Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy is crashing.
The Dow Jones has seen unprecedented point drops. Due to mandated closures of many outlets, about 10 million Americans are now unemployed, and claims for unemployment benefits are at an all-time high.
Perhaps most frighteningly, 24% of small businesses are within two months of having to permanently close. All of these factors combined have led some to suggest that the economic fallout of the pandemic could be as bad or worse than the Great Depression.
So, at this moment, fears about the economy are justified. That is why the Senate unanimously passed a historic $2 trillion stimulus package in an attempt to halt further economic collapse. Still, some believe we must do more to save the economy. While President Trump has since stepped back on these claims, he had indicated previously he wanted America to effectively return to normal before Easter so that the economy could be revived. The pandemic, however, will probably not have even peaked by then.
Of course, we know that abandoning social distancing measures for political or economic benefit is not conducive to fighting COVID-19. While social distancing may not be optimal for economic growth, it undoubtedly saves lives by ensuring that hospitals are not overwhelmed and by buying time to find treatment methods. So, social distancing is obviously the way to go until the pandemic is over, right? Right, but many are dismissive of this.
“I’m not living in fear of COVID-19. What I’m living in fear of is what’s happening to this country … no one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in an interview with Tucker Carlson.
While Trump’s insistence on returning to “normal” is ignorant, Patrick’s view is fully deplorable. Because of how COVID-19 spreads, one individual’s decision to sacrifice is not inconsequential for others: John Oliver correctly suggested that one person ignoring the lockdown for the sake of the economy is “actively volunteering others, including people of all ages with health conditions, to die.” This should not even need to be said, but no one should ever have to die for the sake of economic success.
Economies and wealth are generated by the work of laborers — people. Letting people die for the sake of the economy that they build is not sustainable. Without people, there is no economy. As such, we must protect people before we protect the economy by maintaining the lock-down until it is fully safe to end it.
These are hard times for everyone in many ways, including financially, and that needs to be addressed. The solution, however, is not forcing people to leave the safety of quarantine. Rather, more stimulus packages may be required to give money directly to Americans. We must pause major financial obligations, like rents, mortgages, debts, and other utilities. Then, once it is safe, things can return to normal, and the economy can keep growing. But until then and even thereafter, people must come first.
Sam Smith is a junior studying geography at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Sam know by tweeting him @sambobsmith_.