Your Money or Your Life

“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to rethink everything.” (Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association)

[NOTE: Yes, this is a lengthy post, but the COVID-19 crisis we’re facing demands that we take care not only of ourselves, but each other. The emails, news publications, and TV reports rolling across my screen each day tell a heartbreaking tale of urgent need in every corner of America and beyond. To help you find assistance and/or voice your concerns, I’ve added links for each topic. If you’re lucky enough to have what you need in this moment, I hope you will speak out and keep hollering for the health and safety of others. Please pass this on to anyone you feel needs it. We are all in this together.]

Once upon a time, homo sapiens referred to themselves as people. In the early years, these people were largely engaged in doing things like taming fire and inventing the wheel. But as time went on, they began making stuff, and soon they were producing more stuff than they needed, so they started hawking it to others. Thus, the consumer was born. But people were still referred to as people, even when they purchased candles or beans or wool material. Shakespeare often used the Romanesque term citizens, as he was writing in a time of rising nation states. Still, citizens connotes people, residents of a particular society.

It would take another 350 years—in the decades following WWII—to commonly refer to people as consumers. “Consumers worry about rising rents.” “Seventy percent of consumers favor Medicaid expansion.” It would take less than 50 years to begin referring to human beings as brands. And not everyone is worthy of being a brand. To be worthy, you have to be a “name.” Have some talent or product or financial scheme that others are willing to shell out bucks for. A film star. A best-selling author. A hedge-fund dude. Otherwise, the reckoning is you just don’t matter in our economy. And if you’ve been tuning in to the news, you know that TheRUMP and his henchmen are all about the economy.

When asked for his response to those who worry that re-opening the economy now will get people killed, Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Indiana) said, “There is no zero harm choice here. Both of these decisions will lead to harm for individuals, whether that’s dramatic economic harm or whether that’s the loss of life. But it is always the American government’s position to say in the choice between the loss of our way of life as Americans and the loss of life of American lives, we have to always choose the latter.”

Note that economic harm is “dramatic” to Hollingsworth, while loss of life? Pfft. Easier to get a table at your favorite restaurant on Saturday night.    

But if COVID-19 has reminded us of anything, it’s this. We are not consumers. We are not brands. We are PEOPLE. People who suffer. People who die. I say it’s about time we reclaim our humanity. And get down to the business of saving ourselves. A threat to one of us is a threat to all of us, and right now we’re facing some formidable obstacles on the one-world front. Here in the States, we can’t even get TheRUMP and his pals to view the corona virus as a national emergency. It’s been a scramble of state and local governments having to fend for their people. To quote an old Laugh-In joke: As the president said, you’re on your own. “Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment—try getting it yourselves,” TheRUMP said. Definitely not funny.

While SCOTUS and the NRA are promoting guns—everyone get armed!—as the solution we all need, it’s up to us to resist the petty politics of self-interest, greed, and bigotry. The uber-rich may have the power, but we have the numbers, and numbers can be a formidable force. So, taking the highest moral principle to be this—that people don’t throw other people under the bus—we need to:

Keep the Water On for Everyone

It’s not rocket science to recognize that no running water in the age of COVID-19 = death. Not “just” the death of those without this most basic of needs, but the chain of deaths that follow a single infected person. Yet, some 2 million Americans already lacked running water before the pandemic, and now those numbers are rising as utility companies shut off access to people for nonpayment.

And the inability to pay is increasing daily. Over 22 million people filed for unemployment in the period from mid-March through mid-April. Strapped for cash to buy food and pay the rent, how will they manage the water bill?

Failure to place a moratorium on water shutoffs at the federal level is mean-spirited, dangerous, and just plain crazy. A century ago, the U.S. government recognized that having access to safe drinking and wastewater for every American was key to preventing widespread disease. To protect public health, they built water infrastructure and funded it, with positive benefits to both public health and the economy (funny how the former is essential to the latter). Today, federal support has trickled to a drip and communities are losing access to water services they once had.

But we can lobby our elected officials to keep those taps open and running. Though twelve state governors have already signed an executive order requiring a moratorium on water shutoffs (California, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin), only four require utility companies to reconnect service for households whose water was already cut off. The good news is, as of April 27, some 203 million Americans are protected from shut-offs. The bad news is there are 328 million of us. I don’t have a degree in math, but I believe that means more than a third of the country is at risk. Which, in terms of COVID-19 spread, means all of us are at risk.

Shutting off access to water to anyone hurts everyone.

And let’s keep the lights on, too. No electricity means no safe food storage. No power to cook the food you have. No heat for many in cold weather. No fans or AC in the heat. And once you’re out of battery power, no life-saving link to the outside world via computer or phone. Despite an FCC initiative to “Keep Americans Connected,” a pledge that asks broadband and telecom services to refrain from terminating service at least through mid-May for those who can’t pay (a pledge taken by some 650 companies), newly-unemployed people are still having their service shut off and facing ridiculous sums to be reconnected.

What you can do: Sign the Food and Water Watch petition here to stop all water shut-offs during COVID-19. If your state still lacks a moratorium on shut-offs, call or write your governor today, using the contact info here.

If you need help: If essential utilities are shut off, advocacy org Food and Water Watch recommends calling your governor immediately—contact info is available here. To speak directly to someone at Food and Water Watch, call toll-free: 855-340-8083.

Screw Business as Usual—We Must Feed Everyone

Some of the saddest news footage I’ve seen in a time of sad images—refrigerated trucks to handle the morgue overflow, exhausted doctors and nurses weeping over yet another death on the ICU—is the film of farmers destroying acres and acres of food or dumping enormous vats of milk because the supply chain they use is connected to now-shuttered restaurants rather than supermarkets.

Hello, ten-thousand people lined up in their cars in San Antonio the first week of April for a box of food from their local food bank, and we’re being told that the supply chains for restaurants and schools can’t be shifted to grocery stores because the food is “packaged differently”? That in a five-star red-alert emergency, we can’t put food that used to go into a big carton into a small carton? That the trucks which formerly came to your town’s restaurants can’t take a three-block detour and go to the supermarket? Can they possibly make it to a local food bank? We are a country that put a man on the moon fifty years ago. I don’t think the millions and millions of hungry Americans really care how their food is packaged. They’re just trying to keep themselves and their kids from starving.  

We need to start thinking like one nation, not a chain of disconnected enterprises. Those thousands of acres of food farmers destroyed—it all could have gone to food banks who are scrambling to feed millions from Chicago to Sunrise, Florida, from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, even as they face funding shortfalls. Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food banks, with more than 200 affiliates, has projected a $1.4 billion shortfall in the next six months, while half the harvest of a nation rich in farmland is plowed under.  

What you can do:  Contact FeedingAmerica here to find ways you can take action to help hungry Americans.

If you need help: For a list of food banks near you, contact Feeding America here.

Provide Free COVID-19 Testing and Healthcare for Everyone

In the war against Medicare for All, a battle that can only be labeled ironic (but deadly) now, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were both subjected to endless harassment by network debate moderators, the insurance companies, and the Wall Street press for championing the kind of universal healthcare every other major nation (and many smaller countries) provides. Lots of hand-wringing. But people don’t want to give up their wonderful employer-provided health plan.

Ironic because in the weeks following those debates, COVID-19 has laid waste to much of that employer-provided insurance as businesses downsize, fold, or go on indefinite hold, and people lose both their jobs and their healthcare. Of course, many, many jobs never provided health insurance at all to employees. If you were/are an hourly worker, then you know the old management trick of giving you a weekly work sked just an hour or two short of what qualifies as full time. Which means no coverage at all. Which also means many low-wage workers in essential jobs must now keep working even when they’re sick, even if they have COVID-19, even when they are spreading the disease far and wide.

Free testing and Covid-19 care must be available to all people, regardless of whether or not they still have a healthcare plan. No deductibles. No co-pays. No out-of-pocket anything. The health insurance industry is already enjoying a very healthy bottom line this year, which we’ll get to in a moment. It is people, not giant corporations, that need life-saving help now.

What you can do: If your state is not one of the 11 listed in the paragraph below, lobby your governor and your state department of health and human services for opening ACA enrollment in your state now. It’s complicated because not all states operate their own ACA exchanges. Better yet, email the White House and demand a special national open enrollment period. TheRUMP has fought this because he hates all things Obama, but tough luck. Lives are at stake.

If you need help: As of April 9, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington have all announced special open enrollment periods for people without insurance to sign up for a plan through the Affordable Care Act. Check out your state’s government website (e.g., Mass.gov for Massachusetts) under “health and human services.” Also, check out healthcare.gov. If you’ve had one of the “life-changing events” listed under “Special Enrollment Period”, you are eligible to enroll in the ACA right now no matter where you live.

Keep or Put a Roof Over Everyone’s Head

Healthcare isn’t the only loss that comes with 22 million+ people losing their jobs. The impossibility of making rent and mortgage payments puts many of these people at risk of homelessness, and that spells contagion and death on a massive scale. There were over half a million homeless people in the U.S. before COVID-19. The cruelty—and danger—of increasing that number, tripling, quadrupling, ten-fold is beyond nightmare. No one must become homeless and the already-homeless must be given shelter. The federal government must cancel rent and mortgages for all individuals for their primary residence, a bill that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has proposed.

And what about the families in ICE detention camps and cells around country, packed in tight and with no medical care? In its usual inhumane and ham-handed way, ICE racheted up the danger and death toll significantly by waiting to release detainees until the virus had spread significantly, then releasing hundreds of people into the general population, not knowing whether or not these individuals were infected. For those still in detention, their situation mirrors that of many refugees around the world: Crammed close in unsanitary conditions, it’s a likely death sentence for people whose only “crime” is fleeing violence and starvation.

What you can do: To support Rep. Omar’s bill , the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, click here. This bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Tlaib (D-MI), Jayapal (D-WA), Pocan (D-WI), Pressley (D-MA), Escobar (D-TX), García (D-IL), and Meng (D-NY).

If you need help: Renter protections curing COVID-19 vary greatly from state to state. Under the CARES Act, the federal government has issued a 120-day moratorium on evictions from federally subsidized housing or from properties with federally backed mortgage loans. The problem is it can be hard for tenants to know who backs their landlord’s mortgage.

To find out if your state or city has an eviction moratorium, try: 1) HUD rental assistance. Click here, then click on your state, and scroll down to Local Resources. Click on “disaster assistance” or “rental help” (it varies by state). 2) FEMA emergency management. Click here, then click on the letter for your state (for example, D for Delaware). 3) NOLO. Click here, then scroll down the page to find your state.

Protect All Workers: We Depend on Them

From a recent email:

I’m not disposable.

I’m a person. I’m a mother. I deserve as much protection and support during this crisis as anyone else.

I need McDonald’s to understand that they may see me as disposable, but I do not.

So, I’m proud to be one of the McDonald’s workers to have walked off the job in the past weeks, and to stand with workers in California walking off the job today. After McDonald’s workers in Tampa, St. Louis, and Memphis went on strike to protest a lack of personal protective equipment, McDonald’s announced that it will begin to provide its workers with masks – but we’re not done yet.

Fighting for what’s right means taking action until all our needs are met. We need paid sick leave. We need hazard pay. We need basic protections like gloves and masks when we do have to work.

We know that nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff on the front lines are not getting the protective gear they need. In some states, a fifth of all known COVID-19 cases are medical staff. TheRUMP’s refusal to involve the federal government in large-scale testing for Americans, and his insistence that the Strategic National Stockpile belongs to him (dipping into a recent shipment to lift 3,600 surgical masks for his White House staff), has forced state governors to scramble for their own testing equipment, hospital beds, masks, and ventilators, only to find they are in a bidding war with other states, or worse, the federal government.

Sometimes, federal authorities just confiscate shipments en route, as they did in March, seizing 3 million masks, ordered by Massachusetts, at the Port of New York. Now, states and hospitals have to resort to using private planes, as Massachusetts did, when it flew the New England Patriots team plane to China to pick up 1.2 million masks. Governor Baker tweeted: Tonight’s arrival of a major shipment of N95 masks on the Patriots’ plane was a significant step in our work to get front-line workers the equipment they need,”

Equally essential, and faring far worse, are the farm workers we’re all depending on to keep us fed throughout this pandemic. TheRUMP wants to further slash wages for farm workers on guest worker visas to help Big Ag cut costs. These workers already suffer from pesticide exposure, heatstroke, dehydration, and ICE raids. They have no minimum-wage guarantee or overtime pay under federal law. They cannot work remotely, and social distancing presents real challenges in the fields. Though farm workers in some areas have started maintaining 10-foot distances from one another, almost a quarter of them report they travel to work in packed vans or buses because that is what contractors and crew leaders provide. And close to half live in crowded housing.

You would think with everyone depending on essential workers for food, healthcare, and other necessities, workers would have a powerful leverage in the moment, but the ears of Big Business and billionaire CEOs have been deaf to demands for safety, paid sick leave, and fair pay.

When Amazon’s warehouse workers began to contract COVID-19 and the company refused to provide protective gear for them, they went on strike demanding safe working conditions and paid sick leave. Not only were their demands denied, but the leaders of the action were fired. On April 21, workers again walked out, and though the results of that remain to be seen at this writing, it’s important to note that workers in more than 130 Amazon warehouses in the U.S. now have the virus. At some locations, the number of infected employees tops 30.

Mom and Pop businesses—the local garden center, your favorite boutique, your hair salon—may be shuttered for business, but the big banks are balking at lending them the money—our tax dollars—Congress allocated. And now the banks claim the money is—poof!—gone. Yes, the same banks we bailed out back in the Obama era. The banks who used that bailout gift to boost already outrageous CEO salaries and buy back stock.

Congress voted in a $2 trillion COVID-19 package to protect American workers and small businesses owners, and they appointed Inspector General Glenn Fine to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to guard against abuses (largely, big corps and other pals of the president sucking up the funds). Within days, TheRUMP fired Fine, suggesting he was an Obama appointee (Fine was confirmed an inspector general in 2000, under the Bush administration), and now who knows where the money’s going, going, gone…           

This life-threatening level of mismanagement is what we’ve come to expect from this administration, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The Hill reports that, “When the governments of Denmark, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Australia told their businesses to shutter to protect the public health, they quickly set up paycheck protection programs to cover employee salaries at affected businesses. This has allowed workers to stay attached to their jobs and positioned them to quickly return to work when the coronavirus pandemic ends.” The Hill concludes: “Congress should follow their lead.”

What you can do: Sign Move-On’s petition here demanding that Congress provide  essential workers with essential protections, including work place health protections, paid sick leave, hazard pay, free health care, and paid family leave.

If you need help: Sadly, OSHA(Occupational Safety & Health Administration) is widely-reported to be refusing to create any COVID-19-specific protections for workers. The National Employment Law Project notes that: Some members of Congress tried to pass such a requirement, but the American Hospital Association and the Trump administration opposed any such standard, and the congressional effort was unsuccessful. However, Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Vermont have designated healthcare workers and other essential personnel (including grocery workers) as “first responders” which gives them access to free child care. State bills have been introduced for multiple types of assistance including hazard pay. Check your state’s government website (e.g., Mass.gov) to learn what you may be entitled to.

Stop the Highway Robbery: Price-gouging

Someone once said America is not a nation; it’s a get-rich-quick scheme. Never has the truth of this been more naked than now. In the wake of COVID-19, prices for medical supplies, cleaning products, and food have skyrocketed on Amazon and other internet sites. In March, a digital thermometer was going for $27 (a 50% mark-up), toilet paper tripled in price—$98 a box, and the cost of N95 masks, desperately needed in hospitals across the nation, had quadrupled from $1.00 to $3.98.  That hand sanitizer we all crave? A four-pack of Purell is yours for $159.

Despite complaints from 33 state attorneys general calling on Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook to take active measures to end price-gouging, the pandemic profiteering continues. There are still thermometers selling for more than $500, and Cheerios going at two boxes for $60. When one overpriced product gets removed—usually after enough shoppers complain—another pops up.

The U.S. Public Research Interest Group (U.S. PIRG) has been lobbying for measures to end this deadly greed at a national level. Right now, only 33 states have some kind of law against such profiteering, and the vague language used by a third of those statutes, prohibiting “unconscionably high” prices during a national disaster further confuses the issue. Whose conscience? 

The pandemic has also proven profitable for U.S. health insurance companies. With elective surgeries no longer in the picture, and national testing a mirage on a distant horizon, their payout has shrunk considerably. Medicare For All recently cited a Market Watch report that claimed UnitedHealth, one of the largest health insurers in the U.S., reported a profit of $5 billion on their first-quarter earnings—much more than the company had anticipatedDid they use this COVID-19 windfall to lower premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for customers? No, they plowed $1.7 billion of this bonanza into stock buy-backs, and gave doctors an ultimatum: Take a pay cut (up to 60%) or get dropped from UH’s networks. No one on United’s board risked their life to get rich. But every doctor on the frontlines in America is risking theirs to help save people.

Much has been made of Jeff Bezos’s recent $100 million contribution to Feeding America, the nation’s largest chain of food banks. That’s the biggest donation the hunger-relief nonprofit has ever received, but only about a tenth of what it needs in this crisis. Interestingly, Business Insider calculated in January 2019 that Bezos earns roughly $8,961,187 every hour. That means his $100 million donation put him out about eleven hours and some change. For a guy who pays virtually no taxes—thanks to TheRUMP–and can write off this gift on his tax form, well, it seems like Gee, Jeff, couldn’t you have reached a little deeper? Maybe donated a whole day’s earnings? Especially now that COVID-19 and stay-at- home orders have boosted Amazon’s profits through the stratosphere.

Speaking of Bezos: Amazon, along with 3M, Honeywell, FedEx, and U.S. Bank—companies which helm the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—are spearheading the C of C’s lobbying against the full use of the Defense Production Act, a critical tool for the central manufacture and distribution of the N-95 masks, ventilators, and testing kits our doctors, nurses, essential workers, and communities need. The Defense Production Act allows the president to prioritize orders for the federal government, to allocate materials, services and supplies, and to restrict hoarding. All things that could impact companies’ profits during COVID-19. 

Nick Fewings

As Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) recently said, “The COVID-19 pandemic is illuminating some of the failings of our society. Income inequality in America is among the worst in the developed world. Since 1979, the wages of the top 1% grew 138%, while wages of the bottom 90% grew just 15%. And inequality will get much worse because the incomes of already-wealthy Americans’ are currently growing faster than those of the middle class. This system cannot continue, especially if we want our country to recover quickly and effectively from the impacts of COVID-19.”

Amid all the profiteering, one of the saddest, most poignant stories to emerge was reported in The Guardian. It concerns the question a patient asked his medical team as they were hooking him up to a ventilator in a New York City hospital. “Who’s going to pay for it?” the man asked anxiously. Those were his last words.

What you can do: Check the state-by-state list here to see where your state stands on price-gouging during national emergencies. If there is no law against it, or the language is vague, contact your state’s attorney general and holler loudly to correct this.  

If you need help: If price-gouging is preventing you from obtaining food, medicine, safety protection or other basic goods, contact your state’s attorney general (find their name and contact info here) and file a complaint even if your state does not currently restrict price-gouging. Laws are changing daily, and public pressure is what changes them.

Restore and Extend Environmental Protections to Prevent Future Pandemics

Tucked up inside you house right now—okay, forced by law, fear, intelligence, or all three to stay at home throughout this runaway COVID-19 crisis—concerns about the environment may not be topping your daily list of worries, but we can’t afford to ignore the role business-as-usual—this “normal” life we’re supposed to return to—plays in the current global disaster. Especially with TheRUMP burning down all EPA protections.

 Ronnie Cummins (Organic Consumers Association), who I quoted at the top of this post, lays bare the stakes for our survival in his thoughtful essay:

If we’re going to survive this pandemic, and avoid the pandemics lying in wait, if we’re going to avoid the greatest pandemic of them all looming on the horizon—runaway global warming and catastrophic climate change—we need to take control of our destiny and build a new Green Commonwealth that is regenerative, rather than degenerative.

Cummins goes on to say we must rethink our food production systems, our healthcare system, the fossil-fuel industry, and the military-industrial complex. Bio-warfare labs are scattered across the planet. On any given day, an accident worthy of a Stephen King novel could occur. In fact, King wrote about exactly this kind of four-alarm pandemic in The Stand.

Though early rumors hinted that COVID-19 started in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the virus likely started with an infected horseshoe bat in China, jumped to an intermediary species, and then to humans. The suspect “jumping point” for COVID-19 is the wet markets so common in South Asian countries. “Wet markets” are defined as a shopping area where butchers and farmers sell fresh produce. We have them in the U.S. and Europe. It’s the selling of live animals in South Asian markets—especially those from the illegal/exotic animal trade—for making food and folk medicines, that risks spreading viruses to humans. The 2003 SARS epidemic was linked to the sale of civet cats at Guangdong wet markets. Ebola and other epidemics have been traced to viruses in wild bush meat. A science-based white paper issued by Humane Society International warns that COVID-19 is  “a tipping point that governments globally must not ignore.” Failure to act makes “the emergence of another coronavirus-based disease … a practical certainty.”

Factory farms present another, related pandemic danger. With their emphasis on maximum production at minimum cost—crowding thousands of cows, pigs, chickens into tight quarters—they are the perfect Petri dish for disease. The breeding programs employed by factory farms are designed to produce animals that provide a consistent food product (more white meat! more profit!). That means genetic variation is minimized, and without that variation—if these animals lack a gene for resistance to a particular disease—a disease can run rampant, wiping them out, but not before it may be passed on to humans. A second danger: The excessive use of antibiotics to prevent disease among the animals, packed head to toe, is creating antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

What you can do: Sign the Food &Water Watch petition here asking Congress to ban factory farms for the many ways they hurt our health/the environment (the two are deeply intertwined). Call or email your senators and reps (find their names here) to insist all gutted EPA standards be immediately reinstated. And voice your support for the Green New Deal.         

We Must Defend Democracy for Everyone: Demand Vote-by-Mail

On April 7, thousands of brave people risked their lives to exercise our most democratic right: the right to vote. The scene was Wisconsin—a Democratic primary that also featured a state Supreme Court seat the GOP was intent on keeping. Intent enough to overturn an order Governor Tony Evers (D) had issued to keep Wisconsin voters safe by extending the deadline for vote-by-mail ballots. The state Supreme Court conservatives quashed it. If voters (whom they expected to be mostly Democrats, and in Milwaukee, mostly people of color) wanted to vote so damn bad, they’d just have to come stand in line and risk getting COVID-19. That same day, Brett Kavanaugh and the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court intervened to give Wisconsin Republicans another thumbs up on their refusal to protect voters, by overturning a federal judge’s support of Evers’ extension,

With a shortage of poll workers, Madison’s 92 polling locations were down to 66. Green Bay had just two. And Milwaukee—the state’s largest city at 600,000—its 180 polling stations were reduced to five. Voters told stories of ordering mail-in ballots 3-4 weeks before—ballots that never arrived. People stood in line for hours, but they didn’t give up. 

Charles Swanson, of Demand Justice, describes the dangers poll workers and voters alike encountered as they risked their lives to make their voices heard:

Last Tuesday, I worked at a polling place in Racine, Wisconsin as my neighbors and community members stood in line waiting to cast their ballots.

Not everyone had a mask or gloves. It was impossible to check an ID from six feet away, so we couldn’t practice the advised social distancing. My fellow poll workers and I did our best to try to disinfect the clipboards and pens people had to use.

And here I pause to savor the moment because, every once in a while, in the darkest hour, when all feels lost and hope seems hopeless, true justice comes ROARING in and triumphs: On Election Day, April 7, the moral arc of the universe bent toward justice as Democrat Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky blew right by Republican Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly in a whopping 10-point victory. 

But the decisions of the two courts to force Wisconsin citizens to vote in person came with a terrible cost. Nineteen people who either voted in person or worked at a polling site have since tested positive for COVID-19, Wisconsin state health officials said.

To avoid a repeat of the situation and hold a fair election in November, when America may still be in the middle of a pandemic, we must ramp up voting by mail. But mail-in voting has a loud opponent: President Trump. He’s calling for Republicans to fight it, saying it’s a recipe for fraud.

Those are the words of Dan McReady, the Democrat candidate for Congress in North Carolina’s 9th District. McReady is running in a special election on September 10 because his Republican opponent committed election fraud in the 2018 elections. Is this the fraud TheRump’s warning us about?

Key to winning vote-by-mail for the 2020 election is the survival of the U.S. Postal Service. Right now—strained for money—it may well tank before that date, leaving 600,000 workers jobless and millions of Americans in the lurch. Some mortally so, as the USPS delivers life-saving meds to people in areas deemed too remote to be worth the trip by for-profit delivery services.  

To date, TheRUMP has refused to sign any COVID-19 legislation that funds the Post Office, calling the USPS “a joke”, and most recently adding that to get his support, the USPS would have to quadruple its price to Amazon for package delivery. This is more of TheRUMP’s jealous war with Jeff Bezos.

More to the point is the president’s candid admission that a functioning U.S. postal service, combined with nationwide vote-by-mail would be a knock-out combo unfavorable to him. If the U.S. switched to all-mail voting, he said, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

We must: 1) Protect the United States Postal Service, and 2) Demand vote-by-mail for all Americans, because right now the outcomes of our elections are too often not reflecting the values, dreams and needs of MOST Americans. Right now, our lives are on the line.

What you can do: The ACLU is working to support safe voting for all Americans. You can help by signing their petition here.  Just scroll down and click on “Congress: Expand Voting Access During a Pandemic” to add your name. You can also call/email your senators and reps to demand they support both the USPS and vote-by-mail options. Find their names here.  

If you need help: The National Conference of State Legislatures offers info on state statutes for Vote-by-Mail. Just click here and scroll down to State Statutes on All-Mail Elections. For voting procedures in your state, visit http://www.usa.gov here, then scroll down and select your state.

#ClapBecauseWeCare

In London, it was Thursdays. In New York City, Fridays were the day, though it quickly evolved into a daily event. And now #ClapBecauseWeCare is happening in cities and towns around the globe. In this time of pandemic uncertainty and social distancing, people everywhere are coming out on their balconies, their front stoops, or just opening a window at 7 p.m. to cheer for the doctors, nurses, first responders, sanitation workers, grocery workers, warehouse workers, delivery drivers, postal employees, pharmacists, farm laborers, and those staffing the take-out window at shuttered restaurants, as well as those preparing the food. All over the world, we clap and cheer for five full minutes. To express our gratitude. Our solidarity with one another. And, perhaps as well, to collectively celebrate the fact that we are still alive.  

A woman wrote to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell that she felt isolated from this celebration, living out in the country. Who would hear her if she clapped? But then one night, she decided to give it a go. She went out on her front porch to cheer and clap for five minutes. The next night she did it again, and this time she heard someone, faintly, doing the same. O’Donnell finished the story with, “And if you do this anywhere in America, you will never be alone.”

I began this post with Ronnie Cummin’s words: If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to rethink everything. I’ll close it by sharing a glimpse into one possibility. If you scroll down through this cbsnews.com feature, you’ll see before-and-now pictures of cities around the world. I promise it will shock you. And inspire you. What we have been. What we could be.

Our Constitution does not say “We the consumers… ” It does not say “We the brands… ” It says “We the people… ” It is up to us to help one another, care for each other, be a champion for all. No one else is coming to fix this. It rests on us, the people. So, do whatever you can from wherever you are to build a better world. A humane world. And know that life is resilient.

We are resilient. 


22 thoughts on “Your Money or Your Life

    1. Thanks, Phill. Your idea of someone providing this kind of guidance for the UK is great–have you thought about tackling it? I won’t kid you, it took more than 70 hours of research, writing, and frequent updating as I wrote, and then loading the whole thing online (mama mia! all those links!), but my point is I’m just a “regular person.” Anyone crazy enough to take it on could do it. I did worry that I was missing things. Maybe not getting the best link to help on some topic. But now, I think we all just do the best we can and that has to be enough. Consider it. Stay well!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Such a wonderful post! Not merely for the sentiments it expresses, but for the many links/ideas it provides to actions we can all take. The sense of helplessness is pervasive, and even the smallest concrete action is empowering. May I offer two additional ideas? Check out this organization that’s helping to supply food banks and helps farmers too.

    https://www.gofundme.com/f/farms-to-food-banks?fbclid=IwAR0IAPkuGh9ZH7CKtVWY9HNtTjXltp0l3pOm1GFJcCP7jLVv0pCO2jG4MmU

    And in the longterm, support candidates at every level (including town councils) who truly care about their fellow citizens and do not worship at the feet of Ayn Rand.

    Carol Nissenson

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    1. Thanks, Carol, for the new links. That’s exactly the kind of “we’re-all-in-this” response/action I hoped the post would evoke. I can only echo, in caps, your DO NOT WORSHIP AT THE FEET OF AYN RAND (or Big Oil, Big Ag, and Big Pharma for that matter). Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. Stay well!

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      1. Yes, all that wasted food–the fields farmers were plowing under–was really upsetting. And it had to be depressing for the farmers as well.

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    1. Then we must vote early and often, Neil (weak levity, I know). And try to keep in mind the crushing defeat of the sitting Republican Wisconsin Supreme Court judge. Ten points! And that in the face of massive (SCOTUS!) effort to crush all chances for anything resembling a fair election. Those people forced to stand in line for hours at the handful of WI polling stations, who later contracted COVID-19 (52 and counting as of yesterday)? They are heroes, as surely as the workers who got their skulls smashed in 150 years ago, fighting for the eight-hour workday. Fight on. Stay well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this amazingly comprehensive coverage of not only our plight right now, but ways in which to fight against it and unite to help others overcome it. You have done a great service in researching and compiling this post; I pressed all the links and signed on to most of the organizations you included. You are what we need to encourage us and keep us fighting this monstrous plague with which we are afflicted–and the coronavirus too (mild levity there). Republican leaders in Washington and the states should be writhing in shame, if only they had enough of it to cover themselves. Bravo, Amy!

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  3. I appreciate your investment in the time it took to compile this list of topics that are clearly important not only to you, but to our future. I was reading an article recently that included an observation that ties into many of your topics above: economics is about managing resources. But when it morphs into managing profits, that’s where things go off the rails.

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  4. This far-reaching post helps us understand the unusual situation we find ourselves in today! It’s so overwhelming with so much to worry about. I love how you break it down into approachable topics, and then offer concrete ways to make a positive impact on the problems. Thanks for sharing, Amy! #RethinkEverything

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    1. While researching and writing this, I was struck again and again about how we don’t approach things as a nation, and how much this hurts Americans. Where other countries have issued policies that ensure everyone continues to stay attached to their employer, paid in the meantime, and ready to re-open the country with everyone employed and no loss of businesses (which means it will all happen faster and with little pain/confusion), our loose confederacy of corporations means that huge quantities of food are being wasted when people are starving, people are losing their water, their electricity, becoming homeless, and there’s no universal healthcare. Whereas universities in other nations (Oxford, for example) are working on a vaccine, here university labs and scientists are sitting idle because TheRUMP wants one of the Big Pharma players to make the vaccine, so that high $$$ can be charged. We need to truly become a nation, and to realize that its our people who drive the prosperity of this country, and that they are NOT expendable. Thanks as always for taking time to read and comment.

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  5. Thanks, Amy, for your passion and for your attention to detail. And thanks for providing the links so that I could make my opinion known!

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    1. I always appreciate your support, Tom, even when I’m slow to get back to you. Blame it on COVID-19. Weirdly, instead of feeling like there’s more time, since everything “stopped”, I feel more rushed??? Anyway, I’m very glad to give you outlets for making your opinion known. We need everyone hollering!

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  6. Amy, what a lot of great research and good ideas for helping with the crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Thank you for bringing this awareness to our attention. I think many of us have felt a bit helpless, like we’ve lost all control and don’t know what will happen next. If we all take at least a few of these actions, we would be helping to create a safer and better life for all. I appreciate your inspiration that we the people DO have options in this situation–we don’t have to sit around frustrated at the lack of compassion and assistance from POTUS and his followers. You’ve provided the opportunity for us to express our views where it can make a difference. Thank you for all the links you’ve provided. My daughter works for Feeding America and they are constantly trying to figure out how to feed as many people as possible. (FYI – it is not a simple matter for them to pass on products that were intended for restaurants–for example, a 6 to 7 lb. can of tomato sauce.) But I’m very grateful to you for providing the link to Feeding America so people can help others who are hungry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear your daughter works for such a wonderful org. And LOL I’m sure it would be a tad difficult to dole out giant cans of anything to folks at a food bank. I should probably have been clearer about that in the post. My question is why didn’t the restaurant supply chain companies retool to downsize containers for food banks and supermarkets? That would have avoided so much waste and kept Americans better provisioned. I think about all the factories in WWII England that retooled on a far larger scale to meet the needs of the nation. Where is that civic sense among today’s corporations? Thanks for stopping by and stay well.

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