Much of the world is now in lockdown to protect populations from the deadly spread of coronavirus. Yet, the US government is looking into an alternative approach. The latest statements from Donald Trump insist that 'the cure...[cannot be] worse than the disease'. These comments mark a striking policy difference to the rest of the world. Namely, they place more value on economic growth than on human life. During this unique pandemic, are government funds better spent on public health, or on stimulating the economy?
Government resources are better spent on public healthShow moreShow less
Life is sacred. And the consequences of treating it as anything else will be devastating.
It is reductive to look at the overall value of the economy, without considering how that value is created. Prioritising economic growth over public health will make short term gains for a wealthy minority. However, the subsequent Covid spread will decimate the workforce, and ultimately reverse any earlier economic progress.
The economy is built on the strength of its workforce. As Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labor, writes in response to Trump's comments: 'An “economy” is nothing but human beings. So it matters whose losses we’re talking about – whose losses of life, and whose losses of dollars' .
This distinction is key to understanding the central question in this debate. Namely, the mainstay of the economy is the ability of the population to work. Not the stock market.
Those that would benefit if the workforce returned during the crisis belong to a tiny, wealthy elite . As Reich says, 'The bankers and billionaires now urging Americans get back to work possess a huge share of that stock market. The richest 1% of the population owns roughly half of the value of all shares of stock. (The richest 10% own more than 80%)' .
In this case, encouraging people to return to work would mean sacrificing countless lives to maintain the vast wealth of the 1%.
Brokers and bankers may profit the most from the stock market, but they are hardly the only people to benefit from a strong economy. Its trickle down effect means that all citizens ultimately suffer when it is weak; to avoid this, it must be protected at any cost.
[P1] The economy depends on a functional workforce
[P2] A workforce requires good health to be functional
[P3] Prioritising the economy will necessarily damage the health of the workforce
[P4] Damaging the health of the workforce is avoidable
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P1] The economy is complex and does not rely on any single factor