There has been quite a bit of talk in the past couple of days about when we might get back to normal. The president is hoping that might happen as soon as Easter while others are saying it could be 3-4 months. But some people aren’t interested in going back to normal. On the contrary, they see the crisis as an inflection point that presents and opportunity for some significant changes to the country.
On the left there are a lot of people who see the crisis as an opportunity to push forward some of the socialist agenda they’ve had all along. In some cases, they don’t mean European-style social democracy, they want to see an end to capitalism. Here’s an example published by NBC yesterday. The author of this is named Paris Marx:
Once COVID-19 abates and people can start leaving their homes, many industries may indeed have collapsed or will be surviving on government support — the airline industry being the first. If China and Italy are any indication, carbon emissions and air pollution will have declined. We can choose whether we ramp things back up in a way that continues to threaten our futures and our health by fueling the climate crisis, or we can make the necessary investments and change the regulatory framework to move away from fossil fuels while ensuring that our workers have a future.
When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., proposed their Green New Deal in February 2019, the most likely implementation of which would cost $16.3 trillion over 10 years, it was written off as a “green dream” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and ridiculed by Republicans who charged it was too expensive and un-American. Yet its policies would provide a job guarantee for being laid off, support for retraining for many workers, and a mass investment program to not only boost the economy, but move it away from fossil fuels.
Is the author suggesting we should not have an aviation industry? I seem to remember that was a big issue when AOC initially released the Green New Deal and a summary that suggested a focus on high speed rail “at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” Even Sen. Mazie Hirono mocked the idea of replacing air travel with trains saying, “That would be pretty hard for Hawaii.”
AOC’s accidentally leaked agenda, which she backtracked away from at the time, sounds moderate compared to what this author is suggesting. At least AOC wanted to phase out air travel by replacing it with something else. Paris Marx is suggesting that if the industry collapses we just let it burn, even if there’s no alternative.
As for the cost of the Green New Deal, that has been a matter of some debate. Initial estimates ranged between $52 and $94 trillion over 10 years. Sanders would later release his own GND plan (under the same name) and claim it would cost $16.3 trillion. However, it’s important to note that his GND plan was just one of several plans. If you include the cost of his Medicare for All plan, you’re right back around $50 trillion over ten years. That’s far beyond even the cost of the current stimulus bill duplicated every year for the next ten years.
Sanders plan also didn’t envision a global pandemic which would potentially create a worldwide recession (or worse). It’s one thing to promise a government job to out of work people when the economy is running along wish sub-4 percent unemployment. It’s quite another to make the math work when unemployment hits 15 percent or higher. The cost of the latter program would be far higher and the ability to cover those costs after taking into account all of the revenue the government will lose because people are out of work will be far less.
Anyway, this isn’t even the most extreme proposal being floated during the crisis. Yesterday a site called Open Society published a piece suggesting now is a good time to think about doing away with capitalism and the nuclear family:
Nuclear households, it seems, are where we are all intuitively expected to retreat in order to prevent widespread ill-health. ‘Staying home’ is what is somehow self-evidently supposed to keep us well. But there are several problems with this, as anyone inclined to think about it critically (even for a moment) might figure out – problems one might summarize as the mystification of the couple-form; the romanticisation of kinship; and the sanitization of the fundamentally unsafe space that is private property…
In short, the pandemic is no time to forget about family abolition. In the words of feminist theorist and mother Madeline Lane-McKinley; “Households are capitalism’s pressure cookers. This crisis will see a surge in housework – cleaning, cooking, caretaking, but also child abuse, molestation, intimate partner rape, psychological torture, and more.” Far from a time to acquiesce to ‘family values’ ideology, then, the pandemic is an acutely important time to provision, evacuate and generally empower survivors of – and refugees from – the nuclear household.
And thirdly, even when the private nuclear household poses no direct physical or mental threat to one’s person – no spouse-battering, no child rape, and no queer-bashing – the private family qua mode of social reproduction still, frankly, sucks. It genders, nationalizes and races us. It norms us for productive work. It makes us believe we are ‘individuals.’ It minimizes costs for capital while maximizing human beings’ life-making labor (across billions of tiny boxes, each kitted out – absurdly – with its own kitchen, micro-crèche and laundry). It blackmails us into mistaking the only sources of love and care we have for the extent of what is possible.
That last link is to an article at a site called Pinko. Here’s a sample:
In place of the coercive system of atomized family units, the abolition of the family would generalize what we now call care. Care of mutual love and support; care of the labor of raising children and caring for the ill; care of erotic connection and pleasure; care of aiding each other in fulfilling the vast possibilities of our humanity, expressed in countless ways, including forms of self-expression we now call gender. Care in our capitalist society is a commodified, subjugating, and alienated act, but in it we can see the kernel of a non-alienating interdependence.
Communists like to promise the revolution that sounds like it will be an orgy/art exploration, but the reality is always something closer to Venezuela, i.e. a man-made disaster where millions of nuclear families flee their homes to protect their children.
Even the fringiest of communist ideologues now see a path to what they want in things Sanders and AOC have already introduced in Congress. We’re not quite there for the family abolishment people. The full language to propose that as a serious idea hasn’t been imported into the mainstream yet, but you can bet they are working on it. AOC has already suggested it makes sense that people no longer want to have children. Little by little they’ll make this part of the conversation. The coronavirus is just another crisis the far left doesn’t want to go to waste.