You don’t have to choose between jobs and safety. Just ask West Virginia
From The Guardian
Living in West Virginia means getting used to crisis – mine explosions, chemical spills, floods. Today we are faced with a new crisis, a virus killing our people and threatening their livelihoods.
But the story is the same. We’re stuck with politicians who come on TV every day, telling us we have to choose between our health and our bank accounts.
They’re lying. And it’s the same lie they told coalminers and striking teachers: “Get back to work. Or else.”
It wasn’t true then. And in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, it is not true now.
Yet establishment politicians in both parties persist with the lie. One party’s leaders are crowing for us to choose our bank accounts – and get back to work. The other party is begging us to choose our health – and stay home. But no American party or establishment politician has offered the simple alternative: we don’t have to choose. We can guarantee economic security and keep every working family safe, paid for by an end to grotesque wealth inequality.
Those kinds of plans never come from the top. Instead, we need a government where the people who work the hardest and sacrifice the most are also the people who write the laws. The people with the least have always given the most. That’s why we should govern. And if you don’t think we’re ready, you haven’t been paying attention.
Following a 2016 flood here, West Virginians witnessed two parallel recovery responses. One response was led by the good ol’ boy politicians in our state capitol. They got more than $147m in federal cash and frittered it away on consultants and a fancy conference. Three years later, most of the money was unspent, and most of the families unhelped. The other response to the flood was led by local citizens, churches and community organizations. They built more homes with less money, and an awful lot faster.
The Covid-19 pandemic has drawn an even clearer contrast. While wealthy companies threaten to close hospitals and lay off essential frontline workers, people with barely enough food to eat are volunteering to sew masks from home, for free. While offshore cruise lines get bailed out, food bank volunteers are pitching in extra shifts.
While our state’s governor was encouraging folks to eat at Bob Evans, our campaign volunteers were reinventing our field operation into a Covid crisis response team. Three hundred and eighteen “neighborhood captains” have since answered the call to check in weekly on 100 of their neighbors each – making sure folks have the food, medicine, unemployment benefits and absentee ballots they need.
We can have a government led by the people who pitch in, instead of those who profiteer. But we have to take it…