COVID-19 is pointing out the fragility of a nation that judges how well it is doing based primarily on the size of its economy. A microscopic virus has put the world that we know on hold so that we can clearly see what we have been creating. The decision not to invest in public health and welfare because it was not profitable has come back around to mock us. It was believed that a better return on investment would be to borrow money at low to no interest rates from the Federal Reserve (taxpayers) or lay off workers to increase share prices for the stockholders, at least for the quarter, and then buy back the stocks. Now we are in the middle of a pandemic and we are scrambling to produce and distribute the necessary supplies to protect the average American worker or the critical medical staff that is on the front line of the wave of illness. We are discovering that we do not have enough hospitals, beds, or lifesaving equipment. We are struggling to effectively test for the virus.
The penny wise, pound foolish focus on growing the economy has left us unprepared for the pandemic and finds some morally challenged. A few political leaders are seriously discussing sacrificing lives during the pandemic for the sake of the economy. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick of Texas said on the Tucker Carlson Show, “…so your know my message is that let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living, let’s be smart about it and those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country. Don't do that. Don't ruin this great American dream…” The further loss of life is acceptable if it will keep the economy going.
Workers are being threatened to return to unsafe work environments, without any safety improvements being made to lower risks for them. "If you're an employer and you offer to bring your employee back to work and they decide not to, that's a voluntary quit," Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said April 24, 2020. "Therefore, they would not be eligible for the unemployment money." Reynolds also said employers who have workers that refuse to return should file a report with Iowa Workforce Development.
Employees do not want to risk infecting themselves, their families, co-workers, or neighbors by working in an unprotected, test-free environment. If they get sick, they are on their own. If they die their families are on their own. However, big businesses aren’t shy about asking Congress to protect them from lawsuits while they demand workers come back to work environments where there is no national, mandated guideline for reopening a “safe” working space. Workers are unfairly being asked to carry the brunt of the burden concerning the pandemic.
The mantra of economic growth is so loud that warning signs of its self-destruction were ignored. The most obvious sign being the wealth gap. We have been told over and over that the US economy is the best in the world, that it is the best it has ever been, yet 49% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings and unable to handle a financial emergency of over $400 without borrowing. The virus is exposing the holes in our system and we need to look at them. We can no longer sustain our previous momentum. We are being forced to slow down. We are being forced to examine what it is that we value. Can we have a flourishing economy if mass numbers of people are vulnerable to illness? Can we safely get the economy going again when we do not have the ability to aggressively test for a highly contagious disease? How do you re-open the economy without taking the necessary precautions to do so safely? We cannot have a thriving economy if too many people are desperately ill and in hospitals that do not have the necessary equipment and staff to care for them? Never mind the fact that over 27 million Americans are without health insurance through loss of employment or are unable to afford the high cost of care even with a job. Does this sound like the hallmarks of a great nation?
We want this to be over so that we can go back to normal and yet normal is what helped get us here to begin with. The Corona Virus is not responsible for our unpreparedness. There are none so blind as those who will not see.