Just a few weeks ago Donald Trump was flirting with cuts to Medicare and Social Security in order to bankroll the Republican agenda. Now Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are willing to sign off on cash payments to millions of Americans, accompanied by nearly $1.6 trillion dollars in bailouts with likely trillions more to come. The wheels of history are turning, Francis Fukuyama be damned, and who knows what global politics looks like when we leave this pandemic.
The pandemic is only getting worse and will continue to do so, at least in the short term and the bottom has fallen out of the American economy. In just a week the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States has gone up 15 fold, shooting from somewhere just above 2,000 to over 30,000 in the span of a week. That will only continue, putting enormous stress on an already inadequate healthcare system. Unemployment applications are going through the roof while the stock market does the exact opposite, falling precipitously day after day.
The situation is going to get worse, cash payments and a $1.6 trillion dollar bailout aren’t enough to stop the economic devastation that’s coming, but the fact they are on the table as solutions shows how big this moment is. And who knows what will be up for grabs when this is all said and done. Medicare for All? A serious universal basic income? A jobs guarantee? This crisis will show the need for all these policies and much more and in the same way Mitch McConnell signing off on $1.6 trillion in new spending seemed impossible just weeks ago, the need for transformative policy may be enough to rise above the gridlock of business as usual.
Even now, it’s difficult to see a world where Mitch McConnell signs off on Medicare for All, but in a world where the coronavirus crisis lays bare the depravity of the American healthcare system, it could definitely happen. Just looking at some of the more dire projections regarding the coronavirus outbreak, we could see hundreds of thousands, if not millions of deaths in the weeks and months to come. Combine that with economic devastation, unemployment could reach higher than 20% according to the Treasury Department, the stock market will likely continue to drop, and evictions, foreclosures, and mass homelessness is sure to follow. The political response necessary will dwarf even the $1.6 trillion on the table, it will make Mitch McConnell and others come to the table on proposals we could never imagine them signing just a few weeks ago.
The left has done a lot to mainstream its agenda over the last five years and that agenda is incredibly popular with the American people. In state after state Democratic primary exit polls showed that Medicare for All, when stipulated that it will replace private insurance, consistently polls at 60%+. Nationally the numbers are consistently over 50%. Medicare for All seems like the most obvious transformational policy change that could come out of coronavirus. It’s already popular and once people see the depravity of a health care system that leaves thousands to die, it’ll be harder to justify a status quo that has done the exact same thing for decades.
Things are moving quickly right now. That isn’t going to change anytime soon. So it’s important to make sure when we rebuild, we do so in a way that protects the most vulnerable. Normally forcing politics to respect the disenfranchised seems like a gargantuan task, but when more people fit that description, the easier it becomes. Mitch McConnell isn’t signing off on $1.6 trillion in spending because he wants to, but because he has to. As millions more people need help from the federal government in the weeks and months to come, let’s make sure people like Mitch McConnell know they have to enact Medicare for All, they have to restructure the economy for working people, and if they don’t, there will be consequences.
We’re living through a tragedy, but let’s make sure it’s not a waste. Let’s change society for the better, everything is on the table, we’ve got a massive opportunity to organize and change the world. Take advantage of it.