What are we learning by sheltering in place and watching the pandemic of the century develop around the world?
Get By On Less
Sheltering in place has been a learning experience. Our city of Ashland, Oregon has about 22,000 people. The city is running on four grocery stores, the hardware store, a couple of pharmacies, a used book store, the ranch supply store and a handful of takeout restaurants. Local farms, car dealers and gas stations are running. Thank goodness the park, forest trails and roads are open to hikers and bikers; though we are now encouraged to all go in the same direction.
Slim Down The Economy
There are several ways you could look at this situation. The Wall Street Journal says 29 percent of business have closed from State Coronavirus shutdowns. In my town, however, about 80 percent of businesses are closed. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) and related hospitality industry are both closed with the exception of a few motels near the interstate. From a jobs and economic standpoint, the Coronavirus has taken most business offline. The city is actually much calmer than the usual frenetic traffic and energy.
Here is the quandary: we are getting by without the majority of business. People keep living, but there is no money coming in. That means rent, mortgage, living expense are not being met. And yes, we’re also missing going out for a nice meal, to see a play at the OSF or to see a movie at the local theater.
But We Are Loosing The Businesses That Make Are Towns Unique
The pandemic is pushing many or most small business in our town of Ashland, Oregon under. Some of the most unique and value added business are closing in our town from either no rent control instituted by our city council during good times and collapse of business during the lock downs. This year Ashland will have lost its musical instrument store, costume store, outdoor apparel store. On the verge are out independent book store, youth book store, coffee shops, antique stores, movie theaters and the vinyl music co-op.
Here is what is hugely irritating. Starbucks has enough money to buy a bank in town; yes buy a bank and replace it with a huge coffee shop across the street from one of our long-time unique coffee and pastry shops Re-Mix. What is allowed to happen in our economy is cruel, unfair and unimaginable.
Thought Experiment That Will Make You Mad
- If everyone were just given money, would life go on without misery?
- If most of the businesses did not exist, would the quality of life be about the same or even better. Would the environment be healthier?
- If everyone owned their own home, like people did in Russia during the collapse of the Soviet Union, would there be no rents or mortgages to pay?
- If there were no mortgages, and digital currencies were safe, would banks be of much importance?
- If we did not drive to work, how much traffic would there be?
- If there was not as a great a need for work, could individuals grow through arts, nature, education, recreation, and being more present raising smaller families?
- If the government can mint money, then just give it directly to people instead of to corporations?
- If the government can mint money, then why are we paying taxes?
- If the government can mint money, can we stop borrowing money from the private Federal Reserve and don’t burden the public with government debt?
End Concentration of Wealth
Now that most of society is suffering, seems like a good time for a Bernie Sanders wealth tax. Large wealth is generally ill-gotten. Massive wealth is either inherited by lucky spermers or unearned from financial markets.
There are very few real entrepreneurs creating useful value to society; most are creating businesses of distraction or junk. When banks and the stock market meet a successful entrepreneur, riches unfairly explode. The employees earn near minimum wage for life, while the owner and executives make millions. There is no moral reason for part of society to have exponentially more wealth than the rest.
Stop Manipulation Through Fear
Tell people they are being attacked or are in danger and they will do about anything you ask, including wearing a brazier cup on their face. These circumstances, very worthy of concern, do show how quickly the public can be manipulated.
Improve Our Government
True leaders like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Dennis Kucinich, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Martin Luther King, Jr or John Lewis have to struggle for what’s right.
Too many political leaders are power-hungry, incompetent, ego maniacs competing to be cartoon characters in the fake news.
The incompetent leaders we have in this country waste most of their time pandering to the media. By incompetent, I mean politicians who lack life experience, values and knowledge to improve society. There is a difference between running things as they are now and the vision to make them better. Missing in most American towns and cities are these community-enhancing initiatives as offered in the cities noted:
- Affordable Housing Authority – Telluride, CO.
- Rent Control – New York City, NY
- Community Radio Station – Telluride, CO and Moab, UT.
- Open Space Land Banking – Telluride, CO.
- City Owned Forest – Arcadia, CA.
- City Owned Farms – Havana, Cuba.
- Public Schools Foundation – Ashland, OR.
- Strong Open Space Land Trust – Joshua Tree, CA
Local is Better
Why import a plastic chair that will only be thrown away instead of supporting a local wood working shop to make furniture that will be treasured for generations. By the time transportation costs are added into cheap globalized products, the cost is about the same. When the loss of domestic jobs are added into the mix, importing costs are higher overall for society.
Here we are during the greatest health crisis in a century and America is importing 90 percent of its medical supplies; including face masks. We should be producing our own face masks here in this country.
Another thing the virus is teaching us is just how important our health is, as well as having a healthcare system that works for all of us. Most Americans consume over-processed foods and are lacking in proper exercise, leading to a high rate of obesity, compromised immune systems and overall poor health. Returning to the small scale growing of our own food, or at least consuming whole foods would make for healthier and thriving communities.
We are fortunate here in Ashland to have a hospital, a community health center and an urgent care office, plus more hospitals and medical centers in nearby towns are only a 20 minute drive away. However, rather than wasting trillions on the military, would it be more helpful to rural communities if the government would invest those funds into building hospitals and clinics in every rural county in America?
Keep Calm and Stay at Home
Words of comfort as from Her Majesty The Queen as she addresses the UK and the Commonwealth. [Video]
We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.
Post Editor, Beth Brown — Beth is a lifestyle writer and former assistant news editor of the Easley Progress. She graduated from Columbia College with a focus on Writing and Public Affairs. She is also a singer/songwriter/musician, yogi, activist and Love Warrior for Mother Earth.
 The Wall Street Journal. State Coronavirus Shutdowns Have Taken 29% of U.S. Economy Offline. April 5, 2020. Josh Mitchell.
 Except wealth taxes.
 The city of Telluride, Colorado, charges a buyer-paid 3 percent real estate transfer tax to build deed-restricted affordable rent and own housing and maintain open space. 80 percent goes to housing and 20 percent to the open space commission.