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The delta variant doesn’t give a flying #@$% if you’re tired of hearing about COVID-19

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The march of variants

When it comes to the virus itself, what’s been happening is what should be expected—it’s increasing in its ability to infect humans. This is a brand-new virus. That means both that no one has a natural immunity to this virus and the virus itself has just stumbled into the combination of proteins that allows it to attach to human cells. So it should not be a surprise that, as quadrillions of new copies of the virus are produced, some will refine that ability.

Change in transmissibility from original COVID-19 variant to delta

When the original strain of COVID-19 rolled through the area around Wuhan, it had an R0 value just a little worse than that of seasonal flu. That rate of transmission, paired with a rate of serious outcome two orders of magnitude greater than flu, was enough to sound every alarm that this was a serious disease. A couple of months later, the version of the virus that rolled through Italy and France, then took up residence as the primary variant in the United States, had a reproductive rate that was about 25% higher. That variant was swept aside in the fall by the alpha variant, which was a full two times more contagious than the original version and formed the bulk of cases during the massive spike of cases that occurred around the start of the year. Now alpha has been dislodged by the delta variant. Best estimates put its R0 at numbers from 5.7 to 8.0. 

Now the lambda variant is making gains in South America and appears to be displacing delta in some areas. That almost certainly means that this variant has a higher R0 value. And not only is lambda almost certainly more contagious, it contains a specific change in the spike protein that could make it much more evasive of both vaccines and the immunity generated following previous SARS-CoV-2 infections. It’s particularly concerning that Chile saw a huge wave of cases in May and June that appear to be connected to the growing dominance of lambda, in spite of one of the world’s highest vaccination rates. 

How high can the R0 number go? We don’t know. What’s clear is that COVID-19 is still making large jumps. It’s not just a matter of how well the spike protein attaches to human cells, other changes in the virus can be just as important. For example, one new study indicates that people who are infected with the delta variant carry as much as 1000x as much virus in their nasal passages as those infected with the variants that were dominant over the summer. With that kind of load being pumped into the air, the virus could actually be worse, on a virus vs. cell basis, and still be much more contagious.

We should assume that new COVID-19 variants will continue to be kicked up which are more contagious and more vaccine evasive. How fast those variants appear is directly related to how many cases of the disease are kicking around the planet.

The march of obstinance

At the same time that the variants are getting worse, so are behaviors of the people who are spreading the disease. It should come as no surprise that the same people who were first in line to get vaccinated were also among those most likely to regularly wear a mask in public areas. And those who said they would not get vaccinated were always down at the bottom when it came to putting on a mask. But the extent to which this has gotten worse in the last three months is hard to exaggerate

Over 60% of the people whose response to questions about vaccine is “I will not get vaccinated” also respond to questions about masks by saying they “never” wear a mask. The latest Civiqs data shows that, far from falling as the delta variant generated a surge in some of the reddest, Trump-loving counties of the nation, Republican vaccine hostility has actually hardened.

Over the last couple of days, Sean Hannity has reversed some of his anti-vaxx positions and actually spoken favorably about getting the vaccine. That’s given some impression that perhaps, just perhaps, Fox is stepping back from their role as a disseminator of bioterrorism.  Don’t bet on it.

Immediately before Hannity, Fox viewers got a full hour of Tucker Carlson saying that the vaccine was ineffective, made people sicker, that the government was engaged in “vaccine coercion,” and to “ignore people giving medical advice on TV.” Somehow, Carlson did not disappear into a puff of logical contradiction. Immediately after Hannity, Laura Ingraham was up to tell Foxists that there was “every reason to doubt” the vaccine, and to insist that the efficacy was much lower than health experts would admit. The effect was to bookend even the slightest admission that vaccines were a good thing with a double injection of vaccine scorn. 

In the last week, some Republican politicians who had been holdouts have finally, and publicly, been vaccinated. On the other hand, there are still jackasses like Rand Paul doing everything they can to make things worse. There may be a day when Republicans finally realize that losing a significant portion of their voting base would be a bad thing. That day isn’t here yet. 

Just like Donald Trump when he cancelled plans for national testing facilities, Republicans are still in a position where they believe that spreading the disease is better for their poll numbers than taking action. If they didn’t believe that, they—and Carlson—would be singing a different tune.

So what are we going to do about it?

Every time I write about this, everyone seems to get the impression that I’m saying “pass a law that everyone has to get vaccinated, no exceptions.” And I absolutely confess there would be some righteous joy in watching the anti-vaxx crew mumble and snarl their way to getting jabbed. Putting on their masks with a hot glue gun also seems like a decent idea (Just watch. That sentence will be pulled out of context.)

But neither of those things is going to happen. So what do we do?

  1. Send vaccines overseas
    The United States is, thanks to President Joe Biden, blessed not just with an abundance of vaccine, but with the mRNA vaccines that have proven to be most effective in combatting the latest variants. Multiple studies have now shown that several other vaccines, including Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and SinoVac (the vaccine most common in Chile, as well as many other nations) are far less effective against delta. Similar numbers can be expected when looking at lambda. The way to save the maximum number of lives and to do the maximum amount of good in slowing the pandemic and slowing the development of future variants is to get vaccine into the arms of as many people as possible. So send those vaccines now to South America, to Africa, to Asia, and to everywhere there are people who are willing to do the right thing. Dropping intellectual property laws to allow broader vaccine manufacture is also a great idea, but the biggest thing now is to get out the vaccines that are already waiting to be used.
  2. Restore mask mandates
    Republican governors in some of the hardest-hit states—including new epicenter of steaming hot delta, Missouri—have passed laws that now make it all but impossible for county and city officials to create local mask mandates. Many of these states have also put in place rules that prevent schools or businesses from requiring either masks or proof of vaccination. Because of course they have. But where those mandates are possible, they should be restored. Where mandates are not possible, businesses should still put up signs asking that people wear masks and local officials should still insist that masks are necessary to stop the spread, even if it can’t be enforced. Look at San Francisco. Despite one of the highest rates of vaccination in the nation, it’s still experiencing a new “pandemic of the unvaccinated” that is also generating illness, if not deaths, among the vaccinated. There is no place currently vaccinated at a level to break community spread without also using masks.
  3. Use what we’ve learned
    One thing that the current anti-vaxx/anti-mask crew loves to bring up is “Even St. Fauci said that masks didn’t work!” He did. He’s since apologized multiple times and encouraged the use of masks. That’s because in a reality-based society there is a thing called new evidence. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve learned that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is spread primarily through fine aerosols that linger in indoor air rather than larger droplets that spray from speaking, coughing, or sneezing (though those definitely can spread the disease, as well). Based on what we know now, we have a better understanding of which activities are most dangerous and how  situations can be improved. That means moving events outside when possible, and that air volume and circulation is a large factor in the danger level of an indoor environment. We’ve also spent a year warming up those Zoom skills and learning that many jobs really can be done from home. None of that should be thrown away because some executive decides that he really misses being able to lord his authority over people in person.
  4. Crack that nut
    Ultimately, we cannot live with COVID-19 as a recurring, endemic disease. This is not the flu. The million Americans who have already died is just a part of the price we’ve paid for the mistakes made to this point. We have no idea how many millions are going to face long-term, life-altering, debilitating effects from their exposure to this disease. We don’t know what COVID-19 does to people, even those whose symptoms are light. But here’s one reminder from back in June—“Even mild cases of COVID-19 may lead to loss of brain tissue.” Yeah, keep that in mind. Because I have notes on two upcoming studies that associate the delta variant and biomarkers generally associated with Alzheimer’s. There is no way that we can stay economically, socially, or politically stable unless this thing gets squashed. Ultimately that means gaining a much higher level of vaccine acceptance. That’s very unlikely to happen through some must-get-jabbed law. It may be boosted by schools and employers who require vaccination (in places where Republicans don’t pass laws against it). But mostly that’s going to have to come down reasoning with, guilting, shaming, or simply wearing down those people who are currently refusing vaccines. Because you can’t run a society where a quarter of the population is reveling in their role as living bioweapons.

I know this is a lot. I know that even many of those are were once in the “gee, thanks for pointing out that this is going to be bad” camp have now climbed on the “would you please just shut up” bus. We are on the same page. I want to shut up. I want to never write about this topic again. None of us is getting what we want.

Because the hard work is still ahead.


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26 million workers have gotten a raise thanks to the Fight for $15, this week in the war on workers

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The Fight for $15 kicked off in November 2012, with a relatively small—yet also historically large—group of New York City fast food workers making what seemed an audacious demand: $15 an hour minimum pay and a union. The latter goal hasn’t advanced much since then, but $15? That has become solidly mainstream, and has brought big wins. A new report from the National Employment Law Project quantifies just how big.

The federal minimum wage remains just $7.25 an hour, the same as it was not just in 2012 but in 2009. But between state and local minimum wage increases, and executive action raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers, NELP estimates that 26 million workers have gotten a raise. Nearly 12 million of those workers are Black, Latino, or Asian American. The added pay they’ve gotten amounts to $150 billion, with $76 billion going to Black, Latino, and Asian American workers.

Organizing works.


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Connect! Unite! Act! Let’s make plans for ‘Activism August’ in Washington, D.C., and across the U.S.

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MONDAY, AUGUST 2:  National Moral Monday rally in Washington, D.C.

This weekend in Texas, The Poor People’s Campaign finished their latest March for Democracy. Thousands of people participated in a 27-mile march from Georgetown to Austin, gathering in shifts of 125 to comply with recommended COVID-19 restrictions. You can find footage of speeches along the way by Bishop William Barber, former congressman and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and many other national and regional voting rights activists.

This Monday, August 2, the Poor People’s Campaign will host a National Moral Monday rally at Union Station in Washington. This nonviolent moral direct action will be led by poor people, low-wage workers, progressive faith leaders and other inclusive justice activists. In celebration of the 56th anniversary of President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, speakers will enthusiastically make the case for ending the filibuster in order to pass the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This and other proposed federal legislation puts more political power in the hands of the people, increases election security, and protects the right to vote. Right now is the time to stand up for our future as a democracy!

The rally begins outside Union Station at 10:45 a.m. EDT, and will also be available via livestream. If you can attend Monday’s rally in person, sign up here. Event organizers can answer your questions and let you know if group travel options are available from your state.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 6:  USPS Board of Governors open session and public comments

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy caused massive disruption throughout the United States Postal Service during the 2020 election. Despite widespread frustration and anger about many of his actions in office, he is still Postmaster General because the USPS Board of Governors is the only entity with the authority to remove him from his position.

Louis DeJoy feels very secure in his job, for now

When President Joe Biden took office, Republicans held the majority of seats on the board, preventing DeJoy from being ousted. Since then, empty seats on the board have been filled by Biden to give Democrats the majority, but one Trump-appointed Democrat, Ron A. Bloom,  the board’s chair, supports DeJoy and is not likely to vote to fire him.

On Friday, August 6, the USPS Board of Governors will have an open session at the Postal Service Headquarters in Washington, and members of the public are allowed to observe.

Immediately after the open session there will be a one-hour public comment period—a rare opportunity to express dissatisfaction with DeJoy directly to the people who have the power to fire him. The meeting begins at 9:00 a.m. EDT at 475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW, on the 11th floor Benjamin Franklin Room. Use this form to request a three-minute speaking slot during the public comment period.

There is no easily accessible way to send comments to the USPS Board of Governors via email or fax, however, snail mail can be sent to Chairman Bloom or any other member of the Board using this address:

Mr. Ron A. Bloom
Office of the Board of Governors
United States Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20260-1000

INDIVISIBLE is hosting many local actions during the August congressional recess

Indivisible is a grassroots political advocacy movement, with organizing presence in every single congressional district. No matter where you live, they can put you in touch with other activists in your area. During the August congressional recess, folks will be especially hard at work organizing local and regional demonstrations, town halls, and other visibility events all over the country. The long summer recess is a time when members of Congress are expected to spend time at their district offices, responding to constituent concerns. That makes August a perfect time to thank elected officials who are fighting the good fight, and confront elected officials who are on the wrong side of history.

Some events are already scheduled and can be found here. Right now there is doubt as to whether the recess will happen, or how long it will be, but once that has been decided, other Indivisible events will quickly follow and the list will fill up. In this critical year for the future of our country, members of Congress will be meeting with constituents and holding town halls, or they will be forced to explain to the press why they are not available and why they are hiding.

One voice can change a room. If there is no action planned near you, then YOU can plan an action. That could look like ou on a street corner with a handful of friends, or even all by yourself with one handmade sign; either might light a spark that encourages others in your community to step up and step out.

TOPSHOT - Swedish environment activist Greta Thunberg speaks at a climate protest outside the White House in Washington, DC on September 13, 2019. - Thunberg, 16, has spurred teenagers and students around the world to strike from school every Friday under the rallying cry "Fridays for future" to call on adults to act now to save the planet. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
Remember, Greta Thunberg started out as one girl with a sign in 2018.

Remember how much coverage was given to the relatively small tea party events when they first started? Democrats can use the same tactics to draw attention to progressive issues such as voting rights, civil rights, climate change, and economic justice. Remember those big events in 2017 to save the Affordable Care Act? Members of Indivisible were the driving force behind a lot of those.

Indivisible has tools to help you plan a visibility event, spread the word, get local media coverage and make a real difference. If you are fired up and ready to go raise awareness for a specific justice issue, and no one else is drawing attention to it, maybe that is an opportunity for you to show—and learn—just what you can accomplish.

No matter what you do during Activism August, make sure to come to Daily Kos and write a story about it, so your experience can be applauded by this community and shared as an example of how we advance our political interests and goals.

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Our Connect! Unite! Act! team is here to provide support and guidance to new and existing volunteer leaders of each regional and state group, helping them with recruiting, organizing, and executing social and action events. We invite you to join in this effort to build our community. There are many ways to pitch in. If there isn’t a group to join near you, please start one.

What are you working on in your local area to move our progressive agenda along? Sound off in the comments, and inspire others!


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One positive outcome of this awful pandemic might just be more leverage for workers, thanks to Biden

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No offense to practitioners like Stevenson, but economics has long been burdened with the moniker “the dismal science.” The term derives from the 19th century Scottish thinker Thomas Carlyle, who applied the core economics concept of supply and demand in a polemic about slavery as well as horrific working conditions—including child labor—in British factories.

From an economics perspective, the relationship between supply and demand explains to a good degree why, in the example Carlyle focused on, British workers in his day were so badly abused. There was a far greater supply of available, unskilled workers than the existing demand for their labor, i.e., jobs, making them expendable and making it unnecessary to pay them well. That reality, combined with the lack of labor protections founded in law—as well as a lack of morality on the part of factory owners—led to the exploitation so memorably described in books like Oliver Twist and Hard Times by Charles Dickens. In the contemporary U.S., overall conditions for workers are better now than in Dickens’ time—but that’s an awfully low bar to clear.

Speaking of history, this is not the first time a brutal global pandemic has reset the relationship between employers and employees. To be sure, a disease that causes mass death is just about the farthest thing from an overall positive development for humanity. Nevertheless, sometimes a positive development does emerge out of a tragedy. We can examine the bubonic plague, more colloquially known as the “Black Death,” along such lines.

It was called the Black Plague because black boils emerged all over the bodies of its victims. In 1347, a ship carrying infected sailors arrived at a Sicilian port. Within the next five years alone, the plague had killed at least one out of every three Europeans—twenty million people. Worldwide, anywhere from 75 to 200 million people perished overall out of a global population of only 450 million, one of if not the worst pandemic in known history.

The plague also delivered the final death blow to the European medieval social and economic order, smashing the feudal and manorial system that had been in place in Western Europe for centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. Under that system, serfs were bound to the land they worked from birth—as were their descendants—and lived completely under the control of the lord of the manor. They weren’t slaves who could be sold or separated from their families, but they had no freedom to speak of either.

Serfs believed—or more accurately were indoctrinated with—the notion that God had sanctioned this hierarchy, as well as their place at the bottom of it. The Roman Catholic Church was instrumental in inculcating this fiction. If you didn’t like your lot in life, well, hey, that’s the way The Man Upstairs wanted it. It’s scary enough to get angry about your job when Jeff Bezos is the one setting the rules—and I’d imagine it’s even more galling to watch him, after he’s screwed you over, profited handsomely from your labor, and thanked you for being so helpful, use said profits to punch his ticket into space (and earn frequent space traveler miles to boot). Now ponder how scary it would be for workers to argue about working conditions when they sincerely believe the guy who created the system can send them to hell for a period lasting, well, all of eternity. And that’s without even needing a rocket to get them there.

Two related shifts resulted from the plague. The first took place in the minds of the people. I teach European history, and here’s how I present it to my students: for centuries, lords, nobles, dukes, kings, popes, and bishops had all told serfs that society had to be organized a certain way—with them holding all the power—and if you question it, God will punish you. So the serfs obeyed. They did what God wanted them to. And they got hit with the bubonic plague anyway.

Remember also that during the plague the serfs and lower classes in general, unlike the wealthy, lacked the resources to isolate themselves by leaving an area where infections were spreading. So they bore the worst of the plague’s impact. I ask my students to imagine all this happening, and then ask themselves, if they were serfs, how they’d feel. I’ll ask you, dear reader, to do the same. Do you think you might say something along the lines of: “you know, that whole social structure ordained by God mumbo jumbo might just be a crock of fucking horseshit those rich dickheads conjured up to turn us into their bitches.” Or other similar sentiments.

Following the plague, there was significant social unrest. As in so many other times of crisis or tragedy, European Christians scapegoated Jews, falsely blaming them for spreading the disease—resembling the hate and violence Asian Americans face today, during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Valentine’s Day in 1349, upward of two thousand Jews were rounded up and burned to death in Strasbourg, with the remainder expelled from the city. There was extensive fighting in Mainz, where Jews organized a self-defense force and actually killed 200 Christian attackers. In the end, however, all 3,000 of the Jews in Mainz were massacred. Overall, more than 350 distinct mass killings took place, with 150 smaller and 60 larger Jewish communities across Europe destroyed.

Part of the unrest also related to the changing nature of socio-economic relations, in particular as relates to work, which represents the second of the two shifts I mentioned above:

As the plague wore on, however, depopulation greatly reduced the workforce and the serf’s labor suddenly became an important—and increasingly rare—asset. The lord of an estate could not feed himself, his family, or pay tithes to the king or the Church without the labor of his peasants and the loss of so many meant that survivors could now negotiate for pay and better treatment. The lives of the members of the lowest class vastly improved as they were able to afford better living conditions and clothing as well as luxury items.

Once the plague had passed, the improved lot of the serf was challenged by the upper class who were concerned that the lower classes were forgetting their place. Fashion changed dramatically as the elite demanded more extravagant clothing and accessories to distance themselves from the poor who could now afford to dress more finely than in their previous rags and blankets. Efforts of the wealthy to return the serf to his previous condition resulted in uprisings such as the peasant revolt in France in 1358 CE, the guild revolts of 1378 CE, the famous Peasants’ Revolt of London in 1381 CE. There was no turning back, however, and the efforts of the elite were futile. Class struggle would continue but the authority of the feudal system was broken.

This brings us back to supply and demand. The depopulation of Europe, disproportionately resulting from the deaths of serfs and workers, reduced the supply of labor at a time when demand for that labor was rising. That made labor more valuable, and gave workers new leverage. Plenty of nobles couldn’t find people to work their land—and they certainly wouldn’t stoop to working it themselves. Forget making them serfs, nobles were lucky in some cases to even get people to become employees (although one might also think of the end of slavery along these lines, the continued power of white supremacy prevented most freed Black Americans from improving their situation to a similar degree).

Look below at the correlation between the drop in Britain’s population and the boost in the purchasing power of workers’ earnings. As truly horrific as the bubonic plague was, most of those who toiled for a living and actually made it through with their health intact probably found themselves better off in economic terms.

The so-called Spanish flu that struck in 1918 produced a parallel result for U.S. workers, according to a research report produced by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank: “Cities and states having greater influenza mortalities experienced a greater increase in manufacturing wage growth over the period 1914 to 1919.”

Fast forward to our current pandemic. As COVID-19 began to spread rapidly around the world, and many of the largest economies shut down, a number of analyses offered prognostications regarding what past pandemics might teach us about the near future. Some predicted that the end result might be a rebalancing of the power differential between capital and labor that resembled in part what happened after the bubonic plague—although thankfully far fewer people have died this time, at least thus far. Others rejected the likelihood of a labor shortage. It’s worth noting that the first one I linked to in the previous sentence—which got it right—was written by an economist, while the author of the second one is a medieval archaeologist. Not always so dismal is economics.

The most recent U.S. jobs report, which covered June, provided the best evidence yet that workers are finally gaining at least some ability to dictate the terms of their employment. About 850,000 American jobs were created in June—the best month in just about a year. Wages climbed 0.3% over the month, and the total growth in wages year over year clocked in at 3.6%. Furthermore, those earning the lowest wages saw the largest gains.

ScreenShot2021-07-07at3.55.52PM.png

To be sure, these improvements began before June and are not solely a result of the pandemic—for example, demographic changes have meant lower growth in the labor force in the last few years. Either way, it is real:

“Companies are going to have to work harder to attract and retain talent,” said Karen Fichuk, who as chief executive of the giant staffing company Randstad North America closely tracks supply and demand for labor. “We think it’s a bit of a historic moment for the American labor force.”

The pandemic—and in particular the pro-worker policies pushed hard by Democrats in 2020 and, with even greater success, after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took office in January along with slim majorities in the House and Senate—has had a major impact. President Biden, in remarks he made after the June jobs report was released, specifically highlighted the role of his American Rescue Plan—passed in March through the reconciliation process without a single Republican vote.

So, the American Rescue Plan is strengthening our financial position, and it grows our economy.  It’s continuing to grow our economy.  And the strength of our recovery is helping us flip the script.

Instead of workers competing with each other for jobs that are scarce, employers are competing with each other to attract workers. That kind of competition in the market doesn’t just give workers more ability to earn higher wages; it also gives them the power to demand to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.

More jobs, better wages—that’s a good combination.

Biden is right about flipping the script. Republicans, of course, hate it when workers have choices, and aren’t forced to beg for scraps. They bleated about how increased unemployment benefits were causing a labor shortage. Republican governors even cut those benefits off in their states months before the extra money—being paid by the federal government—was due to expire. Yet this jobs report, which covers the period before the cutoffs took effect in any of those states, showed boffo job growth, and wage increases for workers at the lower end of the wage scale are significant and widespread. Clearly, the enhanced benefits were not the problem. As John Jay College economist Michelle Holder put it, “We don’t have a shortage of people to work. What we don’t have are decent jobs.”

Separate from legislation, earlier this month the Biden White House issued an executive order that would, among other actions, encourage the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to restrict or outright ban employers’ ability to impose noncompete clauses, another way to give employees more leverage. The order would also aim at stopping companies from colluding with one another to reduce compensation for workers in a given field, and would urge the FTC to limit “unnecessary” requirements that people working in particular professions get licenses or certifications, so that workers could more easily move from one state to another and continue to work in their chosen field.

Here’s White House press secretary Jen Psaki, speaking about her boss’s motivation for doing what he’s doing: “he believes that if someone offers you a better job, you should be able to take it. It makes sense.” Sure does. Neil Irwin of The New York Times characterized the executive order as “the most concerted effort in recent times to use the power of the federal government to tilt the playing field toward workers.” Trump had the opportunity to do something along the same lines as well, but he chose not to. It took a Democrat.

The law of supply and demand, as well as other factors that have weakened the power of unions and workers in general, has meant that capital has typically had the upper hand over labor, certainly since Ronald Reagan took office in 1980. For a long time, workers had few choices, and that was not something to be proud of—even if the twice impeached Florida retiree (h/t Speaker Pelosi) and his party like it that way.

As we know, it’s been standard operating procedure for Republicans long before Trump to divide workers by race—playing and preying on white anxiety—so that the multi-racial working- and middle classes don’t come together around their shared economic interests. Despite what Republicans claim, it’s still Democrats who are the real party of the working class.

Nevertheless—as, for example, workers at Frito-Lay can tell you (thankfully, their strike appears to have won real improvements in their working conditions)—there are still plenty of additional areas where Biden and congressional Democrats (Republicans sure won’t help) could do more to support and protect workers going forward. This is especially true for undocumented workers, who were disproportionately concentrated in jobs that made them vulnerable to COVID-19, such as meat processing plants among others.

Politics is about values. Progressives value work, in all its forms, and we believe in a capitalism where workers earn not only a living wage, but truly fair compensation, along with reasonable and humane working conditions, and a voice in the process by which the business that employs them makes decisions that affect their lives.

It shouldn’t have taken a devastating pandemic that killed 600,000 Americans—and four million human beings across the world—to give workers a measure of the leverage they need. That it did stands as a searing indictment of contemporary American capitalism. Changing our laws to provide workers more leverage on a permanent basis must be one of the very highest progressive priorities. Our values dictate no less.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)


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