According to Motley Fool reporter Maurie Backman, “Sixty-nine percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings…. Worse yet, 45% of Americans say they have $0 in savings. That’s right—not so much as a dollar socked away in a bank account.”
And there is this!
“The pandemic has upended consumer habits, with fewer people eating out and traveling and others building a financial cushion,” reported Shirley Leung and Larry Edelman in an October 10 Boston Globe article. “Economists have long worried about Americans carrying too much debt, but ironically the sudden embrace of savings comes at a time when the economy needs consumers to spend more. A prolonged period of parsimony is hampering the recovery and threatening industries that had thrived on our free-spending ways.”
Yes, yes, it’s COVID’s fault. If only this pesky pandemic hadn’t come along and exposed the unsustainable mirage of eternal consumption and growth on a planet with finite and dwindling resources, everything would be just ducky. All of you who felt bad about yourselves for having no savings can buck up. You’re doing it right! For now.
And that’s the rub. Thanks to decades of insistent work led by Black scholars and activists and recently mainstreamed in new ways through The 1619 Project at The New York Times, a broader understanding has come into being of the umbilical connection between the chattel slavery, which birthed this nation, and the economic system which sits astride it today. They are blood relatives, linked by the DNA of agony and plunder.
The fact that having a savings account during a pandemic is suddenly “bad for the economy” proves once again that capitalism is nothing more than a meticulously constructed rationalization for greed.
Yet while the claws of base capitalism were honed in the cotton fields of the South and the cotton mills of the North, it was not first fashioned there. Capitalism, stripped to the raw nerve, is the sacking of Troy, the taking from the weak by the strong. It has been a ruthless presence since humans first fashioned weapons and organized into groups. The ideology was, and remains, simplicity itself: when you win, no matter how you win, you get to take.
Adam Smith gave it a name and some fluffy words to obscure the fathomless brutality of it all, but in the end, capitalism is plunder.
COVID-19 is like water, in that it flows into the low places and finds every crack, every seam, every pinhole to pour through. The pandemic has been busy exposing the cracks in our overall health care industry–specifically regarding our perilous employment-based health insurance racket– our education system, and on and on. COVID did not damage these things, so much as it washed off the paint and exposed all the deep red rust.
The fact that having a flush savings account during a pandemic is suddenly “bad for the economy” proves once again that there is no actual system at work here: Capitalism is nothing more than a meticulously constructed rationalization for greed on a planetary scale, and that rationalization will move to wherever the money is at any given moment.
William Rivers Pitt is a commentary writer who contributes regularly to truthout.com.