March 11, 2020 was the time when what felt like fiction in my brain turned into non-fiction. The reality of a global pandemic was hard to understand before March 11th and as my blog will attest, it took plenty of time for the impact to fully soak in. It took me a while to fully fathom that a year later we would still be hurting, but I struggled to see March 2021.
One year later both my parents are fully vaccinated, my wife and one of two sons. At the age of 58 I'm not an essential worker and have no underlying conditions. I'm eager to be vaccinated but have no interest in trying to push my way to the front of the line if there are more deserving people who have to go first. Tomorrow Scott is returning to the home without a pre-test and without any mask wearing. That feels like progress. Small groups where everyone is vaccinated except for one is acceptable which means I can be with my vaccinated son but not the unvaccinated one. We're told that by the end of June everyone will be fully vaccinated. That will be 16 months of having our world shaken up. Our routines became new. Our complaints were less about illness and more about confinement. But we are now emerging.
We have a new president. We have a massive stimulus bill that was just passed that has the potential to reshape income distribution for the poorest of Americans. We are being told what feels like the truth and the whole truth. We have a stock market that surprisingly is at an all time high despite the economic scars that this pandemic has caused. We are climbing out. There is a feeling of confidence that we see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
We are, however, forever scarred. The fear of people and the diseases they spread is not likely to dissipate any time soon. The avoidance of crowds, tight spaces and invisible germs will be with us for years. The idea that work happens best in an office is a concept that's increasingly being rethought. How we shop, how we interact, how we travel and how we get our entertainment are all likely to evolve. It seems reasonable that when we do fully return to "normal" that "normal" looks different than that old normal.
As with most things, the pandemic brought good with its bad. This may well be the event that enabled a fix to the income distribution trend that has rewarded the rich at the expense of the very poor. We have begun to reframe our thinking that poor equates to "lazy" and accept the responsibility that "opportunity" is something we collectively have a responsibility to solve. I increasingly believe that capitalism is not something that we leave to the magical forces of supply and demand. When factories close, when call centers get outsourced and when companies stop paying for employee benefits, we have a problem not rooted in laziness but in opportunity. As the economy ebbs and flows and industries are helped and hurt, the government can play a role to step in to create economic opportunity. When a factory closes why not retrain and employ people to answer the phone from seniors with questions about their social security benefits...or a million other electronic government services that could instantly be used to both fill a need and create opportunity.
Maybe this is the beginning of better times. Maybe this helped serve as a societal course correction. Maybe we'll rethink our whole approach from "what's in it for me" to "how do we optimize for all" and still maintain our capitalistic roots. Capitalism, I would argue, works even better with a societal safety net. Just as our communal health relies on everyone getting vaccinated, our communal economy relies on opportunity for all and then watch. Watch the prisons empty. Watch the police strain lessen. Watch the consumer confidence increase and watch all boats rise in a rising tide.
March 13, 2021
© Greg Harris, 2021
All Rights Reserved