On Tuesday May 12th, it was announced that the stay at home order in Los Angeles County, California due to the coronavirus would be extended for another three months.
As the virus continues to spread and the economic downfall the likes of which the nation hasn’t seen since the Great Depression continues to touch lives all across the nation, countless people are undoubtedly reeling at the thought of not being able to generate an income for months longer. But as we continue to feel the widespread web of stress and trauma this virus has caused, I can’t help reflecting on how little it took for everything to crumble. It’s difficult not to come to the honest conclusion that coronavirus didn’t kill the American economy, it just sped up the dying process.
In an economic system with a staggering seventy four percent of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, forty percent unable to afford a $400 dollar emergency last year, and with many working multiple jobs to provide for themselves and their families, the American economy has been a ticking time bomb for years, just waiting to go off. But an economy as morally bankrupt as our own was never meant to weather a crisis like this. A system that would rather starve its citizens in to submission than supply them a small return of the wealth their labor generated so that they might find stability during this crisis will always crumble eventually.
In the midst of a pandemic where over thirty million people have been forced to file unemployment, many of them are losing healthcare, over 80 thousand people are dead, and small businesses all over the country are on the precipice of collapse, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos is apparently on track to potentially become the world’s first trillionaire. While even in normal times he is making more each second than a minimum wage worker can hope to earn in a month, his ex wife is worth 37 billion dollars simply for owning a 4 percent stake in the company.
If the coronavirus was truly what brought on the death of the American economy, it was the unparalleled, unsustainable greed of the Jeff Bezos’ of the country and the politicians who they’ve bought that allowed it to do so. In all honesty how can we really identify the coronavirus as the cause of all this economic devastation, when it was the instability lying beneath the surface for so long that truly prompted in all pain and trauma?
There’s no denying that web of trauma this virus continues to inflict on the American people grows more tangled and intricate by the day, and it’s difficult to even put in to words the difference that having a strong safety net would have made. It wasn’t the coronavirus that deprived Americans of universal healthcare, rent freezes, robust and responsive state unemployment offices and websites, or politicians willing to do what’s necessary with policies to protect them. Policies similar to Canada’s, where their citizens are being sent $2,000 a month for the duration of the crisis. Money — it’s worth noting — that came from and belongs to the citizens in the first place, just like it does here.
Above all else, this pandemic served as a mask off moment for the American economy more than anything else. With tens of thousands dead and more getting sick each day, watching our politicians and corporations slowly begin to pressure us to get back to work and in essence become sacrificial lambs for the stock market has been as surreal and barbaric as it is predictable. But of course, all that being said at the same time there has never been a better moment in recent history for the American people to become more conscious of the nation’s shortcomings, and how so much of what we deserve has been structurally deprived from us for so long. As we live the consequences of that deprivation, I’m all too mindful of the fact that history has taught us that the masses will only tolerate so much.
Day by day, we are rapidly approaching the breaking point. What happens when we get there, for better or worse, remains to be seen.