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COVID-19 & America’s Extreme Solidarity Deficit

“…we all live in the same country now: that of capitalism.” – Bong Joon-ho, director of the 2020 Oscar Best Picture Award film, “Parasite”

“Mr. Trump has declined to use his authority to commandeer private industry to produce medical supplies, counting instead on a market-driven response. – New York Times

“We learned from the AIDS epidemic that infection traces the routes of inequality.” – Kenyon Farrow, Senior Editor of theBody.com, to Laura Flanders – The Laura Flanders Show

Inequality in America is about to pass its greatest stress test in how the country responds to COVID-19. Already right-wing Christian fundamentalists and conspiracy theorists link coronavirus to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and other earth-destroying calamities from the biblical New Testament’s Book of Revelation. Remarkably unprepared and caught flat-footed for a variety of “failure to execute” partisan motivations wasting months of invaluable emergency response “roads not taken”, public policy discourse and decision making, like the virus itself, will get worse before getting better.

On the ground in the COVID-19 mean streets for the secular world, the big scare facing frontline healthcare workers confronted with ceaseless life and death decisions, starting with their own, connects directly to public arena leadership by example and how that translates to medical life-saving equal access rights and realities. Unforgiveable shortages of hand sanitizers, ventilators, face masks, respirators, hospital beds, pandemic testing across urban and rural geographies, and a vaccine that works for all (and in time to avoid unnecessary contagion and death) peels back the curtain on the best government and life quality only the most privileged and wealthiest Americans can afford for themselves. (“How the rich jump the line for testing and treatment” – Bloomberg)

With ideology trumping reality, ratings-calculated media finger pointing and political electioneering blame gaming on high alert, resultant scars and disfigured lives will be bipartisan and hard, if not impossible to heal. Similar to the net nationwide unequal effects of the 2008 Great Recession taxpayer-funded bailouts and 2017/2018 Tax Reform Act, politics and policy are inter-contaminating determined by place-based economic class preconditions, privilege and access to influence.

The 2020 rapidly viral, COVID 19 “fourth horseman riding a pale horse and representing pestilence and death” will not countenance a repeat of 2008-2018 “too big to fail” fiscal politics. Back to a future of “homeowners rescuing bankers while bankers abandoned homeowners”, red versus blue state favored corporations, elected and appointed officials using public funds to feather their own nests, or any large-scale arbitrary public disbursement without fully measurable and transparent public oversight will not cut populist mustard in the face of widespread pandemic death and civil society destitution. Even selfishness has a shelf life.

In this scenario, character does matter. Those balking at a proposal for the U.S. Treasury unilaterally to pick massive public aid recipient business winners and losers still recoil from the Great Recession’s massive foreclosing on distressed homeowners including U.S. military veterans serving their country overseas. Now is not the time to reauthorize clever plume-tail foxes scheming how they would choose to redistribute taxpayer eggs back to economically disarmed, individual rural poultry farms.

So that an unsavory, dishonest past does not become prologue, today’s well-oiled public coronavirus clashing cymbals cacophony of deep-pocket special interests must yield both to transparent spiritual as well as practical principles in descending order of urgent need. For once, America can practice the art of financial justice solutions above the ledger, not below, in five clean progressive steps. Globally and domestically, our era of self-entitled, self-congratulatory pharisees may, like Nigel Farage’s final bloviation to the European Parliament earlier this year, have its social media mike cut off because victims outnumber consumers.

First, massive public aid belongs to COVD19 victims and their families: those at greatest patient risk and the healthcare institutions directly positioned to offer succor including to every healthcare worker in harm’s way. Second, let’s fund the specific supply chains including the science most directly connected to meeting, containing and healing COVID-19 but with strict and transparent metrics. Bailouts, stock repurchases, corporate bonuses and other forms of greed-aggrandizement in all its mutations must be characterized upfront as prosecutable criminal and civil offenses. Third, both religious creeds and consumer-driven macro data show that only by ensuring economic survival for those already clinging precariously to America’s lowest and meanest socioeconomic rungs will “the rise of the rest of us” be possible. Fourth, the best value per publicly reinvested dollar belongs to profitable, small, local businesses who, in this scenario, will publicly obligate through lowered management compensation to maintain and increase workforce salaries and personnel as well as purchase from local supply chains, with public aid also conditioned on visible performance standards.

Fifth, match efficient social distancing measures with uplifting solidarity infusion values and practices so that “e pluribus Unum” in the time of Coronavirus resets a civic society America that has clearly lost its way. This last but so important process can start by absolutely guaranteeing free, inclusive and transparent USA November 2020 elections practices without any foreign interferences. If Lincoln could achieve this with an ongoing Civil War up for grabs in1864, so can we one-hundred-fifty-four years later.

To summarize:

  1. Funding all the aid it takes to victims, their families, hospitals, clinics and frontline healthcare workers.
  2. Funding all the right, performance-based supply chain materials, including the science, to contain and heal the virus.
  3. Funding the economic and health survival of all of America’s growing precariat.
  4. Funding massive investment in America’s small businesses who agree at least to maintain and with incentives to grow their workforces and to buy locally.
  5. Funding to match nationwide social distancing with concrete, uplifting solidarity practices and measures.

Such an easy to understand, bumper sticker legible, five-step approach reconnects everyday people to everyday government, avoids more abuse and takes the politics of greed out of emergency public policy. Wall Streeters, the airlines that discriminated non-stop against America’s economy class, and every other corporate rent-seeking, white collar welfare recipient class, gorge-feeding at the public trough for so long and through so much accumulated power cannot be allowed to pay to play this time around. The virus will not permit it even though our political leaders continue to succumb to their “personal business as usual” instincts, backed up by a U.S. Supreme Court conservative majority intent on putting a more diverse, rising majority-minority America “in its place”. (http://1worker1vote.org/bipartisan-mortal-apologies-to-gettysburg/).

Now that the COVID-19 civic lockdown is compelling religious participation to transition to social media platforms, rising solidarity practice may surge online building on the biblical promise: “He that troubles his own house shall inherit the wind; and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart” (Proverbs 11:19).

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