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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/15/21

Seven Lessons We Need to Learn From Covid-19

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From Robert Reich Blog

Maybe it's wishful thinking to declare the pandemic over in the US, and presumptuous to conclude what lessons we've learned. So consider this a first draft.

1. Workers are always essential

We couldn't have survived without millions of warehouse, delivery, grocery and hospital workers literally risking their lives. Yet most of these workers are paid squat. Amazon touts its $15 minimum wage but it totals only about $30,000 a year. Many essential workers don't have health insurance or paid leave. Lesson: Essential workers deserve far better.

2. Healthcare is a basic right

You know how you got your vaccine without paying a dime? That's how all healthcare could be. Yet too many Americans who contracted COVID-19 got walloped with humongous hospital bills. People with chronic disease, Black Americans and low-income children were most likely to have delayed or foregone care during the pandemic.Lesson: The U.S. must join the rest of the industrialized world and provide universal health coverage.

3. Conspiracy theories can be deadly

Last June, about one in four Americans believed the pandemic was "definitely" or "probably" created intentionally. Other conspiracy theories have caused some people to avoid wearing masks or getting vaccinated, resulting in unnecessary illness or death. Lesson: An informed public is essential. Some of the responsibility falls on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms that allowed misinformation to flourish and on the government for enabling them.

4. Wages are too low to get by on

Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. So once the pandemic hit, many didn't have any savings to fall back on. Conservative lawmakers complain that the extra $300 a week unemployment benefit Congress enacted in March discourages people from working. What's really discouraging them is lack of childcare and lousy wages. Lesson: Raise the minimum wage, provide universal childcare, strengthen labor unions and push companies to share profits with their workers.

5. Remote work is now baked into the economy

The percentage of workers punching in from home hit a high of 70% in April 2020. A majority still work remotely. Some 40% want to continue working from home. Two lessons: Companies will have to adjust. And much commercial real estate will remain vacant. Why not convert it into affordable housing?

6. It's past time for a wealth tax.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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