COVID’s Financial Impact in America
How is the financial impact of the coronavirus playing out?
Now that we’ve had three months to ponder the nuts and bolts of surviving in a coronavirus economy, the full picture seems to present in even starker detail the plight of working people in an economy rigged for the rich.
As the economy suddenly contracted under the initial coronavirus closures, millions of people lost their jobs or their income.
However, aside from a very tepid effort by the IRS to send out some cash to families, there was no systemic debt relief. Nothing specifically for utilities, rent, or some of the other biggest costs that households have to factor into their budgets.
It’s been a completely intractable situation. Millions of working families have fallen further behind in a game that was already stacked against them by the inability of standard wages to cover everything from housing to health insurance.
Speaking of health insurance, the coronavirus pandemic has also highlighted the lunacy of not having a modern first world national healthcare system.
There’s a reason why it’s so common for injury victims to go to court to look for millions of dollars in settlements from anyone who’s handy, usually corporations or business owners with money to burn.
It’s because the costs of modern healthcare are enormously beyond what working families can ever afford. So they have to crawl, cap in hand, to big corporate employers to try to get at least one of their heads of household into a corporate job position where the company can offer them affordable healthcare benefits.
Otherwise, they have to pay massive amounts of their take-home pay into the Affordable Care Act’s network of state exchanges, forcing private companies to cover everyone, even patients with pre-existing conditions.
But now with covid, it gets worse: as jobs continued to shed, workers were cast off of their long-sought healthcare coverage and forced to rely on COBRA, where the former employee pays the former employer’s portion of the premium, making the policy pretty unaffordable.
So to recap, a significant portion of Americans lost their jobs, which were the only ways that they could even begin to pay for their cable and Internet and electric and gas bills, and the rent or mortgage payments which the creditors were never barred from collecting.
See a problem?
Back to Work!
As the closures eased, spiking coronavirus case estimates in many states, new problems arose.
First of all, after only a month or so of full closures, everyone grudgingly admitted that there was no way for Joe Six-pack to pay the bills without trundling to work, and so there had to be some way to start opening up, even though covid transmission threatens all of us, rich and poor alike. The rich, of course, can retreat to their private kingdoms and scrub everything coming in with Clorox wipes. The rest of us have to live in this decimated economy with the threat of virus always over our shoulders.
But there’s one essential problem that’s ringing alarm bells right now, and that’s schools.
As a savvy self-employed worker recently pointed out in a very prescient column, you can now only afford to have a job or a child – not both!
As workers struggle under the mandate to go back to work with their children still at home, we seem to have another completely intractable problem. But the icing on the cake here is that the same working families are paying enormous amounts of their take-home pay in property taxes, if they’re fortunate enough to own a home. The school districts siphon off amounts that are often up to one third or more of the entire mortgage payment, and in the terms of the grand bargain, they’re supposed to deliver education. But it’s not safe for children to go to school, so the school districts continue to take all that money out of the working families pockets, without providing the child care that will help workers go back to work!
If you see a pattern here, you’re not alone. The financial impact of the pandemic has been deadly for working families, and not even a minor annoyance for the big companies and institutions that will always cover their own finances by rewriting the rules of the game.