News & Politics

How About Some Compassion for the Closed?

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says, "We can hold them for this long but that's it." (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“I’m going to be very poor.”

Can you imagine saying that to a reporter and seeing your words spread all over social media? Can you imagine seeing people on social media tearing you apart? “They should’ve had a Plan B!” “Take your stuff to ebay!”

Or if you’re New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who, I hasten to point out, was born rich, has never known financial hardship, and has not missed a paycheck during the crisis — “Get a job as an essential worker!”

How arrogant. How condescending. How utterly contemptuous of the now 26 million Americans who are struggling because the pandemic struck and government has forced them to stop working. There’s a word for his like, and that word is “jackass.” He should face unemployment after his next election day.

Here’s the thing. If you’ve never experienced a sudden disruption in your life, you will. You can’t always plan for it. No one saw this extreme crisis coming, not its presence or its duration. The number of unemployed Americans now tops the entire population of Florida and is almost the entire population of Texas. That’s a lot of people whose lives have been thrown into deep uncertainty.

Coronavirus has swept through our economy like a tornado. The once strong stock market wheezes. Oil prices have collapsed under the weight of both the COVID-19 attack and the Saudi-Russian price war that preceded the virus by a few weeks. Coronavirus bankruptcies may do more damage than the virus itself. Universities are going online and now even they are announcing pay cuts and furloughing staff. Sports are gone and with them, the diversion to be able to think about something that isn’t actually very important. Movies are delayed and theaters are closed down indefinitely. Restaurants gone. Retail gone. Jobs everywhere, gone gone gone. Family businesses. Livelihoods. Retirement plans. Graduations. Careers. All gone. And the once-thriving gig economy is hurting too.

Each one of these millions of unemployed represents a real life disrupted, cast into grave doubt. Hopefully it’s temporary. It’s possible that many businesses that fall during the shutdown will never return.

This is why it’s appalling to hear elected officials dismiss the concerns of Americans who want to get back to work. These Americans see a savings account gone. They see bills piling up. They see nest eggs spent, and now they have bankruptcy and eviction staring them hard in the face. The loss they face is terrifying and humiliating.

And it’s not their fault.

Yes, many of them have applied for and received unemployment benefits and stimulus checks. That’s not what they want. They want their lives back. Our elected class has to balance the dangers of the pandemic with the dignity of free people. They should side with the people whenever possible. They have to show some respect and stop acting like Dictator for a Day. Enough is enough.

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