The cost of the COVID class war

March 23, 2021

By Feb. 22, COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S. surpassed 500,000. Since then, another 55,000 people have died from the virus, and numbers are trending up. More U.S. lives have been lost in this pandemic than in combat during World Wars I and II combined.

U.S. combined military spending for those two major wars was over $5.07 trillion in 2019 dollars. And military spending has been prioritized ever since. The 2020 military budget — $721.5 billion — was the largest portion of the discretionary U.S. federal budget.

In 2019, the U.S. spent $35.4 billion on nuclear weapons. Over the next three decades, nuclear weapons modernization plans could cost up to $2 trillion.

Ask Congress for money to spend making war and/or producing nuclear weapons and they will likely shell out more than you requested. It fills the coffers of their backers in the military-industrial complex.

But suggest raising the hourly minimum wage to $15 — which would benefit over 27 million workers — and politicians will fight you tooth and nail.

Politicians from both bourgeois parties were ready to go to war to block passage of long overdue relief for low-wage workers — predominantly people of color, immigrants, women and gender oppressed — because the new COVID legislation initially included the minimum wage increase.

Millions of people who survived COVID-19 still face job loss and evictions. Two million people may experience food insecurity in the U.S. this year — but apparently addressing starvation is not a Congressional priority. Nor is funding infrastructure such as public schools, housing, and transportation.

Biden’s $1.9 billion American Rescue Plan, signed March 11, was described by House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as “too costly, too corrupt and too liberal.” He called it “a laundry list of left-wing priorities that predate the pandemic and do not meet the needs of American families” during a floor speech March 10.

He is partially right — the needs of U.S. families have been ignored for decades, and the provisions of the Biden bill do not go far enough in addressing them.

Workers’ needs vs. capitalist greed

Politicians who voted against the bill claimed they were motivated by concerns about increasing the national debt. Flashback to March 2020, when Trump signed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act surrounded by top GOP leaders. Or travel back to 2017, when Trump signed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act that cut corporate taxes by $1.5 trillion, resulting in deficit spending reaching $984 billion and causing federal borrowing to skyrocket.

The CARES Act and three smaller measures passed in 2020, with support from both sides of the aisle, were crafted to make sure the biggest beneficiaries were corporations and the country’s wealthiest individuals. While the CARES Act gave $1,200 stimulus payments to around 159 million people, this was small change compared to the billions in additional tax breaks handed out to the 1% for multiple years or to the total costs of wars.

The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation found that five tax provisions specifically aimed at the wealthiest families, including the Trumps, would cost nearly as much as all the stimulus checks combined. These measures gave immensely bigger benefits to corporations and a handful of the ultrarich.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the major concern of most U.S. corporations has not been the rising death toll but their falling bottom lines.

Capitalists can gamble on the stock market and will benefit from tax breaks handed to them by lackey politicians. But without workers on the job, producing more wealth for the bosses than the bosses pay them in wages, their profit system starts to crumble.

Under capitalism, labor is the source of all wealth. The push to get workers back on the job is what motivated pro-capitalist politicians to throw COVID caution to the wind and pass only minimal economic relief measures.

Workers need the guarantee of a livable monthly income, protection against evictions and adequate access to food and health care, so that they cannot be forced to work in unsafe conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic just to survive. This is what workers have in socialist countries.