Interview with presidential candidate Emanuel Pastreich “COVID 19 and the Implosion of the Economy”
COVID 19 and the Implosion of the Global Economy
Interview with presidential candidate Emanuel Pastreich (independent)
Now we continue our discussion of the state of the economy. Never in the history of the United States have more people in one fell swoop lost their jobs and their incomes. A virus, and a pandemic, have led to nearly 3.3 million Americans applying for unemployment benefits and has left millions of gig workers scrambling to find capital. These unemployment numbers have not been seen since 1982 when it was skyrocketing oil prices, and sharp interest rates, along with increases by the Federal Reserve and stagnating home sales that crippled the US economy.
While different “fuel” sources set fire to the economy in 1982, that did so in 2020. We are seeing the fires burn the same way. In both cases, as in all capitalistic economies collapse under their weight of greed and hubris, we see the poor, the working class, the stigmatized, and the marginalized carry the burden, suffer from the anxiety, the hunger and the fear of the crisis.
Meanwhile in another world, the one-percenters, the oligarchs, the ultra-rich, the banks, corporations, the developers and the lobbyists, all are sitting in the middle of a burning building drinking a $454-billion-dollar a glass water to quench their thirst. Jamarl, it is like they are there sitting there in the fire and saying, “Can I have another glass of water,” and there are free refills up to $4 trillion dollars worth of bailouts for those ultra-rich in the form of other glasses of water.
We’re joined here by Emanuel Pastreich, U.S. presidential candidate, and already president of the Asia Institute. Emanuel, thank you so much for joining us.
It’s an honor to be with you today.
Emanuel, much of my disillusionment with political parties and with politicians over the last several years, is from seeing how much of their policies are not rooted in supporting the least amongst us. Neoconservatism and modern GOP politics espouse some rugged individualism — but it’s pretty clear that that is not their focus.
Most of my movement over the last year has been away from progressivism and from the idea that corporations and wealth can exist without causing harm as long we all acknowledge the central institutional structure and the need for the role of the state.
Now we find ourselves, Emanuel, in a moment where we are seeing the rugged interconnectedness, and the failure of neoliberalism in a centralized government model, and we see clear cracks in the system forming are they are becoming clearer than ever.
Emanuel I’m curious from your perspective there in Asia looking in on the United States, and around the world, how are these cracks being exposed and what is the pivotal conversation we should be having right now?
I think the pivotal conversation has to do with the use of the scientific method and the nature of governance. These are essentially forbidden topics. Instead of talking about what the real issues are and how we should address them, we are left with essentially what’s called a “good cop bad cop” show, depending on your particular perspective. If you go for a progressive flavor, what we call a Pepsi, then you have the bad guys, the Republicans, who have this crazy president trying to do crazy things, and you are supposed to support good guys, these Democrats, who are trying to cram down your throat this enormous corporate giveaway, to be followed by God only knows what sort of vaccination and isolation, quarantine, social distancing, or as we call it, martial law, on the other side.
Or, if you’re from a more religious, Christian background, then you’re fed a similar story, in which it is the bad guys, these Democrats, who are coming after you to enforce mindless government and bring the end of values, and these Republicans will stand up for you. But basically, as I like to say, “There’s only one party but…hell! What a party!”
Emanuel then let me ask you about an article that you wrote over the weekend asking, how long can these charades and stories be told by these different groups before it starts to fall apart? How long can people be denied access to capital when we’re seeing large banks and the wealthiest get it?
On the one end we are fed this narrative to make us think the system works. But on the other end, how much can these individuals and these ultra-rich take and take and take until the whole system breaks down?
After all, if they want someone to install the TVs and sound systems in their mansions, but all those people have the coronavirus and are sick and out of work, they’re not going to have those services.
So the wealthiest of the wealthy, as much as they can isolate themselves from the masses, at some point, when you kill off, or you depress, you pull all hope from the masses of people that you’re relying on for your factory production, and from whom you steal the means, then, eventually, the whole thing breaks down.
And yet it seems like there’s no end point for the ultra-rich, and these corporations and banks, they will keep on taking, until under their own weight, they will completely collapse.
Well I think we’re finally, after a long process, returned to a state not unlike the late 19th century, but unlike anything we have seen before in our lifetime, what we’re seeing now.
But at this point, we don’t even know what is going to happen next. Two trillion dollars have been injected into the stock market. As we know now, the new corona bailout bill includes indications of what we might call a “classified economy,” in which the government can make fiscal policy which will never be disclosed to us little people. We’re on the edge of hyperinflation, a state in which we may see the dollar itself intentionally destroyed in a sort of controlled demolition.
And when that happens, I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind, that they’ll be happy to just blame it on a virus, right?
This is the whole problem here. Obviously, the virus is an extremely serious challenge for us, but, if we’re actually interested in the health of our citizens, then we have to admit from the start that the number of young people who are now drinking water laced with lead, is now in the millions, and that water with fracking-related chemicals in it, is doing a tremendous damage. These are figures that no one is talking about. Not even Bernie Sanders is talking about this in his speeches. I mean, we are facing enormous health risks but these are essentially off the table.
Yes, Jamarl Thomas I’m thinking a lot about how you talk quite a bit about how the goal for so many is to turn profit and it is just stupid human tricks to get that. If we look at the late 19th century or the Gilded Age, at this massive grab of wealth and power by institutions, corporations, and banks — and we’ve certainly seen that since the 2008 financial crisis, there’s been another re-grabbing of money and that obviously that led to 2008 economic crisis. At the end of the day, after all of these stupid human tricks, and after this grabbing of money, you end up with polluted water, a climate crisis that is unprecedented, lack of housing for the masses. At what point does that stupid human trick stop being a trick? I guess I want to say, “when do we all die?” What is the point beyond these stupid human tricks? And, why aren’t we talking about that now?
Well there isn’t such a point. There is no point to anything. At the end of the day we make our own points. We make the things that we care about, the things that we love, the things that we hate, etcetera. But there is no God-given point, ultimately. If you believe that the acquisition of profit is the greatest thing on the planet, then to you, acquisition of profit is the greatest thing on the planet. If you think your family is the greatest thing, then it is your family. People find all sorts of reasons to live for. Unfortunately some choose profit even over the thing of human life. And unfortunately our society is paying for that.
You know there was a story that was out recently, I think it came out over the weekend, or on Friday. Basically, the article made the point that the US Government had been working to get a low cost ventilator for dirt, dirt, cheap. The company who bought out the company working with the US Government they nixed the idea because it wasn’t profitable enough.
In the media today, earlier today, they presented a ventilator that cost a hundred dollars to build. That’s mind-blowing because it shows you that the cost given for those ventilators were purely just for profit, despite the fact that you need those to save lives. It was utterly astonishing.
I’m curious, Emanuel, France has the yellow vest movement. And, you have these other groups that are finally agitated to do something. But the United States population, even then it has less public services than anywhere else, it has less social safety net than anywhere else, and now in the middle of a crisis, you have a government that is even now attending to the needs of the profitable over the needs of the population. At what point, does the society say “we’re done” and why doesn’t the American population, why doesn’t that [thing] come off of their heads saying “what a minute we shouldn’t have to settle for this?”
I think there are two elements. The United States has been slower, and I think partially, we were subject to the propaganda of America is number one. To some degree there was this Cold War in which we, myself included, were duped into thinking the United States had relative checks on the use of capital. Some of us will remember we had controlled monopolies like communications and electricity previously. We thought this was because Americans are good. But in fact, there’s nothing inherent in American society about that. Rather, it was during the Cold War we were up against countries where essentially everything had been nationalized there was tremendous pressure on the United States and other countries like the United States to at least go half way.
Unfortunately, after the end of the Cold War, that pressure disappeared. Then, we started to learn the truth, which is that nothing, as you mentioned before, nothing’s granted. There is no limit to how far these people will go in the pursuit of profit; they’ll drive us into world wars, they’ll drive us into environmental destruction, and we will have to come back in a way, and find ourselves in the ruins and discover that we are going to have to build our own society, a fair society, brick by brick, and we are going to have to fight for it from every street corner. Every action that we take, every action that we take every day has an impact on our economy, on how we live. We have to be aware.
Can I say one more thing on this issue? I think we have to come back to the whole 9–11 terrorism. Essentially what we are seeing today is a revamp of 9–11 terrorism approach. We had for 10 years, 15 years, the media hyping terrorism. Everything was about terrorism, and we had to throw trillions of dollars into totally unaccountable, new, corporate-run government programs for the transfer of wealth. Now we have learned that not only was terrorism not what is was hyped up to be in terms of threat, but that the so-called “terrorism” that we started with, that was real, 9–11, was never really seriously investigated.
And now we have the same thing playing out, this whole COVID-19 in which, I think, the scientific investigation is quite spotty, but it is being used to justify a massive, massive, transfer of wealth. And I would not be surprised, I do not know and I am not a scientist and, although I have a little bit of background in science policy, I have no expertise. But it would not surprise me at all if we learn ten or fifteen years from now, when we are all living in poverty, that it was not what people said it was. That it was hyped up.
For sure there is going to be a lot of investigations and a lot of conversations and a lot of reflection on what is taking place right now. And I think you make a strong point saying that a lot of that American exceptionalism, that our systems, our processes, are the best in the world and now we are seeing it breaking down in real ways.
Senior naval officer Rear Admiral John Polowczyk , who is now in charge of fixing America’s coronavirus supply chain, specifically with regards to the production and delivery of ventilators and personal protective gear, he has basically said, “I have no idea what the supply chain looks like. We have six hundred to seven hundred distribution nodes around the country, with six or seven major distributors and we are seeing now different states bid against one another other for this medical equipment.”
So you have basically the military trying to step up and understand the supply chain which makes very little sense because it is rooted on making profit. And we have American states and governors competing financially against one other for materials, and there is no conversation about the efficiency or proficiency of the materials being distributed to meet the health needs. Instead, it is simply a game of the market. It is about who can profit the most off of this. It is quite absurd to me.
We have a caller on the line. Nick, hopefully you are there. Thank you for waiting. You are on Political Misfits. What is on your mind?
I just wanted to give some news from where I am at.
I work for a Whole Foods third-party distributor, a transportation institution.
We are a necessary line of work because we distribute food to all the Whole Foods in California, and in Utah and Arizona as well.
I found out just yesterday that there were some rumors at my company that there have been five confirmed cases at our facility of people who have contracted coronavirus. It is a bit weird because a lot of the people in the facility are just saying it is just a hoax, just rumors. They say that because it is based on what people posted on Facebook and there has not been any valid proof yet.
But a lot of people in my office complain that they have symptoms like coughing and severe fevers. It is really concerning because I live in Southern California, specifically in San Bernardino, where there are a lot of poor people out here, in fact a lot of them were pushed out of LA.
I feel like we are being disenfranchised because on top all that has been going on, we have had to work long hours and there is barely any sanitation standards. Only recently they put up hand soap dispensers and so many people do not take this seriously even still. People do not see it for what it is.
Yes, Nick. Thanks you for the call.
That is one of the biggest concerns that I have seen, the lack of PSA (public service announcements) and the educating of the people. There is so little political education happens for the masses, for the poor for the marginalized, for the working classes. The only way people can maintain power is by not educating people because if people were educated on these issues they would know what is happening and they would fight against it.
Right now there is just a consistent momentum for not educating people so you have a lot of poor folks, as Nick is saying, who still do not understand the severity of what is taking place. They do not have the luxury to sit around and watch the news and go to searching on the internet all day to try and better understand what is taking place.
On top of that, the people hit the hardest will have the least cash given directly to them. We have a huge lack of justice and equity even in the process of trying to fight off the coronavirus, and then recover from it.
Emanuel, I wanted to pivot back to you and to ask you to talk about your perspective in Asia. We have here several different things from different places. On some good notes, you have the ability of China in Wuhan and other hard-hit areas, to zero in on internal community transmission of the virus — which is a huge success. There are ways to prevent the spread of it. But at the same time, I found it disgusting to see in Japan that although the numbers in Japan were quite low and then once they were actually able to postpone the Olympics to a year from now, the numbers skyrocketed. It clearly showed that the government of Japan was underreporting their numbers there in a bid to assure that the 2020 Olympics would take place. So a lot in Asia is happening right now. Lessons learned and some bad actors in that process too. What is the view like on the ground?
I think that in Korea and China there was a sense that government has a function. I do not want to say that China or Korea are perfect, but there is a least a functioning government that is allowed to set priorities based on scientific principles and there is real cooperation. There were many efforts in Daegu in Korea and in Wuhan in China to try to rally people together, to say this is for a common sense. There was less effort (although I would not say it is ever zero) to use this crisis as a Naomi Klein “Shock doctrine” as a way to push stuff through.
What we see, by contrast, and it is very concerning, in the United States is the push to put all education on line immediately (which is not necessarily what has been going on in Asia). We see (secretary of education) Betsy DeVos commit, with all her corporate cronies, to privatize and destroy education so that you have to pay for it through providers.
Or, for that matter, we have the idea that President Trump has talked about, “telemedicine” so that doctors will all be on line. This policy is not dictated by science or by medical practice. This policy is born of the potential, and this is the bottom line for them, to break down that final barrier to total corporate domination. And that final barrier is the existence of these groups of intellectuals like doctors, lawyers and teachers (professors) who are still educated enough to express themselves and put forth ideas, but are not totally the pawns of the superrich.
(The rich think) that if we can put all the courses on line, if we can have telemedicine and outsource doctors to India and the Philippines, if we can take lawyers and replace them with artificial intelligence, then we can get rid of that final pesky class of educated Americans. The reason why this being pushed for now is that the radical concentration of wealth over the last 15 years has made it such that from the altitude of the superrich the difference between the homeless man and the Harvard-educated professor, or doctor or lawyer is insignificant. They are essentially the same.
I think I agree with you but the reason is slightly different. From your perspective is it that (they reason that) “we want to get as much money as we can get and if doctors are not hanging around, that is more cash that we can put in our pockets.” Or is it an education thing? Meaning it sounds like the original argument is more that they wanted to get rid of this educated class in order to keep people dumb and moving around without knowing what is going on. It is that, or is it just a cash thing.
Do they look at that class like they look any other class from the standpoint of their wealth? If they can find ways to maximize their profit by having these Walmart-type doctors offices, or this telemedicine, is that not just motivated by just the pursuit of profit, not necessarily to knock down an intellectual class?
Of course I do not get invited to the Goldman Sachs seminars where they talk about what their policies are for taking the United States apart. But we can guess that it is ultimately about profit.
But one of the things that get in the way of profit is that occasionally you get these pesky intellectuals: doctors, lawyers, or professors who actually try to organize people and to articulate an alternative vision. So you want to make sure that you do not have that happening any more.
The reason why this is becoming such an issue for us is because the rapid rate of the concentration of wealth, whereby we now have ten or 15 people who own half of the wealth of the world, means that for those groups, they do not want anything standing in the way. Someone like Jeff Bezos’ or Warren Buffett’s profits are calculated by supercomputers. Those supercomputers have a bottom line of generating profit. They do not care about anything else. They are even less human than the superrich. And for them the bottom line is profit. The question, however, is not an easy one to answer. The bottom line is about profit. But profit is ultimately a political issue, right?
You want to get rid of all institutions which are there to set limits on, or to regulate, or to define other priorities besides short-term profits.
Yes. And that is shown best in the education sector, especially, as you mentioned, in the actions of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Under the umbrella of the Eli Broad Foundation we find Eli Broad, a wealthy developer in LA has set up a training program where educators, and principals and superintendents and chancellors across the country can come and learn how to treat schools like businesses, learn how to manage and spend money on managers and executives at that level, learn how to cut costs and reduce supplies to teachers.
But no one is making that much money in this process. There is not a ton of money in transferring a public school voucher into charter school money. It is more about an intellectual “grabbing” of how kids in America are taught and the values that are being fed into American society. And that is for me a dark and scary place to go.
A big shout out here at the end of our segment:
I just want to recognize that as we talk about COVID-19, Emanuel, this is something that you have written about in your work and I encourage people to check out the work of Emanuel Pastreich, you are talking about how we have lost focus on other crises that have been continuing to unfold around us.
We saw that seventeen tornados hit the central United States yesterday in Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin. Global climate change is not going to slow down at all right now. We are continuing to see disasters and people will have to undertake recovery efforts while hospitals are preparing to be overwhelmed. People are not talking about that. And to people like Nick out there who are listening. Nick, thank you for what you are doing right now: for feeding us, for working despite being under an oppressive system. Thank you to the sanitation workers, and to everyone else providing central services .You are seen by us at Political Misfits and we are extremely grateful to you.
Emanuel Pastreich, US presidential candidate and president of the Asia Institute. Where can people check out your work and learn more?
Thank you very much. I have a blog circlesandsquares.asia and I am easy to find on the internet. I will do whatever I can to support all of you, to try to understand what is happening in the world so that we can take control of the political discourse in the United States, and get back on track.
Emanuel, thank you so much. I am Bob Schlehuber with Jamarl Thomas. You are listening to Political Misfits live in Washington D.C. at Sputnik Radio.
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From “Betting on the Pandemic” on Political Misfits (hosted by Bob Schlehuber and Jamarl Thomas) March 31, 2020.
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