By Tina Phillips
The pandemic virus Covid-19 has made its presence known around the world and in the United States during the past few months. As we reel from the recent political letdowns, we face a new grim reality ahead. Donald Trump did not prepare for Covid-19 well, and, while we are not surprised by this, it doesn’t hurt any less to see the dire consequences.
Covid-19 has only exacerbated underlying structural and systemic issues we have had in the United States, which stem from capitalism. Now suddenly, vulnerabilities Bernie Sanders pointed to during his presidential race have come to bear. There is a lack of a universal healthcare system and a good social safety net. There is record level homelessness. With cuts to programs, such as food stamps, most people don’t have enough money to cover an emergency. Living paycheck to paycheck has made Covid-19 that much worse. We are being told to shelter in place, but some of us can’t afford not to work without support from the government.
The government response has not been very robust to say the least. Other developed countries are providing their citizens with monthly payments so they can stay home and still pay their bills. Americans got a small one time payment. Now, we are being told to open back up and go back to work. Even though there are still no effective treatments or a vaccine for this virus. The virus is rapidly spreading across the country, while most people can’t even get a simple test to see whether they have it.
And the costs of being treated, if you require a hospital stay, can be $35,000 or more. Now, we are hearing that, if the government agrees to monthly payments, they will require major sacrifices from us to do it. These would include cutting Social Security, the Payroll tax, and the capital gains tax. This would require us to borrow from our future earnings or retirement. In the meantime, we are forced back to work too early so that the “economy” can go back to work. Meaning corporate America needs us to make money for them.
The cruelty of capitalism is made clear. Pundits, some governors, and the President himself have suggested, we sacrifice our most vulnerable and elderly, so that we can, “get back to our way of life.” We ask, what kind of life did we even have before? And was that way of life sustainable or even desirable?
While we need to organize and pressure the government for a better response, and do the same in our workplaces, to ensure our safety as we struggle to get through the day. The stresses of everyday life have increased and people are scrambling to adjust to a new reality. Financial stress is definitely a factor, but so is emotional stress. It’s up to us to try to remain safe, while getting our needs met. A very delicate balance to try to strike in these tumultuous times.
Fear, panic, and grief are overwhelming many, and our mental and physical health is threatened everyday. There is so much uncertainty now, it’s so hard to cope with being told we must stay physically apart from each other. How do we organize and protest, if we can’t be together? How do we help each other or show solidarity during this incredibly trying time? How do we survive economically? When will this end?
There are so many unanswered questions. Many of us are just getting through the day. 40 million are now unemployed. Many people haven’t received their benefits yet because the system is so backed up. The future seems bleak and hope is hard to come by right now.
How do we lift each other up during these dark times? How do we motivate ourselves to find a path forward? We should keep asking such questions and turn to each other for the answers. How has capitalism made this worse? How can socialism make it better? That is the question we pose. It’s up to us to answer them collectively and move forward together.