The View From Here

May 17, 2020

by Steve Stofka

The editorial page of the Wall St Journal criticized the provision in the CARES act that paid an additional $600 in unemployment benefits to working people told to stay home by their state and local governments (WSJ, 2020). An attack on a policy that supports people during this historic crisis is a personal attack on working families. Some workers are earning more in benefits than they did when working. This offends elitist sympathies. As families overwhelm the resources of food banks nationwide, the country club set worry about the moral hazard of providing an income of basic sustenance to those forced to stay home. What level of hell birthed such sentiments?

When governments order people to stop working, they have a responsibility for monetary damages as well as some compensation for pain and suffering. Some in our country’s aristocracy prefer a system that makes people desperate to work in order to eat and pay their bills. Such workers will be more inclined to compromise their safety and return to work. Who will clean the bathrooms and offices of the executives that own America?

Almost a hundred years ago the German director Fritz Lang painted a dystopian account of social and economic classes in his film “Metropolis.” Each day the workers descended into the underground to keep the machinery of the city running. Above ground, the sons of the elite enjoyed sporting contests and idle pleasures. 

In a past century the elite wore powdered wigs and flared waistcoats to distinguish themselves from the commoners. On the jogging paths in Central Park they might be indistinguishable from other runners. Unlike aliens from another planet the patrician class look human. Their attitudes are not.

State and local governments mandated business closures. Losing a job includes the loss of someone’s employer-sponsored insurance. The $1200 stimulus payment covered one month of COBRA replacement insurance for a family (Garfield, 2020). The elite write these barbaric rules.

To protect themselves, the elite left their tony neighborhoods in crowded Manhattan and Brooklyn (Quealy, 2020). Are they spending quality time at their homes in the Hamptons? The social and economic hierarchy of this world has changed little from the century old society that F. Scott Fitzgerald captured in The Great Gatsby.

As Fitzgerald wrote, the privileged believe that they deserve their entitlements. To criticize such thinking is Socialism or Communism. The elite claim to be the moral standard bearers of the country, the high priests of a religion they call Capitalism. Whatever serves their self-interest is enfolded into that religion. Whatever does not serve their interests is an ism that is un-American. To appease their god, the priests need the sacrifice of thousands of families. Let the subservient workers shed their concerns for their safety and shuffle to their daily toil. So sayeth the precious persons of privilege.

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Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

Garfield, R., Claxton, G., Damico, A., & Levitt, L. (2020, May 12). Eligibility for ACA Health Coverage Following Job Loss. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/eligibility-for-aca-health-coverage-following-job-loss/. Key highlights by one of the authors https://twitter.com/larry_levitt/status/1261303328425689088?s=21

Quealy, K. (2020, May 15). The Richest Neighborhoods Emptied Out Most as Coronavirus Hit New York City. NY Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/15/upshot/who-left-new-york-coronavirus.html

WSJ Editorial Board. (2020, May 14). Opinion | Pelosi’s Presidential Platform. Wall St. Journal.  Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/pelosis-presidential-platform-11589499163 (Paywall).

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