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COVID-19: What is our National Social Responsibility?

The “Social Distancing” that will get us through this health crisis needs “Socially Responsible” economic counterparts that establish new ways for us to live, work, learn and care for one another and this planet.

“Nothing should go back to normal. Normal wasn’t working.” (Instagram March 2020)

The COVID-19 health crisis that we are in the early stages of has all the signs of plunging us into an economic depression worse than the Great Depression while stripping bare the priorities and inequities of our current economic system.

During the Great Depression 1929-1939 the highest rate of U.S. unemployment was 24.9%. In March 2020 unemployment swelled to 10 million in two weeks. The Fed went further saying that, “Coronavirus job losses could total 47 million, unemployment rate may hit 32%”.

Recently The New York Times Editorial Board asked: “Why is America Choosing Mass Unemployment?” “A number of European countries, after similarly failing to control the spread of the virus, and thus being forced to lock down large parts of their economies, have chosen to protect jobs. Denmark has agreed to compensate Danish employers for up to 90 percent of their workers’ salaries. In the Netherlands, companies facing a loss of at least 20 percent of their revenue can similarly apply for the government to cover 90 percent of payroll. And the United Kingdom announced that it would pay up to 80 percent of the wage bill for as many companies as needed the help, with no cap on the total amount of public spending.” Source March 26, 2020: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/opinion/covid-economy-unemployment-europe.html

Why, while in countries like Denmark and Germany, governments are paying companies to keep workers employed so they can seamlessly restart their economies, why aren’t our businesses doing the same? Even with the, “The recently passed $2.2 trillion federal-rescue package effectively pays many companies, particularly small businesses, to keep employees on payrolls and pay them accordingly.” (Source: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-soaring-us-unemployment-rate-could-approach-great-depression-era-levels-2020-04-03) this is not happening! And where are the safeguards regarding how workers will be rehired or how the “bailout” money can be used?

“American companies have long fought to maximize their freedom to shed workers during economic downturns, and American economists have tended to agree, arguing that easy separation facilitates adjustments in the allocation of resources, allowing weaker businesses to shrink and stronger businesses to grow. This is a dubious argument even in normal times. The American economy has outpaced Europe, and the freedom to fire workers may well be a factor. But the benefits have accrued primarily to shareholders. The European model has been better for workers, who have experienced faster income growth than in the United States.” Source “Why is America Choosing Mass Unemployment?” March 26, 2020: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/opinion/covid-economy-unemployment-europe.html

Why have the President and corporate lobby pushed for prematurely ending “Social Distancing” and “Stay in Place” directives that reduce the spread of the virus, even as the virus is killing thousands of Americans?

“What is our National Social Responsibility”? “We the people” or “We the corporation”?

Trillions of dollars are being allocated again to support a corporate America that is said to provide the jobs for people to come back to. In reality this has been a means to streamline businesses: meaning less workers and more shareholder value. Businesses will only rehire some workers and then require them to work harder, longer and more efficiently.

After recent recessions studies show that the displaced workers are then adrift, their family is at risk and their children more limited. The American middle class shrinks again and the gulf that divides us widens. In this case with still millions of displaced workers and members of families who have lost one of the tens of thousands of wage earners who have died from this virus who will buy their products, use their services? How can America have a recovery when millions have no income?

“We’d all be better off if the government had helped those workers keep their jobs instead.” Source “Why is America Choosing Mass Unemployment?” March 26, 2020: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/opinion/covid-economy-unemployment-europe.html

“What is our National Social Responsibility”? Unfortunately it will be sickness and mass unemployment that will push us to decide.

During the Great Depression it was the establishment of Social Security. “Social insurance, as conceived by President Roosevelt, would address the permanent problem of economic security for the elderly by creating a work-related, contributory system in which workers would provide for their own future economic security through taxes paid while employed. Thus it was an alternative  both to reliance on welfare and to radical changes in our capitalist system.” Source: Historical Background And Development Of Social Security https://www.ssa.gov/history/briefhistory3.html

With the Social Security Administration infrastructure and supportive funding ammendments to the ‘‘Coronavirus Aid, Relief, andEconomic Security Act’’ or the ‘‘CARES Act’’ we can establish a "Base Income National Social Security for All” program for all Americans. 

The idea of a base income for all Americans is not new :

1929: “... As America slipped into economic depression following the Crash of 1929, unemployment exceeded 25%; about 10,000 banks failed; the Gross National Product declined from $105 billion in 1929 to only $55 billion in 1932….” (1) “The decade of the 1930s found America facing the worst economic crisis in its modern history. Millions of people were unemployed.” (1) “...A nominal Democrat, Huey Long was a radical populist. He wanted the government to confiscate the wealth of the nation's rich and privileged. He called his program Share Our Wealth. It called upon the federal government to guarantee every family in the nation an annual income of $5,000, so they could have the necessities of life, including a home, a job, a radio and an automobile.” Source: Historical Background And Development Of Social Security https://www.ssa.gov/history/briefhistory3.html

2020: “Andrew Yang’s $1,000-a-Month Idea May Have Seemed Absurd Before. Not Now. … “ “This thing is going to pass,” he said. “And it’s going to pass for a very obvious reason: Money in our hands is vital to prevent our economy from collapsing.” … Mr. Yang championed putting money in the pockets of every American adult during his presidential campaign. ... To be sure, fear of an impending global pandemic resulting from a novel coronavirus was not the reason Mr. Yang spent months insisting the federal government provide American adults with a universal basic income of $1,000 per month. But a global pandemic has arrived. And the fallout from the outbreak has plunged the country into a grim and uncertain reality. So only now — with millions of Americans facing the prospect of no work and wondering how they will pay the bills — have proposals similar to Mr. Yang’s signature policy prescription gained wide, bipartisan approval. In the sort of political turnabout that may only be possible when society faces dire need, giving free money to Americans suddenly appears not only rational but critically necessary to many Democrats and key Republicans.” Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/us/politics/universal-basic-income-andrew-yang.html

Chances are as individuals and families we will not come out of this crisis better off economically because of the trillions of dollars “invested” in America unless we demand it.

Demand a “Base Income National Social Security for All Program” be established and funded using the Social Security infrastructure to direct recovery trillions to the “people”. This recovery will require a lasting program, not just a one time $1,200 check that won’t even cover a single month of shelter, food and utilities.

Demand “Medicare for All” Not just some promise that virus tests would be free?

Demand funding for implementing Green New Deal sustainable living programs. We don’t need more suspension of environmental regulations so corporate America can make more profits without regard for the health of Americans.

Demand we not go back to a “normal” that wasn’t working.

“We the people!” can demand “Socially Responsible” programs be established so that when we are all healthy again, “We the people!” will get America going again! Stronger than ever, together, better.


Bernard Re, Jr.
April 3, 2020





Comments

  1. From: The Atlantic Monthly: April 2, 2020

    The Economy Is Ruined. It Didn’t Have to Be This Way.

    The government can immediately strengthen this program in two ways—with more marketing and more money. First, the administration should advertise the program, repeatedly, publicly urging companies to use government money to continue to pay their workers. The message should be: You have a patriotic and moral duty to hold on to your workers during this national crisis, and the government has a patriotic and moral duty to pay you to do it.

    Second, Congress should return to session immediately to double the loan guarantees to more than $600 billion. That is approximately equal to 11 weeks of payroll for all companies with fewer than 500 employees in the United States.

    Instead, we are already in danger of moving in the opposite direction. Instead of rushing a larger small-business bailout through Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has criticized Democrats who are calling for follow-up legislation.

    If Congress does not move quickly, more ghastly history-making awaits us. At the height of the Great Depression, in 1933, approximately 25 percent of Americans were out of work. In the past two weeks, 6 percent of Americans filed for jobless benefits. Today, we are dealing with a light-speed recession. But after two months of this, the word recession might not be sufficient.

    Source: https://amp-theatlantic-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article/609334/?amp_js_v=0.1#origin=https%3A%2F%2Fnews.google.com&prerenderSize=1&visibilityState=visible&paddingTop=0.01&history=0&p2r=0&horizontalScrolling=0&storage=1&development=0&log=0&cap=cid&csi=0&cid=1

    ReplyDelete
  2. From Fox News: April 3, 2020

    Bernie Sanders calls for $2G monthly payments, rent freeze in next stimulus package

    Many Democrats, plus Sanders, have argued the one-time payment was not nearly enough to help workers.

    "We must provide direct, recurring, monthly payments to every person in the country, regardless of income, tax filing, or immigration status. That means reaching every person in the United States, including the undocumented, the homeless, the unbanked, and young adults excluded from the CARES ACT," Sanders stressed in a post on his campaign website.

    Source: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/bernie-sandersr-2g-monthly-payments-rent-freeze-next-stimulus-package

    ReplyDelete
  3. 4/12/20: “... The Pope, who is known for his focus and powerful advocacy on behalf of the world's poorest and most marginalized people, devoted significant portions of both his Easter address at the Vatican and his letter to social movement leaders to highlighting the plight of the working class in this crisis. "This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out," The Pope wrote in his letter. "It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights." ...” More at https://www.businessinsider.com/pope-francis-it-might-be-time-to-consider-universal-basic-wage-2020-4

    ReplyDelete
  4. Related at https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/05/18/opinions/coronavirus-recession-economy-public-health-trump-sachs/index.html

    ReplyDelete

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