significantly narrowed the criteria for resuscitating patients in cardiac arrest and other medical emergencies. As most patients were discouraged from going to the overcrowded hospitals and were now deteriorating in their homes, many of them, who under normal circumstances would have been resuscitated and transported to emergency departments, were instead being pronounced dead in their homes by EMS workers. This has been one of many factors that has added to the traumatic experience of EMS workers. One paramedic told the WSWS in April:

These patients are dying alone. We’re telling family members to go to another room so that we don’t expose the family or don’t expose ourselves to the family. Not even having the family see them is hard.

The danger of infection also meant that EMS workers could barely speak with and console the families of the deceased, something that, in normal times, had been common practice and helped both the families and the workers cope with the death. Aside from being forced to contend with catastrophically high amounts of suffering and death, the chronically understaffed workforce was made to work consecutive 16-hour shifts, while inadequate PPE and other vital supplies contributed to the spread of COVID-19 among the ranks of EMS personnel. Twenty-five percent of the EMS force in NYC reportedly contracted the virus and six eventually succumbed to the disease.

During this period many of the EMTs and paramedics were not even going home for fear of contracting COVID-19 and infecting their families, and instead were staying in their basements, hotels or cars. This lack of contact with family and friends amid a traumatizing period has been an additional emotional burden. Studies have long revealed alarming rates of suicidal ideation and behavior among pre-hospital health-care providers. The chronic stress, irregular sleep, low salaries and chronic exposure to morbidity and death make EMS workers one of the most at-risk groups, even among health-care workers in general. Aside from being placed on the front lines of a social crisis rooted in extreme inequality and the persistent, decades-long assault on social infrastructure, EMS workers themselves are impoverished and can hardly afford to live in the city whose population they serve. The starting salary for an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in NYC is $35k. With raises up until their fifth year, they reach a maximum annual salary of only $48k. The salary for paramedics starts at $44k and can go up to $61k. Faced with such low incomes, many EMS workers take promotions to work as firefighters or police officers with better salaries, which creates chronic understaffing through attrition.

Despite the empty platitudes from Demagog Mayor Bill De Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose catastrophic policies have directly contributed to the staggering spread and death toll of the coronavirus in New York, the heroic sacrifices made by EMS workers have been met with efforts by the city to push through another concessionary contract in current negotiations with the EMS union. The EMS union, which is a local of Pindo Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37, has been in negotiations with the city along the lines of the bargaining pattern already set in Jul 2018. In that agreement, the union approved a 7.4% raise over three years for 100k city workers, which is to be primarily financed through health-care concessions. The ongoing negotiations are unfolding in a period when the mayor has repeatedly made declarations of a worsening budgetary crisis, which he has suggested may require furloughs and the firing of as many as 22k city workers. In total, the city is planning to make $1b in cuts. In New York as a whole, unemployment has now reached 20%, levels unseen since the Great Depression.

Immigrant worker with COVID-19 dies after being sent home by Tennessee hospital
Warren Duzak, WSWS, Jul 8 2020

Miguel Ordoñez, a 44-year-old self-employed painter, died on Jun 18 of complications from COVID-19 after being sent home from Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee days earlier with nothing more than a prescription for Tylenol. Ordoñez, who had immigrated to Pindostan from Honduras and only spoke Spanish, had been diagnosed by the hospital with COVID-19 on Jun 12 but was given no assistance. the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported:

The many unanswered questions—such as why a man displaying some of the worst COVID-19 symptoms was discharged without further evaluation—have left the family angry over what they consider a failure by the health-care system.

Angelique Lopez, who is engaged to be married to Ordoñez’s brother Eduardo, asked the Times Free Press:

How did they let him go? To me, he had to stay there at the hospital and be treated.

As the newspaper noted, Ordoñez did not have health insurance, and as an immigrant worker was not eligible for public assistance programs. Like their brothers and sisters on the auto assembly lines and in hospitals and restaurants, immigrant workers are some of the most vulnerable to the virus. The Times Free Press reported:

Hamilton County has the worst disparity in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state for Hispanic residents, who make up 6% of the county population but around 60% of infections and a third of the deaths.

Ordoñez went to Erlanger Medical Center at 11 pm on the night of Jun 12 after his symptoms of constant, uncontrollable coughing and an inability to take a deep breath had begun three days before. The Erlanger Health System operates as a non-profit, publicly licensed and owned health-care provider with six hospitals and four health-care centers. They are overseen by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority. Erlanger is used as a teaching hospital and is considered part of that group of medical centers traditionally known as “charity hospitals.” The 25 pages of records provided the family and shared with the Chattanooga newspaper revealed that although Ordoñez was diagnosed as a “patient with known COVID-19” there were no tests for secondary infections, chest x-rays or lung scans conducted. Instead of immediate treatment he was told to take Tylenol at home and seek “medical attention” from his “health-care provider” if symptoms worsened. Hospital officials told the media that because Ordoñez was 44 he was considered a good candidate for recovery without hospitalization. Nearly a week after Ordoñez had been to the Erlanger emergency room, he became even sicker. Without a health-care provider to call, he reached out that morning to Eunice Mendoza, director of Latino ministries at New City East Lake, where Ordoñez was part of the congregation. The church director recalled to the Times Free Press the words he said to her:

He was saying: “I am dying! I can’t breathe!”

Ordoñez was taken to Parkridge Medical Center where he received a chest x-ray, was placed on a ventilator, given convalescent plasma and a dose of the expensive new drug Remdesivir. The disease had progressed too far. Nothing could save him. He died that evening at 6:22 pm. Friends, family and acquaintances described Ordoñez to the newspaper thus:

He was a gentle, loving man who was always there to help and who was dedicated to the Lord.

Eduardo Ordoñez, Miguel’s brother, must mourn his brother’s death as he himself struggles to recover from COVID-19. The newspaper did not report if the family will be billed for the use of the new “miracle” drug, well beyond the reach of the poor and working class. Last month, Gilead Sciences, the pharmaceutical corporation which owns the rights to Remdesivir, announced it would charge $3,120 for a five-day course of its new drug. Reporting last week, the WSWS referred to this announcement as “nothing less than the extortion of the Pindo public amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As a heavily-exploited section of the international working class, migrant workers have been forced back to work in businesses like meat and poultry plants, where they are required to work well within the suggested social distancing of six feet and without adequate protection. Many never stopped working throughout the pandemic, due to abusive policies which did not allow them to collect benefits, leading to tens of thousands of infections. Like millions of workers around the world, immigrant workers in Pindostan are being sacrificed for owners and stockholders who see profits as the alpha and omega of all production. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that while only 6.6% of the city’s residents identify as Hispanics, this section of the population accounts for 28% of the cases of COVID-19. In the middle of June, The Tennessean reported more than one-third of Nashville residents and Tennessee residents with COVID-19 were identified as Hispanic. The Chattanooga Times Free Press states:

Hispanic residents also are over-represented in essential jobs, or jobs that went on despite the shutdown for nonessential workers. Dozens of cases have been linked to workplaces throughout the county, including at local poultry processing plants.

In addition to the impact of the virus, immigrant workers and their families have been subjected to abuse and harassment from the highest levels of the state. Raids by ICE patrols are a frequent occurrence. The NYT reported on a 2018 raid at a meatpacking plant in Morristown, Tennessee, a town of about 30k north-east of Knoxville:

Dozens of panicked workers fled in every direction, some wedging themselves between beef carcasses or crouching under bloody butcher tables. About 100 workers, including at least one Pindo citizen, were rounded up; every Latino employee at the plant, it turned out, save a man who had hidden in a freezer.

In Jul 2019, residents of a working-class neighborhood in Nashville defended a migrant father and son as ICE agents accosted them in the driveway of their home, forming a human barricade separating the agents from their neighbors. Such acts of solidarity will be repeated as the working class begins to formulate its strategy in opposition to the capitalist class’s homicidal “back to work” campaign being implemented in every state.

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