Writer: Suman P.
Editor: Sarah P.
Visuals: Somya D.
Social distancing, home quarantine, and lockdown have now become basic parts of our vocabulary in these trying times. COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, is an airborne pandemic that has now resulted in more than 2.6 million cases worldwide and more than 180,000 deaths. This policy and forced lockdown of major cities, provinces and has created mass economic deficits on unprecedented scales already. Within a mere month, 22 million Americans had applied for unemployment benefits, which is as much as the net number of jobs created in the 9 year period between the Financial Crisis of 2008.
The increased unemployment, and looming recession has increased tensions worldwide.
In April 2020, a month into quarantine globally, hundreds of Americans took to the streets and protested the shut down. They claimed that the policy of lockdown for social distancing was infringing upon their rights to go out into public, work, and maintain a social life. The New York Times reports that on April 18th, Americans across the nation came out and marched in their state capitals. In various states across the US, loose coalition “moderate” Americans have come out and raised the slogan “You Can’t Close America.” Such loose coalition members are usually members of the middle class belonging to the rightwing parties, and or centrist parties.
Supporters of this movement argue that the lockdown is an unnecessarily aggressive response to an overreaction of fear and propose that the lockdown is an overreach of federal power that is beyond the centralized government’s duties. The same week the protests began, workers in Pennsylvania demonstrated outside factories and government buildings demanding a reopening of the manufacturing industry and other fixed wage jobs. They shouted, “Let us work! Let us work!” in an attempt to reverse the massive layoffs in blue-collar jobs and a looming recessionary gap in the American economy lying beneath.
In order to aid these workers and the lower class families, the US has already passed the $2.2 trillion dollar stimulus package, giving out $1200 dollars to every American to increase spending and aggregate demand. In economic terms, this policy is to raise the “animal spirits”, as economist John Keynes liked to call it, and provide a boost in aggregate demand that can lead the US out of a looming recession and potential depression. This is the largest stimulus package ever provided to l date, surpassing even that of FDR’s efforts in the Great Depression. This fiscal policy and swift response has been praised by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and several world leaders including Boris Johnson, who later replicated similar stimulus packages.
However, despite such efforts being made, the American public is left unsatisfied. The protestors do not see the utility of these policies and believe that the country should be reopened immediately for business. They believe that the government is violating their right to assemble, and be free. America is of course, the “Land of the Free,” and this freedom has now been snatched away from them. Furthermore, in an article by the Washington Post, almost 3 out of 10 Americans believes that the virus was created artificially, and also thus does not affect them to the degree the news portrays.
Whether they are right or not remains to be seen as the US plans to reopen on May 4th; however several experts believe that the pandemic will have expanded to greater heights at that point. David Leonhardt of New York Times reports that May is too soon, and predictions show that the effects of the virus could severely rattle the global economy.
While countries tiptoe the line between economic growth and human safety, there are, of course, sacrifices and opportunity costs to be paid. The protesters are among those more deeply affected by the adversities caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. Though regardless, by mid April, almost 900,000 Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus with over 50,000 deaths, greater than the death toll of the Vietnam War even. While their concerns are to be respected and understood, in this moment of time, it is best to save the present and the uncertain future for human safety and health.
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