In the wake of the 2008 collapse of the financial order, the American system saved itself by propping up with hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars the very bankers whose recklessness, greed and immorality caused the meltdown. The bailouts left bankers with huge bonuses for a job badly done, but left average taxpayers on their own to lose their homes and their jobs.
Now, the American system is prepared to perform a variation on that theme.
Senate Republicans want to reduce Covid-19 federal unemployment benefits from $600 per week to $200.
Not at all coincidentally, those same lawmakers and President Donald Trump also want the benefits legislation to absolve employers from any liability connected to workers contracting Covid-19 in the workplace.
It is a two-pronged, unified political strategy — force labor back into danger by cutting benefits, but hold employers harmless for the level of that danger in the workplace that they control.
And if workers (and their families) die because they were made to work?
As in 2008, this is the political system seeking to protect capital at the expense of humble citizen-workers.
In the 2020 variation, the conscious strategy of compelling American labor to perform regardless of its human cost is no anomaly. This model of labor control — in which lawmakers are in bed with capital — traces its roots to our long history of slavery, which treated labor as a thing that legally could be bought, sold, abused and depreciated, all with the steady support of the machinery of government.
Think of the Republican package in this case as a kind of Fugitive Slave Act of 2020, designed to return workers to the plantation.