by David G Marcos
Three days after the declaration of the State of Emergency decreed by the Government, the economic and social measures adopted by the Council of Ministers were announced last Tuesday to offer a response to the consequences that the coronavirus is causing in the Spanish State beyond the public health crisis.
The decisions announced by Sánchez are part of a "mobilization of 117,000 million euros of public money" to ensure a "social shield" against the socio-economic crisis of COVID19. Of these 117,000 million, more than 85% will go directly to companies in the form of a line of guarantees to "revitalize" the business fabric. Only the remaining 15% will be devoted to social spending, of which a large part will be used to defray indirectly assumed costs to – once more - prevent companies from having to take over unemployment benefits in the event of application of a temporary lay-off plan (ERTE).
In short, the Executive's response to the political, social and economic consequences caused by the coronavirus health crisis, far from resembling the Social Shock Plan demanded by civil society groups, is dictated by the Calviño doctrine: business benefits first, always above social rights.The economic package approved this Tuesday by the Government involves an exorbitant transfer of public capital to the private sector without any compensation from large companies.
This mobilization of public resources is carried out without any mention on the part of the Government of the €65 thousand million rescue package that the banks continue to owe to the citizens. Neither does it offer a counterweight that forces the involvement of large companies through the creation of what could be a special tax that increases the amount to be paid in Corporation Tax.
Ultimately, it translates into a huge transfer of public capital into private hands, a few crumbs which are insufficient to save economic-social destruction, and no tax burden on the wealthy. The medium-term consequences of this liquidity injection could be - and will be if Calviño continues to set the economic course - a new onslaught of cuts and austerity on public services, with devastating implications for the country's social and economic fabric.
Implicitly, Sánchez also renounces the nationalization of strategic sectors of the economy, which would mean greater production planning in the service of social needs, as well as greater labor protection for the workers of these companies. Contrary to this direction, Sánchez's measures represent a shield on the profit margins of large companies at the cost of emptying the public purse. And with the remaining social spending, it only achieves a few minimum patches that will serve as an insufficient palliative care to avoid an implosion in the scenario of enormous social tension that lies ahead.
Regarding labour, the set of actions announced by the Executive does not undertake the prohibition of layoffs in companies with benefits, an essential measure in the face of the bleeding caused by this crisis in the workplaces. A bleeding, in large part, caused by large companies determined to take advantage, again, in an exceptional situation and with serious consequences for the popular sectors.
And although the measures approved contain the “expansion of rights to conciliate”, where there is talk of requesting the reduction of working hours without this leading to dismissal, this does not guarantee the full salary. De facto, this supposes an economic decline for people who, once again, will have to choose between dedicating their time to care work and the reproductive field, or maintaining a level of income sufficient to sustain the domestic economy.
Nor does the Government undertake the mandatory suspension of evictions. It declares only a moratorium on mortgages that arises exclusively for vulnerable groups (poorly defined cases). In addition, this moratorium is also not extended to people on a rental basis, as criticized by both the Union of Tenants of Madrid and the Platform of People Affected by Mortgages (PAH).
In short, the long-awaited economic measures announced by the Government of PSOE and Unidas Podemos to respond to the COVID19 crisis are highly insufficient in terms of alleviating the vulnerability of the popular sectors of the population. Because it is absolutely false that the virus does not distinguish between social classes, as stated by the President in his statement.
The journalist Nuria Alabao points out how "a large sector of the working classes is facing the predicament of either losing their job or exposing themselves to greater risk situations." The conditions in which the confinements of people take place are very different depending on their domicile, the neighborhood in which they live (with services available or not) and the income that is available.
Nor does the gender component disappear in the impact of the virus. However, this equidistance, which aims to equalize the consequences of the virus with alleged class independence serves the Government's discourse and the measures with which it is addressing the situation.
"The responsibility to beat the virus falls on all the citizens of our country," says Sánchez. This is true, but only partly. And if the nuance is not made explicit, it is dangerous. The so-called "social discipline" requiring people to comply with the government's recommendations for confinement in our homes only makes sense if on Monday companies are forced to not allow their workers to be crowded on public transport to go to their job, if, as in the vast majority of cases, they do not belong to what could be classified as "essential or critical services".
Similarly, it is perverse to assert that only "united we can overcome this situation" while allowing the mass dismissal of large companies with benefits. It is not enough to ask these companies nicely that they do not leave working people on the street. The employers have always shown that they only and exclusively look for their benefits and dividends, at the cost of the precariousness and deterioration of the material conditions of the working class.
The plan announced on Tuesday is aimed at shielding large companies, as has been evident with the rebound of their stock market values with increases of between 15% and 20% in companies such as Mapfre or Bankia. After intense days of stock market pressure from companies to indoctrinate Sánchez in his economic response and away from temptations on his left, the position of the business elite is reinforced by the statements and measures of the Executive.
The appearance of the President is too reminiscent of a PSOE in 2008 that gave in to the demands of Europe for austerity (it should be remembered that these recipes only brought social suffering for the majority of the working class and destruction of the economic fabric for the concentration of the largest capital in fewer hands).
Sánchez is reminiscent Zapatero at the outbreak of the crisis, with two differences. The first, in purely material terms. The economic and productive fabric has suffered a serious deterioration in the last decade, precisely as a consequence of neoliberal measures, labor and social suffocation. The effects of the 2008 crisis and that of the coronavirus overlap and hang on the shoulders of the popular sectors, to a greater extent women and migrants.
In addition, the second difference, from a subjective point of view, is especially perverse. It has to do with the way in which these measures are presented. The attitude of the PSOE government to the 2008 cuts showed us a downcast Zapatero, whose speech was based on "there is no alternative"; On this occasion Sánchez seems to take be proud of this decision based on Nadia Calviño's recipes.
And this kind of imposed pride (saying that the toads are good) can perhaps be afforded by a PSOE aligned with neoliberal doctrine, relying solely on cultural battles against the fanatical right. But whoever is most likely to take a political toll on the management of this crisis, if instead of accepting it by closing ranks with the government does not recover its own voice in favor of the popular classes, it will be Unidas Podemos.
This article first appeared in Spanish on the Cuarto Poder Website. Translated by Noemi Argerich. Reproduced with permission