The coronavirus pandemic requires an urgent and decisive response. Half-hearted measures cannot resolve the burgeoning public health crisis in a timely manner. While Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democratic and Republican lawmakers boast of a relief measure that will exclude 80 percent of workers, an emergency program must be implemented that addresses the needs of the vast majority of the population. We propose ten immediate measures to safeguard the population and tackle the health emergency.
1 . Free, public universal healthcare now
All providers in the healthcare sector should be mandated to provide free and accessible coronavirus testing and treatment to everyone who needs it, regardless of income, insurance coverage, or immigration status. Abolish all medical fees and debt obligations for the duration of the pandemic.
2 . Pass emergency universal paid sick leave
If we are to stop the spread of the virus, we must guarantee working people full pay for the duration of the health emergency, funded by a tax on the super rich (see below). Making self-quarantines effective requires economic security for the working masses.
3 . Freeze layoffs, furloughs, and terminations
No company should be allowed to unload the costs of the economic crisis on the backs of its employees. Many corporations have made billions in profits over the last few years; they can afford to secure the incomes of all their employees. Companies and workplaces facing bankruptcy should be nationalized and put under worker control. Full pay for all tipped, informal, precarious, and “gig” workers. Government subsidies for small shops to retain their workforce by providing paid sick leave and full wages.
4 . Drastic, emergency wealth taxes on the super-rich
America’s billionaires control an aggregate personal wealth of over 3 trillion dollars, while the top-earning millionaires control enormous sums. A meager 10% wealth tax on the super-rich would provide hundreds of billions of emergency funds, while more aggressive measures could procure trillions in tax revenue.
5 . Suspend all payments from working people
For the duration of the coronavirus epidemic, suspend all payments for credit cards, student loans, car loans, and utilities. Halt all rent and mortgage payments to wealthy landlords and banks.
6 . Nationalize all health-related industries under workers’ control
To produce ventilators, masks, hand-sanitizers, gloves, and other materials needed to stop the spread of the virus, and guarantee their free distribution as well as enough supply for the safety of healthcare workers. The scarcity of these products only highlights the irrationality of capitalism and the need for a planned economy where workers and the broader public make the decisions.
7 . Redirect all military funds to an emergency public health response
Instead of occupying, bombing, and oppressing other country’s peoples, this year’s military budget of $738 billion should be used to build hundreds of makeshift hospitals and provide thousands of ICU beds across the country. Close U.S. military bases abroad, cease all military aid, and end the economic sanctions against Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and other countries.
8 . Democratize distribution of goods, healthcare assistance, and other emergency measures
The health crisis will be used by governments as an excuse to repress anyone who dares to protest and to prevent “lootings,” all the while denying the poor their basic needs. All democratic rights must be preserved, and decisions on distribution of goods and healthcare supplies, as well as other emergency measures, should fall on committees democratically elected by neighbors, shop floor committees at workplaces, and other community leaders. Racist and xenophobic violence, which often rises in times of fear, must be stopped by these popular committees.
9 . Free all prisoners awaiting trial, political prisoners, ICE detainees, and non-violent inmates
This should be combined with amnesty to all non-legal immigrants, who might otherwise avoid seeking healthcare for fear of being detained and deported. Prisoners in overcrowded conditions face a deadly health risk and should be released.
10 . End overcrowding and homelessness
Immediate requisition of hotels, office spaces, and all unoccupied properties. For social distancing measures to be effective, overcrowded dwellings must be minimized, and homelessness must be immediately ended through emergency housing redistribution.
This is not a blueprint for a new society, but rather a set of basic measures that are urgently needed to avoid a social disaster. As a society, we have incredible resources that we can put to the service of the most vulnerable right now and minimize the human costs of the coronavirus epidemic and the ensuing economic crisis. What stands in the way is nothing less than corporate America’s thirst for profits and the drive to unload the economic costs of the crisis on the backs of working-class people.
An increasing number of politicians are talking about war-like mobilization efforts to face this public health and economic crisis. This ten-point program provides a basic platform addressing the needs of working-class people. However, a final resolution to the ills of society will only be possible by overcoming capitalism and building a new society from the ground up. This endeavor can only be accomplished at an international level. A socialist society, where all resources are collectively owned and managed, would eliminate the stark contrast between a propertied class and the overwhelming majority of toilers.
Today’s crisis is of extraordinary proportions, requiring all unions, left-wing organizations, and working people to coalesce around a program capable of meeting the burning issues of society. The above points are a minimum set of measures needed to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, address the immediate needs of working-class families, and provide, in the face of an inevitable economic fallout, basic income security and living conditions to the vast majority of the population.