By Eric Zuesse
Bernie Sanders, the Junior Democratic U.S. Senator from Vermont, is working with other progressives in Congress to come up with proposed emergency legislation that would pay all coronavirus medical costs throughout the coronavirus epidemic in America, and that would pay salaries of laid-off workers, so that the economy will not crash.
In a 7-minute video which was posted by The Hill, https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=nROja08G00U Sanders says that due to the pandemic, “our economy is now collapsing in front of our eyes” and so “the essence of this legislation is that it will be more effective to prevent the collapse of our economy than to pick up the pieces once the economy collapses,” and so the legislation “will guarantee the paychecks of every American worker who has lost his or her job.” He says that other nations are already doing that. “It’s going on around the world, in Germany, the UK, Denmark, Norway, other countries. … The way to maintain the economy is to make sure that people continue to have their paycheck, even if they are working at home, even if they are not working at all. And when this crisis is over, and it will be over, people can then go back to work.”
This bill will be only temporary, during the time of the emergency, and if the Congress will fail to pass it, then not only the economy will collapse but the federal Government’s income from taxation will also collapse, and so the federal Government’s debt will soar even faster than it would soar if the legislation becomes passed into law. No taxes on no income mean shrinking the Government precisely at the stage in the economy when the private sector is collapsing and needs help the most from the Government. That hurts everybody.
Also, the legislation will include “Everybody in America will have all the medical care they need during the crisis, without any out-of-pocket expenses.”
This latter feature will also give every American the freedom, and the confidence, to know that if they suspect that they might possibly now be spreading the virus to others, they can, without any fear, have themselves tested, knowing beforehand that their paychecks will continue even if they turn out to have the virus and will therefore have to become temporarily out of work. In other words: this paycheck-guarantee will greatly expedite the discovery of individuals who are carrying the virus, so that they will no longer continue to be working at a job where they might be spreading it to others and thus a continuing threat of spreading it to others. The result of this — the federal payments to cover not only the unemployment but the medical costs — will be to end this crisis much sooner than would otherwise be the case.
Also: “We need to have a freeze on rents,” so that anyone who can afford to keep paying can do so, but anyone who cannot, will receive federal assistance, in order to prevent them from being expelled from their homes.
“Will it be expensive? It sure will. But the alternative is worse.”
“The goal right now is to prevent the collapse of our economy and of our health care system.”
Nothing that is in the program that he is drawing up in collaboration with other members of the Senate and House would be bailing out the nation’s wealthiest, such as the first piece of coronavirus-emergency legislation did. Also unlike the Obama legislation for bailouts after George W. Bush’s 2008 Wall Street crash, the legislation that Senator Sanders is now drawing up will be bailing out only consumers and employees, and not investors. It would be demand-pull, instead of supply-push, restoration of the economy, and therefore it will not expand wealth-inequality like the prior piece of legislation did, and like Obama’s Wall Street bailouts did, but it will instead reduce that inequality, by protecting consumers and employees, instead of protecting investors.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity