After the Meltdown: Let’s Not Waste Another Crisis

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Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

It is generally conceded that the previous financial crisis, the Great Recession, turned out to be a wasted opportunity for significant structural change. Given the polarization of our national politics, it’s likely that the Covid meltdown will also yield congressional Christmas trees but not lasting beneficial change.

But maybe not, particularly if there’s a change in the White House. Post Alley writers will be looking at how things locally will (and should) change, once we all come up for air. One of the best surveys of possible changes, both substantial and enduring, is this essay in Vox.com by Seattle-based environmental writer, David Roberts. It’s full of links to other proposals.

Roberts lays out some reasonable guidelines for judging major changes. Spend bigly. With bailouts, strings need to be attached. Allow for some triage, particularly fading industries such as fossil fuels and governmental agencies beyond their pull-date. Seize the moment to force more transition to clean energy (see strings attached). Go big on infrastructure. Bail out public transit, and other public agencies such as public health and education. Move toward more social democracy, such as the base income idea that Andrew Yang floated in his campaign or more employee democracy.

Will Republicans cooperate? Likely not, but Roberts makes a self-preservation case that is mildly encouraging:

Republicans blocked Obama’s ongoing efforts at stimulus; they knew he, not they, would suffer voters’ wrath over the results. But this time, they are in charge. If Trump and the Republicans pass inadequate stimulus, it is Trump and the Republicans who will reap the electoral backlash when the economy continues to suffer.

In other words, it is in the GOP’s best interests to pass the biggest stimulus possible. Their electoral fortunes depend it. Voters don’t care about deficits as anything other than culture-war totems; they care how they and their communities are faring. Any realistic consultant would be telling Republicans to dump as much money on voters as possible.

Well, maybe. Rather than count on Congress to come to its senses, however, I would prefer if the consensus on a serious-change agenda bubbled up from some of the governors (Cuomo, Newsome, Inslee for starters) who have rushed into the leadership void in fighting the pandemic. Each might convene the best thinkers and deal-makers in their state than mesh the good ideas into a national agenda.

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