11 ways the United States will change because of the coronavirus


1.) Government is here to help. Ronald Reagan famously quipped, “the most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” That ushered in two generations of Republican nihilism, with relentless focus in slashing and cutting government in all areas except for defense. Well, it turns out government is the only thing that can help in a global disaster, and even Republicans have stepped up to pour trillions into the economy and directly in the hands of individuals. Meanwhile, the vaunted free market, supposed solution to all of society’s ills, is sitting helplessly begging for handouts. 

2.) Wall Street will face further restrictions. Wall Street faced increased regulation in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. It’ll only get worse, as bans on corporate stock buybacks and other limits will become increasingly popular. Tolerance for corporate tax evasion will erode further, particularly among companies that receive any kind of federal bailout money. 

3.) Security is more than just thwarting terrorists. The Trump administration, freshly elected, gleefully disbanded the nation’s pandemic preparedness task force. The last competent administration foresaw the possibility of a pandemic creating havoc in this country, but the incompetent Republican did not, and most people were blissfully unaware of the danger. No longer. This has consequences not just at the federal and state budget levels, but in how corporations plan for a rainy day (like Apple, with its $245 billion cash hoard), and how we individuals interact. We have a lot to learn from Asia—from contact-less greetings (would be so hard for me!), to greater use of face masks and general acceptance of our responsibilities to help keep others from getting sick. 

4.) We are in this together, as a society. Supply hoarding and profiteering and selfish jackasses hanging out in crowds in restaurants or beaches show us the worst parts of individualistic thinking—they want their “freedom” and fuck everyone else, including grandma. But the rest of us look on in horror and disgust because this is one crisis that can’t be solved by rugged individualism. It requires collective action. That’s why it’s been so hard for Republicans to adapt. Their usual solutions—demagoguery, militarism, and macho posturing—aren’t working. Trump can be a racist with his “China virus” shit all day long, and the virus will continue to ravage through the population unchecked. A newfound respect for acting as collective society, as much as it chafes conservatives, will have a huge impact on public policy for a generation or two. 

5.) Working from home is actually okay! Some jobs need to take place in physical offices. Many don’t. The continued adoption of work-from-home jobs will accelerate, proving beneficial to the environment and overcrowded transportation systems (both roads and public transit). And while some people desperately need an office environment to be productive, many more will realize the joys of working from home (from more “life” time without a commute, to enjoying, er, casual attire).

6.) Distance learning will gain popularity. The little ones need to go back to physical school. But more college classes can be taught remotely, lessening demands for colleges and universities to expand physical facilities in a time of growing enrollment. (My local University of California, Berkeley, is bursting at the seams.) 

7.) Globalism will take a hit. What happens when medical equipment and supplies are all being made in a single country, itself shut down due to disaster? We just found out, and we didn’t even need the pandemic to realize it. Impeached president Donald Trump’s own stupid trade war with China had already exposed that single point of failure. That means corporations will develop more diversified supply chains, but might perhaps spur greater manufacturing back home—particularly for items deemed of particular strategic value (like medical supplies). 

8.) Government-supplied health care will receive a boost. If predictions come to pass, and we do reach 30% unemployment, a lot of people will be losing their health care at perhaps the worst time possible to do so. Many more under-insured, or on the Obamacare exchanges, will feel the pressures of getting sick without added coverage. The solution is obvious, and wouldn’t just be a boon to the general populace, but taking health care costs off the books of corporations would be the biggest corporate welfare program in history. It would literally free up billions annually for corporations like GM. There’s a reason why posters instructing workers how to sign up for government benefits are posted in Walmart break rooms and other low-wage outposts. Just go whole-hog, government takes it on. Taxes go up to pay for it. But corporations have less pressures to survive, particularly in times of high economic stress like today. 

9.) Trump doesn’t survive. Trump is experiencing a bit of a popularity bump right now in a bit of rally-around-the-flag effect, but the worst is yet to come, and he owns this tragedy, every second of it. It’ll be practically impossible for him to survive the double whammy of a deep recession or even depression, along with an unspeakable body count. Not only will the seven key presidential states fall to the Democrats (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), but several other states may flirt with competitiveness, including Iowa, Ohio, Texas, and … call me crazy because I probably am, but ALASKA could edge closer to contention.

10.) The Senate turns blue. This won’t just have repercussions at the top, but also for the Senate, dramatically improving our chances to not just win the Senate, but do so with a cushion. Our top targets will be easier to win: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia (both seats), Maine, Montana, and North Carolina. Meanwhile, our second-tier races become real dogfights: Iowa, Kentucky, and Texas. The House stays easily Democratic, with Team Blue maybe even gaining sets ahead of the 2020 reapportionment process. 

11.) We can tackle the big issues. We will survive this, and we’ll emerge knowing that we truly can solve our biggest issues if we muster the political will to do so. Obama’s $900 billion stimulus package was insanely controversial during a time of global economic collapse, yet here we are talking multiple trillions of dollars. This newfound will can pay dividends as we tackle the next predictable global calamity—climate change. Enacting a Green New Deal will require political will and sacrifice, including changes in how we live our lives. But hey, if we can do it to survive a pathogen, we can do it to prevent the death of our planet (or at least our ability to survive in it).

What else do you see changing in the years ahead? 

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