North Carolina Green Party Responds to COVID-19 Crisis

The outbreak of the specific coronavirus strain now working its way through the US has exposed many weaknesses in the US healthcare system, and in the way the US treats its working class and poor. As the Democratic and Republican parties argue over helping the 1% versus the rest of the country, the North Carolina Green Party recommends that both federal and state governments undertake the following actions to ensure that working-class families and the poor, including the homeless, have a chance to emerge unscathed, both physically and financially, from the impact of COVID-19.

  1. Stop evictions and foreclosures. During this crisis it is essential for health and safety that foreclosures and evictions be immediately halted. Further, we call for the following:
    • The federal government should use this period to address the real estate bubble that has been created anew after the 2008 financial crash. Property that is overvalued or over-leveraged by debt puts home ownership out of reach for many. At the same time, large investors such as Blackstone, which used the 2008 crash to buy billions of dollars worth of property at dirt-cheap prices, are now squeezing consumers in the rental markets. These investors and speculators, should be dispossessed of their properties, largely rentals, and those properties offered by the government to first-time homebuyers.
    • There are many properties sitting empty. Regardless of the reason for the vacancy, there is no excuse for homelessness while there is shelter available. Run down properties can be refurbished (creating jobs), while acceptable properties can be made available to homeless people. No one should be allowed to place property rights over the safety and well-being of unsheltered people.

  2. Stop automobile repossessions and invest in mass transit projects. People need transportation for essential purposes, such as obtaining food and medicine, or seeking medical care.
    • Even though people need them in the current environment, the automobile creates many problems in the world. Purporting to offer unparalleled personal choice, we have designed our society around cars, and thrown more efficient, less polluting mass transit out the window. Efforts to develop mass transit in the US are thwarted by various interest groups who place their interests above all else. We need social solutions that provide the poor and working class with transportation options and reduce pollution. All government entities should take this opportunity to imagine new structures that move us toward less pollution and cleaner air and water, with zero dependence on fossil fuels.

  3. Stop all utility cutoffs, including the internet. Loss of water limits the ability to maintain sanitation. Loss of power means the inability to refrigerate or freeze food, maintain heat and conduct a normal life. Access to the internet is essential for education, employment and staying connected to friends, family, community services and healthcare providers. There is no excuse for power, water or other shutoffs during the outbreak. 
    • The largest power companies in the US, as well as companies claiming ownership of water, are not acting in the real interest of the public. Pollution from coal ash and fracked gas, inadequate maintenance on power lines, reluctance and obfuscation over solar power implementation, and maintaining high rates to pay back investors have made private power companies predators of the working class and the poor. Stop energy for profit. Socialize the major power utilities and start administering them for the public benefit, not the portfolios of shareholders. This action should be the beginning of a transition to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030. If we miss this chance to address the equally frightening impending disaster of a collapsed ecosystem, then a new shock will be forced upon the US and the world that will make COVID-19 seem insignificant. 
    • We need a broadband public works construction program providing fiber optic updates and Free Broadband so all residents can communicate with loved ones, seek employment and stay globally connected. In a time when telecommuting has quickly become a necessity, this is not infrastructure development that can be delayed.

  4. Stop the actions of bill and debt collectors and cancel student loan debt. Bill and debt collection agencies often skirt the line between legal and illegal behavior. 
    • As before the 2008 financial crash, too much of the US economy is borne on consumer debt. Families facing loss of employment and difficulty meeting basic survival needs don’t need to hear from aggressive and bullying collection agents. 
    • A particularly pernicious sector that threatens the future of many Americans is educational debt, now at $1.6T and a recognized burden on the economy. Allowing generations of people graduating into a hollowed economy to be forced to spend a significant portion of their life paying student loans, whose benefits will often never materialize, is ensuring that a large and relatively young sector of society will never be able to fully participate in any future economic success or realize much of their personal dreams. Stop the debt payments now and forgive the debts. Stop allowing banks to make student loans at exorbitant rates that can never be realistically handled by most borrowers. And put an end to financing loans for the rapacious and predatory for-profit colleges, which are a natural home for con artists and grifters who own these colleges.

  5. Make unemployment benefits available immediately. Unemployment benefits must be paid immediately and without condition. Further, when the crisis is over, companies should not be allowed to use the epidemic and closures as an excuse to trim their workforce. 
    • All barriers to the quick and immediate distribution of unemployment benefits should be removed by the state.
    • It is time for the nation to look at the nature of employment, especially in large companies that depend on squeezing labor for profit. Despite business lobbyists' claim that 80% of businesses offer some form of paid leave, millions of workers in the service industry, retail, groceries and restaurants do not have this benefit. These are some of the biggest employers in the US, and have escaped offering paid sick or emergency leave. At the same time, data from a 2016 report suggests that the federal government spends $17B a year subsidizing low-wage employers, which is a subsidy to the restaurant industry, especially the fast-food sector, and the service industry in general. These subsidies shore up profits for CEOs, boards, and shareholders and thereby only benefit a small segment of the public while condemning millions of low wage insecure workers to misery. Even in industries where pay is better, employee safety may be sacrificed for profit saving measures. 
    • We believe that this nation needs to move away from for-profit organized companies to an economy largely based on worker-owned cooperatives and socialized industry.

  6. Use federal and state resources to take care of under-served communities and homeless persons. As this crisis progresses, communities will lack sufficient equipment, facilities and personnel to respond to more than a handful of cases. Extra health care personnel should be hired and equipped to provide additional support and field hospitals will have to be established. Special care should be taken to make sure that rural areas have everything necessary to meet the immediate need imposed by this virus.
    • Emergency mass production of millions of free home COVID-19 test kits, respirators and ventilators manufactured by employees earning a living wage. 
    • Much of the problem faced by the public today as COVID-19 drills deeper into the medical and economic life of the US, is that we do not have a robust national health care system. Instead, we rely on private insurers to determine what level of care we will receive, assuming we can afford it. The idea that we cannot have a national health care system should be the first victim of the virus. At the beginning of the outbreak, we were engaged in a debate on who should pay for testing, and how insurers would handle co-pays and deductibles. Some states have responded appropriately by telling insurers that they must pay during the epidemic. North Carolina should follow suit. But if Medicare-for-All or a similar national healthcare program were in place, no time would have been wasted on that issue at all. In a public health emergency, like a pandemic, the federal government would simply have provided the testing. Everybody in, nobody out. Let’s use this time to establish and mobilize an emergency national health program focusing on Coronavirus and related care. This emergency program should be expanded to shift permanently from a for-profit health care system to a socialised National Improved Medicare for All that includes all major and preventative care, including eye and dental care and an emergency health card for all residents, with employment offered to insurance industry employees. See for example, the Hawkins Health Care Plan, at Pandemic preparedness is only one of many reasons why a national health care plan is needed.

  7. Immediate change in federal spending priorities in response to the pandemic. 
    • Both the federal government and the state governments should realize that the currently inadequate response to the epidemic and the need for emergency measures to protect workers is the result of decades of purposeful neglect of the function of government. While we have cut taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, we have underfunded public health and education. While we wage wars of opportunity abroad and maintain a military that consumes more resources than the next seven highest spending nations, we charge outrageous tuition for colleges, maintain the largest prison population in the world and have high levels of poverty relative to the rest of the developed world. We should:
      1. Withdraw all troops from overseas operations. Shut all foreign military bases, and begin retraining armed forces and veterans in a massive renewable public works program.
      2. Stop all deportations and detentions immediately. ICE operations across the US should be suspended indefinitely. Sequestering populations of people in jails and detention centers will only create another incubator for the virus.  
      3. Undo the massive tax breaks for the 1% and corporations. This is in addition to halting taxes taken from Social Security and increasing the monthly individual cash award Congress proposes from $1000 to $3000 for people making less than $80,000 per year (approximately $5T). There should be no talk of “affordability”. The US has spent trillions more than this on failed and ongoing wars. It’s time to start helping US citizens, not just banks, arms dealers, and stock traders. The stimulus package announced today does not come close to what is needed.

  8. Drastically improve the safety and security of the US food supply. The US government has since the 1960s presided over a massive concentration of the food production and distribution in the hands of a relatively small number of companies. This has been accompanied by an increase in environmentally harmful farming practices, factory meat farms, suppression of prices by large buyers that in turn requires agricultural price supports, and an emphasis on exports. This has created multiple insecurities in food supplies—underpaid farmers, dependence of the food supply on long-distance, polluting transportation and dependence on labor intensive canning and packing operations that can be disrupted by workers becoming ill. Much as we need a decentralized and more robust energy grid, the US should plan to decentralize food production and delivery. Bigger is not better when it breaks down, it just means more people are affected.

  9. Do not allow the epidemic to be used to curtail or remove civil liberties. Predictably, the federal Department of Justice has asked Congress to consider weakening constitutional protections as part of a response to the epidemic in the US. Requested changes include the right to detain arrested persons without a trial, with the argument being that in an emergency a judge might not be available to handle pretrial arguments. Another change would deny asylum seekers that test positive for the new coronavirus the right to be considered for asylum. None of this is necessary, and is intended to see how far DoJ can push the Patriot Act weakened walls of constitutional protection in law enforcement and government emergency. Coronavirus or no, all of our basic rights must be preserved in full. It is tempting in times of emergency, and especially now, to limit movement and freedom to assemble, which is foundational to the right to petition for redress of grievances from local, state and federal governments. Following this impulse to its logical conclusion would lead to a police state that cannot necessarily be dismantled. 

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  • North Carolina Green Party
    published this page in News 2020-04-02 01:37:30 -0400


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