Stunned by the social, economic, and political wreckage triggered by Covid-19, America will never return to “normal,” and it’s high time to press for past-due changes!
First, Congress must enact deep cuts in military spending. For all the billions we taxpayers spend on the Pentagon, the U.S. is poorly defended— too few bangs for too many bucks. At $738 billion per year, U.S. spending for its armed forces exceeds the next 10 nations’ military budgets combined. All this largesse, however, has failed in recent national security crises.
Our well-padded military didn’t protect us against the 9/11 terror attacks, has bungled badly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been irrelevant against the 2008 financial meltdown, Russia’s intrusion in the 2016 election, global warming, and now the coronavirus.
The billions saved can be redirected to other needs, starting with (1) health insurance for all and (2) a guaranteed annual income .
The Covid-19 pandemic proves beyond doubt that everyone needs basic health insurance. Approximately 27 million Americans have none. And with their health insurance tied to employment, millions more have just lost theirs by being laid off.
National health insurance should also be considered as an essential public health protection against another pandemic. With everyone covered, few would balk at seeking diagnosis and treatment, as has been the case during the present emergency. In addition, the federal government will gain leverage to force medical costs down.
Already in effect, Medicare and Medicaid are models for universal health insurance. In addition to covering everyone, race and class disparities must be addressed, as well as insufficient care for other vulnerable populations, such as prisoners and those in foster care, the homeless, and those for whom English is a second language. There has never been a more powerful argument than Covid-19 for basic health insurance and health care services for all.
Social, economic, and political unrest will continue if the U.S. fails to reverse economic inequality. Redirected military funds could finance a national minimum wage or guaranteed annual income, an obvious means to counteract the widening gap between haves and have-nots. An annual family subsidy from the federal government would ensure sufficient housing, food, and clothing for all. Criteria for eligibility would include citizenship, income or a means test, and ability to work. Pay now? Or pay later? Without a stable basic income for all, tensions will increase, along with civil unrest.
In addition, acting in their own self-interest, organized workers expanded the nation’s middle class since World War II. A principal cause now of economic inequality and reduced living standards is the diminution of the American labor movement. Union organizing must be encouraged and protected.
The overarching and urgent problem of climate change hasn’t diminished, and the Green New Deal remains on the table.
Moral and political imperatives are pressing legislatures and courts at every level to eliminate racial injustices and police brutality once and for all.
The best way to jump start two generations of young people is to cancel their student debt. This would have a significant ripple effect throughout the economy.
A number of businesses owners have put people ahead of profits during the Covid-19 crisis. Many will see the wisdom of providing greater benefits for their workers and their communities, even before paying dividends to their shareholders.
After decades of visceral animosity between the Right and Left, with Covid-19 as a common enemy, and with a growing understanding about selective policing, the political center in the U.S. seems to have expanded. The Democratic Party’s abrupt consolidation around Joe Biden as their 2020 nominee indicates this.
The federal government will no longer be “the enemy” and the credibility of credentialled experts—in science, academia, media—will be restored. No more “Rednecks Rule!” or credence given to “Duck Dynasty.” Education and expertise will matter.