I see a lot of comments on social media about being glad when we can return to normal.
I am not certain that is a worthy aspiration. Our normal consisted of facts being too often considered optional. We did not, evidently, have a functioning health care system, our citizens too frequently were living on the economic edge to the point where losing two paychecks would make them need to visit food banks, our government was unprepared to handle such a crisis.
With many, if not most people’s health care tied to their employment and their employment suspended or terminated due to the virus we found out very quickly that the term health care system was a severe overstatement of fact.
Our booming economy likewise proved to be a myth for many. I am not pleased, nor should any of us be, that it seems that our country is now divided mainly into only two economic categories, those who have more than they need and those who have less than they need. Despite being far from an economist or even particularly savvy about money, I saw this trend coming years ago and warned my own children, that the middle class was shrinking and that they needed to be careful to make sure they were on the right side of the divide. In present day America we have to admit that some animals are more equal than others.
We have had a myth in this country for decades, if not generations, that all you have to do is work hard and save some money and fortune will knock on your front door and you will live a life unfettered with worry about finances. This pandemic has shown that not only are many, if not most of our citizens struggling after six weeks or so of shutdowns, but that many countries, including ours, are struggling economically as well. And, some of the folks who are working the hardest are also the ones being hardest hit economically. I am certain it is upsetting to lose millions in the stock market, but I am even more certain that it is far more upsetting to not have a place to live or food to eat.
The money being sent out to try to keep families and businesses going still has to come from somewhere. We already had a pretty massive national debt. There is no doubt that drastic measures were called for, but there also has to be a limit as to what can be done when the money is not there to dispense. What happens when it runs out?
Unemployment in most states is not only bogged down and not working with it being difficult, if not impossible to even apply but running out of money fast. Ohio leaders have predicted money for unemployment payments will run out in June without loans from the federal government. If you are unemployed and there is no unemployment what then?
So, it appears that we were like an aging beauty queen who has her mirror enchanted to give her an inaccurate picture of what she currently looks like. We did not have a functioning national healthcare system, we did not have economic boom times for much of our population, and we were not ready for a disaster we should have been ready to combat.
We do not need to return to normal. We need to establish a new normal that is more equitable, more planned, more realistic, and more supported by fact and logic, than political puffery and myths. We need to stress more cooperation and less competition.
We can do it, but first we have to admit we are in need of change.
Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and guest columnist.