Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Home Care Workers and the Elderly Are Being Sacrificed

Michael Bloomberg Loves Home Care Workers Now.  Don't Buy It


Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

So Trump is desperately trying to cover his ass over his pathetic response to the coronavirus pandemic. He’s blaming Obama, blaming Pelosi, blaming the Chinese threatening sanctions against Beijng in response to the undemocratic response to the protests in Hong Kong. And no doubt there will be more sanctions. To any observer, Trump and his folks in Washington DC are making the word less safe and pushing China in to a new cold war. Trump, a slumlord, sexual predator and racist is concerned about democracy in China. This is the guy who told the world that among Nazi’s and the KKK, there are some decent people.

No wonder he is worried. He is prepared to risk more US lives opening the economy up in such a way that keep it going until November. The economy is his only hope he believes. He has threatened to pull the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina if the Democratic governor won’t guarantee that the state’s social distancing rules will be removed and the Convention can take place “at full capacity”. He is also opposed to mail in balloting because it increases his chance of losing.

Trump has a lot of blood on his hands. COVID-19 is ravaging US society with over 100,000 deaths so far. The vast majority of these deaths are poor people, essential workers and disproportionately people of color. Poor people can’t usually work form home.

I have seen more than one estimate but somewhere between 25% and 40% of the deaths are in nursing homes. But as Bloomberg/Businessweek pointed out in its current issue, “The true figure might be a lot higher.”

The virus has spread to 7000 nursing homes the magazine adds, and long-term care facilities are a hotbed of coronavirus activity. Older people are more vulnerable, and like hospitals in general but more so, people are crammed in to these facilities. The saying that hospitals are not healthy places to be in was never truer than it is today.

I remember years ago walking many picket lines as Service Employees (SEIU) local 250, at the time, the largest local union in the Califoria, was aggressively trying to unionize nursing homes. Had the entire labor movement thrown its weight behind organizing these places, things would be different today. But these are old people, many dying already, they don’t spend money so are not really worth the effort.

So we have a situation where some of the lowest paid workers are to be found in these places. What does that say about our society? Consequently, care workers more often than not work two, sometimes three jobs. This also means that they work in more than one facility spreading the virus from workplace to workplace.

BusinessWeek points out that nursing assistants earn around $13 an hour, a number that has , “…barely budged over the past decade.”. The pandemic has shaken capitalism to the extent that Michael Bloomberg (he owns BusinessWeek) who has a net worth around $30 billion, thinks that brothers and sisters working in nursing homes are underpaid and overworked.

“They are the backbone of any functioning nursing home, making up nearly 40% of all staff….” BW continues, “…..yet many struggle to stay out of poverty. One in 3 nursing assistants receives federal benefits; 1 in 4 receives food stamps. Some 40% have no employer-provided health insurance, and 15% have no insurance at all.”

It’s nauseating in a way to read articles like this that only appear because capitalism is in crisis and the shabby state of affairs in capitalist society are threatening to eat in to profits and halt further capital accumulation.  The US is so business friendly that in Texas, care workers tare encouraged to work at only one facility but how disconnected is that given that these workers can’t live on the wage of one job. Some Canadian provinces have banned long-term care workers from working more than one job and are at least covering their income losses.

After a decades long assault on workers living standards, smashing the private sector unions, cutting public sector services and jobs, the billionaire Michael Bloomberg and others like him want to “ensure that care workers are paid fairly.”.   Well isn’t that nice. “Front-line nursing-home employees — and the 1.4 million Americans they care for — deserve nothing less.” Bloomberg writes ending on a high note.

However, Medicaid is the largest funder of Long-Term Care facilities but Medicaid, like Medicare and other social programs are under assault. The economic fallout from the shutdown means that states and cities are not only losing revenue, but are being hit with massive unemployment costs, health care costs and so on. Another problem is that states and cities can’t run deficits like the federal government can, so, as the Wall Street Journal reminds us today, “…the gap must be filled by spending cuts, tax increases or both.”  

To get some idea of the level of attacks that US capitalism will be forced wage against its own working class in the coming period, no matter under Trump or Biden, consider that we are looking at a trillion dollar bill for the pandemic, a market induced crisis that is ushering in a new era, and estimates of $500 billion in cuts over the next two years according to Moody’s Analytics. What chance spending cuts or increased taxes in this scenario without major social turmoil.

As with the airlines, retailers like Amazon, UPS, and Federal Express, the care of society’s infirm, sick and aged, should not be left to the market and hedge fund managers. The entire health care industry has to be taken out of private corporate hands, from investors and social parasites like Trump and Bloomberg, and made public institutions, serving the needs of a society not profiting from it.

This, my friends, is not civilization. 

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