Look, I know it’s hard to do when the coronavirus is coming after us, but stand up and cheer. The world is better off than ever. People are healthier and living longer. Poverty is shrinking. Hundreds of millions of people have been rescued from misery. People are eating better than ever before, and, believe it or not, that makes them smarter and taller.
The chief instrument of all of this is capitalism. It not only has made us richer but it has enlarged the scope of our lives, and it is right now a major tool in confronting pandemic damage.
You wouldn’t guess as much if you tuned into the congressional debate on a $2 trillion bill and heard Democrats saying the last thing you want to do is give money to big corporations. Excuse me, but some have been seriously wounded and, with recovery, they can remain a crucial force in proving all kinds of needed tools in fighting COVID-19 and, what’s more, be a major fount of income for families facing unimaginable living conditions. You can’t even have welfare if you don’t have businesses and employees providing taxes.
And look, did you notice that those loyal to their ideology but not to the American people also wanted to direct money to climate change and all kinds of other causes having nothing to do with today’s crisis. It’s also the case that some Democrats, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, want to stop oil and gas drilling on federal land and end horizontal fracking. At a time when we need jobs, this could destroy millions and disempower our efforts to rebuild.
The end result in the Senate, however, was compromise and a unanimous vote. That’s good, truly good, and we must keep fighting COVID-19 while also knowing that a destroyed economy could bring harsher cruelties in the long term. Keep in mind that social distancing and staying away from crowds has crushed small businesses all over the nation and that something like half of them have only a month’s worth of survival cash on hand.
Worsen things if you want, but maybe you can also stop and think about how it is estimated that unemployment could rise to 30% even as the stock market has been more happily rising. There are those who discount that, saying the stock market only helps the rich. False. More than half of Americans are invested in the market and its dive signaled possible disaster for 401(k)s, other savings and pension funds.
To help measure the cost of a limp-along economy, consider the 150,000 working class members killing themselves each year with opioids, alcohol and suicide largely because there are so few well-paying jobs for unskilled worker in our high-tech society. One answer to that is training, not still more regulatory intervention through which our omniscient betters in Washington continuously gum things up. President Donald Trump took off some of the chains and also lowered corporate taxes as jobs then began multiplying and wages began going up.
The thing is, the economy may be as serious an issue as the virus, and we’re now hearing debates about when some of the health restrictions in some parts of the country should let up. I don’t know the answer to that, but I do believe economic issues should weigh as heavily on minds as the virus.
To make all of this work, consider what the great French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about Americans after a visit here in the 1830s. He said we were self-dependent, practical, hard-working believers in equality and liberty, devoted to democracy and ready to strive with others to achieve common ends. Let’s dance with that old self.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org