The other day, I was listening to the radio. They interviewed a woman who had been laid off and was thinking about selling her car to pay rent, but she was scared that if she did, she wouldn’t have a place to live if she lost her apartment.
Initially, I thought I’d write something about “what car you should buy if you think you might have to live in it.” But as useful as that information may actually be to people in the very near future, and as much as gallows humor is part of how I deal with being immersed in horrifying anecdotes all the time, I can’t make that post. I can just sit here, with my insanely cushy job, and think: “What if that were me?” What if, instead of just being mad in my home office, I was wondering if I’d have to raise my kids out of a car?
We’re now roughly... a number of months into this pandemic thing and if there’s one aspect of it keeps sticking in my head, making it hard to think about anything else, it’s that the monumentally bleak situation we’re in now is a situation that has been chosen for us.
Have there been some individual failures of judgment? Sure. But mostly, we’re still slogging through the results of deliberate choices.
To recap, our elected betters in Washington DC and in numerous state capitals are to varying degrees responsible for more than 147,000 preventable deaths of invaluable, irreplaceable human beings who had memories, aspirations, children, parents, pets, etc. If we’d lost that many people in a war, it would be the third-highest combat death total after only WW II and The Civil War.
Not to belabor the point or sound like an MSNBC person, but it’s entirely possible that we’ll end up losing more totally unique human beings to Coronavirus than we’ve lost in every American war combined.
But of course, that’s not all. Some of our leaders are currently in the process of deciding whether millions of other, not yet dead Americans should lose their homes because they (the leaders) also made the decision to wreck the economy so they could get the pandemic under control, but then also decided not to get the pandemic under control.
(They also had several chances to stop it from becoming a problem in the U.S. in the first place but declined. They also could have paid people to stay home and paid businesses instead of forcing the ones that could get approved into loans.)
True, they did send out a $1,200 check to a lot of people a few months ago, but now they’re wondering if unemployed people really need that extra $600 they’re getting in their check and if evictions should really continue to be suspended, as they have been since they decided that millions should lose their jobs.
There are 30 million Americans currently claiming jobless benefits right now. Unemployment is in the teens or twenties, though I’m sure we all know that’s just a portion of the actual number of people who are out of work.
To be clear, there is plenty of money to keep everyone housed, and to keep businesses running, to pay landlords if you’re worried about them—it’s just that primarily Republicans and also some Democrats would rather not do those things. They want to give the money to their friends.
Which brings us back to the woman I heard on the radio, who was worried about having to live in her car.
Today there are an estimated 567,715 people who are unhoused in this country because that’s the will of our government. There is plenty of money to ensure that nobody has to live in their car, or on the street. You don’t need to have the capacity for empathy or a sense of morality to understand that providing unhoused people with safe places to live is a public good that solves a lot of other problems. There are just some people in power who don’t want to do it.
And now, a lot of those same powerful people have, by choice, created conditions where many more Americans could lose their homes and have to live in a car, or on the street and hope that things somehow get better.
So, assuming you have the option to buy a car, what car should you buy?
What car should you buy if you have little kids? What car should you buy if you’re elderly? What car should you buy if you’re middle-aged and overqualified for the jobs that you’ve been applying for? What kind of car should you buy if the business you spent your life building is gone?
If you’re being put out of your home because powerful people can’t be held accountable, or even asked to help mitigate the damage from their mistakes, what kind of car should you buy?