Many ways to care

17Apr20

Let me see if I understand.

Either you want everybody to live under lockdown indefinitely (if you call that living) or you care more about Wall Street and corporate profits than human life.

Have I got that about right?

If you express any concern about the economy, it’s not because you hope small business owners, who have invested their hearts, souls and life savings, can salvage something of their hopes and dreams.

No. You’re literally “a murderer” who cares more about corporations than lives. Because everyone knows that small business owners are nothing but corporate tycoons and robber barons in waiting.

If you point out the increased mortality rates associated with poverty and economic depression due to suicide, domestic abuse, drug overdoses and alcoholism (the liquor stores are doing fine), it means you don’t care about people who are dying with the virus, because you are clearly incapable of caring about two things at once.

Thankfully, we have economic experts to remind us that the economy requires living people in order to function. I’m no economist, but I believe that for the economy to function those living people have to have places to spend money. And before they can spend money, they need to have a way to earn money.

Under the current lockdown, tens of millions of people have neither, and the shut-it-down-indefinitely crowd doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to see that change. But if you express any eagerness to get commerce back up sooner rather than later, you’re painted as a heartless SOB who cares more about the economy than public health.

As if the two weren’t inextricably intertwined.

It’s easy for those with jobs at ivy covered institutions that allow them the luxury of working from home to lecture the masses about the need to stay put and be quiet. But it’s hard to wait on tables or cut hair from home. And the tips aren’t that good. And your family still needs to eat. And the rent still needs to be paid.

Claiming that people talking about the economy only care about Wall Street profits is a red herring inside a straw man. The people at risk here aren’t the rich. The rich will be fine. Big corporations will be fine.

The people at risk are waiters, hairdressers, landscapers and other ordinary people who work for a living. You know, the working people that our betters care so deeply about – in the abstract. Job loss has massive health – even life and death – consequences, and millions of people have lost their jobs.

But if you talk about that, you clearly want everyone to get sick and die.

There isn’t going to be anything close to 100 percent protection from the virus until there’s a vaccine and there won’t be a vaccine for at least 18 months. As much as some people would like to keep the economy shut down until then (or at least until Nov. 3, 2020), we can’t do that. The health consequences of such a long-term economic shutdown would be unfathomable.

We’ve been shut down for a month and due to projected revenue shortfalls, the town is already facing $2.5 million in budget cuts. What will the consequences be for the town of another month or more of no economic activity? Would we have to lay off teachers? Police? Firefighters?

The idea that those eager to open up the economy so people can get back to work, feed their families and pay the rent don’t value human life is a loathsome sentiment rooted in a kind of smug sanctimony that most people can’t even comprehend.

We are an intelligent species. I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We need to find a way to open the economy AND offer reasonable health protections.

That middle ground is our only option.

[This column originally appeared in the April 16, 2020 Wakefield Daily Item.]



3 Responses to “Many ways to care”

  1. 1 Tony

    Excellent column, Mark. Massachusetts better hope NH doesn’t open before us or a lot of entertainment $$$’s will be flooding the Granite State.

  2. 2 Carole Scovel

    Thank you Mark, another wonderful article! I agree.

  3. 3 Dennis Clancy

    All great points Mark. It’s already gone on too long and much of the economic damage is already either irreparable or years from recovering. The tunnel vision among us can’t put things in perspective. They never think about unintended consequences, they merely emote and FEEL we should conform to them. My first concern was the damage to the economy and people’s lives as you rightly pointed out.


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