Fatal Distraction: Coronavirus and Low Pay in Trumps America…

Like most other countries, experts in the USA are recommending that people avoid large crowds, stockpile shelf-stable foods in case they end up quarantined, and stay home from work and contact a doctor if they are ill. Sounds sensible. But there is a big problem

A lot of low-income people can’t afford to follow it.

Many low-income families, who are more likely to live in smaller quarters and share bathrooms and kitchens with multiple people, simply can’t self-quarantine as effectively as, say, a couple living in a four-bedroom, two-bath home. With, or without, a swimming pool

Low-income jobs—line-cooks, nurse’s aids, grocery store clerks, nannies—mostly can’t be done remotely, and the majority of low-income jobs don’t offer paid sick days. A February 2020 paper by the Economic Policy Institute found that

“ Overall, just under three-quarters (73%) of private sector workers in the United States have the ability to earn paid sick time at work. And access to paid sick days is vastly unequal. The highest wage workers are more than three times as likely to have access to paid sick leave as the lowest paid workers. Whereas 93% of the highest wage workers had access to paid sick days, only 30% of the lowest paid workers were able to earn sick days… disproportionately denying workers at the bottom this important security. … And, low-wage workers are more likely to be found in occupations where they have contact with the public—think early care and education workers, home health aides, restaurant workers and food processors.”

Low-income people are disproportionately more likely to be uninsured or underinsured for medical care. According to a 2018 study by the US Census Bureau, Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2018, 28.6 million people, are not covered by any form of insurance at all

According to the 2019 Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, 40% of Americans could not come up with $400 (approx. £325) to cover an emergency. Lacking resources to prepare and protect against the COVID-19, many of these individuals face a higher risk of contracting—and subsequently spreading—the virus.

Of course there are other demographic considerations which exacerbate the vulnerability of low income individuals and households to CoVid19

  • Race
  • Age
  • Homelessness

Each would merit a separate article. All merit our thoughts consideration and compassion.

Gore Vidal once famously quipped that the US economic system is “free enterprise for the poor and socialism for the rich”.

Since the outbreak of the CoVid pandemic, the US has more than lived up to Vidal’s caricature.

Don’t Beware. Be Aware.

Be aware that the whole of the rich capitalist world is becoming more and more “American”. Throughout this crisis, be aware that the poor will be increasingly exposed to market forces, with tougher conditions on the diminishing state protection they get, while the rich have unprecedented levels of protection from the state, with virtually no strings attached.

Be ready for that moment when not just the poor, but all of us are told that their states are bankrupt because governments splashed out on health and welfare payments for them.

Money!” by ToGa Wanderings is licensed under CC BY

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