Sanders perfectly exposes twisted establishment priorities surrounding coronavirus pandemic

A picture of Bernie Sanders at a lectern pointing at someone or something.
Ed Sykes

Bernie Sanders has exposed where elite priorities lie right now in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. And his assessment rips apart establishment arguments that bold plans for our future are somehow ‘unaffordable’.

Establishment priority: ‘protect the powerful, not the people’

On 12 March, US stocks had their “worst day since the 1987 crash”. This was largely due to fears about the rapidly spreading coronavirus and its potential economic impact. In response, the New York Federal Reserve announced it would be injecting around $1.5tn into the financial system.

Sanders has stressed that the impact of the pandemic “is on the scale of a major war” and that “the United States is at a severe disadvantage because unlike every other major country on earth, we do not guarantee health care as a human right”. He has long led the way in the campaign for universal healthcare, and he believes it’s a key step towards dealing with coronavirus. So he was crystal clear in his response to the stock market bailout:

And others felt the same way. Progressive commentator Jimmy Dore, for example, said:

Hours before, Sanders had also pointed out that:

In short, elites can easily find billions to protect banks and wage wars. So why the hell should we believe them when they say we can’t afford healthcare?

This is a powerful argument about priorities that Sanders applies to other policies too. For example, he wants to tackle the climate crisis with a bold Green New Deal (i.e. boosting the economy and job growth by building up environmentally friendly infrastructure, taxing emissions, encouraging renewable energy projects, and ending fossil-fuel subsidies). And as he previously stressed:

Keep your eyes open

Award-winning author Naomi Klein has warned that, far from seeking to prioritise ordinary people’s wellbeing during the pandemic, the political and economic establishment is seeking to:

bail out industries that are at the heart of most extreme crises that we face, like the climate crisis: the airline industry, the gas and oil industry, the cruise industry.

This is all part of ‘disaster capitalism‘ – where elites exploit serious crises to further their own interests. The bank bailout strategy of 2008 was a prime example of this, along with the devastating austerity which governments then forced on ordinary people in order to pay for it.  As one person said this week:

Over in the UK, the Conservative government’s strategy for tackling coronavirus has faced widespread criticism. It’s trying to foster “herd immunity” by allowing 60% of people to get infected. As one person responded:

One right-wing journalist even spoke about the potential economic benefits of elderly people dying in the crisis.

Many professionals, meanwhile, say the health system is simply not ready. And critics have slammed the government for its failure to commit sufficient resources to deal with the pandemic:

Fight back

The priority right now should be funding healthcare properly and ensuring people get decent levels of sick pay. Instead, political elites seem to care more about the struggling financial markets. That should tell us all we need to know about whose side they’re on. And the tweet from Sanders shows exactly whose side he’s on.

Featured image via Gage Skidmore

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