Under the ice, the normalization of an unacceptable situation

11 January, 2021

The large snowfall has done more to stop the Covid massacre than the intentionally limited measures of the regions and the government. However, the council of ministers is sucking up as if a country paralized by a non-exceptionally dramatic snowfall for days was the most normal thing in the world. Under the ice lies the sad truth of Spanish capital normalizing the unacceptable.

No one can pretend that this snowfall was unpredictable. The experience of the 2018 snowfall was indisputable: the highways, which had laid off 1 out of 3 workers while increasing toll prices, collapsed; the Post Office, which had reduced its workforce by 1,400 workers, abandoned thousands of packages and mail under the snow and rain. The companies and public services, thinned out to the point of extreme fragility in order to gain margins and increase profitability, were unable to withstand even bad weather. Maximum profitability in optimal conditions no matter what, for everything else, firemen and the Emergency Military Unit (EMU). In these two years, the self-proclaimed most progressive government in history, did not change or equip anything. However, it repeated the script on a larger scale, priding itself and presenting the obvious as unpredictable and its intentional lack of preparedness as merit in the response. Its fellow PP members in the government of Madrid even had the nerve to throw the ball on the population calling on the neighbors to go out and collaborate. They believed that the chants to the cooperation between administrations and the endearing scenes of bureaucratic fraternity had covered up what a European capital paralyzed by less than a meter of snow says about this governing class.

2The snowfall started in full ascent of the third wave of the pandemic. Relaxing restrictions to facilitate Christmas sales for retailers and hoteliers had caused, as was entirely predictable, a proliferation of pandemic outbreaks and an increase in neighborhood incidence rates. But new measures to restrict mobility were not approved. The Christmas strategy had not even saved sales. The fear that the poor economic results would lead the petty bourgeoisie to the non-payment of credits and these would make the banks stagger was imposed on any urgency to save lives. Deadlines were being rushed, dates were being speculated on. And on Friday, 192 deaths were already declared.

Thus, the arrival of the snowfall and the mobility restrictions that it seemed to be imposing by itself, appeared to be good news. Who could have imagined that the administration had not even planned how to clear the entrance and exit of the main hospitals and that they intended neighbors and voluntary workers to do so, with no other means than those they had at home?

Under the ice, the normalization of the unacceptable

UME soldiers rescuing cars

1Finally, the government reported 171 deaths by covid on Saturday and 151 on Sunday. As these are weekend data, they are worrisome: they will probably be corrected upwards over the next few days. What is striking is that one really needed to dig deep into the newspapers to arrive at the figures. No newspaper considered them newsworthy. A broken tree branch in an art gallery street in Madrid seemed to be much more interesting to the editorial staff.

In the background: Capital and its analysts have realized that mass vaccination is a long way off and no longer believe in real normalization. They are calling on the companies now to accumulate reserves and, on the government, to normalize the situation as it is and not to impose lockdown again under any circumstances.

A month ago the political and media discourse was about placing everything on an absurd idea of individual responsibility and denying the most basic message of Epidemiology: the expansion or containment of contagion depends on social conditions that are politically established, such as mobility or the opening of stores and bars. Now it is a question of snow and ice covering the problem until it turns the disease into an individual problem. The idea is that the snowfall will normalize the killing to the point of making it disappear from the narrative. Because if it is not in the narrative, political responsibility will disappear definitively.

2The second normalization is not less serious: we went from an state of emergency to a state that only shows itself in the form of emergency systems. That discourse grew during this year of the pandemic, and now it has been normalized: no health care personnel or hospital beds? The state’s duty is no longer to maintain a responsive health care system, but to set up military field hospitals. That regional bureaucracies are incompetent even for hiring trackers? The state mobilizes soldiers. That the city of Madrid did not spend enough money on maintenance of its own highways and expressways? Concessionaires fired maintenance workers to increase profit margins? No problem, it’s the new normal, the state is there to help them be more efficient… in profits. Everything is left to break down while soldiers and firefighters are sent out during such an extraordinary and unpredictable situation… that repeats itself every two years.

Evolution of the price of electricity for distribution companies in Spain

3And finally the normalization of the Green Deal was tested, or rather one of the ways to suck up income from labor and turn it into benefits for sustainable investment: the electric power bill. There are those who apparently see market self-regulation in what seems to be a 20% increase in the electricity bill… Nothing could be further from the truth. If there is something that is regulated to the extreme, it is the price of electricity and the electricity market. How are they regulated? By means of a peculiar auction. When the system requires more energy it places bids on the producers. The most efficient ones will take most of the orders because they will be willing to do so at lower prices. But they will not charge that price… rather they will charge the price accepted by the last KW needed, that of the most inefficient producer. This means that all producers will sell at a profit, but also that all but the last, the most inefficient, will make extraordinary profits. Since all large electric companies have very low cost systems such as dams, the margins become scandalous.

The electric power wholesale market works in such a way that the latest technology called to cover the demand -the most expensive one- sets the price charged by all the rest. Companies such as Iberdrola, with a high capacity to produce electricity at practically zero cost with hydroelectric power plants can make good profits.

La Información

Now let’s put this in the context of the Green Deal. The Energy Transition is kicking off as an overcapitalization of the less efficient renewable production – solar, for instance – which translates into absurd figures in the photovoltaic park concession auctions and, of course, in the stock market. In other words: the capital to be made profitable increases and since it is dedicated to production by less efficient methods, the cost of the KW cannot but increase.

That was the real objective of the Green Deal: to save large capital pools that had nowhere to go because of the crisis. The idea is that we pay not only for the fall in physical productivity caused by the use of less efficient technologies such as solar energy, but also for the increase in productivity in terms of profit that capital demands and that is mobilizing it in overwhelming numbers. The electric power auction mechanism is designed to make this possible. The blizzard, the snow and the frost, will normalize it in our invoice.