Various political leaders are now proposing policies to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis: paid sick leave and free health care if needed are two examples. I applaud these moves. But I am startled at the inherent immorality of offering them only during the crisis, and saddened that I am not hearing this discussed.
If you’re “lucky” enough to get a virus that causes the stock market to crash, we’ll take care of you. Otherwise, you’re on your own. You got sick a year ago and had to declare bankruptcy from the medical bills? Too bad; you should have saved more. A year from now you get some infectious disease? Be prepared to get fired for taking off too much time.
I am in favor of health care for all; and I have been for a long time. I am in favor of paid sick leave for all; and I have been for a long time. Hundreds of national and local politicians have fought these policies for years as “restrictions on the free market” or “socialism.” Now, suddenly, these policies are OK during an emergency. I ask those politicians: “How many Americans must die for all of us to get health care? How many Americans must lose their jobs for all of us to get paid sick leave? What is the moral code you live by that forces you to resist government-paid medical care at some times but not others?”
It seems to me that taking care of each other is a part of the moral code of living in a civilized society. Every religion I ever heard of teaches that in some way we are all one. In the Christian tradition, we are all “brothers and sisters in Christ.” I understand that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. But I don’t think that human life is sacred only during extraordinary times. I think health care is a moral imperative. And millions of Americans don’t have access to it. Paid sick leave is a part of that.
Let’s come together during this crisis and put in place policies that protect vulnerable lives not just during emergencies, but all the time.