Until we solve the big three issues, working Americans will continue to suffer, Qasim argues.
STAFFORD-Americans are suffocating under inadequate pay, unaffordable healthcare, and inaccessible housing. These three are connected, and until we resolve each of them, working Americans will continue to suffer.
But we are up against some major obstacles. For example, as we recover from the shutdowns, some employers claim they don’t have enough workers to staff their businesses. Rather than simply paying their workers more, corporations are lobbying states to cancel the $300 a week unemployment insurance benefit. To be clear, that’s money people need to live.
Unsurprisingly, the 10 GOP states that cancelled $300 UI benefits early have seen a drop in job searches. This was predictable. Means testing and exploitation does not work. It never has. It is immoral, breathtakingly dumb, and quintessentially un-American to deny working Americans a living wage.
President Roosevelt raised a good point about this in 1933 when establishing the minimum wage.
“It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country,” Roosevelt said. On the other hand, companies like Costo—who pay their workers on average $21/hour—are having no difficulty ensuring their stores remain staffed.
A Lack of Health Coverage For Working Americans
In addition to inadequate pay, many Americans suffer from a lack of health coverage or inadequate health coverage. This tragedy was further laid bare during the pandemic. While study after dozens of studies show that a universal Medicare for All system would decrease costs, increase life expectancy, increase personal freedom and health choice and access—we are beholden to major corporations who are more interested in turning a profit than caring for people.
Sadly, GoFundMe has become the healthcare option of choice for Americans struggling with the ‘crime’ of getting cancer, getting in a car accident, having a stroke, or even basic preventative healthcare. Now, one third of GoFundMe accounts are for people trying to cover medical costs. This atrocity can only end if we prioritize people over profits.
Finally, the lack of adequate pay and the presence of expensive health coverage contributes to the third major crisis facing Americans. That’s the lack of affordable housing. While many in the media across the spectrum—left and right—continue to incorrectly label the current housing phenomenon as a “housing shortage,” the reality is quite different. The US Census Bureau reports that America currently has about 17 million vacant homes.
Working Americans suffer from the greed, hoarding, and excessive home prices enforced by the super wealthy—but not from scarcity. Not only should the Biden administration extend the eviction moratorium enacted to protect working families during this pandemic, we must prioritize housing as a human right and ensure a comprehensive overhaul of our economic system to protect working Americans from homelessness. As is well established, the true redistribution of wealth in America is not from the rich to the poor, but from working Americans to billionaires to the tune of $50 Trillion.
We Must Stop Serving Corporations
In short, we must reject the politics of serving corporations and billionaires. Instead, we should recognize that working Americans deserve economic fairness and justice. In the wealthiest nation in history, it’s an atrocity that Americans are underpaid, under cared for, and struggle with housing. We can and must do better. That begins by standing together for economic justice for all working people in America.
Qasim Rashid is a human rights lawyer, author, and Truman National Security Project Fellow. Follow him on Twitter @QasimRashid.