poverty and pandemic for pindostan

Congress of millionaires robs the unemployed
Patrick Martin, WSWS, Aug 3 2020

The refusal of the Pindo Congress to take action, while supplemental federal unemployment benefits expired Jul 31 for as many as 30m Pindo workers, demonstrates the social interests that drive the corporate-controlled political system in Pindostan. A Congress whose average member is a millionaire has not the slightest concern for the mass suffering that the cutoff of benefits will inflict on the working class. Tens of millions of workers and their families have already begun to experience the impact of this act of class savagery. Their weekly incomes will be cut by 60% to 90%, depending on the level of state unemployment benefits they may continue to receive. Nearly 20m households will be unable to afford their monthly rent, under conditions where a limited moratorium on evictions was allowed to expire on the same day, Friday Jul 31. Millions more will be unable to buy sufficient food, let alone afford health insurance and medical care under conditions of a nationwide COVID-19 pandemic. The cut-off of supplemental benefits is not the by-product of “gridlock” in Faschingstein nor the unintended consequence of election-year conflicts between Demagogs and the Trump administration, as the corporate media presents it. This is a deliberate policy.

For all their mutual mud-slinging and displays of partisan ferocity, the Demagog & Thug parties and the Trump administration serve the same class interests and are pursuing the same goal. They aim to use the threat of poverty, hunger and homelessness to force millions of workers to return to work producing profits for the capitalist class, regardless of the spreading danger from the pandemic. Appearing on Sunday television interview programs after a three-hour negotiating session on Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (net worth $120m), speaking for the Demagogs, and Treasury Sec Steven Mnuchin (net worth $300m), speaking for the Trump administration, agreed that the $600/wk supplemental benefit would not be renewed in its previous form. On ABC This Week, Mnuchin flatly attacked the supplemental benefit, repeatedly describing jobless workers who received the $600/wk payment as “overpaid” and complaining that the payments had led to widespread refusal by workers to go back to their jobs when recalled after the end of state lockdowns imposed because of COVID-19. When his interviewer expressed skepticism that an “extra $600” was a disincentive to finding a job, Mnuchin replied:

There’s no question, in certain cases where we’re paying people more to stay home than to work, that’s created issues in the entire economy.

The former Hollywood financier, whose personal wealth would cover the cost of supplemental benefits for 10k workers for an entire year, was giving voice to the claims of Senate Thugs and of numerous corporate employers. They have argued that the $600/wk federal benefit made it difficult to induce workers to return to work at low-paying fast-food, retail and sweatshop positions. Speaking on the same program, Pelosi tried to make a display of sympathy for the unemployed, criticizing the Thugs for subjecting jobless workers to a greater degree of scrutiny than businessmen who collected tens of millions of dollars in federal payments under the misnamed Paycheck Protection Program. But she embraced the suggestion of the second-ranking Demagog in the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who said last week that the supplemental benefit was negotiable, and that the Thug demand to reduce the weekly amount was “not a deal-breaker.” Pelosi suggested a sliding scale of payments, as proposed by Senate Demagog Leader Charles Schumer, in which, as he said:

The amount of money that’s given as an enhancement for unemployment insurance should relate to the rate of unemployment. So, as that goes down, then you can consider something less than the $600.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has set Aug 7 as the effective deadline for the ongoing negotiations, the day that the Senate will begin its August recess. The House and Senate could well begin their month-long break, a period of lavishly-paid vacations far beyond the reach of most Pindo workers, having either drastically cut benefits for the unemployed, or failed to restore them at all. On the same day that federal supplemental benefits expired, the House of Representatives passed, on a near-party-line vote, a $1.3t bill to fund the Dept of Defense, as well as the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Justice, Transportation, Energy and several other agencies.

The military component of that bill, close to $750b, would by itself have paid for more than 40 weeks of supplemental unemployment benefits. This includes such items as $70b, four weeks of supplemental benefits, for Overseas Contingency Operations, the slush fund which the Pentagon uses to cover expenses for wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, as well as drone missile strikes across a much wider area. The most recent bill for a single weapons system, the F-35 fighter jet, at $34b, would pay for two weeks of supplemental benefits. A single Ford class aircraft carrier (there are five on order, and 10 planned in total) comes to $18b for research, development and construction, one week’s worth of supplemental unemployment benefits to keep 30m Pindo families alive. There are other comparisons that can be made. GM CEO Mary Barra made $21m last year, or $420k/wk, enough to fund the unemployment benefits of 700 jobless workers. The increase since March in the personal fortune of a single individual, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, comes to $74b, enough to cover supplemental benefits for four weeks. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has gained more than $50b during the same period. He could pay the benefit bill for an additional three weeks. Pindo billionaires as whole have gained $565b over the past four months, enough to finance supplemental benefits until Mar 2021.

And that leaves out the rest of the Wall Street investor class, those of less than billionaire rank, for whom the four months since the passage of the CARES Act in late March have been the most lucrative period in the history of world capitalism. Senator McConnell claimed that 15 to 20 members of his Thug caucus opposed any extension of supplemental benefits at all, and several of these diehards have been quoted bemoaning the colossal federal borrowing that has been carried out since the coronavirus pandemic forced the temporary lockdown of the Pindo economy. The figures cited above, however, demonstrate the lying character of the claims that “there is no money” to provide necessary support for workers, to allow them and their families to survive without being forced back into workplaces that would quickly become focal points of a deadly infectious disease. Resources aplenty exist, created by the labor of workers. There could be no more fitting disposition of these resources than to confiscate them from the capitalists and put them to use to ensure the survival of the principal productive class in modern society, the proletariat. To fight for such a perspective, workers must break with the two parties of big business, the Demagogs & Thugs, and establish their political independence. The working class must build its own political party, based on a revolutionary socialist program aimed at putting an end to the profit system. This means joining and building the SEP.

Pindo credit outlook rated “negative” as concerns mount over dollar’s global role
Nick Beams, WSWS, Aug 3 2020

In another sign of concern over the stability of the Pindo dollar, under conditions where the Fed is pumping trillions into the financial system, the Fitch credit-rating agency has placed a question mark over the credit-worthiness of Pindostan. The agency downgraded its outlook for Pindo credit from “stable” to “negative” on Friday, while retaining its AAA rating, the top grade, for the credit of Pindostan. The agency raised issues about whether Pindostan would be able to contain rising deficits as the government continues its corporate bailouts. In a statement announcing the downgrade, the agency said:

The Pindo sovereign rating is supported by structural strengths that include the size of the economy, high per capita income and a dynamic business environment. Pindostan benefits from issuing the Pindo dollar, the world’s preeminent reserve currency, and from the associated extraordinary financing flexibility, which has been highlighted once again by developments since Mar 2020. … High fiscal deficits and debt were already on a rising medium-term path even before the onset of the huge economic shock precipitated by the coronavirus. They have started to erode the traditional credit strengths of the US. Financing flexibility, assisted by Federal Reserve intervention to restore liquidity to financial markets, does not entirely dispel risks to medium-term debt sustainability, and there is a growing risk that U.S. policymakers will not consolidate public finances sufficiently to stabilize public debt after the pandemic shock has passed.

Articulating the class interests of the financial oligarchy in Pindostan and internationally, it made clear where such “consolidation” should take place, not in reductions to the corporate bailouts or a reversal of the massive corporate and personal tax cuts for higher income earners enacted by Trump at the end of 2017. With one eye clearly fixed on the development of the class struggle, Fitch said:

Having laid bare inequalities in the provision of health-care and exacerbated widening wealth inequality (although government assistance to households focused substantial resources towards those on lower incomes), the crisis could also lead to pressure for higher public spending, greater state involvement in the economy, redistribution of incomes and moves to strengthen workers’ bargaining power.

It left no doubt about how such issues should be dealt with, saying:

The economic crisis has likely brought forward the point at which social security and health-care trust funds are exhausted, demanding bipartisan legislative action to sustainably fund or reform these programs.

In other words, there should be an assault on spending for basic social services. Pointing to what it called the “exceptional financing flexibility” of Pindostan, the borrowing by the Pindo government of $3t from February to June and the interventions of the Fed to “backstop financial markets,” Fitch raised the longer-term consequences of these actions. In what appeared to be a concession to so-called Modern Monetary Theory, which maintains that as Pindostan is the issuer of its own currency it can never run out of funds (a theory widely promoted in pseudo-left circles) it said:

It is a truism that the Pindo government can never run out of money to service its debts. However, there is a potential (albeit remote) risk of fiscal dominance if debt/GDP spirals, posing risks to Pindo economic dynamism and reserve currency status.

Fiscal dominance occurs when the fiscal authority is so profligate that a conscientious monetary authority is forced to accommodate the profligacy, that is, the monetary authority prints gobs of money to fund endless deficits. Concerns about the global role of the dollar as a result of the rise of government debt and the expansion of the Fed’s financial asset holdings, which have increased from under $1t on the eve of the 2008 financial crisis to around $7t today, go well beyond Fitch and other agencies. In an editorial published at the weekend, the Financial Times warned that the world economy “is in a dangerous place.” Pointing to the resurgence of COVID-19 infections in Europe, Australia and Japan, where the virus had appeared to be contained, it said:

This was the week when hopes for a short lockdown followed by a swift resumption of economic activity were dashed once and for all.

This meant, the editorial continued, that it was likely governments would have to continue to borrow and spend. The implications were examined in a separate article titled “Dollar blues: why the pandemic is testing confidence in the Pindo currency.” The article noted that since the initial scramble for dollars in the crisis that hit financial markets in mid-March as the pandemic struck, the dollar has been falling in currency markets, recording its biggest monthly decline for a decade in July. Investors, the article noted, are seeking an alternative to the Pindo currency. Those questions are increasingly coming into prominence because of the rise in the price of gold, now trading at a record high of between $1.9k and $2k per ounce. The Financial Times wrote:

The 5% drop in the value of the dollar in July might sound modest, but in the relatively stable foreign exchange market that counts as dramatic. Such a sharp move in the dollar inevitably raises a series of questions that go to the heart of the global financial system and the unique role that the Pindo currency plays. In the short term, the decline in the dollar is reflecting the potential weakness of the Pindo economy as the pandemic spreads in southern states. While much of the world is slowly crawling out of lockdowns, Pindostan has been an outlier among developed economies for its patchy management of the crisis and increasingly fractious political debate over how to suppress the virus. Fund managers are betting that its central bank will need to lavish yet more stimulus on the economy, weakening the dollar further along the way. But there are also more fundamental worries playing out. Gold is soaring to record nominal highs as investors seek an alternative to the Pindo currency. Some are openly asking, once again, whether Pindo institutions are now too weak for the world to rely on the dollar.

Opponents of the view that the dollar could lose its privileged status maintain there is no possibility of it being replaced as the world’s reserve currency, either by the euro or the Chinese yuan. This is because the financial systems of both the euro zone and China are nowhere near large or sophisticated enough for their currencies to play the global role of the dollar. That analysis is correct as far as it goes. But it does not go far enough. A dollar crisis will not bring about its replacement by the currency of another country or region. Rather, it will set off a crisis of confidence in all fiat currencies and a breakdown of international trading and financial relations. Yields on 10-year Pindo T-bonds have gone negative when inflation is taken into account. The FT article cited remarks by David Riley, a chief investment strategist at BlueBay Asset Management in London, who said:

The Pindo government bond market is reflecting the fact that the Pindo outlook is weakening. There’s going to have to be more stimulus. This is where the gold bug view comes in, where sooner or later this is a debasement of the global reserve currency, so you go into gold.

There are decisive implications flowing from the weakening position of Pindostan. The role of the dollar as the world currency and the decisive importance of Pindo financial markets for every major corporation provide Pindo imperialism with enormous power as it pursues its geostrategic interests. For example, it is the reason it has been able to impose sanctions against Iran despite opposition from Europe, by threatening to exclude companies that break them from the global flow of finance, or to hit companies backing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project to transport gas from Russia to Germany. The deepening crisis of its financial system was triggered and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic but not caused by it, since the underlying tendencies were already well-advanced before the virus struck. In response, Pindo imperialism is going to intensify attacks on the working class at home while pursuing ever more aggressive measures internationally, including war, as it seeks to maintain its global dominance.

Drive to reopen schools continues despite mounting evidence of deadly consequences
Evan Blake, WSWS, Aug 3 2020

A school bus in Omaha, Jul 29 2020. (Photo: Nati Harnik/AP)

The drive to reopen the schools continues across Pindostan despite mounting evidence of the disastrous public health implications of doing so even as the coronavirus pandemic rages out of control. New cases of COVID-19 and deaths from the disease continue to rise and no plan is in place to contain the spread of the virus. Under these conditions, it is impossible to reopen schools safely even with the most advanced measures to protect teachers and students, let alone the half-measures underfunded school districts are implementing. Opposition to the reopening of the schools is growing in every part of the country, with social media exploding over the past month since President Trump tweeted that “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” There are now over 55 Facebook groups in at least 30 states, with a combined membership of over 300k educators, parents and students. These social media groups have served as centers for the organization of car caravans and other forms of protest.

At least four schools in Indiana and Mississippi that resumed in-person instruction over the past week have already had a student test positive for COVID-19. Within hours of the start of the first school day at Greenfield Central Junior High School in Indiana, officials were notified that a student had tested positive, prompting them to isolate the student and order all those with whom the student had come into contact to self-quarantine. There is an expanding body of scientific research showing the centrality of keeping schools closed as part of any plan to contain the pandemic. Last week, a study published in the Journal of the Pindo Medical Association concluded that the widespread closure of schools in mid-March saved at least 40k lives over a 16-day period and resulted in an estimated 1.37m fewer infections over a 26-day period in the spring. Those states that closed earliest saw the largest relative reductions in infections and deaths. Another JAMA study released last week found that babies and young children infected with COVID-19 can carry high viral loads in their throats and airways, up to 100 times the amount of adults. The study noted:

Behavioral habits of young children and close quarters in school and day care settings raise concern for SARS-CoV-2 amplification in this population as public health restrictions are eased.

These findings were corroborated in a separate study from Trento, Italy, which found that children 14 years old and younger transmit the virus at over twice the rate of adults aged 30–49. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin recently released estimates on the number of children or staff likely to enter Pindo schools already infected, based on current infection rates. Their research found that more than 80% of Pindos live in a county where at least one person in a school of 500 students and staff would likely arrive infected. The CDC has released a report on a major outbreak at a YMCA overnight summer camp in Georgia in late June, where 260 campers and staff members tested positive for COVID-19, or over 75% of those tested. Notably, the camp required all attendees to provide documentation that they had tested negative for the virus before arriving.

The demand that schools reopen is central to the ruling class campaign to force workers back to work in order to pump out profits for the corporate-financial elite. While the Trump administration has spearheaded this campaign, flouting medical science, the Democrats bear equal responsibility for prematurely reopening businesses and demanding the reopening of schools in states they control, such as Rhode Island, Hawaii and Colorado. Plans to reopen schools are left at the local level, with each of the country’s over 13k school districts choosing independently and without statewide or regional coordination whether to fully resume in-person instruction, remain fully online, or adopt a hybrid model where students attend in person part of the week. Of the 15 largest school districts in Pindostan, 10 have announced that they will at least begin their school years fully online, largely as a result of pressure from parents and educators resisting plans to resume in-person instruction. In Orange County, Florida, the ninth-largest school district in Pindostan, with over 212k students, parents must choose either fully in-person or fully online instruction.

For working-class parents, many of whom have just seen their federal unemployment benefits eliminated, this “choice” amounts to economic blackmail. They are being compelled to return to work and send their children to school, regardless of their justified concern over the potential for both themselves and their children becoming infected. According to a University of Texas at Austin study, a school of 1k students in Orange County can expect to have 14 students or staff arrive at school infected. The largest and third-largest districts in the country, New York City and Chicago, both of which are run by the Demagog Party, have announced that they plan to partially reopen schools under the hybrid model. This will affect a combined 1.5m students and nearly 100k teachers. Given the overcrowded and dilapidated classrooms that exist in these districts, such plans spell disaster for the working class in both cities. Similar plans are proposed by the Hawaii Dept of Education, the 13th largest school district, where classes are scheduled to resume on Aug 17 for over 185k students.

The SEP and the WSWS Educators Newsletter have issued the call for educators, parents and students to form independent rank-and-file safety committees to unite across district and state lines and prepare for a nationwide strike to halt the drive to reopen the schools. We propose that these committees fight for a vast expansion in public education funding, as states face combined budget shortfalls of at least $300b. They must establish deep connections with all sections of the working class, including autoworkers, who are forming their own rank-and-file safety committees across the Midwest. This network of rank-and-file committees must be completely independent of the unions and both the Thug & Demagog parties. The Pindo Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are subservient to the Demagog Party and have ruled out mobilizing their millions of members in a nationwide strike to oppose the reopening of the schools. Instead, they will work to isolate any struggles that break out, as they have with every teachers’ strike since 2018.

The ruling elites internationally, from Brazil to Germany, the UK and Australia, are demanding that the schools reopen under unsafe conditions because they are all seeking to force workers back onto the job in order to drive up corporate profits and make workers pay for the trillions being squandered to bail out the banks. The response of educators, parents and students must therefore be international, fighting to link their struggles across borders in a global counter-offensive against the capitalist system. The establishment of a network of independent rank-and-file committees in schools and neighborhoods will become a powerful means through which the working class can prosecute its struggle in defense of public health, public education, democratic rights and the social needs of the people in opposition to the limitless greed of the financial oligarchy. We urge all those who wish to form such committees and advance this struggle to contact us today.

The July days of the COVID-19 pandemic wreak havoc on Pindostan
Benjamin Mateus, WSWS, Aug 3 2020

COVID-19 testing site in Ohio (credit Lauren Ramsby)

The first confirmed case of a person infected with COVID-19 was traced back to Nov 17 2019 (260 days ago), in a 55-year-old man from Hubei province in China. Since then, 18.1m people have been infected globally, and more than 691k have perished. It has been 195 days since the first person with COVID-19 was identified in Pindostan, in Faschingstein state. Since then, Pindostan has become the epicenter of the global pandemic, with over 4.8m cases and over 158k deaths, outpacing every other nation without a seeming end to the daily gruesome figures. 2m cases were recorded just in July. The previous high in April had seen close to 900k cases. At the end of May, when the initiative to reopen the country’s economy was in full throttle, the nation had barely brought the pandemic under any semblance of control. The daily cases coming off the spring surge, when the seven-day moving average had reached a peak of 32,471, had barely seen a 30% decline when the Trump administration and states were clamoring to loosen restrictions and allow commerce to resume. As predicted, the number of cases started to rise again in mid-June, especially in the Sun Belt states that were keen on opening up as soon as possible. The decline in fatality rates served to assure governors and state officials that the rise in cases was a by-product of more testing as well as younger people becoming infected. Again, public health experts cautioned that fatality rates would begin climbing soon. But these concerns were dismissed by the media, touting the declines in death rates as assurance that young people were somehow impervious to the effects of the virus.

The physics of the pandemic has proven that such optimistic sentiments were misplaced. In the first week of July, the seven-day moving average of daily fatalities reached its lowest point, with 521, and began climbing steadily, having now reached a seven-day moving average of 1,129. The curve for new cases peaked nearly 10 days ago, reaching a seven-day moving average of over 68,000, and has been on a slow decline. There have been at least 27,585 people who have succumbed in July. By all accounts, it is expected that daily deaths will continue to increase over the next two to three weeks before reaching their peak. Three states have surpassed New York with total cases: California (513,763), Florida (487,132) and Texas (449,736). Georgia, New Jersey, Illinois, Arizona, North Carolina, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have all passed 100k cases. California has the distinction of third place in the number of deaths, with 9,370, behind New Jersey and New York. For July, this represents a 51.6% increase, just for fatalities. Texas, with 7,266 fatalities, saw a 155% increase in deaths. Florida, with 7,022 deaths, has seen a 97.6% increase. Despite the downturn in new daily cases, previously staunch supporters of rapid reopening are now raising the alarm and acknowledging that the pandemic in Pindostan is deeply entrenched in communities throughout the Midwest. Dr Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, said on CNN:

What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal to urban areas. To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus.

COVID-19 daily cases seven-day average in Pindostan

Dana Bash, CNN’s chief political correspondent, followed with the question:

People are panicked, people are worried, people don’t understand why this is seemingly completely out of control. Is it time to reset?

Dr Birx, uneasy, barely managed to defend the administration’s response to the pandemic and essentially deflected the question. On Jul 29, a coalition of health experts urged the federal government to step back from their push to reopen the economy and move to close nonessential businesses. A letter drafted by Matthew Wellington, public health campaigns director, Pindo Public Interest Research Group, and signed by more than 1k health professionals, reads:

Hit the Reset Button. Of all the nations in the world, we’ve had the most deaths from COVID-19. At the same time, we’re in the midst of ‘reopening our economy,’ exposing more and more people to coronavirus and watching the number of cases, and deaths, skyrocket.

Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security published a report over the weekend titled “Resetting Our Response: Changes Needed in the Pindo Approach to COVID-19.” They, too, are advocating a shutdown of non-essential businesses, explicitly calling for the closure of high-risk activities and settings “in jurisdictions where the epidemic is worsening” and to “reinstitute stay-at-home orders where health-care systems are in crisis.” Additionally, they are demanding bolstering supply chains for PPE and testing equipment, as well as establishing a robust ramping-up of contact-tracing.

COVID-19 daily deaths seven-day average in Pindostan

The Pindo economy’s contraction in the second quarter of 2020 was the worst ever recorded. Gross domestic product fell nearly 10%, shrinking by $1.8t. The only comparison to such a collapse in historical reference is to the Great Depression and the demobilization after WW2. Every week in July, the number of unemployment claims exceeded 1m. Jerome H Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, told reports last week:

The path forward for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain and will depend in large part on our success in keeping the virus in check.

Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, has expressed concern over the toll the pandemic has taken and suggested a short-term lockdown to get control of the health crisis. The end of July saw Pindo unemployment supplements expire for tens of millions of people. And still, like their response to the pandemic, Faschingstein continues to bicker over the relief package. The pandemic is shifting to new locations, rapidly moving into Midwest states like Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, predominately due to summer travels. Government officials in some of these states are attempting to reimpose restrictions again, warning residents that a surge could overwhelm their limited hospital capacities. Yet a lack of a real coordinated effort and comprehensive strategy by the Trump administration has led to widespread social resentment and frustration.

Major League Baseball season on brink of collapse as COVID-19 continues to spread
Alan Gilman, WSWS, Aug 3 2020

Major League Baseball’s (MLB) season began on Jul 23 and has already been forced to postpone 17 games due to COVID-19 outbreaks. As many as 21 members of the Miami Marlins, including 18 players (or 60% of its game day roster), tested positive for the coronavirus last week. Over the weekend, multiple St Louis Cardinals players and staffers tested positive as well, along with at least two staffers on the Philadelphia Phillies. These teams cannot play until their remaining players test negative for at least three to four days. Although MLB tests all of its players and staff every two days, because of delays in testing results a positive case can go up to four days before being diagnosed. The infected teams, their recent opponents and their upcoming opponents all have to postpone their games. Fully 20% of MLB’s weekend games, which typically receive the highest viewerships, have had to be postponed. MLB’s plan has been to play a shortened season, originally consisting of 60 games played over 66 days. To make up for these postponed games MLB intends to schedule multiple double headers with the standard nine inning games being reduced to seven. Playing so many games in such a short period significantly increases the risk of injuries to players, particularly pitchers.

On Friday Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred told MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark that if the sport does not do a better job of managing the coronavirus, it could shut down for the season. According to official guidelines, Manfred has the sole discretion to suspend the season. The almost immediate collapse of MLB’s return to play exposes the absurdity of attempting to play professional sports in the midst of the most serious public health crisis in modern history. The multi-billions of dollars that are at stake have certainly played an important role in MLB’s reckless decisions. But more is at stake than the revenue streams for team owners. The reopening of sports leagues is part of the broader return-to-work drive by the entire ruling class and is an attempt to “normalize” the pandemic, even as over 1k Pindos continue to die each day. But if MLB, in spite of billions in resources, is unable even to protect the health of a relatively small number of mostly young adults in peak physical condition, this campaign will receive a serious blow. There can be no doubt that MLB is under intense political pressure behind the scenes to not abandon the season. By Saturday Manfred was shifting the blame to the players, saying:

The players need to be better, but I am not a quitter in general, and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable.

In reality, MLB’s “safety protocols” were always grossly inadequate and doomed to failure, and public health experts have stated so. Although these protocols require daily temperature checks, regular testing, and sanitization of club houses, MLB declined to set up a quarantine “bubble” similar to other Pindo sports leagues. Instead, games are being played without audiences in teams’ normal venues, leaving players and staff at high risk of contracting the virus as they travel. The fact that a central element of the “protocols” is the near-doubling of roster sizes and the establishment of “taxi squads” of replacements for road trips demonstrates that league’s primary concern was not preventing outbreaks, but that suitable replacements could be found to play games in spite of outbreaks.

The fact that the Miami Marlins elected to play their scheduled game against the Philadelphia Phillies last Sunday, in spite of having four confirmed cases already on their roster, testifies to the lack of any independent decision-making process led by medical experts. Moreover MLB has no qualms about the risk that players are compelled to assume as they travel to and from Miami, Houston, and Los Angeles, three Major League cities that currently have among the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world. Before the season began, 18 players opted out of playing the season out of concern for their own health and those of their families. This weekend they were joined by three others, Isan Diaz of the Miami Marlins, Lorenzo Cain of the Milwaukee Brewers, and Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets.

Also on Sunday, Cincinnati Reds All-Star first baseman Joey Votto was placed on the injury list after reporting COVID-19 symptoms. Eduardo Rodriguez, a 27-year-old pitcher of the Boston Red Sox, has developed lingering complications from the coronavirus and will sit out the season. Even though he had tested positive on Jul 7 and recovered in time to join the team for spring training, a routine physical revealed he had developed myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart. Recent studies have shown that a large percentage of recovered COVID-19 patients have suffered from heart inflammation, including myocarditis. Rodriguez told the press last month that he felt about “100 years old” with the virus. he added:

I’ve never been that sick in my life, and I don’t want to get that sick again.

The fact that a pro athlete in peak physical condition could develop such severe symptoms exposes claims that only the elderly and infirm are at risk. The problems plaguing baseball are also appearing in football as the National Football League and college football open training camps. The NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to a plan that allows players to opt out of the upcoming season if they are uncomfortable with the COVID-19 health protocols put in place. High-risk individuals could opt out and receive a $350k stipend, less than the minimum salary for rookies, whereas those less at risk would receive a $150k stipend. Players have the ability to opt out later in the season, as well, in the event that a family member becomes sick. So far 39 players have opted out, including eight from the New England Patriots. Many opted out last week after witnessing the debacle in MLB. Instead of attempting to address the justified fears of its players, the NFL is attempting to stop the flow of players opting out by imposing a Wednesday deadline, by when they can exercise this option. There are also over 60 NFL players on what the league describes as Reserve/COVID-19 list. This category includes players who have tested positive or have been in close contact with someone who has. This present list includes two starting quarterbacks, Mathew Strafford of the Detroit Lions and Gardner Minshew of the Jacksonville Jaguars. According to the NFL, these players have to remain apart from the team until they are “healthy.”

Far more dangerous is the situation facing college football players. Most small college programs will not be playing, but the multibillion-dollar business of major college football is scheduled to start later this month. As college training camps open, many teams have reported significant numbers of players testing positive. Moreover, these amateur “student-athletes” are being brought back to campuses where in most cases the student body will remain at home for some or all of the semester. Many players and their parents have complained about the hypocrisy of having them continue to play and travel while it is deemed too unsafe for other students to be on campus. Among college players there is growing opposition to these plans. A group of football players from the PAC-12, the West Coast Conference containing major programs such as UCLA, Berkeley, Stanford, and Oregon, wrote a letter to the conference declaring that they would opt out of fall camp and games unless the league meets several demands. These include allowing players the option to opt out without losing athletics eligibility or a spot on their team’s roster, prohibiting or voiding all agreements that waive liability for the conference and its schools and player-approved health and safety standards enforced by a third parties.

At least 20% of Pindo meatpackers may have contracted coronavirus
Cordell Gascoigne, WSWS, Aug 3 2020

Over 50k food and agricultural workers have contracted COVID-19 in the United States, according to numbers compiled by the Food & Environment Reporting Network. As of its latest figures, 51,453 workers in the meatpacking, food processing and farming industries have contracted the disease since March. The overwhelming majority of these, 38,641, are meatpacking workers. These figures represent at least 635 plants and 89 farms and production facilities across the country, demonstrating that the virus has spread completely unchecked throughout these industries. At least 221 workers, including 174 meatpackers, have died. These figures, collated from various news sources and corporate press releases, represent the most comprehensive and up-to-date attempt to track the virus among meatpacking and farm workers. However, they are necessarily incomplete because there is no systematic, regular testing of meatpacking workers in Pindostan, much less a centralized system of publicly reporting the results. Instead, companies have released figures only in piecemeal fashion and from individual locations, often only after battles with local health authorities.

The CDC does not keep regularly updated statistics for the sector and its latest figures are from a study released on Jul 7. Even these figures were likely a massive undercount. The CDC total of 16,233 cases at meatpacking plants was roughly half that reported by FERN at the time. However, this was enough for CDC to declare that 9% of the nationwide meatpacking workforce had already been infected. If FERN’s numbers are accurate, this means that more than 20% of Pindo meatpackers have been infected. By far the largest number of cases at a single employer is at poultry giant Tyson Foods, with a total of over 10k. Brazilian-owned JBS has outbreaks at 12 of its Pindo-based facilities, with at least 2,660 cases and 14 deaths. This includes six deaths at its beef processing plant at Greeley, Colorado, where workers staged a wildcat walkout last month. Smithfield Foods has had outbreaks at 13 plants with at least 2k cases and 6 deaths.

Last month, Smithfield Foods attempted to nullify a subpoena from the OSHA to the state of South Dakota that would result in disclosing the number of cases at Smithfield’s plants in the state. Smithfield Foods defended its request to the courts saying OSHA’s investigation would “damage how it and other companies work with government agencies in their response to the coronavirus pandemic,” that is, in secret and on the companies’ terms. Smithfield representatives said that the company gave the South Dakota Dept of Health information only because of an agreement that the information would be “adequately protected.” In press releases, Tyson Foods issued a statement saying that its “extensive program of prevention and testing” was being implemented in “more than 40 Pindo locations,” a small minority of its total Pindo operations, in partnership with Matrix Medical Network, a private health-care provider. According to FERN, Tyson has released testing figures from only 18 plants, with the most recent results announced on Jun 26. The company has conducted only 40k tests out of a total workforce of 122k. In their drive to keep workers on the line making profits, the meatpacking companies are following the lead of President Trump, who signed an executive order in April to keep meatpacking plants open.

Even before the pandemic, the meatpacking industry had some of the highest rates of workplace injuries and illnesses in the country, driven by unsanitary conditions and breakneck line speeds. Packed tightly on the line, meatpacking workers perform the same precise cutting motions thousands of times each day, producing astronomical levels of carpal tunnel syndrome and other cumulative trauma injuries. One federal study in 2013 found that 47% of workers at a South Carolina poultry plant had carpal tunnel syndrome. Trump’s Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, son of the late extreme-right Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is a former corporate lawyer who led a crusade in the 1990s against ergonomics regulations designed to protect workers from repetitive motion injuries as “junk science.” Last week in the state of Utah, members of the medical community gathered outside the Utah Capitol building to call for the closing of meatpacking plants to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Dr Niki Davis of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a non-profit with over 12k members, said:

What we’re asking is that the meat plants are closed. We’ve already had 168 deaths of meat packing plant workers in Pindostan.

The group explained that meatpacking workers face the problem of “proving” where they had contracted the virus and of subsequently being denied benefits, creating an incentive for them to work through illnesses resulting in the further spread of the disease. Davis said doctors have received multiple reports of workers claiming they were forced to work in close proximity with others in unsanitary conditions. Among the 239 meat processing facilities in the United States that have reported COVID-19 cases, only 111 of them have documented their rudimentary “intervention and prevention” tactics to the CDC.

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