Pandemic Diary Day 31
April 24, 2020
I don’t know about you but I have tears welling just under the surface pretty a lot lately.
Thankfully most all of it created by the feel good stories coming out every day. I just finished crying over the Spanish cab driver.
It is humanity at its best despite the horror. There are millions that deserve our love, applause and gratitude, but there are some that stand out to me because of where they began.
Dr. Prakash Gatta, an esophageal robotics surgeon for Multicare Health System in Tacoma came down with Covid-19 and went right back to work as soon as he was able, saying how those he works with are the most fearless people he has ever seen. But why did I pick Dr. Gatta? As a child, Dr. Gatta and his parents and brother were refugees. They fled Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion and settled in the US.
Manuel Bernal a 29 year old med student is working at Advocate Christ Medical Center on Chicago’s South Side. As a studen he was told he did not have to put his life on the line, he went to work anyway.
Bernal is one of more than 640,000 undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers,” or DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) participants who could lose their work permits if this administration ends the program that protects them from deportation. There are 29,000 of these dreamers working in our health care system and almost 200 of them are medical students, residents or physicians.
During this crisis, I am amazed at the inhumanity we are displaying simply because DACA participants don’t have a little piece of paper. These people have essentially been citizens since birth. They have attended school with other Americans, they have matriculated through our college systems, and they look forward to giving back, and yet this administration has refused to provide student assistance to these DACA participants. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ordered higher education institutions to give more than $6 billion in aid to students, but was very specific that DACA participants were not to be included.
We sit on the edge of what could become a driving force to right some of the wrongs of this country. The first being the simple act of looking through a microscope at the greed that runs this country and the utter lack of compassion that seems to come hand in hand with those that use money as the yard stick to measure success in this country. We all want to survive this horrible disease, but if and when we do, I for one, want to survive in a world worth surviving in.
During this pandemic it may have slipped your notice that Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, bought a 3-floor penthouse in New York, and then, since that was not enough he bought the two units below it. The total cost of the deal was $80 million and gives Jeff Bezos, a single man, a combined 12 bedrooms and 17,000 square feet of living space. This was on the heels of his purchase of a $23 million, 27,000 square-foot property in Washington D.C.. However he still can’t top the most expensive property to close in New York this year, the $240 million property bought by hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin.
People are free to spend money as they wish, and yes, a lot of people made money out of these transactions, the real estate agent is obvious, and those sales do help to put tax dollars into the coffers of their cities.
That is not the part that makes my head spin, Jeff Bezos makes his money off the backs of the people that during Covid-19 are putting their lives at risk, with no hazard pay, no sick leave and depressed wages (he has increased wages during the pandemic). The reason for this first, is answering to stockholders. It also, however, keeps the prices paid by the consumer low. I for one would be happy to pay a few more cents or dollars on items if I thought the person that made it, packed it and delivered it were not living hand to mouth on the verge of loosing everything should they have one tiny mishap.
And it does not make me feel better that, according to Bezos, 40 million people make less than Amazon employees, Jonathon Swift’s Modest Proposal writ large.
Then there are hedge fund billionaires, Ken Griffin is but one. They make their money by churning paper. Let us assume you run a $10 billion hedge fund. You receive what appears to be a meager 2% management fee, voila, you are making $200 million a year. This is without providing any returns, just for managing.
It has been proven that trickle-down economics did not raise all boats, it just gave the wealthy bigger yachts. Maybe it is time to look at things from a trickle-up perspective, where the health of local communities and the prosperity of everyday people is the starting point.
Our economy is built on the economic activities of households, that form small businesses and spend in their own neighborhoods. This is the type of economy that makes for better, fuller and more secure lives because it is an economy for the people rather than a society of politics and big money.
We haven’t yet destroyed this way of life, and it is with fervent prayer that I hope this pandemic does not either, but if and when we come out of this it is up to us to make it stronger. We need to pay the extra money and support our local small retail establishments,: bookstores, clothing stores, cabinet makers, our local or small-chain grocery stores. It is up to us to stop commanding Alexa to place an order for gadgets from Amazon, while sipping our half-calf, extra hot, soy milk lattes.
It is time to pull back the curtain on the complete snow job we have been given about undocument immigrants as well. Undocument immigrants pay taxes. Every year, the Social Security Administration collects billions of dollars in taxes from undocumented workers.
Here is a simplification of how it works. Undocumented workers buy fake Social Security cards giving them the opportunity to work. Payroll taxes are deducted from these workers checks, and the amount is matched by the employer. An undocumented worker can not claim those taxes as their Social Security card is not valid so those monies sit in the government’s Earnings Suspense File.
Stephen Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, estimates that about 1.8 million immigrants were working with fake or stolen Social Security cards in 2010, and he expects that number to reach 3.4 million by 2040. He calculates that undocumented immigrants paid $13 billion into the retirement trust fund that year, and only got about $1 billion in benefits. Truth is, these monies are keeping our precariously funded Social Security system afloat.
It is important to also admit that these undocumented workers are doing work that most Americans would not do. This has been proven over and over and confirmed by none other than George W. Bush.
This is not a missive on immigration, it is a missive on compassion and understanding that many of our stereotypes are false, unfounded and are causing cruelty against our fellow humans by treating them as less than human. Most of these people are simply trying as hard as they can to help their families raise their own standard of living. Many are here because they are fleeing war ravaged countries where rape and killing are sport for those with the guns. They are no different than you or I, they have just been dealt a really bad hand in this life.
We are better than this and when we come out of this on the other side, with an economy many of us may not recognize or know how to navigate, we have the chance to make this a country to be proud of again. Let us hope that when we do return to normal, countries, but the US in particular, finally deal with the immense social inequities that make so much of our population vulnerable.
My Horoscope for today: You never dreamed you’d see a boss or client deliver on a promise, but today he does. It took a while, but better late than never.
The NYT Crossword Puzzle: A little tough, and some great clues
San Francisco weather: 67 degrees and sunny
NYSE DOW opened at: 23628
Italian word of the day: lino (flax)
Spanish word of the day: salvage (wild)
OED word of the day: mauvais ton (‘Unacceptable in certain circles or polite society)
Days under Shelter In Place: 42
Reading: The Great Influenza by John M. Barry
My Black and White Picture of the Day
Something Silly From the Internet: Classified Ad: Single man with toilet paper seeks woman with hand sanitizer for good clean fun.
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