By Vince Rinehart
I am inherently distrustful of the government, but that doesn’t mean that global pandemics do not exist. My understanding is that we do not know enough about the Coronavirus, so we should be taking precautions. Early studies suggest that it as at least twice as infectious and 10 times deadlier than the flu. Some data suggests that it is even more infectious and more deadly than that; possibly 3 times as infectious and 30 times deadlier than the flu. That’s pretty scary.
Is the “cure worse than the disease” as stated by some when it comes to shutting down the economy? If the virus is only as deadly as conservative estimates suggest, then we’re talking 200,000 to 1.7 million deaths on top of the ~60,000 who die from the flu (high end estimate per the CDC.) The CDC also estimates 2.4 to 21 million hospitalizations due to the pandemic. What kind of economic impact will those numbers have if we reopen the economy and increase the rate of infection, deaths and hospitalizations? It will be catastrophic. Far worse than strategically shutting down certain industries and implementing physical distancing, which will slow down the rate of infection, deaths and hospitalization to more manageable levels.
Working class wages have largely stagnated in the US, even as a productivity has risen. This indicates that the benefits of increased productivity are not being captured by working people, they are instead going to management, ownership, administration, and other professional classes. The very classes that benefit the most from our pre-pandemic economy are the only ones who can afford to work from home. The people who keep our transportation networks, distribution networks, farms and manufacturing systems running are the most vital to keeping the country fed and healthy right now, and they are the most at risk to infection and the most underpaid.
We need universal basic income, so that people can stay home and slow down the rate of infection. We also need workplaces to take measures to maintain physical distance and put worker safety first. This will mean increases in prices for goods and services. So be it. We need healthcare, and rent and mortgage relief, and a debt jubilee. Many of these costs are the vehicles by which the rich exploit the poor. It’s time to end these exploitative relationships. I don’t want to return to normal. Normal wasn’t that great anyway.