Reviews | This pandemic should teach us that grotesque inequality was a pre-existing condition


Two years ago I was panicking, making hundreds of phone calls to postpone my wedding which was days away. It was in March 2020.

A global pandemic had reached the United States and changed each of our lives in ways we never imagined. Millions of Americans would lose their jobs, friends, family, and even their lives to COVID-19, while billionaires would see a record increase in their wealth.

Large companies artificially increase the price diapers, while lobbying against the extension of the child tax credit to people who buy them.

As the country came to a standstill and I Googled if an imam would celebrate our wedding on Zoom, there was a silver lining in the back of my mind. Surely, I thought, such a monumental event—an event that laid bare all the inequalities of our economic system—would call for a change of equal measure.

There was a wave of recognition that workers were essential. Affordable child care and well-paid providers have proven to be the backbone of a functioning economy. Free health care suddenly seemed like a great idea.

When a new administration took over, some short-term changes to the US bailout saved people from falling off a steep cliff.

Vaccines were distributed freely and efficiently. Americans got bigger stimulus checks, while workers who lost their jobs got more generous unemployment insurance. Families with children began receiving direct monthly payments through the expanded Child Tax Credit.

But when it came time to embrace the more transformative, longer-term changes we needed, the lessons of the past two years weren’t enough for some politicians.

The Build Back Better Act would have reset the operating conditions for child care, housing, and income support in our country. It would have extended the child tax credit, created green jobs and more.

But each of the 263 House and Senate Republicans, plus Senate Democrat Joe Manchin, opposed it. For this, they have been generously rewarded by corporate lobbyists. Oil giant Exxon, for example, donated $65,000 to Manchin’s campaign and boasted of their access to the senator, who also owns shares in the company.

A good deal for Manchin. Not so much for the many Americans who can’t fill up for less than $100. We were so close to living in a country with higher gas prices, or a few more dollars for Ground beefdidn’t mean that someone was going to bed without dinner.

Companies that monopolize these necessities deserve the blame for much inflation, including the rising cost of gas and food. But they are also to blame for the fact that they does not pay its workers sufficient to meet these expenses.

Large companies artificially increase the price diapers, while lobbying against the extension of the child tax credit to people who buy them. The credit has since expired, throwing millions of children fall back into poverty.

Banks profit of the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates while deny black mortgages buy a house and build up a generational heritage.

Two years later, I can enjoy the in-person wedding photos I finally got after my family and friends were able to get vaccinated. I am grateful for this semblance of normality. But some things should not go back to the status quo.

We cannot fall back into a system where small unforeseen expenses plunge entire families into poverty. We should be able to pay our bills and also save some for the future. While that may sound “normal,” it hasn’t been the reality for the average American for decades.

But that doesn’t mean that nothing at all has changed. As we tackle another year of COVID-19, it’s time to loosen the power that has just been essential and fight for a new economy that benefits people, not just businesses.

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