The Rich Get Richer; the Rest of Us Hang on $600 Handouts

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Watching the Sunday news program can sometimes actually be an education. What a surprise to hear a Republican Representative state that Americans don’t need a stimulus check!

I cannot imagine what world he was living in.

Perhaps it is because the gap between the haves and the have-nots has become so wide here in Hawaii that we who live on the have-not side of the gulf cannot see how, under the present circumstances, one could emerge into the light again.

The Republican senate will only grant an insulting token $600 in aid to Americans across the country – Americans who have been forced to stand down from the most basic pursuit to put food on the table and a roof over the heads of our families – through no fault of our own. We have been literally prohibited from making a living because, simply, it might kill us.

In fact, despite all of the sacrifices – it is still killing one in every 1,000 Americans. One person is dying from Covid every minute in some segments of the country.

In California, the mecca of good health and healthy living, even the most prestigious of hospitals is being overwhelmed with Covid cases. Soon, Los Angeles health care workers will begin to triage patients, rationing health care.

This is so, despite the fact that people sacrificed their jobs and their livelihoods, put their families at risk of homelessness, accrued months of overdue bills and rents – in short, sacrificed everything to prevent just this scenario.

Recall, when the virus first hit the US, that what was important was to “flatten the curve” to allow time for hospitals to gear up for a surge. It would enable the production and storage of PPE, makeshift overflow units, time to find a cure or a treatment and time to produce a vaccination.

Some medications have been found that are successful in treating some cases; PPEs have been stockpiled, though not enough; ventilators were built and stockpiled – and then rejected as a death sentence; and overflows were planned, built and dismantled. And now we have vaccinations, but they are moving out too slowly, as the timing is critical to saving any businesses that have managed to survive until now.

But over time, lockdown shifted to becoming the preferred method of control, bulldozing every small business, restaurant and independent contractor in its path. Politicians saw it as the only way to stop the negative press. But the press continues to be negative, the surge continues, people are dying anyhow and business is out of business.

Unless you are a big box store…

Today, with the national surge in cases and attendant shut-downs, small businesses are closing at a rate probably paralleling the Great Depression and surpassing the Great Recession.

In Hawaii, these are iconic businesses that have served the public for decades, like Likelike Drive In. They will never return. In their places, most likely, will be the same ubiquitous chain businesses that have survived on the Mainland, removing yet another layer of the uniquely Hawaiian landscape we recognize and love.

We haven’t even seen the second wave yet; and we are on the verge of reverting back to a Tier 1 closure that would be economically catastrophic.

In 2019 the Hawaii Tourism Authority budget was $79 million. In 2020, the state of Hawaii borrowed $1 billion from the US treasury, just for unemployment.

That begs the question: Where did all the taxpayer dollars go?

With taxes this high, people living three and four generations to a house with everyone working full-time – and many who do not own a vehicle – this is a puzzle.

Many are forced to sell their homes because their taxes exceed their ability to pay them.

Yet, the City and County of Honolulu has never updated the software and computers that run the unemployment office. The Department of Permitting and Planning cannot approve projects online – or even, approve them in a linear, predictable, timely manner; the Department of Parks and Recreation has no set schedule for maintenance for our parks; neither does the Department of Transportation for our streets.

When Covid hit, failures in government were brought to light. How is that the government can be raking in so much money? With only 1.2 million residents, services should be excellent. But nothing ever got fixed.

Why are we not running the most efficient city in the US?

Republicans in the Senate should recognize that the Trump revolution is a failure of leadership. As we hunker down once again to the covid virus and our economy disintegrates, only the wealthiest grow wealthier. The gap widens.

For some, homelessness is a choice. For some, welfare is a generational state of being and the only thing they know. Those statistics remain stable.

But it is us, the Americans who have small businesses, who are normally employed by those businesses, the independent contractors and entrepreneurs, who have literally lost everything.

We did nothing to deserve this condition. We resigned to it to address the covid virus… But our politicians continue to extract more blood until we are bloodless, with less and less support for the millions of us who have no recourse, no way to pay the bills.

How long will it take for Americans to recover from the hit to our credit scores? To regain our place in the job markets? To recover from the unevenness of our family economies?

How many families have dissolved in despair, turned to substances, encountered domestic abuse and child-care gaps? How many kids have missed critical experiences in learning, both socially and academically? How many universities will be able to recover?

We learned nothing from the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. We repeated the same pattern with the same results, despite the fact that we have a century of medical breakthroughs they did not have. We are as vague and disassembled as Europe was in the 1500s amidst the deadly “sweating sickness.”

Worse yet, we are discovering that even though many who have contracted the disease had little or no symptoms, the virus goes on to ravage the body for months. Symptoms with onset weeks or months after the virus concludes include numbness, forgetfulness, paranoid and schizophrenic delusions and other issues brought on apparently as the body’s immune system continues to attack the virus in the brain.

Yes. We need every dime of relief. It is going out there to all the big agencies, but little of it is going to the public. If every man, woman and child got $20,000 each, there would still be plenty left over to deal with the virus.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the vote to raise the stimulus to $2,000. Again.

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