parade of the fascists (i cannot be bothered with WSWS’ term “fascistic”)

Fascistic candidate wins Thug congressional nomination in Georgia
Trévon Austin, WSWS, Aug 14 2020

Majorie Taylor Greene, a fascistic millionaire businesswoman, won the Thug nomination in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District on Tuesday. Greene defeated neurosurgeon John Cowan in a primary run-off election on Tuesday to replace retiring Congressman Tom Graves. Greene is a believer of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory which glorifies President Trump, claiming he is fighting a “deep state” conspiracy of pedophiles, Satanists and Demagog politicians and urging him to arrest and execute his opponents. The theory began with a post on the imageboard 4chan by an individual using the pseudonym “Q,” who claimed to have access to classified information on the Trump Administration and its opponents. QAnon supporters traffic in anti-Semitic tropes, particularly centered on liberal Jewish billionaire George Soros, a Holocaust survivor. Greene has repeated slanders that Soros turned over Jews to Nazis during WW2, although he was only 14 at the end of the war. She has also claimed that African Americans should feel proud when they see Confederate monuments because they signify the progress made since the Civil War. Trump immediately hailed the fascist’s victory, tweeting on Wednesday morning:

Congratulations to future Thug Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent. Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up — a real WINNER!

While the congressional Thug leadership had attacked Greene publicly and sided with Cowan in the run-off, hoping to avoid association with her fascistic views in other congressional districts, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy immediately lined up behind Trump and said the Thug Party would support Greene as its candidate in the November elections. Greene’s victory in the primary makes it likely she will gain the House seat in the fall. Trump won 75% of the vote in the district, which comprises largely rural areas and small towns in the north-west corner of Georgia, along the Alabama and Tennessee borders. The retiring congressman, Tom Graves, had no Demagog opponent at all in 2014 and 2016. In 2018 he was reelected with 76% of the vote. For the 2020 election, the Demagogs have nominated Kevin Van Ausdal, an IT consultant, who has raised $18k, compared to the nearly $3m raised and spent by Greene and Cowan. Greene loaned her own campaign $900k. At a victory party, the lone reporter present was ejected. Greene’s campaign later said she would not take questions from the “fake media.” She launched into a diatribe against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (one of the supposed masterminds of a pedophile conspiracy, according to QAnon), concluding with a threat to “kick that bitch out of Congress.” Greene said in a tweet celebrating her victory:

The Thug establishment was against me. The DC swamp is against me. And the lying fake news media hates my guts. It’s a badge of honor. It’s not about me winning. This is a referendum on every single one of us, on our beliefs.

A wealthy construction company co-owner who self-funded most of her campaign, Greene won a plurality in the first round of the primary by a 19% margin. Only a week after, she drew denunciations from leading Thugs, McCarthy and the chair of the House Thug campaign arm Tom Emmer, for a video unearthed by Politico that showed Greene demeaning minorities and making racist remarks. Greene declared the 2018 election of Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim congresswomen, as “an Islamic invasion” of the government. In a video denouncing Omar and Tlaib, Greene said:

Anyone that is a Muslim, that believes in Sharia law, does not belong in our government! Let me explain something to you, Muhammad! We already have equality and justice for all Pindos! Muslims are not being held back in any way! What you people want is special treatment! You want to rise above us!

Greene also said that Black and Hispanic men have been generationally held down by “being in gangs and dealing drugs.” She clumped white supremacists and members of Black Lives Matter together as “idiots” and said that Demagogs are “trying to keep the Black people in a modern-day form of slavery.” After the WaPo published an article about her showing in the June primary, Greene tweeted:

Chinese propagandists at the WaPo are attacking me the same way they attack Donald Trump, and other conservatives.

It is not just a matter of Greene’s personal derangement, since she won more than 40,000 votes. The 14th Congressional District includes Paulding County, which made headlines after the administration at North Paulding High School suspended a student for posting pictures displaying hundreds of students crowded in hallways, many without face masks. School board and other local officials have treated COVID-19 as though it was a hoax fomented by Trump’s political opponents, not a deadly global pandemic. Nor is this ultra-right trend in the Thug Party limited to rural Georgia. In just the past week at least three instances of outright racist and fascist sympathies in Thug candidates or officeholders have surfaced. In North Carolina, the Thug candidate for an open seat in the western tip of the state, the one given up by Mark Meadows when he became White House chief of staff, has posted photos on his Instagram account from a 2017 vacation trip to Adolf Hitler’s Eagles Nest retreat in the Bavarian Alps. Madison Cawthorn, the 25-year-old who won an upset victory in last month’s primary, over a businesswoman supported by Meadows, posted a picture of himself and his brother grinning in front of the Nazi hideaway. Using the Nazi honorific for Hitler, Cawthorn captioned the photo

The vacation house of the Führer. Seeing the Eagles Nest has been on my bucket list for awhile, it did not disappoint.

Another Thug congressional candidate, Laura Loomer, is expected to win the Aug 18 primary in Florida’s 21st Congressional District. Loomer is an ultra-right Jewish Islamophobe who worked for the right-wing provocateurs of Project Veritas, and has been banned from virtually all major social media platforms for vilification and slander of Muslims. Loomer is one of six candidates in the Thug primary, for a seat where incumbent Demagog Lois Frankel is heavily favored. She is well-financed, having raised nearly $1.2m, more than all her opponents combined, and has the tacit support of Trump, who has retweeted material promoting her campaign. The last episode of racist and fascist sentiment in the Thug Party is the crudest. Tom Eckerle, a road commission member in Leelanau County, Michigan, in the rural northern part of the lower peninsula, was forced to resign this work after repeatedly using the racist n-word when asked why he wasn’t wearing a face mask at a commission meeting. Eckerle said:

Well, this whole thing is because of them niggers down in Detroit!

When told he couldn’t use the racial slur, Eckerle responded:

I can say anything I want! Black Lives Matter has everything to do with taking the country away from us!

The open embrace of racism in sections of the Thug Party is deliberately encouraged by Trump as part of his efforts to build a fascistic base of support for an authoritarian government. It also takes advantage of the racialist and reactionary politics of the Demagog Party. Greene, for example, regularly denounces impeachment and the Mueller investigation as examples of “deep state” subversion of Trump, which of course they are, making use of the role of sections of the military & intelligence apparatus to smear all opposition to Trump. The racialist politics of the Demagog Party, which asserts that the basic division in Pindo society is between black people and white people, not the class division between workers and the capitalist elite, facilitates and mirrors the racism of the ultra-right.

Congress adjourns for month-long vacation without action on unemployment crisis
Patrick Martin, WSWS, Aug 14 2020

Pelosi, McConnell, Schumer, McCarthy, Hoyer (Photo: Erin Schaff/AP)

In an action that demonstrates the bipartisan contempt of both corporate parties, Demagogs & Thugs, for the interests of the vast majority of working people, Congress went into a month-long recess Thursday, taking no action to alleviate the worst economic and public health crisis in a century. The Demagog-controlled House of Representatives began its August recess last weekend, while the Thug-controlled Senate held brief daily sessions until Thursday before taking its own recess. The Senate is not scheduled to return until Tuesday Sep 8, the day after the Labor Day holiday, while the House will be on vacation even longer, until Monday Sep 14. Under the terms of the Senate recess, even if there were to be an agreement between the two sides which have been negotiating, the congressional Demagog leadership and the Trump administration, any individual senator can block consideration of the deal until the full Senate reconvenes. That means that no action will be taken to address the unemployment crisis until some time next month. As a result of the deadlock in talks between the Democrats and the Trump administration, the $600/wk federal extended unemployment benefits expired on Jul 31, as well as a ban on evictions in properties insured or partially financed through federal agencies, about 40% of the total. The congressional recess means that nearly 20m unemployed workers who have depended on the extended federal benefits will now have to live without them for another four weeks, added to the two weeks’ worth of payments they have already lost.

The congressional recess will include the nominating convention of the Demagog Party, August 17-20, followed by the Thug convention Aug 24-27. Biden and Harris, then Trump and Pence, will take part in lengthy, stage-managed coronations which would have been scenes of endless partying and fund-raising but for the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prevented thousands of delegates from physically assembling at the convention sites. The scale of the money flow is demonstrated by the report that the Biden campaign raised a record $26m in the 24 hours after Biden announced his selection of Harris as his running mate. There are numerous reports of the gusher of money from Wall Street into the coffers of the Demagog campaign. Trump, of course, will rake in similar support from millionaires and billionaires reveling in his tax cut for the wealthy and his continual boosting of the stock market.

While the two parties of big business stage their celebrations, the working class faces a grim reality of rising death tolls from the coronavirus pandemic and a million new applications for unemployment insurance every week of this summer. Despite the colossal impact on the living standards of millions of workers, it does not appear that the sticking point in the talks was the level of unemployment benefits. Neither party favored continuation of the $600-a-week payment, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats had repeatedly indicated their willingness to compromise at a lower level, perhaps as little as the $400/wk Trump signaled support for in the executive order he signed this week.

The most important issue, according to leaks to the press carried out by both sides, was the question of federal aid to crisis-stricken state and city governments, devastated by the economic collapse that has driven down tax revenues, but compelled by state constitutions to balance their budgets, which will require massive across-the-board cuts in all public services. According to Pelosi, the Demagogs were seeking $915b in federal aid to cities and states, while the White House offered only $150b, plus some additional flexibility in repurposing funds previously allotted to the states in the CARES Act passed in late March. The White House apparently insisted, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, that any money to aid the states would come with severe restrictions. he said:

You can’t use that money to bail out pensions.

Pelosi responded in kind, claiming that she would not resume talks until the White House agreed to split the difference between the $3.5t bill passed by the House in May, and the $1.2t bill offered by Senate Thugs last month. she said:

Until they’re ready to do that, it’s no use sitting in a room and let them tell us that states should go bankrupt.

Other issues included increased funding for election security and for the Postal Service, to enable it to handle the flood of mail ballots expected because of coronavirus restrictions on in-person voting. Trump has been adamant that he will not sign any legislation that allows the USPS to handle a surge of mail ballots. The two sides characterized their positions with mock intransigence, as though they were fighting a titanic battle over principle. The truth is that deadlock and delay serve the purposes of both sides. Trump is using his executive orders, issued Saturday without a shred of constitutional legality, to posture as the defender of the workers thrown out of their jobs by the pandemic. Pelosi adopts the same pretense, warning that “people will die” if there is no deal struck on extending benefits. While they engage in this supposed battle from the opposite sides of phony barricades erected on Pennsylvania Avenue, both factions in Faschingstein represent the interests of the same class, the financial aristocracy and its military & police apparatus. This is apparent from the fact that in March they reached agreement in a matter of hours when it was a question of bailing out Wall Street and corporate America in the CARES Act. Similarly, both parties have rubber-stamped massive Pentagon funding bills, most recently topping $750b, ensuring that the military arm of Pindo imperialism never misses a meal.

How the Pindo oligarchy profited on death
Andre Damon, WSWS, Aug 14 2020

Pindostan set two milestones on Wednesday: 1,503 people died from COVID-19, the highest level in three months, and the S&P 500 stock index reached its highest mid-day level ever. One hour after the markets closed on Wednesday, Trump, the architect of the Pindo response to the pandemic that has left more than 170k people dead, devoted almost the entirety of his daily coronavirus “task force” briefing to boasting about the surge of the stock market. In his remarks, Trump outlined the theory governing the pandemic response of the White House, the cockpit of Pindo capitalism. Pointing to a group of slides prepared by Lawrence Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, Trump related the surge in the stock market to the fact that the economic contraction due to lockdowns in Pindostan was lower than in other countries. Trump said:

The stock market is up almost 300 points again today. Our economy is performing significantly better than Europe, which people have to understand very strongly. It’s performing better than any market anywhere in the world actually.

Trump claimed that $9t in financial wealth had been created since March, and that stock values were up by close to 50%. Calling the figures “incredible,” he said:

That’s a number that nobody has ever heard of before!

Moving to the next slide, Trump added:

You’ll see the virus-induced economic contraction in Pindostan has been far less severe than it was with our peers and peer nations.

According to the figures Trump presented, real GDP in Pindostan fell by 10.6% in the first six months of the year, compared to 15% in the Euro area. What Trump left out was the fact that, despite the weaker economic contraction, unemployment surged in Pindostan at a vastly higher level than in Europe. The statistics Trump fumbled to present were consistent with the observations of epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, who explained the fact that the United States is the world’s epicenter of COVID-19 because the country lifted lockdowns much earlier than countries that had more effectively contained the disease. Osterholm noted:

Simply, we gave up on our lockdown efforts to control virus transmission well before the virus was under control. Many other countries didn’t let up until the number of cases was greatly reduced, even in places that had extensive outbreaks in March and April. Pindostan recorded its lowest seven-day average since March 31 on May 28, when it was 21k cases, or 6.4 new cases per 100k people per day. This rate was 7 to 10 times higher than the rates in countries that successfully contained their new infections.

As a result, Pindostan has suffered five times as many COVID-19 cases as the EU. In other words, Trump was describing a policy of deliberately allowing over 170k people to die in order to ensure the stock market kept rising. As one group of public health experts recently noted:

We could have prevented 99% of those COVID-19 deaths. But we didn’t.

Trump’s remarks Wednesday give chilling immediacy to his declaration last week, when confronted with the reality that 1k people are dying every day. He said:

They are dying, that’s true, and it is what it is.

As the WSWS has explained, the Pindo ruling class’s response to the pandemic was driven not by the effort to preserve the lives of the population, but rather by the single-minded aim of defending and expanding the wealth of its financial oligarchy. To the extent that the pandemic played any role in social policy, it was as a pretext to transfer some $6t to Wall Street and the major corporations—endorsed nearly unanimously by Demagogs & Thugs. Trump’s responsibility for these deaths is chilling to contemplate. But he could never have committed this crime without accomplices. While cheerleading the premature reopening of the country, the White House left the decision on reopening to the governors, all of whom, Demagog & Thug alike, reopened businesses in their states before the pandemic was contained. Many Demagog governors, including those of Maine, North Carolina, Kansas and Colorado, actually reopened businesses in defiance of the White House’s own guidelines. Now, the campaign to get teachers back on the job is being led by Demagog NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo, who declared last week that all the state’s schools could reopen, setting the stage for a new surge in the pandemic. For the ruling class, children must go back to school so that their parents can go back to work and pump out profits to pay for the bailout of Wall Street.

The “economic success” proclaimed by Trump is solely the success of the rich. For the great majority of Pindo society, the first six months of this year have been a disaster. The death toll is quickly approaching 200k. Some 30m people are unemployed. Following the expiration of federal unemployment benefits, tens of millions are facing poverty and eviction. Yet 9 out of the 10 richest Pindo billionaires are wealthier now than they were a year ago, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. These ten individuals have collectively received $200b over the course of the past year. Their combined wealth has hit $906b, up 22% from the year before. Leading the pack was Jeff Bezos, who, with his fortune of $187b, made $71b over the past year. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates made $8b, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg $20b, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk $48b. The surge in the markets has paralleled the surge in deaths. On Mar 23, the day the stock market reached its low point, just 693 people had died from COVID-19 in Pindostan. Since then, nearly 170k more people have died.

For workers, it is vital to draw the lessons of recent months as the pandemic spirals out of control in Pindostan. Over the next month, millions of children and teachers will be herded into schools, fueling a massive resurgence of the pandemic that can make even the estimates of 300k deaths by the end of the year look optimistic. The ruling class is perfectly willing to accept hundreds of thousands more deaths if it means that stock values will rise further. That is why matters cannot be left to them. Across the country, opposition is mounting among teachers and educators to the premature return to school. This struggle must be linked with the fight by workers at factories and other workplaces across the country to ensure workplace safety and an end to non-essential production until the pandemic can be contained and eradicated. Above all else, this year’s grim harvest of human lives has revealed the homicidal essence of capitalism and made clear that its urgent replacement with socialism is a matter of life and death.

First two weeks of school reopenings lead to massive spread of COVID-19
Zac Corrigan, WSWS, Aug 14 2020

Over the past two weeks, numerous school districts across the US resumed in-person instruction, leading to multiple serious outbreaks of COVID-19 affecting thousands of students, educators, school workers and parents. With tens of millions more children slated to return to schools in the coming weeks, the dangers posed are enormous. The exact spread of the disease through the schools is not known, because there is no national coordination of the school reopening process itself. States and school districts have different policies not only on what constitutes a “safe” reopening, but also on how, or whether, to record COVID-19 outbreaks and publish the data. There are nearly 14k school districts across Pindostan, and each is being left to its own devices amid a global pandemic that is spiraling out of control. The following is a partial list of outbreaks at Pindo schools in just the last two weeks:

  • In Georgia, where Governor Brian Kemp does not require masks in schools, Cherokee County School District has recorded at least 84 cases since reopening for face-to-face instruction on Aug 3. Over 1,400 additional students, teachers and staff at 22 schools across the district were in close contact with these positive cases and are now under two-week quarantine.
  • Also in Georgia, North Paulding High School was forced to close Monday and Tuesday this week after a student’s photos and videos of students without masks packed into narrow hallways went viral. The school planned to reopen on Wednesday, but by then 35 cases had been reported and the shutdown was extended merely until next week.
  • At least seven schools in the Houston County School District in central Georgia have reported at least one positive case, and an unknown number have been quarantined.
  • Delaware Community Schools in Muncie, Indiana, sent 228 students at five schools into quarantine this week after they either exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 or came into contact with a player on the Delta High School football team who tested positive.
  • In Livingston Parish, Louisiana, 141 students are under quarantine along with 17 teachers and staff, seven of whom tested positive. In Jefferson Parish, all 75 first graders as well as six teachers at Dr. John Ochsner Discovery Health Sciences Academy are now under quarantine after one student tested positive.
  • At Enterprise City Schools in Alabama, three students tested positive at two school sites. Roughly 120 were quarantined, 27 of them with symptoms and the rest for close contact.
  • There are 19 cases recorded and an unknown number under quarantine in at least six different schools in Oahu and Kauai, Hawaii.
  • At Manteca Unified School District in California, two teachers and two staff tested positive during the first week of classes, and more than a dozen teachers are now under quarantine.
  • Two students tested positive and another seven were quarantined at South Jones High School in Jones County, Mississippi.
  • This is in fact an international process, and in Berlin, Germany, COVID-19 has been detected in students and staff at eight schools after schools were reopened this week.

The return to in-person classes takes place as the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging through much of Pindostan. Since Aug 3, the day many of these schools began in-person teaching, the WHO has recorded 11,580 new COVID deaths and more than 575k new cases in Pindostan.

This plastic guard, built by a teacher, is not allowed by the school administration.

At least 97k children tested positive in the US in the last two weeks of July, and the latest scientific evidence shows that children can not only become severely ill from COVID, but they can also be even more potent spreaders of the disease than adults. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that babies and young children infected with COVID-19 can carry viral loads in their throats and airways up to 100 times more than adults. Pindo teachers and students are under immense pressure from the government to accept the deadly policy of a return to school. For the ruling class, the return to in-person schooling is key to the larger policy of a “return to work” for masses of workers. In response to the pandemic, Demagogs & Thugs in Congress passed the CARES Act on a near-unanimous basis, funneling trillions of dollars to the banks and big businesses. Now, their plan is to squeeze this money out of the working class in the form of wage cuts, speed-up of production and further attacks on benefits. But in order to do any of this, workers must be at work, and therefore their children must be at school.

A social media post showing the small amount
of PPE provided to another teacher.

That is why the reckless rush to open the schools is a bipartisan policy. This involves not only Thugs like Trump, DeVos and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who on Thursday compared teachers to Navy SEALs who had to overcome “obstacles” like the commandos that killed Osama bin Laden. It also involves Democrats like NY state Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and others. The campaign to reopen schools has been met with growing opposition among educators, education workers, parents and students. In addition to numerous car-caravans and other demonstrations, teachers and students have taken to social media to express opposition and to expose the disastrous conditions they confront in the schools, even in the face of threats and recriminations from school administrators. Spearheading the campaign to reopen schools, the Trump administration has become increasingly strident in its attacks on educators and public education, while stoking divisions between parents and teachers. On Wednesday, Trump held a live-streamed event called “Kids First: Getting Pindostan’s Children Safely Back to School,” in which he repeatedly suggested that schools should be defunded if they do not return to full capacity. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos slandered teachers by stating:

Children can’t be held captive to other people’s fears or agendas.

Following the lead of Trump, state and local officials are punishing those that speak out or seek to maintain their health and safety. In El Mirage, Arizona, a music teacher faces a fine of $2k after he resigned without sufficient notice, rather than risk contracting COVID-19 by reporting to his school building to teach virtual classes online. A Dysart Unified School District spox said that the district can waive the fee in the case of a medical emergency, but that it was choosing to enforce it during the pandemic, to make sure classrooms are staffed. The students who revealed the dangerous conditions at Georgia’s North Paulding High School were suspended for unauthorized use of smartphones at school, and the principal was recorded threatening others with “consequences” if they post anything “negative” on social media. The suspensions were only lifted when teachers and students opposed it and the school became the subject of national attention due to the viral leaks. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, threatened teachers over their use of social media to expose conditions. In an email communique titled “Protection of Employee Freedom of Speech and Limits to It,” he wrote, “guidelines to help employees avoid situation in which expressions may conflict with the district’s interests.” These “guidelines” include the following:

A teacher must not express an opinion for the purpose of persuading students to the teacher’s point of view.

A teacher writes that this is all the PPE she
was provided for the entire school year.

Nonetheless, teachers are taking to social media by the thousands to express their opposition, expose conditions and share information. In particular, Facebook groups containing thousands, or even tens of thousands, of teachers have sprung up in recent weeks, such as Iowa Educators for a Safe Return to School (21,567 members), Illinois for a Safe Return to Campus (32,583), Texas Teachers for Safe Reopening (47,973) and Parents Against The Opening Of Schools (113,505). Teachers are posting photos of the inadequate cleaning supplies and PPE provided by the schools. One post shows a single mask, a package of alcoholic wipes, and one bottle of disinfectant, noting:

This is what the school gave me for PPE for the entire year.

Another teacher quipped:

Seems they forgot the urn for my ashes.

Many teachers have posted photos of plastic guards they have built with their own supplies, because the schools have not provided any, only to be told by administrators that such elementary protections constructed by teachers are not allowed. One teacher who made such a makeshift guard wrote movingly:

I got Covid over the summer and it permanently damaged my heart (aortic aneurysm). So, I came up with what I thought was a creative way to further protect myself not that I’m high risk. My largest class is 40, desks are 15 to 18 inches apart, and we don’t have dividers. I was told it is not approved and has to be taken down. Does anyone know why? Who can I take this to?

The mounting opposition among teachers, education workers, parents and students to the homicidal campaign to reopen schools must become organized and unified across district and state boundaries. The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) calls upon all those opposed to reopening schools to form a network of independent rank-and-file safety committees in every school and neighborhood to prepare a nationwide general strike to halt the opening of schools and force the closure of those that have opened. At the same time, these committees must demand full income to parents and care-givers who stay at home with children, a massive funding program to provide high-speed internet access and state-of-the-art online learning, along with universal testing and contact-tracing to contain the spread of the virus. Pitted in a battle against the entire political establishment, educators, school workers, parents and students have powerful allies in the broader working class: autoworkers, logistics, service, health-care and more who confront the same campaign to force them to work in unsafe conditions. Networks of safety committees must be built in every industry, uniting the working class in a common struggle against the capitalist system and both of the corporate-controlled parties. We urge all those who wish to take up such a struggle to contact us today and sign up for the WSWS Educators Newsletter to follow developments in the fight against the unsafe reopening of schools and in defense of public education.

Health insurance companies reap billions as COVID-19 pandemic inflicts death and destitution
Alex Johnson, WSWS, Aug 14 2020

Pindostan’s top health insurance companies are experiencing a surge in profits amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, even as the novel coronavirus has sickened or killed a broad section of the population. The largest health insurance chains including Anthem, Humana and United Health Group are reporting Q2 earnings at double the rate from the same period last year. This is mostly due to billions of dollars shed from the abrupt stoppage of medical claims for expensive, elective surgeries and billions of dollars received through the CARES Act, passed in an almost unanimous bipartisan vote by Congress in March. Most costly operations, such as heart transplants, spinal fusions and knee replacements, have either been postponed or canceled outright because hospitals have had to concentrate on the influx of COVID-19 patients. Moreover, people have foregone important procedures out of fear of contracting the virus in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms. In the month of April, when the pandemic was raging out of control, outpatient surgeries for HCA Health-Care facilities fell by 70% compared to Apr 2019 nationwide. In-patient admissions have also fallen by nearly a third. HCA is Pindostan’s largest for-profit hospital network.

Excluding COVID-19 patients, health plans and employers have likewise seen an overall decline in health care use by about 30% to 40%, according to Tim Nimmer, the global chief at Aon. Annual costs of patient care are expected to be reduced by about 1.5% to 2% each month. One of the highest surges came from Humana, which reported last Wednesday that its net income rose to $1.8b for Q2 2020, compared to $940m for the same quarter of 2019. The pharmaceutical giant Cigna also raked in a higher revenue stream, with its adjusted revenue at $39.8b for the second quarter, with $1.8b in net income gobbled up by shareholders alone. Last Wednesday, the retail pharmacy chain CVS Health, along with its subsidiary Aetna, a major insurer, posted far higher earnings than it did a year ago. Its net income for Q2 2020 reached $3b, an estimated $1b more than it reported for the same period of 2019, on revenues of $65b.

Other health insurance corporations are also celebrating monumental windfalls. This includes Anthem, one of the largest for-profit health insurance companies, whose net income soared to $2.3b for the second quarter from $1.1b in 2019. United Health reported net earnings of $6.7b, compared to $3.4b for the same three months last year. Due to the extraordinary decrease in costly procedures, these firms have been able to circumvent federal health care laws that require a percentage of the revenue they generate from customers’ premiums be spent on medical expenses. Most companies must spend approximately 80% to 85% in premiums on health-care coverage. The remaining 15% to 20% is all they are allowed to spend on administrative costs like marketing and consume as profit. Insurers are currently spending a far less portion of their premium revenue on their customers’ health-care costs. CVS, for example, said in its quarterly report that their medical-benefits ratio was 70% for the quarter, compared to 84% in the same period of 2019. This has translated into millions of dollars in surplus profit for wealthy executives and major shareholders.

Typically, health insurance companies have also been required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to pay out billions in revenue to small businesses and individuals. The Obamacare law, however, grants a three-year window for companies to calculate how much they are required to return. Non-profit insurance companies, especially the ones under Blue Cross health-care plans, are also witnessing much higher profit margins. While the ACA stipulates that they too are required to pay out a significant amount of revenue through rebates, they can swallow any additional surplus into their capital reserves. For the companies that own some of the larger pharmacy benefit managers, such as UnitedHealth, there is no limit on how much their networks of doctors and healthcare businesses as well as benefits managers can make. Michael Turpin, a former executive and vice president of USI Insurance Services told the NYT:

The massive profits being reported don’t give an accurate picture of how much money they are making for the insurers.

Doctors and hospital managers are becoming increasingly concerned over the accelerated profits for insurers and the limited accountability that they are facing in their haphazard strategies for addressing the coronavirus pandemic. Colleen M Byle, a financial officer for Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, which has treated more than 10k COVID-19 patients, told the Times that insurers have been given exceptional leeway to profit while doing nothing about health concerns. She said:

The government has been funding the providers significantly. Insurers should be sharing that burden, and they haven’t been.

While the ruling class has welcomed the pandemic as a profit-making opportunity, suffering for the working class is reaching unprecedented levels. An estimated 5.4m Pindo workers have lost their health insurance between February and May from lay-offs, according to several research studies on the loss of worker-employed health-care plans. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that about 27m in total are at risk of losing coverage by the end of the year. This would leave millions vulnerable to serious illness and death from COVID-19 or pressing health concerns that would make paying medical bills impossible.

In contrast to large insurance companies, small medical facilities and rural hospitals have struggled to remain open and operational since the pandemic erupted in mid-March. Many small hospitals across the country are on the verge of financial ruin because of the cancelation of elective procedures, one of their few sources of dependable revenue, and have been largely left out of the CARES Act bail-out. In early April, Decatur County General Hospital, the only hospital in rural Decatur County, Tennessee, home to about 12k people, was forced to shut down due to the expanding threat of the coronavirus. Most non-essential businesses in the county were already closed because of COVID-19. The hospital’s closure created a huge economic toll in the region, as the hospital was one of the county’s largest employers and wiped out more than 100 staff virtually overnight. The hospital’s human resources director, Melinda Hays-Kirkwood, told NPR:

For some people, this has been their only job out of college. It’s hard on these employees that have been here a long time.

In Williamson, West Virginia, Williamson Memorial Hospital shut its doors in late April. The hospital, one of many chronically underfunded and understaffed medical facilities in rural areas, had filed for bankruptcy last year before the pandemic made it incapable of remaining open. The facility was the only hospital in the coal-mining community of Mingo County and had provided treatments for miners afflicted with black lung or injured while laboring deep underground. In recent years, with the collapse of mining in the region and the accompanied social and economic decline, the hospital had been a lifeline for patients who have overdosed on opioids and other drugs. A research study published by the University of North Carolina found that 172 rural hospitals across Pindostan have been shut down since 2005.

Big tech firms meet with US national security agencies in advance of November elections
Kevin Reed, WSWS, Aug 14 2020

Nine major Silicon Valley technology corporations issued a joint statement coming out of their meeting on Wednesday with US government law enforcement and national security agencies in advance of the presidential elections in November. The nine firms signing the joint statement are Facebook, Google, Twitter, Reddit, Microsoft, Verizon Media, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Wikimedia Foundation. Each of them issued the joint statement on their Twitter accounts along with a short comment. The NYT reported the meeting and joint statement with enthusiasm, writing:

The group, which is seeking to prevent the kind of online meddling and foreign interference that sullied the 2016 presidential election, met on Wednesday with representatives from agencies like the FBI, the ODNI and the DHS to share insights about disinformation campaigns and emerging deceptive behavior across their services.

The NYT report also said that the meeting included representatives from the Cyber-Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Department of Justice’s National Security Division. The CISA was created in 2018 by the Trump administration following the near-unanimous bipartisan passage of the Cyber-Security and Infrastructure Security Agency Act by Congress. Although the meeting and joint industry statement were widely reported, attempts by news media to obtain statements from the participating companies and government agencies have produced nothing but silence. The names of the individuals who attended the meeting have not been released. No details about the meeting—the agenda, the topics of discussion, the planning initiatives, the action items—have been published. The lack of any information about a meeting between the most powerful internet and social media corporations in the world and Pindo domestic and foreign police agencies, that was held ostensibly to “secure the Pindo elections,” was not lost on some in the corporate media. Shoshana Wodinsky of Gizmodo wrote on Thursday morning:

If the Pindo public is expected to make an informed decision or, hell, any decision about where to put their votes come November, then we need more information and transparency right now, not less and not later. We need some sort of window behind the scenes to know who’s doing what and how, so we can have any hope of navigating the information hellscape.

Although Wodinsky accepts uncritically the unsubstantiated assertions of the political establishment and intelligence state about “Russian election interference,” which have been repeated incessantly by the NYT since 2016 as established facts, she is raising an important question: Why should the public think that the secret collaboration of big tech with the government before the 2020 presidential elections will yield anything other than a “meddling” “misinformation” campaign of their own in the form of online censorship?

Direct collaboration between the top tech companies and the government began in the lead-up to the 2018 mid-term elections. A meeting was held on May 23 2018 at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park to “ensure that the mid-terms were not a repeat of the Russian interference in 2016.” The meeting was attended by representatives from Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oath, Snap and Twitter along with Christopher Krebs, who was at the time Under-Sec DHS, and boxtops of the FBI’s “foreign influence” task force. A second meeting at Facebook HQ took place on Sep 4 2019, that included representatives from Google, Twitter and Microsoft and the FBI, the ODNI and the DHS. This day-long meeting was specifically called to prepare for the 2020 elections. As the crisis of the pandemic was beginning to spread across Pindostan, the joint industry group held an emergency meeting at the White House on Mar 11 to “stop misinformation” about the coronavirus. This meeting included representatives of Google, Amazon, Apple, Cisco, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, TechNet and Twitter with Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios. Following each of these meetings, both government agency and tech company boxtops refused to respond to any questions or provide any details of the discussions. After the session in 2019, Joan Donovan, a research director at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, said:

The public should also be concerned about the collaboration of government agencies with tech giants for privacy reasons. We don’t know where the lines are drawn internally. We don’t know whether the tech companies would consider your inbox or direct messages subject to sharing with the state.

The collaboration of big tech with the agencies of the Pindo security state takes many forms. Among the most important of these is the provision of advanced systems for the Pentagon in the development of AI and machine learning for the killing machines of modern imperialist warfare. As the corporate leadership of big tech moves to integrate itself further and deeper with the state apparatus, the workers within these companies have increasingly opposed this collaboration. Google employees organized a campaign in 2018 that forced the company to discontinue its work on the Pentagon’s Project Maven for AI implementation in drone warfare. In January of this year, Amazon workers defied corporate communications directives and spoke out openly against the company’s collaboration with Trump and the DHS and ICE assault on immigrants within Pindostan. Lest anyone in the government might think that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos held any sympathies for the sentiments of his employees, the world’s richest individual embraced the DoD in an appearance at a national defense forum in California last December. Discussing the political movement and organizing among Amazon employees, Bezos said:

One of the things that’s happening inside technology companies is there are groups of employees who, for example, think that technology companies should not work with the DoD. I think it’s a really important issue, and people are entitled to their opinions, but it is the job of a senior leadership team to say no. My view is if big tech is going to turn their backs on the DoD, this country is in trouble. That just can’t happen.

Behind the collaboration of big tech with government agencies in the 2020 elections are concerns that the working class, in the midst of the economic and social crisis triggered by the pandemic, will engage in mass struggles that will erupt independently of the two-party system. There is unanimity within both parties and the campaigns of both the Demagogs and Trump in cooperation with the tech monopolies that everything must be done to block the ideas of socialist internationalism and the program advanced only by the Socialist Equality Party in the elections from intersecting with the growing class struggle.

Oregon residents block unmarked ICE buses carrying detained immigrants
Julio Patron, WSWS, Aug 14 2020

On Wednesday, a large crowd of protesters blocked the path of unmarked buses carrying two detainees, identified by activists as long-time residents Josué Arturo Cruz Sanchez and Marco Zeferino, by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The stand-off lasted around 12 hours in Bend, a town in central Oregon with about 100k residents. Eventually, dozens of federal agents were deployed to disperse the protesters using pepper spray. The stand-off between protesters and federal agents began when Luke Richter, president of an activist group in Oregon, heard that ICE was operating in the city. He found the two unmarked buses and blocked their path in a hotel parking lot, livestreaming the event on social media. After hours of standing in front of the buses, hundreds of people began showing up to oppose the arrests and blocked the buses from leaving. In a statement put out by the families of the two men and read aloud on Facebook Live, the family members said:

Consider the emotional trauma being inflicted not only on us as adults, but also on our children who witnessed this injustice. We are hard-working members of the community that have lost our jobs due to COVID and our husbands are put at risk daily. We are simply trying to provide for our families, but because of the color of our skin and because of our country of origin, that does not justify what has happened here today. False information is being put out regarding their criminal records, and what is not being told is that we are human beings trying to survive and provide for our families. The treatment of being detained without questions or rights, being deprived of food and water, refusal of wellness checks, is an injustice.

Speaking to the NYT, Janet Sarai Llerandi Gonzalez, leader of a local support organization for Latinos and Hispanics called “Mecca Bend,” said the children of those who were detained came to the scene and pleaded with the bus drivers to let go of their fathers. Once the federal troops were deployed to the scene, the children of the men were violently tossed to the side. The troops then dispersed the crowd with pepper spray, moved through the crowd of protesters and snatched up the two detainees from the buses along with the bus drivers. Why these two men were detained and put in unmarked cars is unknown. A statement tweeted by ICE indicated that the men had “a history of criminal violent behavior.” When the federal agents arrived at the scene, one person with a bullhorn said one of the men had a life-threatening medical emergency and should be removed from the bus. According to the local police, ICE was operating without the help of the Bend police, who weren’t involved in their operations, stating:

We do not use funds or personnel or equipment to enforce federal immigration laws or to detain people based on immigration status. This is consistent with Oregon law and department policies.

District Attorney John Hummel went to the protest Wednesday to talk to the federal agents but could not get an answer as to who was being detained and why. Speaking to the NYT, he said that instead of deescalating the situation, federal troops called for backup from Portland and Seattle to reclaim the detainees. In an attempt to distance themselves from ICE, Hummel said:

The governor, mayor and the police chief have been trying to broker a resolution with DHS, to no avail.

The two men, Cruz and Zeferino, were separately driving to work on Wednesday morning when they were stopped by ICE agents and taken into custody at a gas station. Cruz is a painter and Zeferino works at a restaurant. Both men have lived in Bend for 15 years and have children born in Pindostan. Neither of the men had been presented with an arrest warrant when they were detained. Bend is only a few hours’ drive from Portland, where daily demonstrations and protests have taken place since May after the murder of George Floyd. Protesters in Portland have been subjected to violent police-state attacks, with federal troops from multiple agencies using “crowd-control” devices such as tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets, which have critically injured protesters, to stop the peaceful demonstrations. The detention of the two men has led to lawyers from the Portland-based Innovation Law Lab filing a motion in federal court in an attempt to block the deportation of the Bend detainees. The large group of protesters that came to the scene in Bend at a moment’s notice shows the hostility and contempt youth and workers have towards ICE and the brutality inflicted against immigrants and refugees.

Two Utah protesters face life in prison
Chase Lawrence, WSWS, Aug 14 2020

On Friday Aug 7, in Salt Lake City, Utah, two protesters, Madalena McNeil, 28, and Marvin Oliveros, 39, were charged with felony criminal mischief with a “gang enhancement,” a first-degree felony under Utah law, which carries a potential life sentence. This is in connection to the defacement of the District Attorney’s office with red paint during a Jul 9 protest against police violence. The two were additionally charged with third degree rioting charges. A third protester was charged with assaulting an officer, a third-degree felony, which carries a lesser maximum sentence. The protests outside the DA’s office were sparked by the declaration by the DA that the police shooting of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, 22, was lawful and therefore declined to press charges against the officers involved. In police body-cam footage, two officers can be seen shooting Palacios until their magazines were empty as he attempted to run away and after he fell to the ground. McNeil, speaking on the draconian charges to the Daily Beast, stated:

They made me realize that in the eyes of the state, I had become an enemy for exercising what is supposed to be a protected right. I’m not scared because I think that I did anything wrong, because I know that I didn’t, but it would be very foolish of me to look at the potential for life in prison and not be scared.

The criminal complaint against McNeil accuses her of helping to buy the red paint used in the protest and of positioning herself to shove an officer wielding a shield. Police investigators implicated McNeil and Oliveros with footage from the store they used to buy the paint, and rollers and paint buckets found in a van they allegedly used to transport the paint. The first-degree felony charges against McNeil and Oliveros follow similar charges made against four other protesters from the same event, Viviane Turner, Michelle Mower, Madison Alleman and Emanuel Hill, bringing the total to six. They were charged in late July on similar charges of first-degree felony criminal mischief and third-degree riot charges. During the protest in question, a small crowd gathered outside the SLC DA’s office and posted signs on the side of the building with messages such as “Justice For Bernardo,” “Abolish Police Gangs,” and “BLM ACAB.” The facade of the building and the ground in front of it were painted red, with red hand prints left on the windows and façade of the building. Four windows were broken by protesters. Following this, police charged protesters, with many, including McNeil, suffering injuries, and two requiring treatment at a hospital. One Salt Lake City police officer was injured and received treatment at a hospital. The ACLU of Utah has documented police violence against protesters during the Jul 9 event and other protests against police violence. Trained ACLU observers stated:

We witnessed a disproportionate and militarized police action in response to protests and First Amendment speech that criticizes elected leaders and law enforcement in Utah.

The draconian charges were made possible by Utah’s anti-gang sentence enhancement legislation, which was used by the District Attorney Sim Gill against the protesters. The law reads: “Offenses committed in concert with two or more persons or in relation to a criminal street gang.” That is, the gang legislation covers any organized activity involving at least three people. Gill has sought a replacement prosecutor, citing the obvious conflict of interest, but as Jason Groth, an ACLU Utah official, explained:

You’re providing the context for the rest of the prosecutor’s decision, even if they are from another office. The prosecutor will be trying the case with the same charges Gill filed.

When asked about the charges, Gill said:

This is not about protest. This is about people who are engaging in criminal conduct.

Sam Johnston, a lawyer writing in an op-ed on Gill’s charges against protesters, stated:

As Gill is undoubtedly aware, the Constitution prohibits the government from limiting speech. In this case, the act of using red paint to demonstrate pain, suffering and state violence was undoubtedly speech.

That is to say, to Gill and the government, the “criminal conduct” is the free speech. Erin Mendenhall, the Democratic mayor of SLC, gave an announcement amounting to an endorsement of the prosecution of protesters:

If a crime is committed, there should be a consequence.

He disagreed on the severity of the charges, saying they were “too extreme.”

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