ALBANY, NY — March 23, 2020 — The human carnage, and the economic carnage, of the coronavirus pandemic are well reported. There will be other consequences. There is also profound damage to the world of ideas that will persist long after the pandemic ends and we return to normal lives.
Truth Itself: Beyond even the awful dynamics of recent years, medical truth has been savaged. Led by Fox News, there’s been a concerted effort to deny and diminish the coronavirus. It has been described as left-wing fake news and a plot to impeach President Donald Trump. Having denied climate change, the decision to delegitimize the science of the epidemic was predictable. It is likely to cause people to die.
Supply Side Economics: For decades it has been asserted that tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy engines of economic growth benefited everyone. Even New York slashed taxes for millionaires and corporations in the mistaken hope that it would trickle down to average folks. No serious person is now suggesting more of the Reagan/Bush/Trump supply-side tax policies, Even Mitch McConnell has adopted demand-side responses to the growing economic policies. We will now provide cash to regular people on the theory that they will spend it locally, creating ripples of economic activity. And even Trump admits that past corporate tax cuts were used for stock buybacks benefiting shareholders, not to expand investment.
Immigration Policy: The Trump immigration agenda has collapsed. Most significantly, deportations are now limited to those “subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds.” And actual deportation flights are being canceled. The agreement with Guatemala to diminish asylum seekers at the Mexican border has been canceled. Naturalization ceremonies for legal immigrants have been canceled indefinitely. ICE announced that it won’t be enforcing near health care facilities so that undocumented people could seek medical treatment without fear of arrest. The crackdown has been stopped.
Work Patterns: The shift toward working remotely, mainly from home, has cascaded. Some of this may be temporary but inevitably some will become permanent. Take that, real estate industry. The stark reality of employment for gig-economy workers is shocking. Very little of the economic safety net extends to them. Time for a gig-workers union.
Shrinking Big Government: The argument to shrink the size of government is no longer heard. Everyone wants and expects the federal government to save us all. In the business community the only real complaints about bailouts and subsidies are coming from those not yet included in them. The crisis clarifies why we need a vigorous central government that can protect individuals, not just corporations. And, nutty right-wingers aside, there’s no talk about career government officials spearheading a deep-state attack on Trump. Even he praises government employees for their skill and commitment.
There are many more ideas that have been widely assumed as truth and are now casualties of the coronavirus. We will get past the infection and its economic fallout. The world that survives will be profoundly intellectually and politically different from the one that died.
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Original publication by Times-Union on March 22, 2020.
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Richard Brodsky is a former state Assembly member.