After a decade of austerity, and the ever contracting social security net, it is no surprise that Johnson’s ‘herd immunity’ plan makes the most vulnerable members of our society the sacrificial lambs once more. To reach herd immunity, 60% to 70% of the population must get ill and recover, as it is currently believed that you cannot catch the virus twice. But this strategy puts the most vulnerable at risk: older people, those with underlying health problems, the homeless and groups dependent on welfare.
This has not been ignored by the media, with Jeremy Warner writing in The Telegraph, ‘From a completely disinterested economic perspective, the Covid-19 might even prove mildly beneficial in the long term by culling elderly dependents,’ encapsulating the reasoning behind the Government’s laissez-faire approach.
It is impossible for most of the working class to self-isolate as they do not have the economic capital that the affluent do. Asthma, diabetes and lung disease are strongly linked to deprivation caused by socioeconomic inequality. The health of 1.9 million pensioners living below the poverty line will be (on average) worse than that of their affluent counterparts, putting their lives significantly more at risk.
To believe that inequality is inevitable, especially in the UK or US, in the 21st century is a fallacy. However, this belief is just as common as the general public’s and parliament’s lack of understanding of basic macroeconomics. These commonly held misconceptions are often coupled and when it comes to Conservative ideology, it is obvious why wilful ignorance to these truths is so heavily promoted. These misconceptions have undoubtedly led to the impact of COVID-19 being far more severe than if the economically illiterate policy of austerity not been implemented in favour of a growth-focused economic strategy.
As we have seen recently, this ignorance has played out in the US in the form of a $1.5 trillion bail out for the bankers, all for a 30 minute delay of the stock market crash. Yet the same politicians who allowed this to occur would never dream of wiping out student loans, making university education free, making the health service more accessible, ending homelessness or generally alleviating the struggles of the working class – as they claim they don’t have the money.
Their cries of ‘but how will we pay for this?’ would be deafening. Yet the answer is simple: exactly how every single governmental scheme is funded – ‘keystroke currency’. Taxes don’t pay for public services at all. Taxation serves many purposes, such as controlling inflation, reducing inequality and correcting market failures, but it does not pay for government spending. The UK and US are currency issuers, so additional money supply is from adding more zeros to commercial banks’ accounts with the central bank. If you find keystroke money too magical to believe, watch the short interview with Ben Bernanke (former Chair of the Federal Reserve) on YouTube.
It is not excess spending which is creating the slow inflation occurring globally, it is due to capitalism’s continuing war on the working class by forcing the value of labour to drop. This drop is caused by the working class getting paid lower wages to produce more whilst monopolies, enabled by a government policy of cutting corporation tax, push out all competition to drive prices up.
It is imperative that we understand the economy is the aggregate of labour power. It’s through the labour value of the working class that the economy grows. Therefore, the continuing laissez-faire attitude of the Government to climate change, homelessness, the NHS crisis, the mental health crisis and institutional bigotry, all of which disproportionately impact the poor, is a disgrace to our country and entirely voluntary. It is not flawed ideology but purposeful policy. They are perfectly aware that high levels of inequality are detrimental but simply don’t care. So, it is not unjust to say Boris Johnson’s solution for COVID-19 is a form of class warfare.
Class warfare is not only being incited by the Government through passive waiving of workers’ rights and justice, but also actively through policy. From the inhumane universal credit scheme and ableist DWP to corporate welfare in order to maintain the value of the ruling class’ assets through ever widening inequality - make no mistake that an attack on the working class is occurring.
A recent illustration of this is the Government’s silence when Richard Branson announced that staff will have to take eight weeks of unpaid leave. He could pay all 8,500 employees £10,000 and still have £4.15 billion pounds - yet he demands a bailout. The private-island-and-space-programme-owning Branson is the last person needing welfare. This greed and negligence is common among the ruling class, and the Government willingly turns a blind eye to crises among the working class by dismissing austerity as an economic necessity not a political choice.
If they hadn’t opted for an austerity-driven war on the poor, we wouldn’t be short of doctors, nurses, beds and other resources needed to prevent the spread of the virus. It is a disservice to pretend the NHS is somehow prepared to deal with a pandemic of this magnitude, the NHS has been in full-blown crisis since 2010.
It is imperative we realise the Government, media barons and corporations do not care if our loved ones live or die, they’d rather have a couple more quid in some offshore bank. If consumers and workers stayed home and refused to work, the capitalist economic system will be brought to its knees. It would quickly become clear that it’s the working class who create wealth and not the supposed wealth-creating capitalists. We must fight for those who have and who will suffer in this war prosecuted by the Tories and fight for socioeconomic justice for all, not just the few. We should feel no guilt. If the Tories didn’t want a revolution they shouldn’t have forced our hand in the first place.