Yesterday (and many other times), I’ve noted there are several economic policies–which have to be federal policies–needed to allow us to enact the public health policies needed to ‘crush the curve’ and drive down the prevalence of COVID-19. As a review, here’s what we need in broad outline:
- Rent and mortgage suspension, for businesses and residents.
- Temporary universal healthcare coverage, including for those who lost their jobs.
- Some kind of significant income supplements for households.
- Mandatory sick leave, so essential workers wouldn’t feel obligated to work when they are symptomatic.
…the overall goal was to use massive federal spending to place significant swathes of the U.S. economy into what multiple commentators, including Paul Krugman, referred to as a ‘medically induced coma.’ And not for a month either, but for as long as it took.
For a variety of reasons, most of which have to do with Republicans, we’re not getting those policies anytime soon. Unfortunately, that puts local and state governments in a bind. Without the financial resources the federal government can create by fiat (note the word financial, which is to say, money), governments that choose to rollback and close businesses know they will be wiping out businesses and their employees.
For example, in D.C., Mayor Bowser knows COVID-19 isn’t where it should be in the district (unlike many governors, who either are deluded or pretending to not understand). But if she shuts businesses down (closing bars & indoor dining, closing many stores), they’ll go bust.
So we’re left with second-best options (and second-best is being charitable), such as exhortations to wear masks and hoping contract tracing helps (it really hasn’t so far in D.C.). This means most* kids won’t be returning to schools anytime soon–there’s no reason to believe things will improve**. The reason kids aren’t returning to schools while bars remain open is because states and local governments desperately need revenue: it’s certainly not a public health measure. We need a four to six week period of serious physical distancing, and we just aren’t willing to do that.
And, no, short of a change in federal government, I have no solutions as to how to fix this. So vote like your life depends on it. Because it does.
*I’ve heard of allowing some students with special needs back to school, but that is just rumor.
**I’m not sure winter, at least in D.C., will be the disaster everyone thinks it will be. Cooler weather means people will wear masks, and then cold, crappy weather means people will stay home. Never underestimate the ability of Americans to watch hours of TV. Just guessing though.