Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Thursday’s Catastrophic Supreme Court Decision Puts Millions at Risk

The Supreme Court’s decision to end the limited eviction moratorium on Thursday reveals once again that the institution does not serve the interests of working people.

James Dennis Hoff

August 27, 2021
Facebook Twitter Share
Photo: Brittainy Newman/ AP

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court overwhelmingly ruled against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) most recent extension of the national eviction moratorium passed on August 3. This ruling will leave potentially millions of working class renters without any protections against eviction, particularly in southern states without statewide moratoriums, where the delta variant is still surging. 

Despite the potentially catastrophic nature of the decision, the ruling nonetheless had the support of six of the nine Supreme Court justices, offering a stark reminder of just how conservative the court has become and how indifferent it is to the most basic needs of the working class. Only justices Sotomayor, Breyer, and Kagan dissented. The other six justices argued that the CDC had overstepped its bounds and that the provisions of the Public Health Services Act, upon which the extension was based, did not apply to “eviction moratoria, worship limits, nationwide lockdowns, school closures, or vaccine mandates.”

This decision also shows the failure of the Biden administration and both the Democratic and Republican parties to pass congressional legislation extending a national eviction moratorium. The fact that the Democratic Party holds the executive branch and both houses of Congress and yet cannot muster the votes to pass such a basic life saving measure shows where its priorities lie and who it serves.

While some states, such as New York and California, have imposed statewide moratoriums to offer some protections against eviction, renters in many southern states were protected only by the national moratorium. This means, millions of people could be forced to move in with family members, into homeless shelters, or even onto the streets. As the CDC has reported, such living conditions dramatically increase the risk of new infections, especially with the much more contagious delta variant. In fact, of the three states with the most renters behind on payments, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, not one has a statewide eviction ban. As Forbes reported:

“Mississippi led the nation, with 29% of renters (157,000) apparently behind on payments, closely followed by South Carolina at 28% (265,000) and Georgia at 24% (563,000).”

That’s almost one million households that could face eviction if this moratorium is not extended again. Further, most of those who rent and the vast majority of those behind on their rent are often poor working class people of color, who are already faced with circumstances where the risk of infection is highest. For instance, Black renter households, as the Joint Center for Housing studies has shown, “are the most likely to be behind on rent and face eviction,” with Hispanic households facing very similar rates of “likely eviction in the next two months.” 

Such a scenario would be terrible for those evicted, but it could also set off another wave of delta variant infections across the country with catastrophic consequences, especially since many of these states also have comparatively low vaccination rates and limited or no mask mandates for schools or public spaces.

And we know that eviction moratoriums work. According to the Legal Aid Society, eviction moratoriums in New York City alone saved the lives of more than 10,000 people during the first Covid wave. And in January, the National Bureau of Economic Research reported that if federal policies to limit evictions had been introduced sooner, we “could have reduced COVID-19 infections by 14.2% and deaths by 40.7%.” That’s more than 250,000 people. 

Such numbers, unfathomable just 16 months ago, show where the priorities of the system lie. It’s clear that for the U.S. ruling class, 250,000 deaths is nothing compared to billions of dollars in revenue that landlords earn each year and the ongoing disciplining of working people who are forced to pay the mortgages of the very rich and to forever live under the threat of eviction.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court did what it was designed to do. It upheld the right for the bourgeoisie to be free of restrictions to exploit and accumulate wealth, while simultaneously denying the right to the basic necessities of life for millions of working class families. This is not only reprehensible; it is, by any standards, criminal. To resist such institutions and to end such exploitation must be the final goal of all the concentrated activity of the working class. 

Facebook Twitter Share

James Dennis Hoff

James Dennis Hoff is a writer, educator, labor activist, and member of the Left Voice editorial board. He teaches at The City University of New York.

United States

New York’s Eviction Moratorium Ends Today. We Demand Free Public Housing For All

New York’s eviction moratorium expires today, and hundreds of thousands of households across the state are at risk of eviction. We cannot turn a blind eye to a single eviction, and we must demand rent cancellation and free public housing for all.

Emma Lee

January 15, 2022
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, US on Jan 11, 2022

Jim Crow Joe’s Voting Rights Speech Made a Mockery of the Civil Rights Movement

Joe Biden cynically spoke out in favor of voting rights, pretending to have been an activist in the civil rights movement. But for all his talk about expanding democracy, Biden serves, strengthens, legitimizes, and protects the racist, undemocratic system under which we live.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

January 14, 2022

Shut Down Guantanamo Bay

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay Prison. Its continued operation shows that the “War on Terror” has not ended.

Tristan Taylor

January 12, 2022

2022 Must Mark a New Stage for the Climate Movement

After a year packed with climate disasters and blatant disregard by capitalists, the climate movement cannot afford to be apathetic or repeat a failed strategy.

Sam Carliner

January 11, 2022

MOST RECENT

Students hold sign that reads "Safe schools should not be a debate."

“We Are Exhausted, Demoralized, and Straight up Traumatized”: Interview with a Chicago Teacher

Earlier this month, teachers in Chicago voted to resume remote learning rather than return to unsafe working conditions. In response, Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot locked the teachers out of their classes and threatened to stop paying them. After a few days, the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates voted to suspend the teachers’ action and called them to in person classes. We spoke to a Chicago teacher about this struggle and what it means for educators across the country.

Left Voice

January 17, 2022

Eleanor Marx: A Punk in the 19th Century

Eleanor Marx, the youngest daughter of Karl Marx and herself a socialist activist, was born on this day in 1855. A citizen of the world, she resonated with Shelley and Ibsen and participated in the main theoretical and political debates of her time.

Celeste Murillo

January 16, 2022
Protesters carry a banner that says "Johnson Must Go, He Partied While People Died."

Why “Partygate” Threatens to Bring Down UK Prime Minister

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in the midst of a growing political crisis after it became clear that he and his aides violated Covid-19 regulations by having parties. These parties are a slap in the face to the working people of Britain, who were banned from seeing their families while the Prime Minister drank with his cronies.

Ezra Brain

January 16, 2022
Protesters hold up signs in protest and wear headbands in the colors of the Mali flag.

Massive Demonstrations in Mali Against ECOWAS Strengthen Ruling Junta

Sanctions against Mali have, predictably, helped legitimize the ruling military. It cannot be ruled out that international pressure on the military is working. But this success could become a “Pyrrhic victory.”

Philippe Alcoy

January 16, 2022