Life has never been fair.
The coronavirus pandemic underscores that point in numerous ways.
The most obvious is how many are “immune” from becoming sick once they contract the virus. For this particular viral infection for people’s bodies to successfully fight it off it’s a matter of winning the right DNA sweepstakes that combats the virus successfully and being in good health.
The rapid movement of the virus for the most part was initially spread across the globe by those in a position to travel due to their wealth, station in life, or jobs. It likely would have spread anyway but certainly not as fast as it has. You may never have left your little corner of the world but you can fall victim too.
For the most part, all of this is the way of the world. Just like diseases thin deer populations, viruses that inflict humans are part of a greater scheme of nature.
What isn’t part of the natural order of things is how the government has chosen to respond. In fairness, there may not have been other solutions that could have been put in motion and signed into law that would have set in motion the bureaucracy to start pumping $2.2 trillion into the economy in just over a week from conception to the president’s signature.
It’s a lot of money. It is arguably the largest transfer of wealth in history. It is a possible way to minimize economic damage. What it is not is fair.
If you simply set aside everyone making over $100,000 and say it does not matter whether you are fair or not to them, it still leaves a lot of questions.
How do you justify sending $1,200 to someone making $60,000 a year that may never lose their job or see their pay reduced by the pandemic in let’s say low overhead Alabama when it comes to cost of living? Weigh that against someone making the same amount in San Francisco, Seattle or New York that does lose their job. The $1,200 check won’t even cover their share of the rent for a month. It’s clear someone making $60,000 a year in San Francisco is renting a room as opposed to someone in Selma down in Alabama where $1,200 could almost make three monthly house payments.
The payment to those on Social Security is a tad different as a good number of recipients do have other sources of income from financial instruments such as 401k accounts that took a huge beating in the markets.
The implementation of social distancing also created winners and losers by government decree.
Costco and Walmart are among those selling food and staples such as toilet paper. They also sell electronics, clothes, alcohol, toys, household goods and more. Those are also items that a lot of chains stores and independents sell exclusively that have been forced to close.
And while a lot of people aren’t spending money on much more than food and such as well as basic bills as they try to weather what is now happening and what has yet to come, there are those that are largely unaffected economically by the pandemic precautions who are still spending on soft goods. Government policy has dictated what businesses won’t benefit not by design but by collateral damage.
Again the government had to do something.
And why is it more important that the country save “all airlines” instead of saving all independent truckers? Which is more important to the national economy? Congress has clearly decided without debating the point. Yet you could argue more American jobs — as well as what we put on the table or buy for our households — is more dependent on truck movements than air cargo.
Airlines obviously plug us more into the global economy. It’s the same globalization that has now put us at the mercy of a disrupted supply chain with China for critical needs such as pharmaceuticals.
Once again, the government had to do something. The problem is what they’ve done may not bring much relief and could ultimately do more harm than good.
But when you are in a pandemic and the experts are tossing out models that say a disease there is no known cure for can take the lives of a million Americans prematurely as defined by our expectations as a society it is not the time to debate whether you should have policies — or lack of them — that would allow such wholesale death if it can be softened by some government action whether it is shutting down economic activity that will kill off more than a few businesses and cost more than a few jobs and/or by clearing out Fort Knox.
The worst part is two or three years from now when the COVID-19 coronavirus is taken to the point it may have an annual death impact more in line with the flu, we will not have the discussions. Instead we will move onto another “emergency” and not answer the tough questions about whether we spend too much on health care after people contract or develop conditions through exposure or behavior and too little on health care and personal conduct that would reduce the odds of dying from much else but old age and accidents.
The problem is we never let a good crisis pass in this nation without trying to drown it in money when we’d be better off doing soul searching and determining if modifications of our behavior and making expectations more realistic is the best way to go forward.
Perhaps that is why many don’t trust the government.
The government goes from one disaster to another then repeats them all again without getting at the root cause. How many times are we going to allow people to rebuild in perennial flood areas, in high fire risk areas, or on infill on the ocean’s edge before we start questioning whether we are doing more economic damage by trying to defy the powers of nature?
And what about citizens as a whole ignoring practices such as the ones in place now that downplay social contact and emphasis caution that if we had been doing all along would work to reduce annual death tolls of 60,000 plus from the flu?
It is clear the only thing that gets our attention is massive numbers.
But in reality is admonishing someone for not being extra careful during a pandemic and then turning around when it’s just the flu season to drop reasonable precautions because the virus is deemed under control?
It’s the $2.2 trillion question.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.