#RentStrike to Save Small Business, and the World

Do we control the economy, or does the economy control us?

Hang a white flag from your window on 4/1 to show solidarity with the working class, whether you are paying your bills on time or not. We’re all in this together, and while I have a job today, I may not tomorrow.

This isn’t how I imagined I would open up the economic essays on this blog, but here we are. The times are changing as we breathe, and it is increasingly becoming necessary for the average people of the world to take action. We need to understand our options.

I have some radical economic theories, be warned. But we’ll get to those in time. Right now let’s zero in on what is about to happen.

On 4/1 rent is due. Fed estimates are putting our unemployment outlook at about 30%, during and after the covid-19 outbreak. What is going to happen, when those two facts collide? Well the world won’t end, at least not right away. Some of us have savings. Or credit advances. Looks like both the House and Senate may approve the emergency stimulus, granting $1200 checks and upgraded unemployment benefits – and 1400 pages of other stuff. We’re going to ignore the bloat of it all, and stay focused, for the purpose of thinking through what’s about to happen. Those checks are largely going to pay the landlord, or the bank, or repay the credit card for that loan we had to take to pay the landlord, or the bank. Immediately, they will evaporate. In some instances there will be hundreds left over, in many there will be a deficit, with utilities a large one. Savings will begin to deplete, what little there statistically is, across the accounts of the entire working class of America. As the first two weeks of April come along, we’ll all start wondering how we’re going to pay for the groceries, let alone doctor’s bills for our kids.

There’s no secret here, this is just easy math. Any stimulus to citizens, without an accompanying #RentFreeze, is actually just a large transfer of the common wealth, into the pockets of the rich. At this $1200 level, that transfer all in all will take increasing amounts of your savings, and mine. Note, importantly, that this math doesn’t only belong to the suddenly unemployed, of which there are millions, but to everyone who is simply doing what they should right now, staying home. Taking care of their children. Many can work from home, but many can’t, and aren’t receiving sick pay or unemployment, if they are lucky enough to keep their job. Should they all exit the outbreak with depleted savings or a mountain of new debt? While the banks and large businesses are bailed out PLUS receiving $1200, if roundabout more or less, from every american adult? No. No they should not.

This is why I’m advocating the #RentStrike, though I’m not even a renter. It is not a movement against landlords, let’s be clear. An organized, class-wide Rent Strike will force a #MortgageFreeze, freeing landlords from this uncomfortable middle ground of looking like complete assholes right now. Like the one I spoke with who is waiving late fees, and provided his tenants with a list of job openings (the big heart on that guy!) We all need to stand together, as a working class, and say NO. We won’t sacrifice the poor or the elderly for Wall Street’s gain, during an outbreak. $1200 is good, MONTHLY, for food and essentials, but does not work mathematically for America’s working class without an accompanying Mortgage Freeze. We can’t just ignore the math, be it an elephant in the room or a donkey. The landlords and Renters need to stand together, but make no mistake, you Renters, right now you have ALL the power.

To be clear, I’m doing ok. I have three jobs, and one of them includes a couple nights a week at an essential distribution center. They’re offering me more hours, practically every hour. Should I take it, and risk spreading germs to countless elderly or home-bound folks right now, touching 10,000 packages per night? They’re being good enough to allow unlimited sick time during covid, without pay. Hey, I’m happy to have a job, a significant other who can work from home, and a small amount of savings. Thankful for our blessings, our dogs and good music, kind neighbors and creative minds. Time to write! But I’m rallying for the many, many that are suddenly out of work through no fault of their own. This has little to nothing to do with me. I’m gonna play the market for these historic lows and come out ahead, if I can. But even I can see clearly that if everyone who is suddenly out of work, officially and unofficially, has to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table, the rent will go unpaid, and the potential shock to our economic system could in fact be unprecedented.

Thing is it’s entirely preventable. Acting as a class, the workers of America can decide our own fate here, without waiting for any undeserving government to discuss what we need, what OUR KIDS are worth. Don’t let me overstate how mind-blowing of a move that would be. Hang the white flag on 4/1. Write “Solidarity” on it if you don’t want to scare the neighbors. Show that you stand with the working class, whether or not you can pay your rent this month. Let them know, NOW, that we won’t be paying. Let’s all move into this next phase, coordinated, together, top to bottom. Your landlord is also getting that $1200.

If you’re suddenly unemployed it’s a bleak world right this moment. Worse things going down than toilet paper shortages. Like the dispensary workers I spoke with, one who was laid off and can’t afford to pay rent and other bills as of right now, this month. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do for her family. Nobody is hiring, her immune system is sensitive, and her partner is also out of work. I spoke with another suddenly out of work grower. Her warehouse went on lock down, to ensure the plants were safe. She has asthma, and this has left her stuck at home. My own county has just today announced a Shelter In Place order (bonus points if you can guess what I stocked up on? Jk) I can still get a note to go to work. But should I? Or should I Shelter In Place?

I’m a pragmatist. I can see that there’s every chance this hashtag will go nowhere. We will blunder our way through 4/1 and then 5/1 like a bull in a hospital waiting room, and most of us will survive. Disney stock will rebound as the outbreak clears up in a few months, very likely. Life will go on. But for that 30%? For small business owners? The bills that have been postponed will come due. The eviction moratoriums will expire. We’re looking at a potential explosion of the poor and unemployed like nothing we’ve ever seen. And in a best case, the rest of us will have far less savings than we do now, or far more debt. This is, in fact, shaping up to be an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top, from beginning to end.

So maybe we’re powerless, but I’m going to hang this pillowcase out my window on 4/1, with “Solidarity” on it in sharpie, to get the neighbors’ attention. I’m going to suggest in every way I can, with urgency, that a Rent Strike is the best way to stave off economic disaster, not just for the poor but for all of us, while simultaneously flexing the muscle of the working class in a way that just may even wake some of them up. This is a movement for working class solidarity. The Rent Strike is to force the Mortgage Freeze, which will allow the landlord to, every bit as much as the tenant, and the small business owner, to use that $1200 to feed their family.

Sigh. I’d rather we were discussing the medical pragmatics. But you can get that elsewhere. Let’s flatten the curve. But economically speaking, I really start to have questions when a property changes so many hands, over such a long time, that the original costs are overshadowed by the interest and finance costs of numerous mortgages, ensuring that a property, which actually had a finite construction cost, will continue to be paid for at the same level indefinitely. I have questions when the Fed can afford essentially unlimited short-term loans to corporations, but shorts the average citizen according to basic arithmetic. Heck, I have questions about everything this economic game we’re playing is based on. How well do dollars actually represent modern wealth? Why does anyone think gold is worth a damn outside of a jewelry store? What is the true nature of digital debt? Where is the wealth that has been created by generations of industrial innovation, saving practically infinite labor in our production and transportation sectors? Isn’t the end goal, to end indentured labor and create a classless society where all can thrive? Is the economy a machine of our own making, or an organism that has us trapped supporting it’s bloated, parasitic, trillion-pound needs? Are we better off without toilet paper? But we can save most of that for later, fair. We can solve the disease in time, but we need time.

Right now we have to realize that the American economy could very likely be about to go into cardiac shock. We’re looking at a predicted 30% unemployment, and a MAJORITY of sudden underemployment. Those who can’t work, in a time of self-quarantine, doing what they should right now, simply can’t pay their bills without accumulating debt or depleting savings. The only way this doesn’t lead to a real market crash – not one where Disney recovers this summer but one where we have bread lines in America – is if we stick together. Scientifically speaking, there is zero chance we’ll be back by Easter. Zero. Hence the hashtag #RentStrike however, #MortgageStrike works just fine as well and the math is the same. This is not about us v them. The point is solidarity. It’s not about knowing the future. It’s about not being stupid with what we have to lose.

Hang the white flag. If you can’t pay your rent, know that we are with you.

Freeze the economy. 80% of it, anyway. Pick it back up, like the tool it is, when this is over and we’re ready. This is how you prevent small business from going under. This stimulus as we’re going will instead give them more debt. The Rent Strike could save small business. Nobody should be going out of business because of this. Nobody should be fired. Leave Of Absence, even if indefinite, should be plenty for almost anyone for a few months. Burying small business owners in new debt, even at low or zero interest, is not a workable solution for many. Payments must be suspended.

STRIKE NOW to force the Mortgage Freeze. Do the math. We all need to stand with the 30% who are suddenly looking at unemployment, or we’re all probably going to feel the consequence. Small business acquires debt. Citizens get a check, which they spend on rent. What savings the middle class has starts funneling into bills. This is a massive transfer of wealth to the upper rung of our society. The time to threaten this strike is now.

The power to make it happen is in our hands. Will we use it? Do we run the economy or does it run us?

It may be the only way we’re getting through this with our rights, health and economy intact. Strike.

I’m all for it, but right now we have a whole class of people who may not just be for a Rent Strike, they suddenly are participating whether they like it or not. Can’t earn, can’t pay. Stay inside, but organize. Don’t go down without a fight. Fuck that, just don’t go down. #Solidarity

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