For panicking capitalists, resuming profit flow trumps everything
Workers on the assembly line apply their brains and brawn to creating huge amounts of wealth. They are entitled to take a pause and get paid so a pandemic does not take their lives. Sean Rayford | AP

Public health experts are united in advising Americans: “Keep your ass at home.” Trump’s panicky insistence on sabotaging that strategy is more than just ignorance and irresponsibility.

It’s not the “economy” in general he’s in a cold sweat about. It’s the flow of profits.

And in that are revealed some hidden truths about our economy, truths that capitalists like himself have always sought to keep undercover.

Labor creates all wealth. Every product of the economy, every good and service, is produced by the collective labor of workers. But those workers are only paid a small portion of the value they create. The rest goes to profits, bloated executive salaries and bonuses and the like. Irrationality and inhumanity are baked into the capitalist system as a result of this fundamental injustice.

There is no logical reason that the United States – with more resources than any society in the history of the human race – can’t sustain a prolonged pause in production. After all, we have stockpiles of food, energy and manufactured goods – even toilet paper – and a robust distribution network. The only critical shortages relate to medical equipment to meet the coronavirus health crisis.

It’s a rational plan, formulated by public health experts, to have as many workers as possible take a time out, without loss of income, stay at home, and slow the spread of the COVID 19 virus. All of those accumulated resources were created collectively by us – the working class. Why shouldn’t we fully access them in time of need?

But for the overwrought Trumps of this world, the truth is every worker who stays home is a worker who no longer generates profits.

Profits come from the difference between the value our working class produces – from the goods and services we produce – and the wages we get paid. Yes, every hour a worker stays home, that’s an hour that worker is not generating a profit for her employer.

Trump’s freakout over workers staying home reminds me of the panic we see from employers when their workers go on strike, collaborating to withhold their labor.

Hedge fund managers and real estate tycoons may call themselves the engines of the economy. Corporate CEOs and tech tycoons may congratulate themselves as being the “job creators.”

But it’s the brains and hands of America’s working class that feeds, clothes, houses and cares for our nation and generates their trillions in profits.

Prioritizing profits ahead of people is the essence of capitalism. On the job, you come up against that every time your boss wants you to bypass a safety rule and work short-handed, just to get the job done quickly and cheaply. At thousands of construction sites, mines, factories and farms across the nation, our lives and health are endangered when the Republican administration wipes out Occupational Safety and Health regulations.

This week in the midst of a worldwide epidemic an ignorant Texas lieutenant governor commanded senior citizens to sacrifice their lives for “the good of the economy.” Really? The economy????

Every worker I know would sacrifice themselves for their children or grandchildren without hesitation.

But for Wall Street? Hell no!

Trump’s freak out be damned. Every life is precious. Keep workers home and the COVID 19 virus contained until the public health experts say otherwise.

People before profits!


Roberta Wood
Roberta Wood

Roberta Wood is a retired member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Wood was a steelworker in South Chicago, an officer of Steelworkers Local 65, and founding co-chair of the USWA District 31 Women's Caucus. She was previously Secretary-Treasurer of the Communist Party. Currently, she serves as a Senior Editor of People's World.