Why are Our Leaders Still Putting Their Faith in the Rich?

Pub Date: 
Friday, May 29, 2020 - 15:32

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed fundamental inequalities in this country.

With millions of us hurting — especially the poor and people of color — there’s been widespread public support for bold government action to address long-standing social problems. Unfortunately, our lawmakers haven’t met the overwhelming need to focus on the poor and frontline workers.

Instead, trillions of dollars have been released to financial institutions, corporations, and the wealthy through low-interest loans, federal grants, and tax cuts — all without securing health care, wages, or meaningful income support for the unemployed. This is all unfolding as we enter the worst recession since the Great Depression.

As Callie Greer from the Alabama Poor People’s Campaign reminds us, “This system is not broken. It was never intended to work for us.”

This system treats injuries to the rich as emergencies requiring massive government action, but injuries to the rest of us as bad luck or personal failures. It reflects the belief that an economy that benefits the rich will benefit the rest of us, because it is the rich who run the economy.

It is easy to see how this plays out in policies that directly favor Wall Street, corporations, and the wealthy. But we see it even in policies that appear to be more liberal and equitable.

The CARES Act, for example, provided free testing for coronavirus, but not treatment. It offered unemployment insurance for some who’ve lost their jobs, but not living wages for those still working. It identified essential workers, but didn’t secure them essential protections.

The failure to fully care for workers and the poor is the flip side of the belief that the rich will construct a healthy economy out of this crisis. We see it directly as politicians slash money from public programs during this crisis while refusing to touch the accumulated wealth of the few.