Effective lockdown needs paid leave

Jeff Thomas, Editor-in-Chief

COVID-19 cases are surging across the country. We’re approaching 270,000 deaths, with over 140,000 new cases over the last week, and we need a bold and immediate response to save lives.

The best course of action that we have at this point to contain the virus is to enter another lockdown, though there are a number of political obstacles and logistical hurdles that need to be overcome to achieve this.

Primarily, there are the political implications of shutting everything down right before the holidays, and no politician wants to be the one who cancels Christmas. 

Shutting down the country now would not only mean bearing the resentment of individual citizens who would be alienated from their loved ones during the holidays. However, more significantly for our corrupt political class, it means disrupting capital during the most profitable time of the year for many corporations

The unfortunate truth of the U.S. response to COVID-19 (a truth that cannot be overstated) is that the primary concern has always been about protecting the finances of our wealthiest individuals and corporations at the expense of American lives. 

The initial relief bill, the CARES Act, was little more than an enormous upward transfer of wealth. While working class people have lost everything this year, our wealthiest individuals have seen an unprecedented increase in their wealth.

This notion was further solidified during the Thanksgiving holiday. Individuals were expected to comply with a variety of safety guidelines for participating in the holiday, while our congress took another recess without any action and our businesses were allowed to operate as if this was the Black Friday of an ordinary year. 

We can’t expect wholehearted participation of individuals in reducing the spread of the virus when our institutions are allowed to act with such disregard for public health, while many elected officials are disobeying the restrictions that they have imposed on citizens.

This trend must be reversed if we’re going to reduce this new wave of cases. We need real political leadership to fight this pandemic, not hypocrisy and gaslighting average Americans.

As much as I disagreed with the actions of armed protesters in Lansing last spring, what else were those people supposed to do with only $1200 of relief? It’s not fair to expect people to sit around and lose the wealth they’ve spent a lifetime accumulating.

A key component to overcoming these hurdles and making the next lockdown successful is that the government needs to pay people to stay home. Frankly, if we can afford to fatten the wallets of people like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, then we can afford to give the necessary relief to working people so we can curb the devastation of this pandemic.

A number of actions can be taken immediately to help warm the American people to the idea of another lockdown.

Moratoriums should be set on rent and debt collection in general. As is being currently bounced around, student debt should be relieved. We need a stimulus package with payments comparable to other nations like Canada. We need an extension of increased unemployment benefits and a complete overhaul of the unemployment benefit system that has left many citizens without benefits for months

In short, people need money in their pockets and a sense of security to help save lives. No one benefits from the financial wellbeing of a generation of homeowners being ruined, no one benefits from tenets being thrown out on the street. 

This pandemic has profound short and long term economic implications that must be reckoned with. A lockdown can help restore our national wellbeing, but it has to be done right. We can’t afford a repeat of last spring.