Without Any Safety Net, We're Heading Toward Disaster
Last month we moved closer to doomsday. At least, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists thought so as they moved the Doomsday Clock. Meanwhile the planet continues to die around us—the latest climate report notes that we hit the point of no return on extreme temperature rise in the oceans in 2014 and coral will die off. That in turn adds to the feedback loop and exacerbates the climate crisis. This is the moment I repeat myself and say that we're all going to die. It's true, but depressing.
Even more depressing is the current socioeconomic and political failings rampant in the United States. Even on a less nuclear apocalypse front, the situation feels more dire than ever, even as some trends keep repeating themselves. We're once again amid a massive COVID surge as local governments keep debating what restrictions to ease. Hospitals are again overwhelmed, with some people being denied care due to shortages in blood supplies or ICU beds. Texas is freezing again. Unhoused people are increasingly the target of punitive measures even as alternative housing options dwindle. People's savings have dried up and rent is due every month. Only worse, there are far less protections in place to help people when the bottom falls out from beneath them.
Even if the Omicron wave will burn out within a month or so, as data from South Africa suggests, we're not anywhere close to the peak or end of it yet, and the system is already stressed to the point of failure. And yet even at the highest office, from President Biden, the talk isn't about massive emergency action to save lives and stop the spread, it's about keeping the economy “open.”
It's baffling that there is no talk of mass, if not national, shutdowns. No snapbacks or red lines that instantly trigger protection actions. When California eased its restrictions this past summer, it did so without any metrics or built-in actions in case things got worse. And they did, thanks to the Delta variant. Now with Omicron and its new records of infections, we're seeing even less enthusiasm for action. Los Angeles is about to host a likely super spreader Super Bowl in less than two weeks and the county has not cited any business over not enforcing the vaccine mandate. The city is even trying to sweep away unhoused people—itself a risk for spreading COVID per the CDC—to make Los Angeles look better ahead of the event. Vaccinations save lives, massively reduce the risk of hospitalization, and data shows the overwhelming number of deaths and hospitalizations are from unvaccinated people, but by not doing blanket shutdowns or restrictions we're leaving it open for everyone to take advantage of open bars or malls and go continue the high rate of transmission. Health workers are stretched to the limit, so why not pay everyone to stay home to ease the burdens on hospitals and flatten the curve? Remember that idea?
What are our options? To keep doing this cycle of taking it easy and then enacting restrictions with diminishing protections and returns? As medical bills get worse? People need help. They need proactive help not only to not get sick but to survive this time. Otherwise we can just set a timer for the next round of this suffering. And that one might be the point of no return.
Protections, which were already insufficient at the time, are gone. Many of the programs enacted by the Biden administration ended in the new year. The Child Tax Credit, which massively cut poverty, expired. Enhanced unemployment ended months ago. More stimulus checks? They should happen (remember that Vice President Harris, then a senator, called for $2,000 monthly checks throughout the pandemic back in 2020 after others such as Bernie Sanders pushed for it), but not a one has gone out in almost a year. There's still no nationwide eviction moratorium. Even Biden's signature platform, the Build Back Better plan, was scrapped thanks to conservative senators Manchin and Sinema, both of whom have heavy ties to lobbyists. And for some reason progressives get the blame.
Although the elections aren't for many more months, punditry is big on the midterms and Democrats have nothing much to run on. Their big successes early on have ended, and bipartisanship clearly is a pipedream. Biden himself talked early on about the suffering Americans were facing and promised help, but now the rhetoric from the administration seems willfully oblivious to what is going on. Think of Press Secretary Jen Psaki's mocking comments about sending tests and masks to Americans. It took massive outcry and public pressure to get that reversed, and that was from the public, not elected officials. There's a deep sense of apathy from those in power, the party that controls Congress and the White House and claimed to talk the crisis seriously, unlike the Republican Party. And this is even as neo-fascists continue to try and take over election boards and skew the next elections for Trump and his allies, or ignore public health concerns to push restrictive education policies and use fears over critical race theory and “wokeness” to ban books. Even here in California, where Democrats have a supermajority, the state legislature this week blocked a bill on single payer healthcare, killing the measure without a vote.
As a result of all of this, Americans are in serious trouble. The inflation crisis is real, but more worrying because there has been no help. More than half of all Americans can't cover emergency costs, even as the rich keep getting massively more rich. I myself am working multiple part time jobs but barely getting by even with that, and worry weekly about whether or not I'm going to end up unhoused as a result of not being able to pay my rent. And I'm relatively lucky. People are teetering on the edge. Or, more accurately, a late round of Jenga. It's no guarantee that your next play will topple over the blocks, but it's far more likely than it was at the start of the game. That's where the United States is at.
Something needs to change, or we're going to crash.
***As for the title of this edition of Let's Do the Panic Again, yes I'm referencing the recent film. No, I have not seen it yet. I intend to, love Andrew Garfield, but not particularly versed in the world of musical theater.
This Week's Panic Links
If you're like me and somewhat confused how the tensions between Ukraine and Russia went from low-grade conflict to the threat of full-scale invasion, Jeet Heer and David Klion have a wonderful conversation about it, with lots of historical context.
A whole bunch of Neo Nazis got doxxed. Gizmodo has the details on the leak, including how the Nazis kept breaking the Stringer Bell Rule and admitting to several crimes.
After defeating a recall soon after taking office, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon is facing calls for yet another recall. City Councilman and mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino is joining the calls, making some big claims about public safety. Frank Stoltze of KPCC shared some good articles that show data refuting those claims.
And if you still haven't realized it yet, NFTs remain a massive scam. Lois Beckett dives into it at The Guardian.