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When it comes to states that should be talking about “getting back to normal,” Iowa should be very, very far down the list. The state is in the middle of a burst of new cases which only accelerated on Tuesday, and University of Iowa researchers are predicting a second wave of infections if states move too quickly. But instead of expressing any concern over the health of the state’s citizens, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds is not only rushing to remove the few social distancing guidelines that were ever put in place for Iowa, she’s making it clear that any workers who fail to show up for this jobs out of concern over their health, their family’s health, or anything else that might result from exposure to a disease that has already killed 60,000 Americans, are not protected. They are the opposite of protected. They are deemed to have “voluntarily quit” their jobs.

For anyone who had any doubts about the motivations behind wealthy conservative groups funding “reopen” protests, or right-wing media inflaming people to get out there on the streets, or Donald Trump issuing “liberate” tweets, this is it: Purge workers without having to pay unemployment. And you can bet that also includes allowing corporations to pocket emergency relief that was intended to go to employees.

It’s not as if corporate owned and operated Republican Party is being particularly tricky. Exactly as they did during the Tea Party “movement,” billionaires and corporations have stepped in, hand in glove with Republican campaigns, to fund and promote a group of reopen protests. These protests were genuinely tiny, sometimes no more than a few dozen people, and yet the media has them far more coverage than protests that have literally involved millions. Again … exactly as happened with the Tea Party.

Then, as NBC reports, Republican governors have pretended to respond to this pent up demand by not just declaring that they’re reopening their states, but by inviting companies to pitch away employees without consequence. On Monday, Reynolds made it clear that anyone who fails to show up at their job is considered to have “voluntarily quit.” It doesn’t matter if they have a medical condition that would make them particularly at risk from COVID-19. It doesn’t matter if they share their home with an elderly relative. It doesn’t matter if they just want to be a good citizen.

And it goes beyond just being kicked to the curb. Because Iowa officials are encouraging companies to report employees who don’t show up promptly, and sent warning about weekly fines for anyone who attempts to file a “fraudulent claim” of unemployment. All of this, after the federal government has just issued trillions of dollars in emergency funding that is supposed to help workers … but is going to companies.

Republicans have demonstrated, again, just how easily they can convince a handful of low-wage workers to become the face of their own destruction. And how easily they can get the media to report tiny groups as though there is a huge “movement” eager to do corporate bidding. In the process, everyone will ignore polls showing overwhelming opposition to reopening too soon and never mention just how puny these protests really are. They also never seem to mention that, while Republicans are fast to claim that shooting victims are “crisis actors,” the people showing up at these reopen protest are the same assholes who show up anytime Fox calls, to wave AR-15s and threaten the “Bugaloo.” They don’t give a flying f#ck about workers, or about any other issue. They only care that they get to show their guns on TV.

The next step: Watch how often the media reports on the line outside barbershops that have reopened, or talks to happy restaurant owners who want nothing more than to figure out how they can fit in more people. This is the “Come on in! The Water is fine!” stage, in which the majority of people trying to protect their health are portrayed as the kooks, while those going out and taking a deep breath of virus are the new regular folk.

Donald Trump may have been blunt in ordering meat packing companies to remain open, even though dozens of workers are ill, and the situation is in no way safe. But though Trump may have explicitly ordered workers to lay down their lives for his chicken nuggets, the whole Republican scheme has scarcely been more subtle.

Create corporate funded protests. Provide corporate media coverage. Pretend that Republicans are acting in response to the needs of workers, rather than corporations.

And above all else, this whole scheme is designed to screw workers. Screw them. Force them into a no-win situation where they have to literally risk their lives and the lives of others, or walk away without a dime of the unemployment pay they earned. Meanwhile, corporations are sitting on loans that were supposed to go to providing payroll … just guess where that money will end up.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Some of that money will surely end up in donnie’s war chest. My question is “have the execs of these big companies that are taking the money meant for blue collar folks and the middle income any knowledge of how the French Revolution started? Does the comment “let them eat cake” mean anything to them. If not, I suggest they pay attention to millions of people wondering how they are going to feed their families. People are waiting hours in line only to be told there is no more food. What was the name of that book and movie where the poor brought out the guillotine and evened the score? Anyone remember?

    • I frankly like this reference to our 1789 French Revolution.
      Now, the fact is that, by this time, the people in France were powerless, mostly uneducated, and indeed angry, mostly because of several years of bad harvests, but the 1789 Revolution was mainly the result of a long process initiated by intellectuals among the “bourgeoisie” (upper middle-class), while the two other Orders : nobility and church, also identified as “the privileged ones”, were massively conservative, with some noticeable exceptions like the “Marquis de la Fayette” – who wanted no longer to be named but as Lafayette… (you know him !).
      Of course, this process was accelerated, just like a spark setting fire to a barn, by some local, truly revolutionnary events (commemorated by the Bastille Day on July 14th), but the short-term result was not a violent revolution, rather an in-depth reform : no longer absolute, but constitutional monarchy, abolition of privileges, declaration of Human Rights, abolition of slavery in the colonies…
      The second phase of the Revolution came later : 1791 and 1792, as starvation went on. The former leading classes desperately tried to obstruct reforms, supported by military aggressions of conservative countries such as Austria, and this is the time when Queen Marie-Antionette, by the way the sister of the Archiduke of Austria, is supposed to have said this (in)famous sentence as a desperate crowd was asking for relief and food :”They have no bread, just give them buns…” (a bit in the Trump style). And finally, high treason occurred when the royal family tried to escape and flee towards Austrian troops. This is how a somewhat cool revolution turned into a radical one, and where an extensive use of the guillotne was made in an attempt to eradicate first of all the ultra-conservative nobles and clergymen, then all those who were not felt as radical enough, and finally, the most fanatical and radical leaders.
      By the way, this also led to a terrific civil war, mainly in the west of France, where illiterate peasants, manipulated by nobles and catholic priests, tried to stop the revolution, which resulted in a lot of bloody fights and slaughter.
      So, well you can indeed find some common points between GOP leaders and billionnaires and the ultraconservative and decadent nobility, between right-wing evangelical churches and the catholic church of the 18th Century – and sure there are many, were it only that all of them are sightless and greedy. You can also replace the Archiduke of Austria by the tsar Vladimir, if you wish : it makes sense.
      And of course, there a huge common point between american blue collars today and french peasants of late 18th century : they are afraid of what is happening and angry. The question is : will they support those who fight for their rights, or will they be so brainwashed by the alliance of Fox and bigotry that they will support further such nuts like Trump or Pence ?
      Well, I fear that the answer is not obvious : considering that the USA is nearly the only nation in the world that did not change for the metric system, I would say the level of conservatism is such in America that it seems able to cope with a still higher level of political incompetence before considering kicking this team of morons out of WH.
      But however, one thing for sure : voting is by far safer than using the guillotine !

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