From Other Words
Powerful interests used the Great Recession to hardwire more inequality into our system. This time, let's do the opposite.
We all have to come together. We need to help each other. We don't have time for politics as usual.
In times of crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic, these sorts of calls for cooperation become the drumbeat of our daily lives.
Unfortunately, no drumbeat ever gets everybody marching in sync. In deeply unequal societies like our own, a wealthy few can exploit such catastrophes to make themselves even wealthier.
Back in 2007, Naomi Klein explored this phenomenon brilliantly in her landmark book The Shock Doctrine. Klein showed how corporate elites worldwide have repeatedly and brutally used the public's disorientation following a collective shock wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes, or natural disasters to push through radical pro-corporate measures.
The 2008 financial collapse would vividly illustrate the dynamics Klein described. The Wall Street giants whose reckless and criminal behavior ushered in that crisis ended up even bigger and more powerful than before the crisis began.
Klein sees those same dynamics now resurfacing in the coronavirus crisis. "We are seeing," she told Democracy Now recently, "this very predictable process that we see in the midst of every economic crisis, which is extreme corporate opportunism."
In response to the pandemic, she said, Trump is "dusting off" the Wall Street wish-list on everything from cutting and privatizing Social Security by undermining its payroll tax revenue stream to enriching the fossil fuel industry with huge bailouts.
So how can we prevent a "shock doctrine" repeat?
For starters, we need to provide immediate support for those the coronavirus is hitting the hardest: the sick and those who care for them, as well as the workers who lose jobs and income.
But we can't afford to stop there. We need, in effect, a "shock doctrine" in reverse. We need to seize the openings for change the coronavirus presents and challenge the capacity of our rich and powerful to become ever richer and more powerful at the expense of everyone else.
One example: Within our increasingly coronavirus-ravaged economy, more and more families will be facing evictions. Progressive activists and officials are now quite rightfully calling for a coronavirus moratorium on evictions.