Americans love Westerns. Taciturn loners face down danger to save others, operating by their own moral code, alone. Time to put that myth away. Americans, isolated by the COVID-19 health crisis, should adopt a #WeNotMe attitude in the face of the economic fallout that will follow.
People are trying to work from home. Businesses have closed. Almost everything related to travel or entertainment has been cancelled. Most important, they must not go to work if they show any signs of illness.
With testing for infection woefully unavailable in the United States, this kind of social distancing is the only way to try to slow the spread of this new virus and protect the health care system from being overwhelmed by critically ill patients.
Social distancing has to be done early and completely. If these measures are applied after the spread has taken hold, they won’t work. Nor will social distancing be worthwhile if kept in place too long.
For now, however, the focus must not be on me. Instead, we should all do our part in keeping the virus at a distance.
Protecting all of us will come at a high cost for many of us. Hourly wages will be gone. Small businesses will be pushed over the edge. Jobs will disappear along with customers. These ripples will be especially devastating to economies dependent on tourism, entertainment and travel.
The increasingly serious economic consequences of this crisis demands a new approach to keep the economy and fellow Americans from suffering long after the health crisis passes.
Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives worked out legislation to pay for testing and to provide some sick leave for some workers, to bolster Medicaid and to help ensure food distribution to those in need. These proposals are headed in the right direction, but they are not enough.
People whose income has suddenly disappeared will need direct payments. People who have lost their jobs will need money to meet rent and mortgage obligations and forgiveness for late fees. People struggling to keep their business’s doors open will need low- or no-interest loans, quickly and without red tape.
The bank bailouts during the Great Recession proved that Washington can do this. It requires checking egos at the door, refusing to use a crisis to score political points and confidence that America has the resources needed.
America has always come out on top by taking on its challenges with a We-Not-Me attitude.