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US ruling class 'experiments' with cutting unemployment benefits for millions of workers

 US ruling class 'experiments' with cutting unemployment benefits for millions of workers

The governors of 25 U.S. states have already removed or will soon begin to remove additional unemployment benefits linked to the pandemic, depriving some four million unemployed of an additional $ 22 billion in aid, according to the Century Foundation.

US ruling class 'experiments' with cutting unemployment benefits for millions of workers
Homeless in Seattle (David Lee, Flickr Creative Commons)

The elimination of federal unemployment benefits of $ 300 a week began last Saturday in Mississippi, Missouri, Iowa and Alaska. The other 21 states are expected to phase out this aid by July 10. Twenty-one of 25 states, including Maryland, Texas and Tennessee, will end all pandemic-related programs, such as pandemic unemployment assistance (for precarious jobs) and compensation program emergency unemployment in a pandemic.

States that take these draconian measures are ruled by Republican governors. Politics, however, is bipartisan. Last month, President Joe Biden signaled his support for ending benefits by allowing job search requirements to resume. He also said he was in favor of the expiration of federal unemployment benefits for the whole country on September 6, in less than three months.

This was followed by a statement from White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki on June 4 in which she asserted that Republican governors "have every right" to "not accept" the federal allowance, adding, "It's OK."

In the capitalist press, the decision to eliminate unemployment aid for millions of workers and their families has been described as an “experiment”. NBC News said on June 11: “This is the start of a bold, mass, social and economic experiment to see if the anticipated elimination of federal unemployment benefits for half of the country will cause people in these states to going back to work".

This "bold experiment" will, in practice, mean throwing millions of people into poverty and destitution while facilitating the further spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Take the example of Mississippi, where less than 29 percent of the population is fully immunized and nearly 70,000 unemployed people were denied unemployment benefits on Saturday. Almost 15 percent of adults in Mississippi polled by the US Census Bureau last month said they had run out of food "sometimes or often" in the past seven days. In addition, nearly 37 percent of adults said it was "somewhat or very difficult" to pay for usual household expenses in the past week.

Conditions in Mississippi are repeated across the country. The reduction in federal benefits will be devastating for the unemployed and their families, many of whom are unable to find work for reasons of health, childcare or a living wage.

The abolition of unemployment benefits is motivated by two interrelated reasons.

First, there is the imperative of the ruling class to get workers back to work, even as the pandemic continues to claim hundreds of lives every day and dangerous new strains, like the Delta variant, spread rapidly. The ruling class, with the Biden government at its head, proclaimed the pandemic "over."

Additional federal unemployment benefits of $ 600 per week are included in the CARES law which was passed in late March 2020. Temporary aid provided to those devastated by the economic impact of the pandemic was intended to serve as a stopgap and blanket. the main objective of the law: the rescue of Wall Street to the tune of several trillions of dollars.

Once this massive aid to the wealthy became law, workers' back-to-work demands began, coupled with bipartisan denunciations of the $ 600-a-week subsidy that was a “deterrent” to work. The program was allowed to expire in July 2020 and it was replaced under Trump with a temporary program that paid half that amount, or $ 300 per week. The $ 300-per-week supplement was extended in March of this year, under Biden, offering benefits through September.

The unanimous agreement among the ruling class that all benefits must end coincides with the Biden government's campaign to remove all remaining restrictions on the spread of the virus.

The decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to phase out mask wearing and reduce social distancing guidelines last month was followed by the release of the Department's Workplace Safety Guidelines. Work that only apply to health care facilities. The rest of the working class will be left defenseless in workplaces that will not be forced to adopt basic safety measures, such as compulsory masks, social distancing or the obligation to inform. workers when they may have been exposed to the virus.

Second, the ruling class is concerned that the relative shortage of labor in some industries is contributing to rising wages. "The Fed could face an employment conundrum in its fight against inflation," CNBC wrote last week. "The more time people have to spend to find work," she said, "the more employers will have to pay."

CNBC quotes Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics: “Unfortunately, we have good reason to believe that labor force participation may not quickly return to its pre-crisis level. Whatever happens, the Federal Reserve needs a lot of these people to return to the workforce in the fall ”.

Behind this coded language hides a ruthless class logic. The ruling class wants to create pressure for lower wages by forcing millions of workers to accept jobs of poverty, in dangerous conditions, by cutting unemployment benefits.

As for inflation, the ruling class is not worried about “inflation” in general, but about workers' demands for wage increases in line with soaring costs of consumer goods. It would reduce corporate profits.

The past year has seen massive price inflation for almost all financial assets, driven by the unlimited infusion of money from the Federal Reserve into the stock markets. This produced a corresponding growth in the wealth of the oligarchy, with the wealth of the world's billionaires rising from $ 8 trillion to $ 13 trillion. The increase in the wealth of the oligarchy during this period is 227 times greater than the cost of the federal unemployment benefits which are currently being cut.

While articles daily lament that some of the unemployed manage to survive on the meager benefits provided, no one in the capitalist press suggests turning off the tap on Wall Street. This "experience" does not interest them.

The ruling class "experiment" with its murderous collective immunity policy has led to the deaths of over 600,000 people in the United States. Today, the elimination of unemployment assistance means social devastation for millions of people. In both cases, the reality of capitalism and the consequences of the subordination of society to the interests of the financial oligarchy are laid bare.

The removal of unemployment benefits will fuel growing opposition in the working class. The ongoing strikes by Volvo workers in Virginia, ATI metallurgists in Pennsylvania and nurses in Massachusetts are the first signs of a developing explosion. These struggles must be extended and removed from the hands of the propatronial unions which, for decades, have systematically suppressed the opposition of the working class to the policies of the ruling elite.

The fight against the elimination of unemployment benefits, against collective immunity and against exploitation must be linked to a revolutionary movement of the working class, in the United States and around the world, to expropriate the oligarchs, establish public property giant banks and corporations, and abolish the capitalist system.

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