I’ve spent two decades studying the transformations that take place under the cover of disaster. I’ve learned that one thing we can count on is this: During moments of cataclysmic change, the previously unthinkable suddenly becomes reality. In recent decades, that change has mainly been for the worst — but this has not always been the case. And it need not continue to be in the future.
This video is about the ways the still-unfolding Covid-19 crisis is already remaking our sense of the possible. The Trump administration and other governments around the world are busily exploiting the crisis to push for no-strings-attached corporate bailouts and regulatory rollbacks. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is moving to repeal financial regulations that were introduced after the last major financial meltdown, as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. China, for its part, is indicating that it will relax environmental standards to stimulate its economy, which would wipe out the one major benefit the crisis has produced so far: a marked drop in that country’s lethal air pollution.
But this is not the whole story. In the United States, we have also seen organizing at the city and state levels win important victories to suspend evictions during the pandemic. Ireland has announced six weeks of emergency unemployment payments for all workers who suddenly find themselves out of work, including self-employed workers. And despite U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden’s claims during the recent debate that the pandemic has nothing to do with Medicare for All, many Americans are suddenly realizing that the absence of a functioning safety net exacerbates vulnerabilities to the virus on many fronts.
This crisis — like earlier ones — could well be the catalyst to shower aid on the wealthiest interests in society, including those most responsible for our current vulnerabilities, while offering next to nothing to the most workers, wiping out small family savings and shuttering small businesses. But as this video shows, many are already pushing back — and that story hasn’t been written yet.