The number of hospitalizations is going down, slowly. Deaths are flattening out. The number of cases is increasing at a slower rate. We may have started to turn the corner, but we’re by no means out of the woods yet; a vaccine may be more than a year away. And when we do emerge from the crisis, I have bad news: a lot of other crises are waiting for us.
Obviously, we’re sitting in the middle of what feels like the biggest and least predictable crisis to happen in our lifetimes, a worldwide pandemic. But the constitutional crisis of the Trump presidency persists, as does the crisis of faith in democracies and the rise of authoritarian governments. A massive economic crisis has already begun. Behind all of this is the global climate crisis, a slow-but-steady threat that will be a danger for the rest of our lives.
How does a small northeastern state like ours deal with all of this? What should our priorities be?
Here is a list of solutions we can implement that will help us weather these crises and adapt to a changing world.
Infrastructure means a lot of things, not just transportation. We definitely will need transportation, of course, but we need better-funded hospitals, real stockpiles of healthcare equipment that can be accessed when needed, buildings built to withstand strong storms, systems of shelters, well-funded and functioning government agencies created to deal with disaster, and regional bodies set up to coordinate between states.
The federal government could do a lot of this, but that won’t happen unless better leadership is elected. For now, we’ll assume that the federal government will not function, and that states are on their own.
2. Universal Healthcare
Employer-based health insurance is a terrible idea, and it always has been. Sorry, but that’s the truth. Having healthcare be tied to one’s job is senseless, and if the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic gets worse, then a lot of people will be forced to choose between expensive plans on the exchanges or not having health insurance at all.
The plan to allow nonprofits and other companies to buy into the state employee health insurance plan, which was something proposed in this last legislative session, is a good start. But we really need universal coverage available to everyone, funded by taxes and free at the point of need. You know, like a civilized country.
The health and safety of the people should be priority number one. Universal healthcare will go a long way towards making everyone healthier and safer. As a bonus, if businesses no longer have to fund employee healthcare, they will have more money to stay afloat.
3. Universal Basic Income
This is an idea whose time has come. In a time of crisis when unemployment is skyrocketing, unemployment benefits alone won’t cover everyone who needs them. What about freelancers and people who work in the gig economy who are losing tons of business? What about people forced to choose between low-wage jobs with potential exposure to the virus and starving?
Means-tested universal basic income, which could be $1,500 to $2,000 per month for all households who need it, no strings attached, would mean that people could keep their families fed and a roof over their heads. This way, we could prevent a huge percentage of the population from slipping into poverty and homelessness.
4. How Do We Pay For It?
I’d love to think the next Congress and the next president of the United States would reverse recent tax cuts and send aid to the states. But in case that doesn’t happen, we’re going to need to get creative.
Yes, we need to raise taxes on the wealthiest. We’ve needed to do that for a long, long time, and that should happen soon. We should do it in concert with nearby states so that it will be less easy to hide money by moving it over a state line.
But since we can’t always rely on the rich not to park their cash elsewhere, we need to raise money in other ways. I like the idea of a general bond sale, like the U.S. did during the Second World War. Buy Connecticut Bonds, support the government and your fellow citizens, and help fight the virus and the economic crash! We could get Captain America (Captain Connecticut?) to punch out a guy dressed like the coronavirus if it would help.
A lot of this feels so unrealistic. But if the crises we’re in persists and our world changes, what is unlikely now may be reality soon enough. And if we want to get through all of this to a better, more hopeful future, we’re going to need to think outside the box.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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