The American middle- and low-income working classes suffered stagnant wages for decades due to a combination of automation, trade, and immigration policies, according to various experts. Their struggles are compounded now in a new way as they potentially risk their lives to remain employed.
Leadership should mean implementing policies that protect vulnerable American workers through the pandemic and - crucially - beyond.
Such is the life of the working poor, or those slightly above poverty, but still struggling. Our entire discussion around this virus is stained with economic elitism. In social media commentary about images of packed buses and crowds of delivery workers outside restaurants, people chastise black and brown people for not always being inside, but many of those doing the chastising do so from comfortable homes with sufficient money and food.
People can't empathize with what it truly means to be poor in this country, to live in a too-small space with too many people, to not have enough money to buy food for a long duration or anywhere to store it if they did. People don't know what it's like to live in a food desert where fresh fruit and vegetables are unavailable and nutrient-deficient junk food is cheap and exists in abundance.
Emily Badger of The New York Times' The Upshot section defended density post-coronavirus. But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo advocated a permanent density-reduction strategy going forward. That pits Cuomo - and potentially Blow - against the anti-sprawl Editorial Board of The New York Times.
All of these parties favor immigration-driven population growth.
Something's gotta give.
Meanwhile, the Times' opinion page hasn't uttered an empathetic word to anyone on guestworker visas like H-2A (agricultural), H-2B (seasonal), and H-1B ("skilled" workers) during this emergency. I take that back, there was a piece lamenting difficulties for families who use foreign au pairs. Tucker Carlson took to his airwaves to call continued visa issuance in these programs "demented." Who do you see empathizing with the working poor this country?
Big, character-defining discussions (and decisions) are set to happen - more robustly than in a very long time. The historic pandemic that we are enduring now will recede and a tumult of opportunity will remain. Vast sea changes in how we build our nation will be possible, and even likely.
While we take tremendous care to protect our fellow Americans, let us also make sure our voices are heard so that whatever comes next is not merely another chapter of elite consensus. Challenging disjointed thinking and demanding coherence of vision is both our right and our responsibility.
The empathy priorities of our future are yet to be determined.
Safety and health to all!
ANDREW GOOD is the Director of the Media Standards Program for NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Apr 21st 2020 @ 3:10pm EDT