Monday, May 18, 2020

Next Steps: It's Time to Stand Up

Annamaria on Monday

We all want to know what nobody knows.  My theme today is that we must not wait and see.  What happens next is up to us.  

Call me whatever name you like.  I am right about this. Don't believe me?  For one thing I have seen small fringe movements begin to work on what seemed like an unsolvable problem.   Little by little they won over those who doubted at first.  Eventually, they/we changed the course of history.  Actually, in my lifetime, it has happened more than once.

Here is an example from today, of one person who is determined to make a difference.  Regular readers of MIE may recall my friend Sarah Lesiamito, who fights against the cruel way her culture threats girls.  Right now, she is establishing her leadership in her area with a one-woman campaign against the coronavirus in Samburu in Northern Kenya.  She is not waiting for the government to tell her what to do.  She has informed herself and begun to supply the member of her little village with information and, as best she can in the remote place where she lives, give them the tools to keep themselves safe.

Here is Sarah (l.) instructing one of the men of
her village in proper hand washing 

Villagers discussing how to stay safe.  

As of now there no cases of Covid-19 in Sarah's area.  But if the beast shows up, Sarah and her neighbors are armed and ready.  

It is possible, but not certain that, in the aftermath of this pandemic the nations of the world will enact laws and practices that will correct the societal flaws that this crisis has so dramatically revealed.  The gross inequities in distribution of wealth and healthcare can be cured.  The world was in this same position in the early twentieth century and then it lead to two world wars with a pan-depression sandwiched in between.  BUT, fed up with themselves, the world's developed countries began to correct that situation in the decades following the Second World War.  Laws protecting workers rights and taxation aimed at development of the economy and improvement of infrastructure lead to decades of widespread prosperity.

All of that has been undone since the end of the twentieth and into the beginning of the twenty-first centuries.  And there is no guarantee that the current pandemic will right any of the wrongs.  In some countries around the world, dictators have used the disease as  an excuse to clamp down harder on anyone who opposes them.  Imagine if such a development turns into a trend.

Here in the world's first great democracy, the current president tried to seize upon the situation.  He declared that he alone had the sole power to reopen the slumping economy.  He had supporters who would rally round him if he tried that.  Cooler (and Constitutionally) better informed  heads prevailed, but that does not mean we are out of those dense woods. 

So if we want to emerge from lockdown into a better world than the one we had beforehand, we need to stay watchful and get active.  We need to be informed.

We need to be ready to stand up against any government that does not lead the populace away from dystopian widespread poverty and desperation. We want governments that protect the entire citizenry. And that means teachers, healthcare workers, firemen and policemen. The people who pick the vegetables and process the fish and the chickens. Who pick up the trash and clean the hospitals and the public spaces.  You know who they are by now. Those people the pandemic has revealed as essential.

I stole this photo from Stan's Facebook page.
And the journalists.  Be suspicious--VERY suspicious--of any politician who attacks the mainstream media, from the right or from the left.  It should be a human right to say whatever we want.  But no one has the right the hide from the truth.


One way we can use the power of the people is in chosing where we spend our money.  By supporting businesses that behave themselves, pay their workers well, treat the planet as sacred, not as a sewer.  Wealth come by honestly is one thing.  Greed is NOT good.

Every nation on earth will need to so some work on its economy once we are out of the corona-woods.  Which adjustments are made will be critical.

I have been hearing for years that the United States is a "consumer economy."  After 9/11, after the great crash of 2008/9, we were enjoined to help restore the economy by spending money.  We were supposed to go to stores and restaurants and buy, buy, buy.

Have you noticed?   Every time the latest consumer spending numbers are released, pundits express fear of recession if the numbers are down and optimism if they are up.

Years ago, many voters were sold a bill a goods by the Reagan presidency.  That if the wealthy were allowed to collect unconscionable amounts of money, the wealth would "trickle down" and lift all the little boats along with the big yachts.  This theory sounded like hooey at the time, and so it has proved to be.

So what would work?  Here's an idea.  Let's give the opposite a try.

We now know that when they amass enough money to last four or five thousand life times, what the billionaires do, mostly, is warehouse it.  I guess they enjoy watching it pile up.  But beyond a certain amount, it does not go into circulation to become the life's blood of the consumer economy.  

In the coming months, the economy is going to need a massive transfusion.  Forget trickle down.  Suppose we turn a firehose of buying power on the struggling poor and threatened middle class.  What will they do with cash in hand?  Spend it!  Of course.  They need all sorts of things.  They will buy clothes, furniture, cars, vacations.  Education for their children.  Restaurant meals.  Movie and theater tickets.  Flowers for their mothers.  Books!!!

They will buy the most run down houses in town and fix them up, causing a boom in the lumber and household fixture industry.  In myriad ways, they will feed the economy just at a time it needs it desperately.

The corporations that supply all those goods will thrive.  Hooray!

"Simply hoping that things will move in a progressive direction when the shutdowns end isn’t enough. Creating a fairer, more inclusive economy is hard work, and it will inevitably encounter resistance. Concentrations of economic power have to be confronted. Workers’ rights and bargaining power have to be extended. Democratic freedoms have to be protected. Demagogues have to be defeated, during pandemics more than ever.  –John Cassidy in The New Yorker"

No doubt there are trained economists out there who will be happy to point out the weakness in my suggestion.  I am ready to listen to them.  All I want to know is this.  If this is not the answer, what is?

You tell me what's next.


  1. No doubt you are right about this. Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman calls concepts of tax cuts for the wealthy and the "trickle down effect" zombie ideas. Although they are long dead and buried by theory and experience, they just won't stay in the grave! Guess why?

    1. Well, that is good news, Michael, that a Nobel Laureate agrees. I know that the moneypower guys will do everything they can to prevent the kind of change I hope for. They do not care how deeply scarred the rest of the world will be. BUT. All I have to do is think of the difference in South Africa. When your gorgeous country was in the grip of apartheid, change seemed impossible. But as the opposition grew and grew, as people around the world leant their voices, hope grew. Here in the USA, it was the youth who first took up that cause in large numbers. When I was going to look at colleges with my daughter in 1984, the campuses all had "Mandela Camps" where protesting students carried on day and night, demanding freedom for Madiba. They insisted that their school divest of SA stocks. My daughter, then 17, crossed a school off her list because there was not sign of such a protest there. We know the outcome. It is the young that give me hope. At my age, I may not live to see what the next generation accomplishes, but every generation seems to have its work cut out. Progress can be slow and oh so painful. But Gandhi was right. Love always wins.

  2. Bravo, Annamaria. Where do I sign?

    And I particularly love the pic: 'First they came for the journalists. We don't know what happened after that.'

    1. We have to ask Stan where he got that picture, Zoe. I liked it so much that I swiped it from him. Stan?

  3. I agree with much of this, of course, and I love seeing photos of demonstrations I attended, and also women's rights and union rights protests.
    Well, it's such a problem now. Anti-science, anti-worker politicians are running the show; also truth is a casualty in their administration. The doctors and CDC have been pushed out. The guy in the White House is taking an unapproved drug and others follow. (Oh, I ask, where is critical thinking? Some people actually ingested disinfectants and detergents!)
    And the rich business owners want factories and stores bringing in money regardless of harm to their employees. And the guy in the WH orders them to work, and if they fear getting sick and don't want to go to work, they will lose their unemployment benefits.
    A lot has to change here, and I agree that young people, along with frontline workers, those walking out of a lot of warehouses, stores and factories, will be in the lead.
    But when I heard someone on TV saying it's "good-hearted Americans who are protesting the shut downs," I yell at the TV. Maybe some are, but they are carrying Confederate flags, swastikas and signs with Nazi slogans. They are yelling misogynist death threats at women governors and carrying guns into state legislatures, in Michigan anyway.
    They are abusive to health workers who are keeping people alive. A photo of brave nurses standing silently up to guys waving flags in their faces, calling them "actors" and not nurses, yelling threats, shows who are the people to join with -- the health workers.
    It's a lot of frontline workers calling for PPE and safe working conditions. Think about meatpacking and food processing workers. I just read that 10,000 have gotten sick, and 45 died.
    There's so much involved here. It's mind-boggling, but I'm with the frontline workers, including health care personnel at all levels.
    Meanwhile, I have cabin fever.

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