This is one of a series of guest columns from candidates in contested races in the June 9 West Virginia Primary Election.
America is in a public health crisis and an economic spiral. 10 million people have already lost their jobs, and it is projected that 47 million Americans will have lost their jobs by the time this is over. It’s expected that 30 million people will lose their employer-sponsored health insurance.
I believe that the role of Congress is to make sure people are protected during this crisis. This partly involves examining the existing policies that left America so vulnerable in the first place. It also includes being willing to reform our political system and electoral process, to get corporate money and corruption out, and truly represent the needs and interests of the people.
America was already experiencing a medical crisis, with millions of people falling through the cracks. 87 million Americans were already uninsured or underinsured, with 500,000 Americans going bankrupt because of medical bills each year. We are all reeling from a projected pandemic death toll of tens or hundreds of thousands, yet 68,000 Americans already die every year from a lack of health insurance and access to basic medical care. It’s outrageous.
Medical care in America is underfunded and treated as a for-profit industry, leaving the poor and vulnerable behind. Universal healthcare coverage through Medicare for All would ensure that everyone gets the care that they need during this pandemic and into the future.
We will eventually get through this crisis. The question is, how gracefully? Will we care for the sick and poor? Will we learn lessons from this challenge and make ourselves better on the other side of it?
Maybe we should also ask ourselves if our basic survival, like shelter, being able to put food on the table, or seeing a doctor, should be so dependent on the whims of the stock market? We need sound policies that help the people, such as a universal basic income and suspending rent and mortgages. One thing this virus makes clear is that we must value human life above profits as a guiding principle for policy.
This crisis is only one of the major events we’ll be facing in the coming years. Our environmental crisis of climate change and mass ecological collapse is still present, not to mention a dwindling supply of clean water. The anxiety that everyone is now feeling is exactly what many scientists, young people and environmentalists have been feeling toward the near future for years.
FDR revived our economy from the Great Depression with the New Deal. A Green New Deal, focusing on the transition to clean energy and ecological restoration, would help take us in the right direction environmentally as well as kick start our economy, rebuild our infrastructure and help create jobs for millions of people, ensuring they can take care of themselves and their families.
Moving forward, to boost our economy, I would also support canceling student loan and medical debt, making college tuition-free, supporting small businesses and farms with grants and tax breaks, and legalizing cannabis and hemp.
If we do not take bold action to help out the millions of people losing their jobs, we could be facing a total economic collapse. We must reform our political system, get corporate money out of politics, focus on policies that produce the most amount of good for the most amount of people, and look toward the future. May our policies be guided by compassion, as we see now more than ever that we are all in the same boat.