Sick people, lacking paid leave, couldn’t afford to stop working. Others who lost their jobs lost their health insurance, too. White-collar workers on lockdown discovered they were counting on people without health care to endanger themselves by delivering food. Poor children began falling behind in school because their parents couldn’t afford internet access. African Americans in states like Louisiana began dying in numbers out of all proportion to their share of the population. The coronavirus was a serious blow. But it quickly became obvious that America’s pre-existing conditions had left the country far weaker and more vulnerable than it should have been.
I began with the words James Bennet, editorial writer for the New York Times, wrote April 9th because his paragraph succinctly covers circumstances I would have summarized to begin this article. Moreover, Bennet says nothing I did not know long before the pandemic. I hasten to admit that I was far from alone; many other persons were, are privy to this information: the millions whose plight it is to live in these circumstances; social workers, teachers and others who work in urban and sometimes rural communities, many “service” workers. But like me, they have no power to improve life for more than a few persons at a time and often only temporarily. The researchers could not make Donald Trump not cut their budget for the study of disease and pandemics. Evidently, neither could Congress. Or in the midst of the wheeling and dealing, Congress selected a greater good, most likely saying, “We can’t get it all.” The people with power return to their safe environments as the powerless continue suffering in their unsafe environments.
As Trump lavished hyperboles on the economy before the virus, the economy he takes credit for, I knew it was not great from a great many of us. No one asked the person rising at dawn and/or working until after midnight, “How are you faring in this economy?” No one asks the person who works two, three jobs to live, support a family comfortably. The people at the top made hundreds of thousands of dollars that they could choose to spend or save; the people at the bottom continued their trudge in drudgery choosing whether to pay rent, mortgage or utility bills, skipping meat or purchasing more of the not-so-lean ground beef, not looking at vegetables. Many persons in the position of going to college or have children going to college had to defer their and their children’s college or vocational school plans. Would any in the higher and high echelons of government have guessed so many Americans would need food, need food so soon? Could anyone have imagined so many food banks could be emptied so quickly? Recently our leaders have heard how many of us live paycheck to paycheck, but it meant nothing to most of them. Their checks continue to be deposited in their accounts as is expected. They may not know the amount of their mortgage or mortgages, rent, utilities, insurance, etc. Everything is always paid and paid on time. The President loves to mention how he accepts no check but never mentions how much wealthier he has become as a result of becoming President. When Trump so often lavished hyperboles on the economy, he was ignoring so many Americans as he has always done unless he was in a denigrating mode.
I did not want to write about coronavirus! The subject is everywhere—all or most stories on the front page of the Seattle Times, almost all of the TV channels. Of course, it is important. What tires me is the “discovery” of so many problems in the United States. Of course, there are problems, big problem—pre-conditions. Americans who do not have at least $100,000.00 annually coming into their households, without inheritances, and know nothing about the social service sector of our country, live high above or away from the urban centers or rural sections are not affected by much of the negatives.
I look at the persons on television, for instance. As they recount the news, they continue to live, for the most part, as they live: pay remains the same, health insurance, paid sick leave, and the list continues. “Essential workers” have always been essential but never valued. Essential workers are being recognized more than ever before. More people in more places—especially those not in the so-called “essential workers” group, whose children, nieces, and nephews certainly won’t be in this group—have noticed these persons for the first time other than, perhaps, a present of some sort. Or a “big” tip. The television, newsprint, signs, salutations are great, well-deserved, but they do not remove these persons from danger nor put more money in their paychecks. Sincerity requires that we provide much better care.
Friends know I say the Imperialist has no clothes. I say the curtain no longer covers Oz—before President Barack Obama said it in his commencement address!
More than anything I want to hear the following.
Everyone will have shelter.
Everyone will have healthcare including those who cannot pay. (This includes the mentally ill. No one knows how many of the homeless are mentally ill. This includes persons addicted to prescription and illegal drugs. Unhealthy addiction is unhealthy addition.)
Everyone will have more than simply adequate education—this includes computers and wi-fi. Education from pre-k to diploma, a certificate, a two or four-year degree.
Everyone will have a job with a living wage.
The infrastructure of the U. S., especially bridges and roads, will be repaired, rebuilt and NOT WITH SHODDY MATERIALS!
I realize this is expensive. I also realize that the U. S. prints money, gives money, billions. Little is ever said about the Pentagon budget. On occasion the Pentagon has asked for less and been given more! Our foreign aid budget is a staple for many countries—some use the money wisely; others do not. I refuse to check how much we have spent in the past eighteen years as we fight never-ending wars decreed by a handful of individuals, persons who often do not represent “the people,” persons who were elected from countless gerrymandered districts.
Not doing the above is more expensive than all of the above! You know the adage “A stitch in time saves nine.” Imagine how different the response might have been had not so many industries had not been outsourced so millionaires could make more millions. Imagine how different our response to the pandemic would have been had everyone had insurance. Imagine how many social problems could be solved if the stress in more parents’ lives were dramatically reduced. The birth rate and crime rate could be significantly reduced. Preventing mobility in the lower classes eats away at the classes above.
Make changes for selfish reasons! Just make the changes that allow more members of our society to live comfortably rather than desperately. When people can get the basics—food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, a job/career—adequately, they encounter less stress and may become more productive members of society.
More and more I repeat the better off we are, the better off we all are. Most individuals who work in civic, community organizations see this possibility. We have had a few presidents, congresses, local, state, and federal leaders who also envision a much better world and work to make it a reality. We must get others as soon as possible if we ever plan to make the United States of America the great idea it is on paper. I still believe.
~Georgia S. McDade