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We are protecting and advocating for vulnerable people in the US and around the globe.

Won't get fooled again

By Abby Maxman
Photo: Blue Blazer Photos

Congress should focus on protecting workers and the most vulnerable, not subsidizing giant corporations.

In 2008, to confront the United States’ worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, George W. Bush chose to respond by bailing out giant financial firms, providing hundreds of billions of dollars as a lifeline with almost no strings attached. Real people—working families facing eviction, foreclosure, and financial ruin—got almost nothing.

This choice—to prioritize giant corporations over actual people—had immense consequences. The United States made incredible economic gains bouncing back from the Great Recession, but nearly all those gains went solely to the rich. Executive compensation skyrocketed, while wages for hard-working Americans stagnated or fell. The financial crash threw inequality into hyperdrive because of the choices policymakers made.

We are now faced with the same choice to confront the vast economic devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Senate is currently considering creating a $500 billion slush fund that the Trump Administration could give to the companies of its choosing, with almost no transparency or oversight. Protective guardrails—like limits on stock buybacks or executive compensation—could also be waived by the Trump Administration.

As George W. Bush famously said, “Fool me once, shame —on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.” We cannot get fooled again.

The pandemic is quickly revealing how many working families were already struggling to stay afloat, living paycheck to paycheck. According to a new national poll conducted by Oxfam America and Data for Progress, US voters have pent-up demand for action that will address longstanding drivers of inequality and economic insecurity. They want to prevent families from falling into bankruptcy, homelessness, and hunger.

US voters overwhelmingly and enthusiastically support aggressive action by Congress and the president to address both the public health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 including paid sick leave for all workers, emergency funding for food supplies for those affected by the crisis, free testing for the virus, and moratoriums on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoffs.

The poll demonstrated that public support is both overwhelming–greater than 70 percent—and bipartisan for measures that directly help working people cope with the crisis. Even voters who identified as “very conservative” showed majority support for emergency cash payments, waiving copays for coronavirus treatment, and increasing federal funding for Medicaid.

According to the poll, nearly 9 in 10 voters support strengthening unemployment assistance, especially for workers who depend on tips, gig workers, domestic workers, and independent contractors; and an immediate moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoffs.

Public support drops noticeably, however, for policies that prop up large businesses affected by the crisis. Just 54 percent of voters support low interest government loans for oil and gas companies.

It’s clear that Americans resoundingly want policymakers to act, but they do not want a repeat of the 2008 corporate bailout. In the face of this dangerous pandemic, Congress should focus on protecting workers and the most vulnerable, not subsidizing giant corporations.

Americans know that we cannot sit back and watch as the pandemic devastates the most vulnerable and flattens our economy. While Congress recently passed legislation that mandated paid sick leave, it excludes 80 percent of workers. We must do better.

Oxfam is advocating for a detailed and comprehensive policy response that responds to the immediate crisis while beginning the process for an equitable recovery that puts people first. The bottom lines could not be more clear—Congress must move forward on direct cash payments to all individuals and stronger unemployment insurance for workers who lose their jobs, not blank checks for corporations.

We cannot let the White House and Congress run roughshod over the wishes of the American people at the behest of corporate lobbyists. We cannot pass another bailout for giant corporations with no accountability. We cannot let another crisis widen the social gulfs that already divide America. We have to prioritize real people and put them at the center of the recovery. Because if we don’t—shame on us.

Tell Congress to protect families during this pandemic.

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