If America learns nothing more from these dark times, here are seven lessons it should learn from 2020:
1 Workers Keep America Running, Not Billionaires
American workers have been forced to risk their lives to provide essential services even when their employers failed to provide proper protective equipment, hazard pay, or notice of when Covid had infected their workplaces. Meanwhile, America’s 651 a billionaires, whose net worth has increased by more than $1 a billion since the beginning of the pandemic, they retired to their mansions, yachts and properties.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took refuge on his 165,000-acre ranch in West Texas as Amazon warehouse workers worked closely, often without proper masks, gloves or sanitizers. The company offered, but soon ruled out, a $2-per-hour increase in pay-at-risk, even as Bezos’s wealth increased by a staggering $70 a billion since March, putting his estimated net worth at about $186. a billion as the year ended.
2 Systemic Racism is Killing African Americans and Latinos
African Americans and Latinos represent almost 40% of coronavirus deaths so far, despite comprising less than a quarter of the population. As they have endured the brunt of this pandemic, they have been forced to fight for their humanity in another respect: taking to the streets to protest decades of unjust police killings, only to find more police violence.
Among Native American communities, the coronavirus numbers are even more dire. The Navajo Nation has had a higher per capita infection rate than any state, but cannot adequately care for the sick, thanks to years of lack of federal funding and neglect of its healthcare system.
Decades of segregated housing, pollution, lack of access to healthcare and poverty have left communities of color vulnerable to the worst of this virus and the worst in America.
3 If we can afford to bail out corporations and Wall Street, surely we can afford to help people
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to insist that the nation cannot “pay” $2,000 survivor’s checks for every American. But the laterst relief legislation handed out more than $220 a billion to powerful business interests that could have been used for struggling to work families.
Another way to look at it: the total cost of providing those $2,000 checks ($465 a billion) would be less than half the amount the 651 American a billionaires added to their wealth during the pandemic ($1 trillion).
4 Health must become a right
Even before this crisis broke out, it is estimated that 28 million Americans lacked health insurance. An additional of 15 million They lost coverage provided by the employer because they lost their jobs. Without insurance, a hospital stay to treat Covid-19 costs as much as $73,000. Remember this the next time you hear the experts say that Medicare for All is too radical.
5 Our social safety nets are woefully broken
No other advanced nation was as prepared for the pandemic as the United States. Our unemployment insurance system is over 80 years old, designed for a different America. We are one of the few countries in the world that does not offer all workers some form of paid sick leave.
Other industrialized nations kept unemployment rates low by guaranteeing paychecks. Americans who applied for unemployment benefits often got nothing or received it weeks or months later. Under the new legislation, they receive only $300 a week of extra benefits to help them.
6 The electoral college should be abolished
Joe Biden won 7 million more votes than Trump. But his margin of victory in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin totaled only 45,000. Had Trump won those three states, he would have obtained 37 electoral votes, tying Biden in the electoral college. This would have pushed the election to the House of Representatives, with each state delegation getting one vote. Although Democrats have a majority in the House, more state delegations have Republican majorities. Trump would have been re-elected.
The gap between the popular vote and the electoral college continues to widen. The electoral college is an increasingly dangerous anachronism.
7 Government affairs
For decades, conservatives have told us that the problem is the government and that we must let the free market run its course. Garbage. The coronavirus has shown once again that an unfettered free market will not save us. After 40 years of Reagan ism, it has never been clearer: indeed, government is necessary to protect the public.
It is tragic that it took a pandemic, near-record unemployment, millions of people taking to the streets, and an almost disastrous election for many to understand how broken, racist and backward our system is. The biggest lesson of all: you have to fix it.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism