Some days it feels like we are living in the twilight zone.
As I write this article, coronavirus cases are rapidly increasing across the United States. By the end of this day, there will be over 70,000 new cases of the virus, most of them clustered in the Sun Belt and Deep South.
That is a new record for daily cases, but at this point, that’s old news. Since mid-June, records for daily cases have been set almost daily. I wouldn’t be surprised if today’s record is broken within the week.
At the same time, the death rate is beginning to tick up, hospitals are reaching capacity in Texas, and ICU beds are being maxed out in Arizona. Millions are unemployed, millions more have lost their health insurance, and we are looking at millions in permanent job loss. And yet, our Senators and Congressmen are relaxing at home, and will be until July 17th.
What the hell is going on?
I’ll tell you what the hell is going on. We are seeing the en masse abdication of responsibility by our legislative and executive branches of government. If this were the military, all 535 members of Congress, The President, and his Cabinet would be charged with dereliction of duty.
As we all know, the buck stops with the President, but the buck is nowhere to be seen around Trump these days. Donald Trump’s initial response, though still not nearly good enough, was originally helpful. He held daily press conferences that projected leadership and unity. He waived student debt loan payments and put up a temporary moratorium on evictions. But like George W. Bush landing on an aircraft carrier, Trump has since declared an extremely premature victory, ending the halt on the economy and ushering people back to work, despite it being unsafe to do so. Now Trump is only making things worse, first by turning the virus into a culture war, and second by stupidly dawdling by and hoping the virus will go away instead of taking action.
Of course, the Trump Administration’s principled and stalwart stonewall of further economic aid could not have been possible without the complicity of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. After quickly passing the CARES Act through the Senate, which saw bailouts in the hundreds of billions of dollars to big business while offering crumbs to working Americans in the form of a one-time $1200 check and a capped small business loan program, Mitch now refuses to pass the second stimulus HEROES Act, choosing instead to flap his gums about the “debt” and the “deficit”.
Speaking of The HEROES Act, Nancy Pelosi is not free from blame, either. She is the architect of the big business bailouts of the CARES Act, and has included some very suspicious giveaways in The HEROES Act, including bailouts for lobbying firms and repealing tax caps that would overwhelmingly favor the wealthy. But more than anything, I expected better from Nancy Pelosi. I understand why the Republicans are not supporting more expansive government programs during the pandemic, but what excuse do the Democrats have? Pelosi should be doing layups around the Republicans right now. She should be bragging about all the good things she has passed in the House, and lambasting the Republicans 24/7 for blocking it. She should be calling on Congress to go back to work, like the rest of America right now.
Instead, once again, the best and brightest ideas are coming from the populist fringes of both parties. Democratic legislators like Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington support a universal basic income during the pandemic, while Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri supports a plan for the government to pay 80% of all wages so that unemployment stays low, and workers stay home. Other good ideas includes Medicare-For-Covid and freezing rent payments.
Unfortunately, such ideas have fallen on deaf ears, and as it stands America sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to similarly wealthy European countries, which have far lower infection, death, and unemployment rates.
But again, what did our legislators expect? You order people to stay at home, often under penalty of law, but then give them nothing to subsist on? What did you think was going to happen? The only thing going away is money in people’s banks; their bills are still piling up. At some point, people just throw their hands up and say “Screw it,” and that’s when they start ignoring lockdowns, going back to work, and avoiding social distancing.
The most important thing to remember is that this was all preventable. We could’ve had people stay at home safely, but Congress has forced the hand of millions of Americans, who now have the false “choice” of going homeless, or getting sick. This is on your hands, Congress. The blood and suffering of thousands is on your hands.
Come election time, let’s make sure to unseat these cravens and replace them with progressives who will actually care about us in crisis.
Featured Image by Andrew Harnik, AP Photo