US and World Politics

Time of Plague and Meltdown

Mass murder by corporate duopoly

By Glen Ford

Tens-of-thousands of people, disproportionately Black and brown, are marked for death by coronavirus in the coming weeks and months because the United States political system allows only corporate parties to govern. By ensuring that the Dictatorship of Capital is immune to effective electoral challenge, the duopoly system has made the people of the United States less healthy than the rest of the developed world, and far more vulnerable to epidemics of all types. As dutiful servants of Capital, the Democratic and Republican parties have for more than 40 years facilitated a Race to the Bottom (austerity) that has steadily lowered working people’s living standards and slashed social service supports, including the number of hospital beds, which have declined by more than half-a-million since 1975 despite a population increase of 114 million.

Barack Obama and his Democrat-controlled Congress saved the oligarchy from self-destruction in the Great Recession, and then collaborated with the resurgent Republicans in a “Grand Bargain” to ensure that social services, including local and state public health systems, would never recover lost revenue and personnel. The pruning and hyper-privatization of medical care was overseen mainly by Democrats in the big cities, and largely by Republicans on the state level, with both parties in general agreement that the public health sector was less “efficient” and “innovative” than for-profit medicine. The public health sphere became even more dependent on private suppliers, including overseas sources. Inventories of ventilators, masks and other equipment and gear were kept to a minimum, in line with the private sector’s “just-in-time” profit-maximizing philosophy. But time ran out when the coronavirus hit, and there is now no possibility of avoiding many tens-of-thousands of deaths due to a shortage of equipment, beds and healthcare personnel.

The shrinking of the public health sector is a capitalist crime, abetted by the two corporate parties. Not content to lessen the life-chances of their own citizens, the duopoly parties screamed for sanctions that have crippled the health sectors of Venezuela and Iran, killing tens-of-thousands before anyone had heard of COVID-19. The United States is a global vector of suffering and death, through the policies of its corporate party tag-team. When deadly diseases are set in motion, the crime becomes mass murder-suicide.

Donald Trump is singularly stupid, incompetent and self-dealing, but these very qualities make him incapable of effecting any fundamental change in national systems, for good or ill. Congress rebuffed his attempts to cut funding of the Centers for Disease Control—but that matters little in the current crisis because there is no national health system for the CDC to bolster, direct and rally. U.S. healthcare has been shrunken, privatized and made wholly incapable of coping with mass contagion—which never arrives “just in time.”

It was too late long before Trump. And, if Fast-Talking-Slow-Thinking Joe Biden succeeds the Orange Menace next January, there will be no prospect of constructing a true national healthcare system. Biden says he’ll veto a Medicare for All bill if it comes across his desk in the Oval Office. But without single payer healthcare, no national system is possible. In effect, Biden is campaigning for president on a platform of mass death. Biden’s biggest supporters—Black Americans—will continue to die in disproportionate numbers whichever of the two corporate parties is in power because the Race to the Bottom (Race to the Graveyard) is ruling class policy, and both parties serve the ruling class.

If, by some miracle, Bernie Sanders had become the Democratic nominee, and then president, his legislative agenda would be opposed by the bulk of his own party officials and officeholders. The corporate party faithful have rallied around Hapless Joe because he can be depended on to defend the interests of the party’s rich funders—to continue the Race to the Graveyard. To make sure that Democrats understand who is boss, the world’s 8th richest oligarch, Michael Bloomberg, is purchasing the party outright (see “Bloomberg Wants to Swallow the Democrats and Spit Out the Sandernistas.”) Bloomberg this week transferred $18 million of his campaign funds to the Democratic National Committee—actually, money that he previously transferred from his own accounts to his self-funded presidential campaign. The DNC will soon be answerable directly to a New York billionaire whose mission is to make the Democratic Party an even more hostile environment for austerity-busting politicians like Sanders and his young enthusiasts. Medicare for All is an austerity tripwire that shall not be crossed, but without a single payer system there can be no national healthcare system.

Nevertheless, those Americans that survive the Great Epidemic and Meltdown of 2020 will demand a New Health Care Deal. Having been frightened out of their locked-down wits by the crisis-induced realization that economic precarity is the national working-class condition, many millions will also demand a new social contract that provides for a modicum of economic security. But these are concessions that the Democratic Party, overseen by Bloomberg-the-Enforcer, cannot champion. Infectious disease and growing immiseration and precarity are crises for the masses, but the cure—an end to the Dictatorship of Capital—represents an existential crisis for the ruling class. The revolution will not be organized in the Master’s houses—Democrat or Republican.

Black Agenda Report, March 26, 2020