COPING WITH CORONA by Jason Sibert

Our country, and the world in general, has been turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Healthcare workers, retail workers (at least anyone working for a retailer who sells groceries) and workers for a few other sectors deemed essential are busy. However, the social distancing required to fight the pandemic has thrown millions out of work. Some are expecting Great Depression-type unemployment within weeks.

The crises also have given us plenty of information on how flawed our view of security has been. For some time, we’ve been content to spend lots of money on military hardware of all sorts – conventional and nuclear – and these items are useless in the fight against Covid-19. What our country needs is a more robust public health service to fight future pandemics. The Army has constructed a field hospital in New York City and the Navy hospital ship, the U.S.S. Comfort, is in the NYC area to admit non-Covid-19 patients. We have no choice at this time but to use the military to fight this pandemic, but if we had a more robust public health infrastructure then we could manage similar crises without the intervention of the military.

Our country’s public health service, the United States Public Health Service, is under the Department of Health and Human Services. The USPHS has a commissioned corps called the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Those in the service wear uniforms identical to the United States Navy or Coast Guard except that the Corps’ uniforms bear a different insignia. The Corps’ primary mission is the protection, promotion and advancement of the health and safety of the general public. The most well-known person in the public health service is the Surgeon General who always wears the Corps’ uniform in front of the media.

Some in the Pentagon questioned the use of military personnel in a pandemic that impacted primarily the civilian community. A stronger and larger public health service would be capable of building field hospitals in a pandemic, assisting other hospitals, and coordinating and disseminating scientific information relevant to the public at large. Currently, the USPHS has just commissioned officers while the military has warrant officers and enlisted personnel. A larger service would employ nurses of all types (registered and licensed practical nurses) as well as nurses’ aides and administrative workers. Aides, L.P.N.’s and administrative workers would constitute the enlisted corps.

Another portion of a revamped USPHS would include enlisted personnel who would deliver food and medicine in pandemic times and help unemployed workers collect benefits like unemployment insurance, public assistance and Medicaid. They would provide help to agencies that administer those programs, as this it is a tough task in pandemic times. This enlarged service would work with public health services of other countries, as threats like Covid-19 have no boundaries.

One can imagine the youth of America growing up thinking they wanted to secure the health of our country by being a part of the USPHS. Recruiters would be placed in our high school and colleges. The funding for a bigger health service would come from a downsizing of our currently military budget, as our bloated military budget does us no good when our threats are climate change and pandemics. Like the pandemic threat, climate change will require the cooperation of nation-states. A smart foreign policy requires working with other nation-states to establish a world governed by international law. Only a peaceful world will be able to cooperate to establish a livable future for future generations all over the world.

A larger USPHS would be a key piece of the puzzle in constructing a more social-democratic America in the aftermath of the Great Recession and the Covid-19 crises. A grassroots movement that starts in the citizenry can take this idea from this story to a reality.

Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.

THE CORONAVIRUS’S INDICTMENT OF CAPITALISM by Jason Sibert

The coronavirus pandemic has stressed our own country and other countries as well.

It revealed a weakness in our economy. Technology allowed wealthy economies to evolve into human- touch economies where most people are employed in personal services, as the retail industry, the restaurant industry, the healthcare industry, and the hotel/motel industry are our country’s biggest employers. This means that a virus can easily be transmitted with so many humans being in regular contact with other humans.

As stated in numerous media reports, many workers – especially in the above-mentioned service industry – have no sick leave. This gives them an incentive to go to work to make the bills even when they are sick. Of course, sickness is more likely to spread to those around them in our current arrangement. Bars and restaurants have closed temporarily or operating on a skeleton staff with many serving on a grab-and-go basis. The unemployed will not spend money to keep our economy running. Even though the Affordable Care Act expanded insurance coverage, some still don’t have health care and the deductibles and co-pays they face would bankrupt them.

The crises also revealed how unworthy our childcare system is. Public schools are closed because of concern about coronavirus spreading amongst students. Many are faced with taking care of children or going to work and making a living. Many service jobs offer little in the way of health insurance, childcare, or sick leave.

We have a flawed definition of security in our country, something less mentioned in the media. Peace Action Executive Director Jon Rainwater addressed the Donald Trump Administration’s approach to security. The administration’s 2021 budget called for a $3 billion cut to the World Health Organization and a $16 billion dollar cut in the Centers for Disease Control. This year’s Pentagon budget is a whopping $740 billion, as stated by Rainwater.

Trump’s approach to nuclear weapons is also horrifying. The administration has made it a point to cancel arms control treaties that worked toward a vision of security defined by fewer nuclear weapons. Trump cancelled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action treaty with Iran and the Intermediate Nuclear-Range Treaty with Russia. In addition, he has said he might not renew the New Start Treaty with Russia. The administration has also continued the modernization of our nuclear arsenal started in the Barack Obama Administration. From 2025 to 2034, our government will spend more on nuclear weapons than any time in history – the only exception being the Cold War.

Our country has defined security by how much we spend on arms when out of control arms spending will not keep us safe from global pandemics and global warming. We need to change our definition of security. There is currently a stimulus bill gliding through Congress that will provide $1,000 to every American, a good thing promoted by Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT). There is also money to keep small and large businesses afloat. This is also relevant if those companies can keep some people on the payroll and help the economy.  

However, the current stimulus is lacking on key area – protections for working Americans. Rainwater stated a stimulus should provide sick leave for all Americans, offer cost-free pandemic care at all hospitals, and ramp up the production of life-saving technology (ventilators) at domestic factories. We should also expand the United States Public Health Service to build emergency hospitals to treat people free of charge in this time of need. Of course, we should start a national child-care system staffed with well-paid professionals.

Our government could also use valuable resources to secure the health insurance sector even more than they do. We could model our healthcare sector somewhat on Singapore’s. Hospitals will bill the government certain amount for all visits and the health insurance sector would be off the hook for some the costs but would be regulated even more. Let us allow only a small amount of profit (one percent) for heath insurance companies and create a mechanism – like the Federal Reserve Bank – to keep cash flowing to those companies. An insured populace is far more of a security issue than more and more dangerous arms!

Social Democracy is about solidarity and our country needs solidarity right know. As Ben Franklin said, “if we don’t hang together, we will hang separately!”

Jason Sibert is the executive director of the Peace Economy Project. It researches military spending, educates about the hazards of an unchecked military-industrial complex and advocates for conversion from a military- to a more stable, peace-based economy.

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS USA Supports ENVIRONMENTALISM AND FOOD JUSTICE

At the last National Executive Committee meeting, the SDUSA leadership passed the following resolution by a vote of 4 to 0, with one abstention:

Spinning out of SD USA’s support for the Green New Deal, we adopt the following ten-point plan to deepen our outlook on global warming and climate change:

1) Hunters for Regulation & Environmental Protection is a group dedicated to conservation and protecting the Earth from climate change.  Its Facebook page spotlights progressive hunters and concerned citizens, and it should become a caucus within SD USA. Just as the Red Falcons of America were created by the Young People’s Socialist League as the left alternative to the Boy Scouts during the 20th century, Hunters for Regulation & Environmental Protection is the 21st century left alternative to the National Rifle Association.

2) We adopt and respect gun safety measures to ensure public health, including bans on military grade firearms and assault weapons put forth by Congress and enacted by state legislatures. Traditional firearms such as shotguns and non-military grade rifles are to be reserved for hunting and target shooting only, where local hunting is to be geared for the cultivation of food. 

3) We adopt and respect conservation efforts. The Endangered Species Act is to be strictly enforced. Globally, comparable acts should be enacted and enforced to preserve dying species such as the African elephants, lions, bonobos and gorillas.  Moratoria on whale hunting must be supported. We defend and encourage the anti-poaching efforts undertaken by women warrior units in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

4) Global warming is to be curbed by not investing in factory farming and big agriculture. Nearby rail traffic must be ecologically sound. Ethical farming practices must be encouraged. Small farmers are to be rewarded for helping the environment.

5) We support the formation of a green hunters coalition ranging from conservationists and environmentalists to followers of entertainer and climate activist Willie Nelson and progressive hunters like ex-astronaut Mark Kelly (husband of shooting victim, former Rep. Gabby Giffords), currently a Democratic candidate for the US Senate. 

6) We must respect the rights of indigenous peoples at all times, recalling that land that is being borrowed for the purposes of hunting was once theirs. The National Park Service’s bison hunting program, where penned-in bison are shot without mercy, should be cancelled. In its place, the distribution of extra herds of bison, elk and buffalo to native tribes is to be promoted.  Such distribution would accommodate the tribes’ work in prairie restoration, reviving bison ranching as a major factor in food cultivation and generating sorely-needed revenue for all native American reservations. 

7) We must counter climate change denialism, originating primarily from the Republican Party, that serves to accelerate climate change and its immediate danger to our agriculture, especially in its promotion of factory farms.

8) Few encounter climate change more directly than hunters and fishermen, and their insights must be sought after in this struggle to preserve our environment.  

9) We respect and work to preserve the fragile ecology of Earth – the nature, environment and climate in which we live. We are forever obligated to protect it.

10) We work to create a better tomorrow so that the youth can inherit a world worth living in. We support the kids at March For Our Lives, who are to be saluted as the youth of tomorrow.

We resolve that Social Democrats USA will assist in whatever way it can to promote environmentalism and food justice in a principled manner.

SUBSCRIBER ELECTION SURVEY

The leadership of Social Democrats USA is currently in the midst of making an endorsement for the 2020 presidential election.  But first, we want to hear from YOU – the subscribers to our Socialist Currents blog.

Please answer the following questions:

1. Are you a member of Social Democrats USA?

2. Which one of the following Democratic candidates for President do you favor :

  • Bernie Sanders
  • Joe Biden
  • No Endorsement

3. Do you have any campaign experiences you’d like to share?

If you answered “Yes”, please write them up and send them to our blog. 

Michael Mottern’s Theater Review of “Eclipsed.”

Michael Mottern: Theater Review   
 
The Subversive Theatre Collective, on March 8, premiered their production of the “subversive” play “ECLIPSED,” a play written by Danai Gurira, about the “women’s struggle” in the Liberian Civil War in 2003, at the Manny Fried Playhouse in Buffalo, NY, and taking place on International Womens Day, a day that honors women’s struggles in the world. During the theaters’ seasonal “Black Power play series,” that most likely will be a radical play that pushes the envelope, and “where dissent takes center stage…” All at a little playhouse in north Buffalo where the freight elevator that used to carry the Pierce Arrow car, now takes people up to the 3rd floor to the theater inside the old Pierce Arrow building, parallel to the Belt Line Railroad, and north of the Pan-American festival site.  

When Americans think of the country of Liberia, they tend to think only of the Garveyites of the “Go Back to Africa Movement” and was for a long time all Americans knew about Liberia, and its connection to the United States. Most importantly between the years of 1822 and 1847, the country eventually declared its independence from the U.S. in 1862, but we forget that over a hundred and fifty years ago Liberia was the catalyst for the Pan-African Liberation Movement during the end days of European colonialism.  

A former territory of the United States, Liberia was re-settled by former enslaved Africans before and after the American Civil War as well. In the Bible the noun, “Exodus,” which can be categorized as a mass movement of people, moving out of bondage and brought to the promised land, and was a very real thing to people like African Americans that were once chattel slaves in the United States.   

By 1864, we see this in the study of Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, when the president politely informed Mr. Douglas that African Americans in the United States will always be treated as second-class citizens and suggests instead a mass Exodus to what is now modern-day Nicaragua and Liberia. This is something that the all-female cast of five can relate to. A small piece of American history because most African Americans have roots mostly from places, like Nigeria, South Africa and Liberia. In fact, the Liberian flag is the closest thing to the U.S. flag (as seen on the stage) in the world and is a part of the American experience to name a few.  

The set design of the play was awesome, and we have to say good work on behalf of Dan Toner, J. Tim Raymond, and the stage manager Sara McDonnell. The cast was so good, not only did they get into the drama, just the set alone makes it feel like you are there in a women’s compound in Liberia ran by paramilitary warlords and thugs. The play deals with a variety of sensitive issues like, civil war, rape and incest, human trafficking, slave labor, and just plain barbarism. The women are not even labeled by name but by number, all numbered except one, the character Rita played by Davida Tolbert, #1, played by Janae Leonard, and #2, played by Shawnell Tillery, a female Rebel Soldier trying to recruit young girls in to armed conflicts etc. etc.… And it’s brutally chilling with even the absences of a male warlord in the play, only each woman pointing to themselves by number, indicating to the audience that they were next in line to be sexually assaulted by a general in the (L.U.R.D.), Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy paramilitary compound. 

If rape and child soldiers weren’t bad enough, there was the issue of illiteracy. In war torn Africa, schools were few and far between and no one could read, accept the character #4, “The Girl” played by the exceptional actress and Performing Arts alumni Nina Brown. Awkward at times with the tense subject matter, but also funny as well. In the play the only book they had to read was a beat-up version of the Starr Report about the affair between Bill Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, being read out loud by Nina’s character and getting a big chuckle from the audience. If Nina’s performance can give the audience a good bunch of laughs, to me it was Davida’s character, the humanitarian “Rita,” that gives us hope for a better future. So, if you are in the Buffalo area it is a play you are not going to want to miss… One woman in the crowd was crying and the audience was very diverse.  

After the Sunday matinee, there was a subversive talk after the show and a lot of people actually stuck around to listen to what the actors had to say about the play, all facilitated by an actress that was there tabling with Planned Parenthood before the show. I hope as many theater goers will get to see this magnificent play; it is one you are not going to want to miss. Be advised there is lots of mature subject matter and might not be suitable for young children.  The play is running on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 PM and a Sunday matinee at 2:30 PM thru March 29th, 2020 

I give this play 4 and ½ Stars out of 5