They say that most people become more conservative with age. Maybe that’s true from a social standpoint, or maybe it’s just another social myth.
Personally, the older I get the more radical I become.
This hellish year has pushed me all the way to the left. I’m ready to dump the whole idea of capitalism and replace it with a system that supports the lives of the humans who live within it.
While countries across Asia and Europe have gotten the deadly coronavirus under some control, the United States hasn’t even come close. As often happens here, that failure has become a focal point for partisan bickering. It’s easy to yell that it’s all Trump’s fault, or that China is to blame. It’s simple to fight over whether or not we should be ordered to wear masks.
But the reality of our failure is deeper and more nuanced, I think.
Unlike virtually every other nation on earth, in our hyper-capitalist country when people are out of work, they are also out of insurance. The prospect of millions of people who are unable to pay for medical care is daunting at the best of times. During this pandemic, it could conceivably cripple our profit-based medical system, which is mandated by law to treat people even if they can’t pay for it.
More importantly, our government provides far less financial support to its citizens than other countries. During the pandemic lockdown, many countries are paying basic salaries for all workers. This means that businesses can safely close without the imminent fear of bankruptcy that American companies face while trying to pay key salaries. It also means that consumers can continue to purchase goods during the pandemic, which means that the economy continues to work.
Not so here in the US. Our companies have been forced to furlough or fire workers. That of course means, in addition to the loss of health insurance, millions of Americans have lost their incomes. This slows consumption; you can’t shop at Walmart if you don’t have any money. People are forced to apply for Unemployment Benefits, which stresses each state, both economically and bureaucratically.
So let’s say that I have lost my job, as has my husband. Our family of five now has no income. We now have no health insurance for our kids or ourselves. We begin the process of applying for Unemployment and trying to sign up for insurance through the ACA. Both processes are complicated and time-consuming. We’re basically broke for the next few weeks or months.
The loss of business revenue impacts the town in which we live, so the local school district has to cut staff and programs. This is because, unlike the vast majority of developed nations, the US asks every town to fund its own schools. Small, rural towns are the hardest hit when local economies are struggling.
Our state is also seeing a sharp decrease in income, so state services (like our unemployment) are also at risk.
So how does our country, this capitalist wonderland, respond to the crisis? It tells us to get back to work. It tells us that we need to get back out there and pack that meat, man those cash registers, serve those meals. If we don’t we won’t have money for food. If we do, and we are very lucky, we might be working enough hours to get health insurance again.
If we don’t get back to work, the local and state economies will continue to shrink, and businesses will lose money. Our capitalist economy depends upon consumption and profit, and if we don’t work, both will be hurt.The poorest among us will suffer the most.
But what do we do about childcare? How can we work if we have to pay for our insurance, our rent, and safe childcare?
While most developed countries provide government-supported early childhood education, the US still relies on private daycare and preschool. So how can two parents with young children go to work, if there is no affordable childcare?
We struggle along. We get back to our jobs while Grandma watches the kids. Since our places of work have reopened, everyone seems to think the pandemic is over. People get out there and gather together. They have been told that wearing a mask makes them look weak, so they party hearty without covering their faces.
You know what happens next.
The business world has avoided the disaster of lost profits. The stock market keeps on rising.
But in our little family unit, one adult has caught the virus at work and passed it to one child. Grandma got it, too, and she died.
I am all done with capitalism.
Viva la revolution.