My Turn: Fear, freedom and the goal of universal prosperity

  • In this March 20 file photo, a motorcycle taxi driver wears a makeshift mask made from a local fabric known as kitenge as he looks for customers in the Kibera neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya. As Africa braces for a surge in coronavirus cases, its countries are far behind in the global race for medical equipment. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 4/25/2020 6:30:05 AM

While those fortunate to have resources have been able to ride out the coronavirus storm in relative comfort, the 40% of the adult population with less than $400 in savings quickly entered panic mode.

They’re wondering how they are going to feed their family and keep the lights on. The miles-long line and days-long wait at food banks nationwide point to the real crisis that’s been swept under the rug for too long.

Borderline poverty is where nearly half this country normally resides. Millions of people go to sleep hungry. Millions are homeless. Millions work two or more jobs only to barely subsist. Many of these lower-paid workers are serving now on the front lines without proper protection. And it’s much worse elsewhere.

Hundreds of millions in Africa are not only under attack by the coronavirus, they are also beset by a locust plague of epic proportions.

In the midst of all this suffering and fear, the privileged few with unprecedented wealth are riding out the storm on their yachts and private islands. These titans of Wall Street invent signs of good news where none exist, shamelessly propping up the stock market, wearing the same blinders as our president.

If there ever was a time in our history to seriously consider the redistribution of wealth, it is now. We must shift the goal of life from accumulating as much wealth as possible to raising the prosperity of everyone. This is not socialism or communism, as some claim, but rather common sense.

The super-wealthy do not play fair. They think being rich means they are superior and should receive preferential treatment. Amazon, ExxonMobil and other giant corporations pay nothing in taxes year after year because they write the tax laws. But, the more profitable a company or individual is, the more their contribution to the betterment of society ought to be.

To structure society so all people are guaranteed a good standard of living is well within our capacity. The goal of universal prosperity can be met while retaining all the freedoms we hold so dear.

The countries that now offer free healthcare, education, and a guaranteed standard of living tax everyone fairly and do not waste their money on defense spending. They have the highest quality of life.

If we stop waging war, the trillions of dollars wasted each year on weapons could be used to eliminate poverty.

It has been suggested that a global ceasefire be adopted during the pandemic. Let’s make it permanent.

We have the technological know-how to rapidly change from a fossil fuel based society to a renewable energy one. If we did, the blue skies and clean air now appearing around the world would not be a temporary blessing.

We know how to make products of value that biodegrade. We know how not to pollute and how to grow healthful food. We can clean up the air and water and have the technical wizardry to create a Garden of Eden for all humans if we put our collective minds and hands to the task.

The mobilizing force behind our response to COVID-19 is fear. The fear of death is keeping us home. But do we value life as much as we fear its loss?

If we understood what a gift it is to be alive, we would do everything we could to protect that life, every day, not only when it is threatened by a pandemic.

(Sol Solomon lives in Sutton.)

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