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Cosmonaut - Mask Off - Crisis and Struggle in the Pandemic

Summary

This article, broadly, sums up the economic situation going into the COVID-19 pandemic, the problems the pandemic is making worse, and gives an idea1 of just how bad things could get.

The COVID pandemic sits at the confluence of a number of terrifying contributing factors: the commoditification and valorization of healthcare, the undermining of social welfare, and, most importantly, the tendency for the rate of profit to fall.

The pandemic is likely to cause a reconfiguration of capital, much like it does after world-historic events, and likely not for the better. It’s important that the left organize itself now more than ever.

Notes

  • The pandemic has revealed a “deep necrosis” in the US economy, resulting in what appears to be a collapse

  • It’s important to keep in mind that the economic crisis that the pandemic is causing is only accelerating issues that were already just beneath the surface

    • There was threat of a recession for years leading up to this
  • Problems involved with the current crisis:

    • stimulus checks to small businesses were absorbed quickly (Payroll Protection program)
    • in September there was a liquidity crisis in the repo market
      • this is part of the reason why the [[Federal Reserve]] cut interest rates so much towards the end of 2019
    • Between the months of February through April the Fed imposed [[quantitative easing]] to attempt to stop the bleeding of the covid pandemic
  • The Fed hired BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, to act as the investment manager for three newly-created lending facilities

    • BlackRock can use this information for trading purposes later (!)
  • Japan and the European Central Bank both, unsuccessfully, experimented with negative interest rates to combat slowing economic activity

  • The [[Volcker Shock]] and the consideration of negative interest rates goes to show that the Federal Reserve have a limited range of options when it comes to handling crises

  • In recent decades we’ve actually seen a privatization of the state

  • We also see a growing centralization and concentration in the finance and banking sectors, along with manufacturing overcapacity and declining output

    • (see: [[Capital Vol. 1]] regarding centralization and concentration)
  • Since the Great Recession there has been a massive growth of corporate debt, and the IMF is worried that it could cause yet unknown problems down the road

  • In April the US unemployment rate reached an all-time high since World War II

  • The tribulations of “wageless life” can be seen as a consequence of the rising [[organic composition of capital]]

  • the inability for youth to transition to stable jobs as they get older

    • implies an inability for an economy to absorb new workers
  • Between 1980 and 2000, the workforce doubled in size, and most of that came from China and the USSR

  • Since 2008, labor force participation has declined, causing unemployment to increase

  • Mortgage crisis 2 might just be around the corner: mortgage delinquencies were incredibly high in April

  • As Marx says in Capital, wages are depressed by reducing the cost of necessary labor

  • At the end of the day, putting money into the social wage fund, (healthcare, etc.) would only further depress the [[rate of profit]]

  • Some of the earliest costs of the social wage fund in the US were over how health care would be paid for

    • In the early parts of the 20th century, health care was distributed by means of union-sponsored clinics
    • It wasn’t until the 1930s that hospital care became generalized
  • Employer-based health care emerged out of the Second World War

  • Healthcare in the US was patchwork until about the 70s, when it underwent commodification

    • Healthcare costs in the US went up as a result to find profit in healthcare
    • If you have any heart or soul, then you must surely realize that healthcare for the sake of profit is, above all else, cruelty!
  • Obamacare, emerging out of the RAND Corporation, was “managed competition”

    • The result of Obamacare was increased insurance company profits
    • It should go without saying that Obamacare was a failure at best
  • Healthcare spending can be broken down as such:

    • unit cost of service
    • unit price of service
    • quantity or rate of utilization
  • Like any corporation, hospitals seek to reduce operational cost

    • The rise in specialties and subspecialities has caused nurses to take on more responsibility
      • This, coupled with a global shortage of nurses has created a scarcity of labor in nursing
      • Unions have taken advantage of this, but have been broken by temporary work and traveling nurses
    • Burnout, turnover, and fatal malpractice have also increased a result
    • Management costs in healthcare have ballooned
    • Claims engineering accounts for 34% of healthcare costs
    • Electronic healthcare records have reduced workplace productivity but has created a multi-billion dollar industry
  • Adjusted for inflation, healthcare spending increased by an average of 9.9% every year between 1960 and 2006

  • All of the above has caused an incredible unpreparedness in healthcare for the pandemic

  • Medical care workers have been the hardest hit by the pandemic

  • There is overconfidence in investors that the market will return to normal after the pandemic, as evidenced by their confidence in a “V-shaped recovery” (don’t laugh!)

    • after 2008, the recovery was “L-shaped”
    • the market is far, far worse off than it seems to know
  • We aren’t looking at a boom coming, we’re looking at cataclysm

  • The fact that there’s no active left fighting capitalism right now is a bad sign: capitalism can reconfigure itself until every human on the planet dies. We must actively reconfigure society to be rationally planned.

  • One way in which capitalism could get out of this crisis is through war

  • These whole paragraphs:

    The synchronization of interests with armed right-wing militants and the Trump administration still appears one of mutual convenience, as the character of this intra-class fraction is one of opposing visions for the future of anti-social organization, but both converge on the maintenance of the reproduction of capitalist social relations at their respective levers of exploitation. While Trump remains inextricably bound by a reproduction of US capital that is reliant on global-integration and maintaining the US’s particular hierarchical position atop the organization of global value chains and trade arrangements, the militia movement is a product of the immiserating hinterland regions of systemic deindustrialization and exurbanizing poverty, led primarily by the petty-capitalist and wealthier landowners emerging above the overall historical trajectory of abjection. There is in these groups a defense of capitalist relations founded through an anti-globalization bent, placed at the forefront of their political commitments. A demonstration of this in the present instance can be seen in the voluntary protection of businesses opening in violation of state orders by armed militia groups, the more militant of them placing themselves “beyond left and right,” in an ultimate goal of autonomous territorialism founded on various forms of ethnic homogeneity or kinship in survivalism. The alliance with Trump in these instances are pragmatic maneuvers from groups that have a well-incorporated theoretical grounding in the exploitation of crisis to advance their particular interests by destabilizing state institutions in certain regions. The reaction in these incarnations of the right is such that these are ultimately movements that realize their ends through exclusionary methods backed by force, the vocal disdain for infection containment in the protests itself a manifestation of this anti-politics, where obfuscation and conspiracy cloud the terrain for the opposition, a phenomenon akin to a smoke grenade in combat.

    A crisis of state legitimacy is not merely the terrain of reaction here. The unemployment wave and subsequent hit to the maintenance of relations of exploitation that keep economic activity moving has produced the discursive turn to the desperate and hollow celebration of the heroism of those workers endangering their lives, through the “essential worker” classification. For every instance that the “essential” distinction appears to outline the actual contours of necessary reproductive labor in society, such as nurses, even more are plainly obvious to be merely necessary for the functions of realizing exchange values and preventing total economic collapse. For those attaching hope to the apparent sacrifices made of the so-called “essential worker,” are they not buying the boss’ propaganda? It is entirely questionable which of these labor tasks would even remain in a social reproduction that becomes emancipated from its subsumption by capital. The cyclical employment of surplus populations into an industrialized consumer and service-heavy economy is revealing of the crisis of surplus capital today. The unrealizable surplus of potential capital values and commodity outputs must be either pushed to the extremes of realizing value in the social processes of exchange, or constrained in output and thus consistently exert an overleveraged burden on the costs of enterprise. Our employment in society is increasingly meaningless, increasingly only existing to serve the maintenance of the waning abstraction of value and thus perpetuate the class domination which serves and is reproduced by it. It is then unsurprising to see where these sites of proletarian struggle in the US have broken out in the present conjuncture. The strange desperation of the “essential worker” ploy then deserves some broader contextual grounding in the composition of this particular historical instance of widespread wage precarity.

    • It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this also all signifies a crisis of legitimacy for the state
  • it should also come as a surprise to no one that the fact that renting is an extremely unstable option

    • The crisis could be so bad for landlords that we could see a similar occurrence of a concentration of property into the hands of a small amount of landowners, like after 2008
  • The symbiosis between the US and China is eroding, and it seems to be harming the US more than China

  • We already seem to be in a new Cold War with China

  • 2016 was the signal year of reaction against the liberal center globally, it would seem

  • Given the above, class war may be the most relevant struggle in the future (god willing!)

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