In recent weeks, any notion of what is politically and economically realistic has vanished in the face of the rapidly spreading coronavirus and the economic collapse that this pandemic will certainly bring. To protect lives and livelihoods, governments around the world are taking action that would have been considered unaffordable or even impossible last month.
To protect lives and livelihoods, governments around the world are taking action that would have been considered unaffordable or even impossible last month.
In Italy, people do not have to pay their mortgages. In Spain, all hospitals and private health care providers were nationalized. In France, all taxes, rents and utility bills are suspended for some companies and the government has announced that it is ready to nationalize businesses that go bankrupt. Even in the United States, cities and states are put an end to evictions, California is finally planning to try at least shelter its 108,000 homeless people and even the former president of the GOP house, Newt Gingrich, is calling for a mobilization in the style of the Second World War.
For several years, Americans have questioned whether they should abandon the status quo and embrace a “political revolution”, with centrists and conservatives arguing that radical policies such an approach would cause potentially irreparable harm to the economy. Such policies would require political and economic change – but they are not impossible, as we see now. And beyond the bigger examples, like universal healthcare, this crisis also reveals all the smaller rules, regulations and blind spots that capitalism and bad governance allows for reasons ranging from mundane laziness to cruelty.
We need to respond to COVID-19 in a way that centers on the most vulnerable people in our society, many of whom are also most exposed to the virus. However, we also need to think about how we come out of this crisis: are we just reviving the status quo once the virus is cured, or are we taking this opportunity to build a society that refocuses on improvement? of the lives of vulnerable people rather than the rich, and facing the threat of the climate crisis that is sweeping towards us?
Democrats and even some Republicans are calling for free COVID-19 test and treatment, which naturally leads many people to wonder why they should only get free coverage for the coronavirus and not for other injuries and conditions. COVID-19 could kill a lot of people, but the existing private insurance system is still forcing more than 500,000 people in medical bankruptcy every year and kills up to 45,000 people who do not have access to health care. Why are these deaths acceptable, when COVID-19 must be stopped at all costs?
Likewise, $ 1.5 trillion cancellation student debt seems much more realistic when the Federal Reserve is inject $ 1.5 trillion into the stock market, launch new rounds of quantitative easingand lower interest rates. The White House and Congress are also preparing a economic recovery plan which is expected to exceed $ 1 trillion to respond to the downturn in the economy.
The response from the private sector has been mixed. Some internet providers are lifting of data caps on broadband services and pledging not to interrupt people who can’t pay their bills, but it just shows how data caps exist mainly to increase profits in the first place. Tech companies allow corporate employees to work from home, while Uber drivers, Amazon warehouse workers, Google contractors and employees like them, who often receive less pay and less. ‘benefits. to complain about being put in danger by lack of support.
Additionally, some large companies are offering sick leave for those who must self-isolate due to COVID-19, but many of these policies are temporary and illustrate the inadequacy of benefits and support available to the millions of workers they employ, particularly the low-wage front-line workers who are now essential across the country.
Once COVID-19 subsides and people can start leaving their homes, many industries may have collapsed or survive thanks to government support – the airline industry being the first. If China and Italy are any indication, carbon emissions and air pollution will have decreased. We can choose whether we speed things up in a way that continues to threaten our future and our health by fueling the climate crisis, or we can make the necessary investments and change the regulatory framework to move away from fossil fuels while ensuring that what our workers have a future.
When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., and Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass., Proposed their Green New Deal in February 2019, the most likely implementation of which would be cost $ 16.3 trillion over 10 years, it was struck off as “green dreamBy House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and ridiculed by republicans who accused him was overpriced and un-American. Yet his policies would offer guaranteed employment in the event of dismissal, retraining support for many workers, and a mass investment program not only to boost the economy, but also move it away from fossil fuels.
We can choose whether we speed things up in a way that continues to threaten our future and our health by fueling the climate crisis, or we can make the necessary investments and change the regulatory framework.
But even as we debate these changes on a larger scale, the crisis opens our eyes to the unnecessary damage and hardship created by policies that should have changed long ago. We already know that housing for the homeless is cheaper and more efficient than leaving them on the streets, so why has it taken so long for most governments to do something?
Likewise, America’s racist criminal justice system jails more people than any other country in the world, and the lack of action to change it now leads experts to fear that the horrific conditions inside prisons accelerate the spread of COVID-19. This means that prisons should be release the detainees who are elderly, pregnant and suffering from chronic illnesses that make them most vulnerable to the virus, bearing in mind that inmates are not a monolith; some may still need rehabilitation, but there is many people behind bars who could be safely released without posing a threat to the public, including a growing number of those who are there simply because they cannot afford to pay bail.
We are also now seeing that some of the workers most essential to running society are not the billionaires and CEOs, but the lowest paid grocery clerks, delivery drivers, cleaners and warehouse workers. , have few social benefits and work in hazardous conditions. and who every time they try to make small improvements in their standard of living are met with derision. Minnesota and Vermont already have reclassification of grocery store workers as emergency workers so they can get free child care, but don’t they deserve more than that if they are so essential?
Crises have been the catalyst for better societies in the past. In Sweden, the Spanish flu of 1918 was part of the justification for the welfare state they are known for today. In the United Kingdom, the end of World War II brought the Labor Party election, which set up the government-run Single Payer National Health Service. Even in the United States, it was in the aftermath of the Great Depression that President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the New Deal after being pushed by unions, a burgeoning left and grassroots groups across the country. The same can happen today.
With the restrictions of false political realism out the window, we must now ask ourselves whether we are ready to accept the wrongs and inequalities that we have become so accustomed to, or take this opportunity to address them once and for all. The decision should be easy.