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COVID-19 has created the ideal medium for a summer of continuous protest.

Political protests and demonstrations used to be weekend affairs during which angry leftists shouted at empty government offices before shuffling home Sunday afternoon to gear up for the workweek. With 1 out of 4 workers having filed for unemployment and many more working from home, tens of millions of Americans have free time to march in the streets. Sporting events, movie theaters, retail stores and even houses of worship are closed due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The usual distractions of a leap year are absent: The Summer Olympics are canceled, and presidential campaigning is so close to nonexistent as to be irrelevant. Politics is no longer about the politicians. Politics is in the street, where there’s nothing to do but gather, chant and dodge teargas cannisters.

The vacuum created by the lockdown and the impotence of a political class that no longer pretends to lead during a staggering medical-economic crisis has been filled by the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd. BLM has won important symbolic victories like the toppling of Confederate statues and a renewed push to remove the stars and bars from the Mississippi state flag. As the movement against police brutality and institutional racism continues, look for more substantive systemic reforms in policing.

What comes next? The eviction-and-foreclosure-resistance movement.

Thanks to Congress’s reluctance to pass another big stimulus package, protests in general will continue into the foreseeable future. But they won’t all be against evil cops. A looming eviction-and-foreclosure crisis could broaden the struggle from one centered around racial grievances into a class-based fight for economic justice.

Courts are about to get flooded by eviction hearings. Thirty percent of Americans missed their June housing payment. Supplemental $600-per-week unemployment checks expire July 31.

“I think we will enter into a severe renter crisis and very quickly,” Columbia Law professor Emily Benfer, a housing expert who tracks eviction policies, told The New York Times May 30. Without government action, she warned, “we will have an avalanche of evictions across the country.”

There is no sign that the government will lift a finger to help people who lost their jobs and will soon face homelessness. Even Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the most progressive members of the U.S. Senate, refuse to consider a rent or mortgage payment holiday. They support a tepid “moratorium,” not a rent freeze. Under a moratorium, back rent would pile up and come due at once later on. Millions of people would be kicked outside this winter during a possible “second wave” of COVID-19. That’s the best scenario. Odds are there won’t even be a moratorium. Congress will do little to nothing to help struggling tenants and homeowners.

Millions of homeowners and renters displaced from their homes during the 2008-09 subprime mortgage meltdown received zero assistance from the government. There were no protests worth mentioning. This time will be different.

ORDER IT NOW

First, there’s safety in numbers. The scale of this eviction crisis is much bigger. Three times more people have lost their jobs than during the Great Recession, during a much shorter period of time. Members of an eviction-resistance movement can help one another block county sheriffs from kicking them out. Among those who are still working, the tenuous nature of the labor market has everyone in there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I mode. We are in this together.

Second, this economic cataclysm wasn’t some act of God. People were ordered to shelter in place by the government. That’s why they lost their jobs, not a seemingly random stock market fluctuation. Targets of eviction and foreclosure won’t internalize any shame. They know they haven’t done anything wrong. They followed social distancing, as asked. Why should they sleep on the streets now because public health officials required them to go without income?

Third, Black Lives Matter has demonstrated the efficacy of street protests and of grassroots solidarity. Cops are currently about as popular as a sexually transmitted disease. How enthusiastically will police respond to a landlord’s request to fight their way through an angry crowd to throw a family onto the street? It depends on the municipality. Things will quickly turn ugly.

Finally, memories of how the big banks squandered their Bush-Obama bailouts on exorbitant CEO salaries and luxurious executive washroom renovations are still fresh. Even on the right, it will be tough to garner political support for banks trying to remove homeowners whose only crime was following stay-at-home orders.

There is a long but now largely forgotten history of tenant resistance movements in this country, mostly led by the communist left. Each first of the month between now and this fall brings us closer to a new radical struggle between people who ask nothing more than to keep the roof over the head and a system that prioritizes the right to own and control property over the most basic of human needs.

That movement will bring us closer to revolution.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Coronavirus, Housing, Poverty 
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  1. This article is a very perceptive description of one aspect of the insanity, the CoronaPanic, that has been foisted upon us.

    There is no sign that the government will lift a finger to help people who lost their jobs and will soon face homelessness.

    Millions of people would be kicked outside this winter during a possible “second wave” of COVID-19. That’s the best scenario. Odds are there won’t even be a moratorium. Congress will do little to nothing to help struggling tenants and homeowners.

    I agree 100% with what Ted Rall is saying here, and I would like to ask the host of this site and several writers here how they feel about pushing this panic and its terrible costs on all of us. How stupid could you be?

  2. I hope Ted is correct — that people will organise & fight the looming wave of foreclosures & evictions.
    I worry though — eviction is NOT “sexy” like racism & SJW stuff generally. Its only vital. And white people might benefit from such resistance. That’d be hard pill to swallow for the antifa mob & their controllers etc.
    Would the MSM support something as “trivial” as evicted working people ? Would the MSM have the guts, let alone the moral values to take a position contra the banks etc ?
    I’m a fraction less than optimistic.

  3. unit472 says:

    Can’t just ‘wish’ rent and debt away. Landlord and mortgage defaults will throw more people out of work as the financial system grinds to a halt just as it did in the early 1930’s. Pension funds and insurance companies who invested retirees money in housing debt obligations won’t be able to pay as deadbeats squat in housing units that could generate some income.

    • Replies: @Ann Nonny Mouse
  4. Sorry to nitpick, but the stars & bars is different than the confederate battle flag

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flags_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America

  5. Wilson says:

    Should start by not paying property tax, which is an immoral tax to begin, but with most city employees lounging at home it’s time to expose that they have a much higher standard of living than most taxpayers.

  6. TG says:

    “There is no sign that the government will lift a finger to help people who lost their jobs and will soon face homelessness.” – Correct.

    “Third, Black Lives Matter has demonstrated the efficacy of street protests and of grassroots solidarity.” WRONG.

    The problems faced by working class blacks are not that one white policeman killed one white man (out of a true national population of something like 340 million+). The problems include: wages are too low, rents are unaffordable, medical care is unaffordable, education is unaffordable, people are sentenced to a lifetime of debt slavery with no chance of escape, (thank you, Joe The Senator from Mastercard Biden). We spend a trillion dollars a year fighting endless pointless foreign wars, we are spending tens of trillions of dollars subsidizing the big banks and the super rich. We have shipped our industrial base to China and now can’t even make something as simple as cloth masks or hand sanitizer. The thing is, these are the exact same problems that the white working class faces, and it has zero to do with ‘racism.’ This is class war, and my class is losing.

    Black Lives Matter are useful idiots, designed to change the subject and stir the proles up against each other, deflecting anger against the real villains. There is nothing spontaneous or grass roots about this, this was a top-down massively orchestrated corporate scheme. I mean really, out of a nation this big you can always find a single incident of any kind of outrage. ONE event, and suddenly absolutely everything wrong with the world is this invisible evil spirit of ‘racism?’ What rot.

    We should, for example, be pushing for national health insurance and outlawing ‘surprise medical billing.’ But that would be a specific thing that would actually help and would hurt the profits of the rich. How much better for the proles to scream about ‘racism’ in the abstract with no actual real agenda other than giving upper middle class blacks a bit more money and racial preferences…

    • Agree: Biff, Jus' Sayin'...
    • Replies: @anonymous
  7. anon[185] • Disclaimer says:

    Good presentation of the problem, but UBI is a more feasible solution.

  8. I hardly read Rall any more because he is so off his rocker most of the time. I read the comments. But these comments are kind of all over the place. Yeah, everyone should resist vigorously evictions and foreclosures, until the government stops funding the banks and finance and starts giving money to people trying to pay their rent or make their mortgage payment. The government is giving a ton of money already but only to banks and the finance sector. No, property tax is all that should be left standing, as was suggested by Michael Hudson and was in vogue in the late 1800s. No income tax. Just property tax. And on phony depreciation of property. Property doesn’t depreciate yet an owner gets to take depreciation and pay less taxes.

    All rentier income (property, intellectual property, any unproductive asset that the owner just sits around collecting money on) should be taxed heavily. This will incentivize owners to lower their prices and sell to people. It will democratize the country, while at the same time relieving workers of the income tax burden.

    And if the government gives money to people to pay their rent and mortgage? Then that takes care of the pension funds the other guy says will suffer, as well as the landlords trying to make their payments.

    So perhaps Ted’s admonishments would jump start the government into doing what it should have done in 2008. It would be about time.

    And the thing is? Trump knows this. He has spoken on this during the 2016 campaign. Now he needs to do it.

    • Replies: @Jmaie
    , @Chris Mallory
  9. Wow! I agree with Rall on something!

  10. The Jewish rentier class, owning 85 percent of NYCs rental stocks will NEVER go for it. Take it nationwide and Jews will disappear BLM.

  11. anonymous[245] • Disclaimer says:
    @TG

    Your comment is far more insightful than the column. Thank you for calling out the Establishment’s latest distracting, engineered race skirmish.

  12. Biff says:

    BLM has won important symbolic victories like the toppling of Confederate statues and a renewed push to remove the stars and bars from the Mississippi state flag.

    How is this a victory? Is it to be believed that the South represents ill feelings towards blacks? If so then the North must their principled friends so let us take a look:

    Q. Where is the most segregated city in the country located?

    A. In the north – Milwaukee Wisconsin followed by Detroit and Chicago.
    https://www.wisn.com/article/milwaukee-is-americas-most-segregated-city-report-says/25765812#

    Where is the highest concentration of racist people with racist belief’s located? According to researchers it is Eastern Ohio/western Pennsylvania-in the North
    https://www.audible.com/pd/Summary-Analysis-and-Review-of-Seth-Stephens-Davidowitzs-Everybody-Lies-Big-Data-New-Data-and-What-the-Internet-Can-Tell-Us-About-Who-We-Really-Are-Audiobook/B076HYJB93?ds_rl=1262685&ds_rl=1263561&ds_rl=1260658&mkwid=DSAINTTitle_dc&pcrid=239333741494&pmt=b&pkw=&source_code=GO1GBSH07271690CB&cvosrc=ppc%20dynamic%20search.google.634950925&cvo_crid=239333741494&cvo_pid=33581432409&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIwa_O-cyj6gIVzA0rCh2b2QqwEAAYASAAEgJQHvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

  13. @unit472

    But landlords and mortgage lenders are crazy if they want to create new rustbelts.

    Why don’t they voluntarily tell the tenants and debtors that for the next few months the rent is zero, and debt will not compound, and there will be no foreclosures till things get back to normal?

  14. The author is likely accurate that Officer Friendly and his comrades in the thin blue line will meekly retreat for the high grass when Antifa and BLM show up in rent resistance mobs – since they’ll be ordered to do so by their command structure whose orders come from the same fine folks who issue commands for Antifa and BLM to carry out their violence and looting.

    Those who issue the orders have a very different view of any hated white goyim who might have voted for the Bad Orange Robot and are unable to pay the usury bill for their mortgage. If any of these zeks should dare to resist in even the most polite Republican bow-ties, waving their copies of the bill-of-rights, the fearless badge-gang goondas (who never fail to obey orders no matter how lawless they might be) will be ordered to mow down any palefaced gatherings with their weapons on full-auto – to the loud cheers and applause of the Mockingbird Media and all true believers of Woke, St. George (of Fentanyl) and the Kangz of Wokeunduh. It’s always about who and whom, a phrase coined by the one of the very few white-looking characters whose statue has been spared by Wokeunduns (along with a couple of curious confederates like Judah Benjamin – who even owned 140 slaves).

  15. Fascinating bunch of conundrums here. Renters have no money, pay no rent. Property owners get no rent, and (unless they own outright as many small investors do) can’t pay on the loan. The loan servicer can’t pay the investment pool (CDL) so there is default, and the credit default insurance pays off right until the numbers tip over. This is inevitable under the current scheme, and it will not happen. The scheme changes.

    No way are sheriffs deputies all over the US (especially in woke cities) going to enforce court ordered evictions. No deputy, no eviction. No real threat of eviction, no rent pay. First a few, then almost all, including those able to pay. The utility companies are NOT going to shut off services, so payments for utiities will quickly decrease significantly. The identity of residents does not change much but the property quickly declines as cleaning, lawncare, maintenance etc. stop getting done.

    The small landlords that default will just quietly go away. Their role as landlord (and the deed) will be assumed by a quasi-public (think NGO/UN styled thing) housing authority. The big landlords will be essentially taken over by another department of the NGO referred to previously. Nationalized, in a way. More at the State level though it will be funded with Federal scrip. There will be a onetime issue of some sort of synthetic security to the holders of the defaulted CDL paper. All the Michael Burry types who bet smart on the new Big Short are going to get 100% haircuts.

    For mortgages and commercial real estate, make some minor adjustments to the above process and voila! The biggest, fastest theft of real property since the American railroads.

    This is going to be interesting to watch. Unspeakably ugly and sad, but interesting.

  16. Jmaie says:
    @restless94110

    And if the government gives money to people to pay their rent and mortgage? Then that takes care of the pension funds the other guy says will suffer, as well as the landlords trying to make their payments.

    We have and are giving small payments to individuals, but our main plan is to give several trillion to banks and other industries in the hope all can stay afloat until normal economic activity recovers. Problem is, we have no idea how long that might take but we do know the willingness to print money will run out before it happens. The solution is to insure sustainable income for the masses since that would obviate the need for direct support to corporate entities. Which requires a quick return to full employment.

    We know we’re going to throw a lot more money at the problem, why not do it in a way which helps all classes and achieves the same result? All we have to do is let people start collecting social security three years early. At $2,500 / month x 36 months = $90,000 and so for $2T we could move 22 million people out of the workforce. Instant labor shortage which would essentially eliminate unemployment and increase wages across the board. The velocity of money would increase dramatically, which is good for general economic activity. And, a decent percentage of folks would be fairly high up the corporate ladder, this would generate a lot of movement up the ranks (meaning additional pay increases).

    Employment problem solved, economy jump started, and better optics – no Uncle Sam giving tax money to the wealthy.

    • Agree: Ann Nonny Mouse
    • Replies: @restless94110
  17. Around where I live, a close-in suburb of Boston, the majority of rental units are owned by working class and middle class landlords. Many of these, like their tenants, are out of the jobs on which they primarily relied. For these small landlords rental income is often a necessary supplement to wages or goes almost entirely to expenses related to the rental property, e.g., mortgage payments, taxes and property maintenance. This report suggests that a similar situation exists across the country https://www.census.gov/prod/1/statbrief/sb96_01.pdf

    These small property owners, the vast majority of all landlords, are the ones that would suffer most from the policy Mr. Rall proposes. They lack the resources to evict non-paying tenants. They will end losing their properties to mortgage and tax foreclosures or see them lose value as maintenance is put off. The result will be a further massive transfer of wealth from the working class and middle class to our vile establishment.

    Meanwhile the corporate owners with large holdings of high-end rental units and rapacious slum lords will do just fine. The former will have enough employed, upper class renters to weather the storm. The latter have long practice in getting rid of annoying tenants while still squeezing out obscene profits from their death traps. These scum will be unaffected by Mr. Rall’s proposal.

    The obvious solution is to provide those low and middle income persons most hurt by the current crisis an interim guaranteed income with which they can pay for the immediate necessities of life including shelter (rent or tax and mortgage payments), food, clothing, and transportation).

  18. Ko says:

    RECALL THE BULLSHIT bot parties pretended to care so much for “the people” and sent out 1200 checks with assurances it would be monthly to help people through the worst of the worst.

    Yeah, they care about everyone.

  19. @Jmaie

    This is an excellent addendum to what I said. It’s perfectly true. The velocity of money needs to be increased and people not banks need to get the money. This is what many thought Obama would do/should hvve done in 2008. It’s what we hoped Trump would do/should do now.

    I’br said a few time that all Trump has to do is steal some thunder from the left by writing off all student loans (many of them are from the Federal government anyway), institute Medicare for All, bring the troops home, and he and Republicans who support him would be voted in for the next 50 years.

    He could also easily replace Federal Reserve Notes with Treasury Notes thus cutting the legs off the Fed Reserve, as icing on the cake. He’d be looked at as the greatest president in US history and the country would be restored.

    You have to put much of the blame for the current unrest on a lot of young people with nothing to do and lots of debt and no real future. America: Change it or Lose it.

  20. @restless94110

    No, property tax is all that should be left standing, as was suggested by Michael Hudson and was in vogue in the late 1800s. No income tax. Just property tax. And on phony depreciation of property. Property doesn’t depreciate yet an owner gets to take depreciation and pay less taxes.

    You are an idiot. Property taxes do not go down. In most states they are re-accessed every five years and anytime the property is sold. It is a never ending ratchet to higher taxes. Anything you do to your property, you pay more taxes for it. Pave your driveway, you pay higher property taxes. Build a wheelchair ramp for a disabled family member, you pay more property taxes.

    Property taxes are the most immoral of taxes. A person should not be taxed for having a roof over their head.

    • Replies: @restless94110
  21. @Chris Mallory

    Hey idiot. Property taxes do go down when property value goes down. Think the real estate asset bubble will never pop?

    As I said in my first post, when you make money available to the people, and tax property, those hoarding property choose to sell it and prices begin to come down.

    Tax on property sitting there doing nothing is not immoral. What’s immoral is outrageous costs of housing in the United States, propped up by low property taxes and money hoarding by banks and finance.

    It will be time for you to sell some of your holdings before housing prices take a well-deserved and long-overdue dive. Think good thoughts: you won’t have to pay so much tax.

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