By Nick Baker and cross-posted from Counterpunch.org
In the midst of a global pandemic, unprecedented economic collapse, mass unemployment, hunger and desperation, the stock market is booming and the richest of the rich are richer than ever before.
Since March, more than 58 million people in the U.S. have filed for unemployment. The Internal Revenue Service now predicts that the U.S. economy will have almost 40 million fewer jobs in 2021 than they predicted before the pandemic, as a result of the prolonged economic depression. As it becomes widely recognized that the economy is not going to “bounce right back” into full activity – even when coronavirus cases do eventually decline – and that the current depression will continue for a long time, companies are doing anything they can to drive their stock prices higher.
Desperate to maintain their profits, many large corporations are planning massive layoffs and acknowledging that currently furloughed workers are not going to have jobs to come back to. The Wall Street Journal reports that a recent study found, “nearly half of U.S. employers that furloughed or laid off staff because of COVID-19 are considering additional workplace cuts in the next 12 months.” The companies say low-paid workers will be the first to be cut.
Twice as many workers had their pay cut by July 1 as during the Bush-Obama recession that began in 2009, according to the Washington Post. More than 10 million private sector workers have had their wages cut or been forced to work part-time.
Car company Tesla forced all workers to take a 10 percent pay cut from mid-April until July. In the same period, Tesla stock skyrocketed, and CEO Elon Musk’s net worth has now quadrupled from $25 billion to over $100 billion. Business software company Salesforce announced record sales levels one day and layoffs of 1,000 workers the next. The company’s stock rose 26 percent.
Among small businesses, another study found that 50 percent of all small-business employees who were furloughed since March are still without work. Twenty-eight percent are still furloughed; 22 percent have been permanently laid off. Even in the government’s rigged and severely undercounted unemployment statistics, the number of people who have been unemployed 15-26 weeks is nearly double what it was at the height of the 2009 recession — and exponentially higher than at any other time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The “stimulus” bills signed by Trump and passed by Democrats have already given away trillions to major corporations and tens of billions in tax cuts to the richest Americans. Even two-thirds of the original set of supposedly “small-business”-focused Paycheck Protection Program loans went to large corporations, such as Ritz Carlton, while gifting billions in fees to the banks that distributed the loans.
While millions of low-wage workers, “many of whom work in service jobs in hard-hit industries such as hospitality, travel and retail…have lost jobs, been furloughed or seen their hours cut,” writes the Wall Street Journal, “the livelihoods of white-collar professionals…have remained largely intact.”…