“You didn’t build that by yourself, all of us helped,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in one of her stump speeches while running for office.
Today, Warren’s words ring true and more so given the onset of the coronavirus and the socio-economic fallout.
Warren’s contention, of course, is the shared responsibility one ought to have towards each other in the wealthiest nation on earth – the U.S.
Her appeal is not unlike the African proverb – “it takes a village to raise a child,” — this also points to collective responsibility.
The crisis caused by the coronavirus disease has forced politicians to appeal to the populace to work together not only for the good of the community but also for its survival and, by extension, the society — a humbling experience one may add.
The fact that one must wait on tragedies such as that of the COVID-19 to urge and remind the country of the imperative of working together is regrettable, but not late in appealing to one’s better self.
The current situation also points to the critical role of government in protecting not only the haves but also the have nots. So, it’s all of us or none of us given the pandemic disease, which is wreaking havoc not only locally but also globally.
In the campaign for nomination to lead the Democratic Party in the upcoming general election, Warren received lots of push back from the rich or the monied class for a two-cent contribution of their wealth to help the needy.
She framed her argument thus:
“Anybody in here owns a home? You’ve been paying a wealth tax for a long time: it’s just called a property tax.
“And, what I’m saying that’s different, is for the truly rich – more than $50 million in assets – it’s more than your real estate: it’s your stock portfolio, the diamonds, the Rembrandt, the yacht – I just want them all included in how we think about wealth. And, I say to those folks: good for you; you made it big.
“But, I guarantee, you didn’t build a fortune in America without using workers that all of us helped pay to educate.
“You built a fortune in America getting your goods to market on roads and bridges that all of us helped pay to build.
“You are protected by police and firefighters – all of us paid their salaries.”
Warren seizes on the connectivity in one’s ‘livity’ and weighs in on the collective responsibility and the shared values that ought to be displayed in the society. This perception, no doubt, would have prompted her call for healthcare for all, eliminating student debt, providing free college options for all Americans, among other socio-economic issues.
That said, Warren’s proposal, however, was a killjoy not only to the monied class but also to those union members who thought they already enjoyed good health insurance policies and weren’t prepared to give up anything for the benefit of the majority.
Consequently, Warren failed to gain any mass appeal or traction for her plans. Her messaging was dubbed and criticized as socialism and having no place in a capitalist America.
However, the impact of the coronavirus should help in providing much insight and introspection — that we are all our brothers’ keepers. Now, the rich and powerful are appealing for a government bailout, given their financial set setback caused by the onslaught of the COVID-19 disease.
Oh, what a difference an event makes in bringing to the fore our vulnerabilities as humankind.
In an earlier campaign, Warren noted, “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.”
“You built a factory out there — good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. Your hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.
“You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory and hire someone to protect against this because of the work the rest of us did.
“Now look, you built a factory, and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
A soul appeal made by Warren, which, if people buy into, could make a world of difference not only in their responsibilities and interpersonal relationships but also in the way resources is allocated within the society.
Today, we are at ground zero, with the economy grinding to a halt — nearly 10 million people filing for unemployment, the sharpest rise in unemployment figures in U.S. history. Thousands of businesses have closed with thousands more on the verge of closure, resulting in a situation of a 4.4% unemployment, up from a 50-year low of 3.5%.
The fact is the country will not be made whole or recover without the cooperation of everyone. Therefore, moving forward, the country needs to be reordered differently, and perhaps Warren’s plans could be the elixir.
Yvad Billings, Readers Bureau, Fellow
Edited by Jesus Chan
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