The news just keeps getting progressively worse.
It’s pretty clear that in addition to a global pandemic, we will experience a global economic meltdown. As state governments have stepped up to compensate for the lack of federal leadership, restaurants and bars, gyms and cultural venues have been ordered to close; many will be unable to weather weeks with no income, and will never re-open.
As one of my friends recently noted in a post to Facebook, Coronavirus would have battered the U.S. to some extent no matter who was in the White House. But an even minimally-competent President “would have listened to the public health experts and taken action, realizing that this was about the country and NOT about him (or her) self.”
And most likely, no other president would have rejected the WHO’s offer of test kits, or dismantled the global health emergency task force that was set up to deal with a pandemic. And no other president would likely brazenly lie on a daily basis even as his own administration’s experts contradicted his lies and imbecilic pronouncements. In short, Trump deserves “credit” for the extent of this catastrophe, the long and outrageous delay in taking action, and the economic meltdown that will result, along with many of the (probably unnecessary) deaths that we will see.
So–lesson number one: elections matter. Competent government matters. The character and intelligence of our elected officials matters.
Lesson number two: we’re connected to the rest of the world. Discussion of a “global pandemic” and “global economy” should give “America First” xenophobes pause. (It won’t, but it should.) We really are ALL in this together. Today’s world is far too connected for the walls, travel bans and reflexive hatred of darker “others” that characterize the Trumpublicans’ approach to the rest of the world. Not only are those measures useless and stupid, especially during a pandemic, they inevitably hurt America more than they hurt those “others.” Global cooperation is absolutely essential, not just to the management of health threats, but to efforts to mitigate economic damage.
Lesson number three is another take on the fact that we truly are all in this together–and by “this” I don’t just mean this particular health crisis or this specific economic threat. We humans are– in far more than the biblical sense–our brothers (and sisters) keepers. A government that is not structured on recognition of that fact will be unable to mitigate disasters.
What does that mean? It doesn’t mean abandonment of market economics, but it does mean provision of a far more robust and less haphazard social safety net.
In addition to the dire risk to individual health, side effects of the coronavirus pandemic are sure to include widespread economic hardship and uncertainty. If you experience these symptoms, you’re mostly on your own—as the virus reveals a grossly inadequate safety net and willfully ineffective political system that are poised to leave our most vulnerable workers bearing the brunt of the economic and social impact.
The self-quarantines and social distancing measures taken in response to COVID-19 are critical to keeping people safe by reducing exposure to the virus and slowing its spread. But we can already see the strains in our health care system that foreshadow even greater disruptions in the weeks and months to come. Similarly, we are witnessing the unavoidable side effects of social distancing: the reduced economic activity that ensues when masses of people stay home or avoid large gatherings. In turn, this translates into reduced demand for workers….
In the United States, 53 million people must get by on low wages, with median hourly earnings of $10.22. Some of the largest occupations employing these workers are also the most susceptible to the economic slowdown accompanying the virus’ spread: 5 million food service workers, 4.5 million retail clerks, and 2.5 million custodians and housekeepers. When college campuses empty out, when stadiums don’t host games, or when conferences are cancelled, it means that food servers, cooks, clerks, and housekeepers are out of work. And many low-wage workers and those in sales and service industries lack paid sick or vacation leave, which results in no earnings coming in at all.
The plutocrats who have been enriching themselves through public subsidies and tax cuts while disregarding the precarious state of low-wage workers are going to learn a very unpleasant lesson: when millions of people lose their ability to participate in the marketplace–when they no longer have the means to buy the widgets produced by the plutocrats’ factories or to shop for the services and products in which the wealthy have invested– stock portfolios and tax havens won’t shelter them from that storm.
Ultimately, fortunate people are only secure when everyone is secure.