Big capital does not care about us. Monopoly capitalism. Large corporations have turned our economic system to the benefit of top executives and shareholders. This is made all too evident in the age of Coronavirus. Transportation companies do little to protect employees delivering packages in two days. Online retailers fail to protect workers in their warehouses. Giant supermarket chains do little to protect the folks stocking shelves – essential workers without whom civil society will collapse. Giant healthcare systems – both for-profit and not – and government at all levels are not prepared for what public health experts have for years been calling the coming inevitable pandemic. These failures leave nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, hospital registration clerks and first responders exposed and vulnerable to infection just for doing their jobs.
Daily we are shocked by the crude, divisive and grossly inadequate federal response to this emergency, contemplating too early the notion of sending us back to work. Egged on by big capital eager to get their cogs and wheels turning – resuming the business of making shareholders and senior executives ever more wealthy. And, yeah, we all want to get our shoulder back on the wheel. Small and medium sized businesses are desperate. Self-employed workers are gasping. Renters can’t pay their landlords. Landlords can’t pay their mortgages. An entire economy in lockdown. But what is the alternative? For big capital and their federal minions, the alternative is an “acceptable” number of lives lost. Not so many that the economy tanks. But enough to permit work and industry to resume.
If anything should get our attention about the state of things in the United States, this Coronavirus pandemic is it. Everything that is wrong about our economic system is on display. The picture is stark and clear. Those of us not running or owning large corporations or heading the federal government are expendable. They will cheerfully throw us into wars, unfair and dangerous work environments, expose us to a deadly virus, assure we never get a raise and continue grinding the middle class into a new class of slaves.
This is a profound moment in human history. As in 1918, hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of people will die. Millions more will be sick. We will run out of places to put the bodies. Big capital has put on its concerned face while the worst is happening. When this dark plague is contained one, two, three years from now, they will squeeze us back into their cramped airline seats, send us back into their unsafe warehouses and factories. Work us hard and pay us a miserly wage. And continue to pocket the fruit of our labor. If we let them.
This country was completely unprepared for COVID-19. There must be consequences for that happening. Now is the time for a more equitable and balanced economic system, for government to represent us and not giant corporations. The corporation was created to serve the betterment of society. It is time for these entities to accept their responsibilities to the environment, to their workers and customers, not just to shareholders and senior executives. Something is fundamentally wrong with this country. Fundamental change is required.
Patrick Sheehy is the former executive director of the Wyoming news site WyoFile.com. He has lived in Laramie for more than 10 years.