Originally published in the Autumn 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 63, printed October 29. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Autumn 2020 issue or download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.
Poor and working people in Virginia are in a crisis.
No, we’re in many crises.
As of Oct. 28, the state has had 176,754 cases of COIVID-19, with 3,616 deaths. Black and Latino/a communities have been hit especially hard, as have prisoners and residents of nursing homes.
The pandemic has meant we’ve had to shut down businesses, bringing on the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
One result of that has been a tsunami of evictions, despite half-hearted moratoriums on the state and national level. And we already were in a housing crisis. Of the top 15 eviction cities in the United States, six are in Virginia: Richmond (No. 2), Hampton (3), Newport News (4), Norfolk, (6), Chesapeake (10) and Virginia Beach (15).
That one $1,200 stimulus check is long gone, as is the extra $600 in unemployment that held up those of us who lost our jobs. Small businesses, especially restaurants, are on the edge or already going under, taking our jobs with them.
We need help! We’re in a desperate situation, and the government – federal, state and local – needs to start acting like it.
Desperate times call for radical solutions, so here are some suggestions:
- A guaranteed annual income for anyone not able to work.
- An absolute ban on evictions.
- A massive expansion of food pantries, funded by the government.
- Serious help for small landlords and small business owners.
- Free Personal Protection Equipment like high-quality masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.
- Free and safe child care for working parents.
- No-fare mass transit.
- Universal and free health care.
- Mandatory mask wearing for all cops.
- All COVID-19 and financial aid information must be available in both English and Spanish.
- Ban all ICE raids in Virginia.
- End bail for all nonviolent crimes.
- Release all prisoners held for non-violent crimes and anyone with less than a year on their sentence.
And how are we going to pay for all this?
Well, here are a few suggestions:
- Cancel all interest payments on the national debt. That’s $376 billion for 2020. The banks won’t lose any money, they just won’t make any more on the debt.
- Cancel all military exercises and deployments. Start with Defender 2020, the largest deployment of U.S. troops to Europe in a quarter century, at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of about $340 million.
- Tax the hell out of all corporate profits above what used to be considered a reasonable rate of return on investments.
- Treat the current crisis like you understand what it is: A full-scale attack on the working class.
Of course, the government has no intention of doing any of these things. In fact, Congress couldn’t even get it together to provide even a small relief program before taking one of their many “breaks.”
Look, we’re not asking for charity. We’re talking about our own tax money. But if we’re going to get real relief, we’re going to have to fight for it.
Fortunately, some folks are preparing to do just that. There’s more and more serious talk about holding a General Strike: no work, no school, no shopping. Gather downtown in the financial districts and tell the bankers, stockbrokers and corporate suits, “NO BUSINESS AS USUAL!”
Become, as they said during the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, “ungovernable.”
Think we’re kidding? Then take a look at the little quote from JFK at the bottom of this page.
Our patience is running thin, and we won’t wait forever.
Real Relief Now!