In the Midst of this Disastrous Failure of Public Policy – ‘There Should Be Shame’

by on March 30, 2020 · 5 comments

in Health, Under the Perfect Sun

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is Right

By Jim Miller

Last week in the lead up to the passage of the massive stimulus bill by Congress, I argued that “Whichever package emerges today from the Congress will not be nearly enough to help the majority of Americans weather this crisis.

Trump’s hesitance to use the tools of government to take more effective collective action is a predictable product of thirty years of rightwing ideological assault against not just ‘big government,’ but the government period.”  Instead of band aids, I noted, “the only effective answer is massive government action and spending on things that will help protect the health of Americans and save them economically in a bottom up fashion.”

Of course, what we got from Congress was bailouts and band aids, and it took the fierce efforts of progressives in the House and Senate to prevent the band aids for working people from being stripped from the package.   And while it is fair to note that little more could be expected with a Republican Senate and White House, it has to be pointed out, as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez did on the House floor, that the process that led to this package and much of what ended up in it was “shameful.”

More specifically, the Congresswoman outlined how Democrats were forced to choose between giving no aid to the suffering or giving in to more corporate bailouts :

“There should be shame [about] what the Senate majority supported.  Crumbs for our families. And the option that we have is to either let them suffer with nothing, or to allow this greed and billions of dollars, which will be leveraged into trillions of dollars, to contribute to the largest income inequality gap in our future. There should be shame about what was fought for in this bill, and the choices that we have to make.”

Good for her.

And it didn’t take long for Trump to prove AOC right.  In his signing statement he made it abundantly clear that the administration would not comply with transparency and oversight provisions when it came time to dole out hundreds of millions to the corporate sector .  Was anyone surprised? Certainly not.

In the wake of the passage of the stimulus, the New York Times editorial board chimed in as well  with a spot on analysis of how, “the sudden collapse of employment was not inevitable. It is instead a disastrous failure of public policy that has caused immediate harm to the lives of millions of Americans, and that is likely to leave a lasting mark on their future, on the economy and on our society.”

The Times observed that even after the first failure on the public health policy front, the federal government could have chosen “to prioritize employment by paying companies to keep workers on the job during the period of lockdown.” To illustrate their point, the Times pointed out that rather than doling out meager resources to workers as we have seen here in the U.S., many European governments took a distinctly different course of action:

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.

But, as we saw in Congress last week, that kind of worker-first policy just doesn’t happen in the United States anymore.  Indeed, the entirely disastrous federal response is simply the logical consequence of the last several decades of neoliberalism.  This is who we are now. As Noam Chomsky succinctly observed of our current crisis :

There’s a concept of economy and efficiency. You should have just enough beds for what you need tomorrow. You shouldn’t prepare for the future. Right? So the hospital system’s crashing. Simple things like tests which you can easily get in a country like South Korea, you can’t get here. So the coronavirus, which should be controlled in a functioning society, is going out of hand here. We’re just not ready for it. What we’re good at, what our leaders are good at, and have been very good at for the last 40 years, is pouring money into the pockets of the rich and the corporate executives while everything else crashes.

AOC is right: for this and for the ongoing spectacle of narcissism, corruption, and cruelty in Washington, there should be shame.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar thequeenisalizard March 30, 2020 at 11:35 am

EAT. THE. RICH.

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Avatar Scott March 31, 2020 at 4:02 pm
Avatar Sam March 31, 2020 at 4:02 pm

Wow, you got to use your catch phrase again! So original!

Perhaps we would be better off eating the poor sine they are the ones who are using up all the resources without paying their fair share!

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Avatar embo March 31, 2020 at 4:25 pm

I wonder what you taste like.

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Avatar Sam April 2, 2020 at 1:40 pm

You’re wife!

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