Have you watched the National Geographic series “Drain the Oceans”? Using sophisticated mapping and computer animation, the series shows what we would see if we drained the water out of the Earth’s large bodies of water.
Emptying the oceans of water reveals what lies on the bottom when the water is gone…solving mysteries and explaining natural wonders as well as exposing shipwrecks.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is essentially draining away the covering shrouding society’s mysteries and challenges.
With the “water” gone, we’re now faced with the reality that there are huge tears in the social safety net and that the apparent roaring economy – with low unemployment and a growing stock market – is an illusion.
Let’s look at just a couple of the “shipwrecks” recently revealed by stay-home orders.
Schools’ plans for distance learning and employers instructing their employees to work at home rested on the assumption that everyone has high-speed internet available. Some people, either because they can’t afford internet service or it’s not available at their home, are left behind.
Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development found in 2019, only 68 percent of rural Minnesotans were served by high-speed internet, defined as upload speeds of 100 Mbps and download speeds of 20 Mbps. And just because the service is available, doesn’t mean it’s affordable for everyone.
In Central Minnesota, as soon as you step outside the cities, the drop off in available service is dramatic. At least 90 percent of households in St. Joseph and Sartell have access to high-speed internet, but the surrounding townships are not as well served. In the surrounding townships, the availability drops to less than 50 percent.
As rural America was wired for electricity 100 years ago, every household should have affordable high-speed internet available now. Even when students are back in the classroom, every student needs internet to support homework and we can keep more workers off the road – saving time, money, gas and the need to build more roads – if their home office is properly wired.
When 17 million people filed jobless claims in the last three weeks, we’ve seen how close many people live to economic disaster. While waiting for their $1,200 check from the U.S. Treasury, workers worry if it will arrive before they have to pay rent, the mortgage or buy the next load of groceries.
Even before businesses shed employees, many American workers lived paycheck-to-paycheck.
A Bankrate survey last year showed nearly one in four Americans have no emergency savings. Only 18 percent have enough to cover three to five months of expenses while 22 percent could pay less than three months in bills.
Many of these recently unemployed workers are not protected by a union, have no employer-provided health care and didn’t until the recent rescue legislation qualify for unemployment.
The pandemic revealed what happens when public health is underfunded and its experts ignored. How’s that worked out?
More services than public health need an aggressive approach. When leaders think about how to restart the economy, they need to consider long-term solutions to education, technology and labor issues made painfully clear by the health crisis.