The wartime economy?

In 1935, six years before Pearl Harbor, the US Congress approved the largest peacetime allocation ever, nearly five billion dollars, for unemployment relief. Over the next decade, Congress would throw $350 billion taxpayer dollars into the war effort. Why?

The war to defeat fascism cost the United States 405,000 of its citizens, in four years. Too high a price to defeat the Germany’s and Italy’s fascists and Japan’s nationalists? Would Donald Trump’s white nationalist supporters think so?

Already in less than four months, Covid-19 has claimed over 60,000 lives, one seventh the number lost to European and Asian right wing extremists. In World War II terms, this would be the equivalent of losing 60,000 US lives before January 1942. Covid-19 is a super-killer. But it is also an economic killer.

Over 30M Americans have applied for unemployment benefits so far. That number only includes individuals eligible for apply for unemployment. And we are only in our third month.

If we think of the Coronavirus as a deadly killer, a foreign assailant, the republican-led Congress and White House should be allocating $5 trillion to wipe out this plague. So far, they have allocated less than half that number. Why?

A large part of the problem is ideological. Republicans are, well, anti-republican. They do not believe in res publica, the wealth we hold in common. They do not believe that publics should even exist. So, the very notion of a public entity appropriating and redistributing private wealth is inimical to the (anti-) republicans. Instead, what they believe in is the redistribution of public money into private hands. That is the whole idea behind public debt and why public debt is preferable (for anti-republicans) to taxing wealth. Public debt will have to be paid off, eventually, if in no other form then simply in debt servicing. And guess who will pay for that debt? Hint: the (anti-)republicans just gave their billionaire friends the largest tax break in history.

To put this all in perspective, in 1947, when US taxpayers began paying off their huge $5 trillion dollar war debt, the effective corporate tax rate in the US was close to 50 per cent — yes, corporations were taxed at 50 per cent and the US economy never had it so good. Today it is less than 20 per cent. So, again: who is going to pay off the debt? Working families. That’s who. Which, in effect, means that the (anti-)Republicans are fighting the most significant war since 1941 not only with the bodies of working families, but at the expense of working families. Where the 1938-1941 Congressional appropriations put working Americans back to work and put money in their savings accounts, the 2020 Congressional appropriation is largely aimed at “wealthcare,” caring for the wealthiest among us.

We need a Congress and a White House that once again serves the public interest, not private interest. We need to have the guts to make wealth bear its burden: restore tax burdens to their 1950s levels, Green New Deal, National Health Care (not “wealthcare”).

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