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How Will The New World Look Under Covid-19? More Equal? Dystopian?

Article – Nathan Hoturoa Gray

“Neo-liberalism is a theory of governance without governing. Four decades in, this is precisely what the USA has. Outside of major American cities, and increasingly inside them, the country is falling apart. The capitalist view of employment is to …

“Neo-liberalism is a theory of governance without governing. Four decades in, this is precisely what the USA has. Outside of major American cities, and increasingly inside them, the country is falling apart. The capitalist view of employment is to ask: what earns a profit? The social view is to ask: what needs to be done? That the country is falling apart demonstrates that capitalism comes up short from the social perspective. In significant ways, it is the capitalist view that created the environmental and social ills that must now be addressed with some urgency.”

– Rob Urie

With the total shutdown of society and decimation of economies and lifestyles the world over due to Covid-19, there is clearly a massive opportunity amidst this gigantic ‘social shock’ to make some huge changes to our habits and systems – ultimately the way we function as a species. One of the few consolations of Covid-19 could be some increasingly progressive changes to the way we run our economies and political decision-making as well as how we treat our people. In America for example, there has been a blaring need under this crisis to address the need for Universal Healthcare, competent government, mass inequality and protection of the working classes – in particular our essential workers such as nurses, supermarket stackers, food processers and transit workers so key to keeping society up and running and whose enormous contributions are now far more respected due to the lockdown experience. (As an interesting side note, roles like Financial Hedge Fund Managers, and Marketers were not deemed ‘essential’ despite their over-inflated salaries making a mockery of their ‘essential counterparts’ who often don’t even make a living wage.) Corporate executives that benefit from skyrocketing salaries yet refrain from looking after their employees place enormous pressure on societal stability, as one missed pay-packet is the difference of making rent, overcoming hunger or even becoming imprisoned through criminal desperation.

Looking back all the way to 1980 since the gradual emergence of neo-liberalism, there has been a deeply entrenched unfairness and inequality occurring through American society. The nation has seen a 79% rise in GDP over this period, yet the bottom half of earners have only seen a 20% rise in their post tax income, the middle class a 50% rise, and the mega wealthy a staggering 420% rise over this period.[1] To put this another way, had there not been any inequality, the lowest 90% of workers would be earning $12,000 more each year, but instead this is all going to the wealthy class. This equates to every lower income worker in America contributing $120,000 over the past ten years to the mega rich which has a massive impact on their well-being, overall health and life expectancy. (Americans in the most impoverished quartile live on average 13 years less than those in the top quarter.) To illustrate how stark this inequality currently is, the wealthy .01% own almost 20% of the nation’s wealth, up from 15.9% in 2005 and 7.4% in 1980.[2] Furthermore, this top tier bracket currently owns the same combined net worth as the bottom 85%, so it is ultimately fair to say that the treatment of these corporations upon their workers equates to the rich effectively robbing the poor for a very long time now. This disparity in wealth is also clearly apparent between the Baby boomers, Generation X and the Millennials where the net worth of Americans under the age of 35, (and who started off substantially poorer than those older), is 40% lower than the same under 35-year-olds would have found themselves in 2004. Meanwhile the net worth of Americans over 65 over the same period has seen a rise by 9%. Even more stark disparities have occurred between White and Black Americans where White families have access to 10 times more wealth than Black families – a gap that has risen from a 7 to 1 ratio back in 1992. Given the generational, class and race inequality divide, over half of Americans think the country is heading down the wrong track and a major rethink needs to occur about redistributing funds more equitably between societal roles before it’s too late.[3]

Bernie Sanders, strongly left-leaning US Presidential candidate in 2016 and 2020 stated in his campaign rallies that the cruelty and dysfunction of the healthcare system in particular was clearly apparent even before the pandemic. Health care spending has increased by 52% over the past decade, yet the budget of local Health Departments has shrunk a worrisome 24%. As a result, local Health Departments axed over 50,000 jobs from 2008-2017, (nearly 23% of the total workforce).[4] According to The Atlantic, approximately a quarter of America’s spend is wasted on unnecessary treatments, inefficient care and administrative chicanery leading to little bang for its exorbitant buck.[5] The profit-driven system has minimal incentive to invest in stockpiled supplies, spare beds, peacetime drills and layered contingency plans, thereby ensuring most hospitals have little ability to rapidly adapt and get by in a pandemic-like crisis.[6]

Healthcare equates to 18% of GDP or approximately $11,000 per person in the United States. Almost half of this is covered by State and Federal taxes, a quarter by the individual and the rest usually by one’s employer. In 2019, it cost employers an average of $21,000 for a family health care coverage plan or $7,200 for an individual. This increasingly expensive system therefore requires the employer to make a judgment on whether their employee’s value to the company is enough to cover both their wages and their associated healthcare benefits. This can be a tough financial hurdle to overcome for less-skilled workers and either wages are dropped to enable insurance affordability, or the roles are outsourced to other companies which provide no benefits. By 2020, an estimated 87 million Americans were uninsured and thus unable to access adequate healthcare. Furthermore, over 500,000 people on average become bankrupt annually when compelled to utilize the medical system and its exorbitant costs.

In the USA, joblessness therefore comes with an additional cruel twist. Given the majority of American’s health insurance is tied directly to their employment, losing one’s job (for example, ironically, if one contracts a serious illness), one would also lose their health insurance. With skyrocketing costs of drugs, doctors-visits, and treatments (one Covid-19 patient who survived received a 181 page long hospital bill of $1.1 million); losing health insurance is in itself a death sentence.[7] Therefore the extra 5-10 million people that had potentially lost their health insurance during the pandemic employment purge makes for a disastrous public health situation which had claimed an official tally of over 130,000 American lives by the beginning of July, 2020. (Most people without insurance simply do not go to a doctor or hospital until they absolutely have to.) This has been a long-term fight in the United States and if ever there was a chance for the voting public to understand the danger of tying healthcare to one’s job in these uncertain times, (rather than everyone falling under an overarching governmentally run single-payer system providing universal coverage and cost controls), then now is the time to address this. The Affordable Care Act, (ACA; also known as “Obamacare”) legislation could help ensure that drug treatments are affordable which Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden aims to expand if elected. Under the legislation, newly-unemployed can sign up for an ACA plan for 60 days after being terminated from their jobs, however the Republican party has been trying to overturn the ACA since 2010 when it was first enacted, and these efforts were still continuing at pace, even during the Covid-19 pandemic.[8]

The private healthcare industry employs no less than 5 lobbyists per Congressional member to maintain their price gouging monopoly that has seen Medicaid costs rise from 20.5% of State government spending in 2008 to 28.9% by 2019 which impacts significantly other key priorities such as State education and infrastructural spend. (As of 2012, Doctors were the largest single occupation in the top 1% wealth bracket.)[9] Healthcare is just another wrecking ball upon the unskilled and uneducated workforce, further exacerbating the inequality divide with no less than tragic consequences.

Enormous financial need for great swaths of the American population due to the shutdowns imposed by the virus was initially addressed by Congress passing a significant $2.2 trillion stimulus bill (after Trump and Republicans had first suggested a miniscule $12.8 billion fund to help the country out as the pandemic forced the first nationwide shutdown.) The resulting unemployment benefits that came from the Democrats in the House of Representatives via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, (CARES Act) provided for the 45+ million that were laid off or furloughed from work, as well as expanding paid sick-leave if employees were positive with the virus. This strategy was a vital measure to try and prevent uncontrolled transmission of the virus, because most employees in America are forced to work or receive no pay if they are sick, so often pass on their illness to customers and other employees. Such a scenario would become both economically and medically devastating due to the extreme virulence of the Coronavirus throughout America at this stage.[10]

The stimulus packages passed by Congress over March and April also included provision to provide financial support for small businesses. Labeled as the Paycheck Protection Program this part of the rescue package became problematic as major multi-million dollar businesses came in to greedily swallow up the 1% interest financial bail-out loans to the detriment of much needier small businesses in viral hotspots who were initially unable to secure these loans. (The first 1.7 million applicants had swallowed up the $349 billion earmarked for the loans within two weeks and thus the loan program was bolstered to $659 billion with an extra injection of $310 billion of government aid after Treasury was forced to go back to Congress for more funds.) Some of the publically traded companies and bigger chains that had secured these multi-million dollar loans eventually agreed to pay them back when the media and public uproars ensued as this was going to seriously tarnish the reputations of their brands.[11] For example, Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses chain got $20 million from the small business loan program, despite having more than 5,000 employees and $468 million in revenue last year. Many companies did not choose to pay this back, however, including over $110 million squandered by already struggling fossil fuel companies.[12] Also highly controversial was the staggering $3.5+ billion payout to the Catholic Church despite them having more than 500 employees (and thus technically disqualified from applying except for their direct lobbying) on top of not having to pay general taxes in the first place.[13] Furthermore funds were secured by companies that had direct ties to Members of Congress or their spouses including the law firm that represented Trump during the Mueller Investigation and many of his tenants in his Real Estate Company.[14] Construction companies also secured the loans despite many of their workers being considered essential and thus able to carry on their work throughout the shutdowns.[15] Furthermore a staggering 48,922 loan recipients reported that zero jobs would be retained with the money despite the program’s rules requiring that borrowers show how many jobs that will be retained to have their loans forgiven and a further 40,506 applicants left this section blank.[16]

The massive bureaucratic hurdles that these small businesses had to jump through to secure loans from banks meant that a lot of the money was ultimately unable to be utilized in the first few months of the program. (This was initially a result of the almost daily changing nature of the bank’s paperwork requirements that even lawyers for the Small Business Community were unable to decipher.)[17] One of the main issues was that instead of adopting New Zealand and Europe’s approach of topping up companies directly to cover a certain percentage of their employees’ salaries and thus enabling their staff to stay on payroll despite the lockdowns, the US Government would only allow their loans to be forgivable if it was proven that a certain (yet initially undisclosed) amount of the money went to employees. As a result, no one trusted the Trump Administration to actually honour the repayment of these loans given how unclear the actual requirements were.[18] Such fear and distrust is understandable if you look at the huge number of court cases taken against Education Secretary Betsy Devos over the past two years, the Republican leader trying to extract every cent possible from students struggling to pay back their student loans through disallowing them from their loan forgiveness programs for pathetic administrative breaches. The incredibly mean-spirited strategy, specifically finding technicalities to deny former students who had completed their ten year consecutive work records – (legislation that was introduced by the Bush Administration and passed under Obama’s term) were typical of Betsy Devos’ administrative management of the Education portfolio and campaigned fiercely against by the likes of Presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren during the democratic primaries in 2019/2020.[19]

At the end of the $650 billion PPP loan program roll out, (although almost $150 billion still has yet to be claimed), the Trump Administration initially refused to disclose any of the 4.5 million businesses that had accessed the loans. This was not only a stark break from past administrative precedent where full transparency had been required, but actually deemed wholly corrupt by Public Citizen, (a non-profit consumer advocacy group), especially when even the Government Accountability Office was unable to access the names from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Eventually the Trump Administration relented due to media and public pressure and the PPP disclosure on June 19th, 2020 provided the names of 660,000 small businesses and nonprofit organizations that received at least $150,000 in funding. This however is still less than 15% of the total number of loans secured.

The government estimates that 51 million jobs have been spared due to the stimulus according to the borrowing companies self-reported data but has been unable to provide exact statistics, and is heavily disputed given that over 100,000 small businesses have closed in the United States permanently since the advent of the pandemic.[20] Furthermore major companies including the Fairmont Grand Del Mar in San Diego, a luxury hotel owned by Richard Blum, (a private equity chief and husband of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein), received $6.4 million from the program yet most of its hundreds of workers continue to be unpaid.[21] Other high profile restaurants such as Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo and Bertucci’s (operated under Orlando-based Earl Enterprises) received loans ranging from $26 million to $54 million yet left most of their staff unemployed in highly affected Covid-19 areas.[22] Therefore the jury is still out on whether it was able to provide the lion-share of the bailout to needy workers which was the underlying purpose of the loan program.[23]

As shown in the previous chapters, the trend under the Trump Administration is for Americans to simply suck it up and be ‘warriors’ and return to working-life as normal despite the massive health risk for doing so. John Cassidy, writer for the New Yorker in response to this seemingly inhumane governmental reopening strategy asks the haunting yet pertinent question arising from President Trump’s approach: “What if the virus ends up benefitting the big and powerful, accentuating inequality, and boosting populist extremism? What if it’s a force for dystopia rather than social progress?”[24]

As with all crises there are major losers and winners. As shown in China and America, the biggest gains from the shutdowns were clearly the tech giants like Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Alibaba, Netflix and Microsoft whose revenues increased significantly. Online streaming platforms and Television companies in China such as ByteDance managed to propel their businesses to undreamed of heights in a matter of a few days due to the lockdowns forcing everyone online. For example, on January 24th, “Lost in Russia”, the highly anticipated sequel to China’s most popular film, (with its normal cinema releases banned), enabled ByteDance to release it for free on its platforms, (including TikTok, Xigua Video and Toutiao) accumulating an astonishing 600 million views in just three days.[25] With these companies managing to build an online following of such staggering numbers in a matter of days, (then able to use this leverage to sell a whole range of products and compete with the likes of Alibaba and Wechat which normally dominate the Chinese online space), the virus has been a boon for rapid economic growth in the Chinese tech world.[26]

Looking at Facebook’s engagement trajectory, their first quarterly revenues rose a mouthwatering 18% as up to 70% more time was being spent across their apps.[27] Although CEO, Mark Zuckerberg doubts that such enormous engagement spikes will last long term, he certainly sees the acceleration of pre-existing, long term trends of significant increases in online private social communication likely to continue.[28] Such impacts are likely to be sustained in other industries such as education and medicine in particular. Online uptake in schools and universities due to the shutdowns have enforced the roll out of new teaching models that incorporate online options for those to participate, especially those who have pre-existing medical conditions, and thus find it too risky to attend face to face lectures. (As well as keeping older lecturers and professors safe.) Telemedicine has also leaped ahead fearlessly, especially now with Artificial Intelligence bots powering telemedicine triage in the early days of the virus. It will likely impact health-care across the spectrum, changing the face of how we interact with many of our medical practitioners.[29]

Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft believes this new “world of remote everything” will alter work patterns so drastically it will ultimately enable the tech giants to continue to cannibalize more off-line businesses, making them even more dominant than before.[30] This champion trend is viewable in particular in advertising where local media companies are no longer able to survive due to the enormous declines in advertisers utilizing their platforms as the hordes flock to Facebook, Instagram and Google etc.[31] Thus, simply by looking at the stock market, one is able to witness the rapid demise of traditional companies while tech stocks have maintained an exceptionally solid presence.[32] Such prominence bodes well for workers with technical expertise, but not so positively for the millions of other laid off workers who possess none of these skills.[33]

Furloughed or laid-off workers that have successfully navigated the incredibly overwhelmed welfare system and have been given a little bit of breathing space due to the Federal stimulus expanding their unemployment benefits, could not afford to be complacent however. With all signs pointing to the Trump Administration and Republicans preventing the extension of such ‘governmental generosity’ beyond July 2020, it was likely that tens of millions of unemployed would suffer immense financial hardship, further increasing the inequality and unfairness of American society. Furthermore the tight labour-market as a result is likely to decimate the small gains made in employee wages over the years as competition for limited roles will play directly into employers’ hands. The resulting impact will be the continuation of the rising distinction between the haves and have-nots; a trend that has been set in stone all the way back through history.[34]

Or will something be done about this downward trend, such as the incorporation of a long term Universal Basic Income which was championed by Presidential candidate Andrew Yang under his own unique label ‘the Freedom Dividend’ – offering Americans $1000 a month stimulus to help keep the economy afloat by a trickle up approach?[35] (Potentially injecting $400 billion a year into the US economy as the money gets spent paying off needy people’s bills rather than hoarded by the wealthy who have been the beneficiaries of Trump’s tax break while in power.) If the negatively affected can unite in significant numbers and force those in power to make systemic change to significantly ramp up taxes for the mega rich, especially companies like Amazon and Apple that often avoid paying Federal and State taxes altogether, this dystopian outcome of increasing inequality could potentially be curbed in a country like the USA. But is there enough communal and political will to achieve this?

Bernie Sander’s war against the billionaire oligarchy has certainly become more prominent at a time like this, yet even both he and Senator Elizabeth Warren – (the left leaning Senator who ran a popular Presidential campaign platform focused against corporate greed and Wall Street) – did not manage to overcome the candidacy of the more centralized former Vice President, Joe Biden. It seems with all this visible pressure and clear hardships on society that the virus is highlighting due to the unequal distribution of resources, and lack of a sustained governmental response to rectify this, that the mega wealthy like Amazon’s owner Jeff Bezos would be especially wise to start sharing their obscene pay loads a little more generously, especially before a struggling populace instigates a French Revolution styled ‘take down’ of the very capitalistic systems that have been robbing them out of a decent chance at life. It’s an outcome where no-one ultimately wins as the pressures of trying to simply survive, overcome hunger or the rapidly increasing rates of eviction lead to an ongoing level of societal stress culminating in riots, looting or even civil war type scenarios erupting throughout the nation as people no longer have anything to lose.[36] A tinderbox ready to explode at a moment’s notice.

Looking at the ‘giving’ statistics towards Covid-19 related need by the world’s 50 richest billionaires that have a total combined access to $1.6 trillion provides some startling insights. For starters, 15 of these billionaires have not publicly announced any donations and declined to comment when questioned by Washington Post reporters.[37] In fact, the entire grouping combined have only announced $1 billion in aid – funds less than .1% of their personal wealth. Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man at approximately $200 billion refused to comment to the reporters (of the paper he owns), but public declarations have shown that he has given $100 million to Feeding America and up to $25 million for All in WA, a statewide relief effort in Washington.[38] When this ratio is compared with the level of giving by your average American (under the country’s median salary) Jeff Bezos’ contribution equates to a miniscule $85.[39]

Bill Gates has committed approximately $300 million to the Covid-19 effort, (equating to $283 compared with the median American), although he has been plowing billions into pandemic, hygiene, water sanitation, vaccination and anti-malarial work throughout the world now for decades. Warren Buffet declined to comment and has announced no public donations although he lent his private jet to fly N95 masks from China to desperately in need Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s contributions equate to $84, (including a $100 million small business loan program), yet seems very minimal given his company has profited $30.1 billion since the crisis kicked off from March. Larry Ellison, whose net wealth from his company Oracle is $65.4 billion has had no publicly reported donations whatsoever.[40] Steve Ballmer whose $61.8 billion derives from his work at Microsoft has donated the equivalent of $118, yet Larry Page and Sergey Brin the creators of Google and ranked 7th and 11th richest Americans with $57.2 billion and $55.1 billion respectively (and notorious for their lack of public philanthropy), have announced no donations whatsoever and understandably declined requests for comment.[41]

Other big names include $52.4 billion Michael Bloomberg paying out an equivalent $139, the $200 billion Walton family (and owners of Walmart) paying approximately $25, the $54.4 billion of John and Jacqueline Mars (of Mars, Inc) equating to $74 while Michael Dell, the $26.4 billionaire of Dell computers providing an equivalent $369.[42] I get it that these people’s egos are tied to their wealth rankings and to give too much away may see one slip a notch, especially those shooting for the top ten, but the statistics above are very concerning. Is it yet more proof of the fallacy of the trickle down economy and the need to tax extreme wealth way more severely given the inherent greed underpinning their sense of humanity?[43]

On top of the ongoing restrictions on the financial and retail sectors and strengthening of the labour unions to make sure the majority of society are treated more fairly, there will also have to be a governmental commitment to full employment, as well as sustained spending on social programs to help keep the masses sustained during the ongoing challenges of the Covidian-era. This is especially the case given that 30% of American households where people have lost income as a result of the virus have missed out on meals or relied on food handouts according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll.[44] Yet these are policies that the ruling Republican leaders will never adopt on their own accord, it’s just not in their nature unless sustained and popular political pressure can be exerted and the country can come out of this crisis with a financially fairer ‘new normal’. However, if the progressive movement is unable to build a coalition of the willing to drive through such radical change, and the polarized divisions of the country are just too unruly and entrenched to make a feasible difference in the lives of the impoverished and financially affected middle class, then it may be possible that America falls into a Gilead-styled dystopia where right-wing populist fascist regimes rise to ongoing major prominence and attempt to annihilate progressive democratic movements who are too fractured between the liberal left (anti-fascist) and centre left factions of their party and thus unable to unify and fully mobilize.

This has already occurred by authoritarian leaders in countries like Hungary, Turkey, Philippines, Belarus and Cambodia who are already using the pandemic to strengthen their reigns through enhancing surveillance and intimidating opposition parties. Democratic protests in Hong Kong that stopped temporarily during the pandemic are again in full flight as China continues to exert its political might over the autonomy of the former British colony as well as the imprisonment of the ethnic Muslim Uyghurs in Xingjiang. (An act that President Trump directly supported.) [45] New national security laws approved by Beijing will criminalize acts such as protesting in Hong Kong which has ramped up the arrests of its protest leaders to further assert control and force leaders into self imposed exile. Furthermore, Putin’s solidly right-wing Russia is contemplating a surveillance scheme requiring all its populace to register on a government website allowing for all their movements to be tracked.

Even in America with the small pockets of highly armed, far right-wing resistance rising to the fore, there is the most dangerous divide of them all relating to the rights and duties of the States versus the power of the Federal Government. With the clear reemergence of Confederate Flags, Swastikas and nooses of the Trump supporters attending these gatherings, driven on by his tweets, it takes the country right back to the very foundations of the Civil War 160 years earlier. Indeed, there are small signs that things may end up very bloody, even before the virus has been defeated, Covid-19 not being the initially hoped for societal unifier that such a 1 in a 100 year medical crisis could potentially forge. Extra vigilance and protections of democratic freedoms are thus even more necessary for the battle towards greater equity and inclusiveness as systems get forcibly challenged and re-established.

This article comes from an extract from ‘Papatuanuku’s Breath’ – a book about Covid-19 by Nathan Hoturoa Gray.

[1] New York Times, April 10, 2020, David Leonhardt and Yaryna Serkez. ‘America will struggle after the Coronavirus. These charts show why.’

[2] Ibid.

[3] CEOs in America were paid a staggering $14.5 million on average in 2018 – 287 times more than their workers who on average earned $39,888. It is no wonder CEOs fought for so long to prevent the transparency of these salary ratios from being published publicly.

[4] New York Times, April 10, 2020, Jeneen Interlandi. ’The US Approach to Public Health. Neglect, Panic, Repeat.’ $6 billion is estimated to get the public health technology systems and infrastructure up to speed, yet only $500 million has been committed overall since the outset of the Coronavirus pandemic – $50 million prior to this time.

[5] The Atlantic, 4th August, 2020, Ed Yong. ‘How the pandemic defeated America.’ Many State hospitals were in so much need when Covid-19 first hit that they asked medical students to graduate early, redeployed dermatologists to emergency departments and re-enlisted retired doctors.

[6] Ibid. Hospitals in the USA are designed for one-off discrete disasters such as mass shootings, sizeable traffic pile ups or hurricanes, not viral disasters that can affect multiple states simultaneously, in particular, those that drag on for months.

[7] The Seattle Times, June 12th, 2020, Danny Westneat. ‘Coronavirus survival comes with a $1.1 million, 181 page price tag.’

[8] CounterPunch.org, April 15th, 2020. Charles Pierson. ‘Covid-19 and the High Cost of Dying.’

[9] New York Times, April 14, 2020, Anne Case and Angus Deaton. ‘America Can Afford A World-Cass Health System. Why Don’t We Have One?’

[10] The United Kingdom also had 1.6 million workers who were not entitled to sick pay so were forced to go to work even if they were exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

[11] CBS News, Stephen Gandle. ‘Paycheck Protection Program billions went to large companies and missed virus hotspots.’ For example, the wealthy basketball team – the LA Lakers secured a loan for $4.6 million and paid it all back.

[12] The Guardian, May 15th, 2020, Emily Holden. ‘Struggling oil companies are taking advantage of US coronavirus aid.’ Three coal companies with direct ties to Trump secured $28 million in Coronavirus loan bailouts including Hallador Energy who got $10 million through lobbyist and former head of the EPA Scott Pruitt, Rhino Resources which secured $10 million, and Ramaco Resources $8.4 million.

[13] CBS News, 10 July, 2020. The Archdiocese of New York received 15 loans worth approximately $28 million just for its executive offices. Furthermore, many millions went to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups.

[14] Washington Post, July 6, 2020, Jonathan O’Connell and Aaron Gregg. ‘Treasury, SBA Data show small business loans went to private equity backed chains and members of Congress.’ Some of the companies receiving aid included Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family shipping business, (who is the wife of Mitch McConnell), and at least seven other members of Congress including Representative Kevin Hern, (a Republican from Oklahoma), who owns a series of fast-food franchises and advocated for increasing the size of the loans to franchisees in general, as well as Representative Mike Kelly, (a Republican from Pennsylvania) for three of his car dealerships and a gun safety group he ran last year. Furthermore, several plumbing businesses affiliated with Representative Markwayne Mullin (a Republican also from Oklahoma) each received loans between $350,000 and $1 million. Finally, Democrat Christine Mann who is seeking election in Austin, Texas received $28,600 but paid it back prior to receiving negative press during the lead-up to her political campaign, and the husband of Susie Lee, (Democratic incumbent in Nevada), received a loan for his gaming company leading to the Republican taunt ‘Swindlin’ Susie.’

[15] CBS News, July 1, 2020 Stephen Gandle. ‘Paycheck Protection Program billions went to large companies and missed virus hotspots.’ Another example was two recession proof Esport companies called Super League Gaming and Allied Esports which secured a combined loan of $2.1 million but whose sales increased over the pandemic period.

[16] Washington Post, July 6, 2020, Jonathan O’Connell and Aaron Gregg. ‘Treasury, SBA Data show small business loans went to private equity backed chains and members of Congress.’ A further ten companies received between $5 and $10 million but reported only retaining one job with the money received.

[17] Washington Post, July 24, 2020, Eli Rosenberg. ‘A Band-aid on a Bullet Wound: Workers are getting laid off anew as PPP runs out.’ Banks secured a hefty premium of approximately $10 billion in fees for offering the loans through their branches for which they assumed no risk, and the flood of applications that overwhelmed banks and the Small Business Association as such. Furthermore, minority owned and women owned businesses seemed to have more problems securing the loans.

[18] Washington Post, 10th June, 2020, Jonathan O’Connell, Jeanne Whalen, Jeff Stein, Erica Werner. ‘Following messy start, enormous Paycheck Protection Program shows signs of buttressing economy.’ The Administration announced that 75% of pre-crisis employment payroll costs would need to be spent, (and not on rent, utilities or mortgage interest) to secure loan forgiveness, a requirement that was not specified in the Congress passed legislation. Only much later was this changed to a 60% employee payment / 40% rental and other payments to qualify for loan forgiveness. 

[19] The Devos family is listed 88th on the Forbes Rich List as per 2016 with an estimated $5.4 billion as founders of the Amway brand.

[20] Including the new benefits available to gig workers and the self-employed, more than 53 million applications have been filed for some sort of unemployment insurance from March through July during the pandemic.

[21] Three airline catering companies, namely, Flying Food Fare, Gate Gourmet and Swissport as well as a baggage handling and pre-departure screening company called G2 Secure Staff are all being investigated by Democratic lawmakers for receiving more than $500 million in funds from the CARES Act but still laying off over 7500 employees. The funds were still being collected by these companies for the wages of these laid off workers and law makers are requesting that they either rehire the workers back or repay the loans provided.

[22] Washington Post, July 28, 2020, Peter Whoriskey. ‘PPP was intended to keep employees on the payroll. Workers at some big companies are yet to be rehired.’

[23] Washington Post, 10th June, 2020, Jonathan O’Connell, Jeanne Whalen, Jeff Stein, Erica Werner. ‘Following messy start, enormous Paycheck Protection Program shows signs of buttressing economy.’ Florida business man David T Hines lied about the 70 employees he had in his moving companies, (many of which did not even have operating websites), yet still managed to get $3.9 million in loans from the $13.5 million requested. He subsequently spent the money on a $318,000 Lamborghini, multiple shopping sprees and living it up in expensive hotels and holidays before being arrested and charged for fraud. Federal prosecutors have filed various charges for fraud under the PPP loan program including reality TV star Maurice ‘Mo’ Fayne who allegedly spent his funds on a Rolls-Royce and $85,000 in jewelry.

[24] New Yorker, John Cassidy “Will the Pandemic Create a Progressive Society or a more Dystopian one?’ The stimulus programs certainly benefitted corporate companies more than impoverished Americans in dire need. Furthermore the Economist states that up to 20% of Mom and Pop stores lost their businesses throughout America, up to 40% for Black run small businesses all of which have been way out of kilter compared with bigger corporate entities. (This is a big reason why big companies have managed to recover or even improve their share price values, as much of their competition from smaller companies has been wiped out.) Having said this, small businesses that have been able to pivot towards new business models more quickly than resilient yet administratively inflexible big businesses has been vital to those who have managed to soldier on and survive financially.

[25] Another Chinese comedy “Enter the Fat Dragon” also moved to iQiyi and Tencent Video on February 1, which generated 63 million paid views within the first three days.

[26] For example, Zoom Communications Technology rose from 10 million users to 300 million when the western world went into lockdown – its share price increasing over 40% through 2020.

[27] New Yorker, John Cassidy “Will the Pandemic Create a Progressive Society or a more Dystopian one?’ For example Facebook Live and Instagram views doubled in one week according to CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Group Video Calling increased by 1000% through the month of March, 2020.

[28] Ibid.

[29] By using devices like cell-phones, tablets and computers, online medicine can result in faster diagnoses and treatments, less waiting times and a reduction of patient stress so long as they have a broadband connection to achieve this.

[30] New Yorker, John Cassidy “Will the Pandemic Create a Progressive Society or a more Dystopian one?’ The enormous rise of tech stocks saw the S&P 500 rise eventually back towards levels prior to March 2020, the result of giant corporations surviving the economic upheaval due to securing greater market share.

[31] Facebook currently has approximately 2.7 billion users.

[32] New Yorker, John Cassidy “Will the Pandemic Create a Progressive Society or a more Dystopian one?’ For example, Microsoft, Facebook, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Apple and Amazon now account for more than 20% of the entire S&P 500 index, and with the exit of Exxon from the Dow Jones, (once the wealthiest company on the planet), there is just Chevron left as the only remaining fossil fuel company present.

[33] Mark Zuckerberg intends to hire 10,000 new tech employees for engineering and product development positions.

[34] New York Times, April 9th, 2020, Walter Schiedel. ‘Why the wealthy fear pandemics.’ The Black Plagues of the1300s which killed approximately a third of Europe saw a massive shortage in the peasant work force. The severity of the disease meant that even needy peasants snubbed work offered by the land owning gentry and aristocratic classes offered up to 3 times what was paid normally. Large land owners eventually lobbied the English Crown to pass the Ordinance of Labourers which forced workers to ‘accept the employment offered’ at the same measly wages as before. Most labourers ended up ignoring the Crown’s edict and given the wealthy classes fields of corn and fruits would remain wilted and eventually rotting if they did not pander to the peasant classes demands, it resulted in a doubling of unskilled labourers’ wages throughout most of Western Europe over the ensuing decades. In Eastern Europe, including Prussia, Poland and Russia the aristocracy managed to collude to impose serfdom on their peasantries. The long term economic impacts were noticeable with free labour and thriving growth and modernization in Western Europe while development significantly stagnated in Eastern Europe.

[35] The initial stimulus bill provided under the CARES Act provided every American a one-off payment of $1200 and $500 for each child although there were obviously delays and issues with everyone accessing these. Meanwhile 1.1 million deceased Americans also received the payment demonstrating the administrative challenges of implementing such a scheme.

[36] Up to 32% of US citizens were struggling to pay their rent or mortgages as of June and July 2020.

[37] Washington Post, June 4 2020, Will Hobson and Roxanne Roberts. ‘What the 50 richest Americans have given for Covid-19 relief.’

[38] Ibid. An undisclosed amount has also been provided to the collective ‘All in Seattle’ – a local initiative to assist nonprofits.

[39] MacKenzie Bezos, (Jeff’s ex-wife) who has a net worth of $46.7 billion has provided donations equivalent to $208.

[40] Washington Post, June 4 2020, Will Hobson and Roxanne Roberts. ‘What the 50 richest Americans have given for Covid-19 relief.’ Forbes however states that Ellison has been working with Oracle engineers and the Federal government to develop a database tracking symptoms and treatments to aid the work of doctors and clinicians.

[41] Ibid. All three have benefitted $13 billion each since March 18th with tech stocks doing so well.

[42] Ibid.

[43] CNN Business, June 4th 2020, Matt Egan ‘US billionaires have become $565 billion richer during the pandemic.’ The elite 1% of Americans control over a staggering $30 trillion of assets, and the three richest Americans possess more wealth than the poorest 160 million.

[44] Washington Post, 5th June 2020, Marc Fisher, Arelis Hernandez and Frances Sellers. ‘People are looking at me: For many who lost jobs in the Coronavirus epidemic, hunger comes with shame.’

[45] Business Insider, June 18, 2020, David Choi and Sonam Sheth. ‘Trump told China’s president that building concentration camps for millions of Uighur Muslims ‘was exactly the right thing to do’ former adviser says.’

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