Somebody Needs to Tell Chuck Schumer that the Entire Working Class Is “Heroic,” Not Just “Essential Workers”

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

This was going to be a very short post, because I thought that if I tried to write a longer post, I’d stroke out, Schumer ticks me off so much. But now it’s going to be slightly longer, because Schumer’s concept blew up after I started to write the post: None other than Elizabeth Warren has chimed in to support Schumer with, naturally, a plan, and Sanders has endorsed the concept of “essential workers.” So it looks like the Democrat Party is bestirring itself to propose an exciting program of complex eligibility requirements to aid a subset of workers on a temporary basis. As one does. But first let’s survey the zeitgeist:

Let’s start with a banner from Sunnyside in Queens, New York:

The rainbow is cute, and the sentiment is surely not ill-intended, but “essential” workers?

Here’s another example (there are a ton):

I didn’t know there was such a thing as a “gratitude rock.” But again, “essential workers”?

And then there are the heartwarming jokes:

And of course the heartwarming commercialization:

Sometimes “essential workers” are reconceptualized as “front line” workers, so we can adopt a militaristic frame:

And while the Air Force is doing its flyover only in support of health care workers and first responders, the “front line” worker concept is more capacious:

(Note the source.) But consider this billboard in Memphis, and the commentary thereupon:

Exactly. Now let’s turn to Schumer.

Politico summarizes Schumer’s proposal in “Democrats seek hazard pay for health workers amid pandemic“:

Congressional Democrats are trying to add $13 per hour hazard payments for frontline health care workers up to a total of $25,000 in the next coronavirus relief package, along with $15,000 incentives for people who join the medical workforce surge during the pandemic.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said a so-called Heroes Fund could compensate nurses, EMTs and other workers for unanticipated risks as they confront a flood of new cases. Some workers have unsuccessfully sought payments from cash-strapped hospitals and other employers experiencing a downturn in business from lockdowns and cancelations of nonessential procedures.

“No proposal will be complete without addressing the needs of our essential workers by giving them hazard pay,” Schumer said on a call this week with reporters.

And in Tweet form:

Note that Schumer makes the equation between “essential workers” and “front-line” workers, but does not define his terms except to imply that they not doctors and nurses. (Sanders includes grocery workers.) So right off the bat Schumer has complex eligibility requirements, much beloved of liberals, first because Schumer has to classify workers into worthy “essential” and unworthy not “essential,” and second because you just know it’s all going to be means-tested. (I mean, if some trucker makes too much money, we don’t want him in the program, right?)

Before going on to the foundational problems with Schumer’s “Heroes Fund,” let’s take a brief detour into the plan that Warren has nimbly whipped up, where naturally the problems are in fine print:

Leaving aside that there’s to be no Bill of Rights for workers who are not “essential,” look at #3: Collective bargaining agreeements are protected, but union formation is not encouraged (See again, the commentary on the Memphis billboard above). And #7: “No cost health care” for the duration of the pandemic, correct? Or are we now to have #MedicareForAll on a permanent basis, but only for “essential” workers? And so forth. Back to the problems in Schumer’s proposal. I can see at least three.

1. The distinction between essential and non-essential is impossible to make, and wrong

Here’s the reaction from a random Twitter account, a trucker, to Schumer’s “Heroes Fund”:

(Interesting to see how Schumer’s proposal got translated; clearly, $25,000 made it right through.) But the answer to “Is this true?” is “Nobody knows.” Schumer doesn’t talk about truckers. Sanders talks about grocery workers. Here’s another example:

Governor Murphy would include truckers, but also journalists, “and so many more” (which presumably would include grocery workers).

So you can imagine the sausage-making here, as Congress determines which workers go to Happyville (are “essential”) and which go to Pain City (“not essential”).

Fortunately, the trucker provides a way out: “Because without us none of you would get anything.” But that applies to all workers. All workers are essential. (In other words, Tlaib has the right approach, not Schumer, unsurprisingly.)

2. The “front lines” are everywhere.

Imagine a nurse, who everybody agrees is essential. She works late, and needs a ride home. Is the cab driver essential? The cab driver needs to stop for gas. Is the attendant essential? The nurse orders a pizza when she gets home. Is the delivery person essential? I would argue that yes, they all are (since they are all essential to, as the Bearded One would put it, reproducing the nurse’s labor power, so they can go to work again the next day.) So where is the front line? Is at the nurse’s hospital? Surely so. But suppose she caught the virus. Then the front line is in the cab, at the gas station, and at the nurse’s front door, on the door-knob. And the cabbie, the attendant, and the delivery person are all on the front line too! So only the nurses gets a cut of the Heroe’s Fund? Wasn’t the cabbie a hero too, for picking up a nurse that could infect him? Or the delivery person, if they knew where the nurse worked?

3. All workers are heroes.

There’s no question the pandemic is bad, and that all workers are heroes for working through it. But there is a larger framework to consider. I don’t know if any of you remember as far back as ten years ago, but we had another Crash back then. Calculated Risk used to run a regular chart called the “Scariest Jobs Chart Ever.” Here’s an example:

The red line is unemployment, and as you can see — and perhaps you remember — unemployment was very deep, very long to “recover,” and when it did, wages and working conditions weren’t as good as they were before (due to Obama’s miserably inadequate stimulus package, failure to address foreclosures, and failure to reform the FIRE sector instead of simply rebooting it, among many other policy failures). If you did live through that “scary” time, do you remember the millions who lost their jobs? The millions who lost their homes? The broken marriages? The suicides? I say all the workers who lived through those horrible years are heroes, and yet, c’est normal, no medals for them, no “Heroes Fund,” even though it was as destructive as any war. And everyone suffered, “essential” or not.

Schumer’s “Hero’s Fund,” if passed, would be insanely destructive of working class solidarity. It would create a “two-tier” system not just for a rancid contract from a corrupt business union, but for the entire country, in which “essential workers” were a legally classified labor aristoracy. Sanders, of all people, should see this divide-and-conquer proposal for what it is: An effort to set the working class at each others’ throats over wages and working conditions at a time when class solidarity, as shown by the rising wave of strikes, is most essential, and I am extremely disappointed that he supports the concept. I hadn’t thought his campaign was about deeming only a subset of the working class essential.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

50 comments

  1. The Historian

    I wonder what Elizabeth Warren would do without her garbage man? I mean, someone has to deal with all the “plans” she creates, don’t they?

    And means testing, no less – for workers. I wonder, are they so removed from this country that they don’t even realize that no worker makes any where near what they make for just sitting around making “plans”?

    Grrrrrrrr

    1. gc54

      Oh no, she puts her “plans” in a blue recycling bin, which around here is picked up by Waste Management Inc. and dumped in the landfill. But that’s ok, eventually it’s buried and a pipe sucks out “sustainable methane”.

  2. Arizona Slim

    What do you want to bet that some of those gratitude rocks are going to being thrown through some *ungrateful* windows?

  3. Tom Stone

    Divide and conquer works.

    No matter who “Wins” in November the looting will be epic and the peasants ground into dust.
    At least, that seems to be the plan.
    I see one small problem with that, the peasants may not cooperate and our economy needs the active cooperation of the populace to function.
    Get enough homeless living in Trumptowns and things will get interesting.
    The metaphor of the last straw breaking the camel’s back is apposite, things can come apart very quickly indeed.

    I can relate to Lambert’s comment about almost stroking out, the mask has come off and our overlords have revealed themselves in all their viciously arrogant stupidity.

    1. JTMcPhee

      They ain’t so stupid. Look who has all the money, power and swag. And sadly, a lot of us mopes are kept in thrall by the vain hope that someday one, repeat one, of us could be the next Bill Gates, Jr. or Jeff Bezos.

      For way too many, a genteel sufficiency is never enough, for some reason… there’s only one amfortas, it seems…

      And if by some miracle we mopes are rid of Schumer and Pelosi and McConnell and the current class of looters and assistant looters, the machinery is still grinding out replacement parts.

      1. Billy

        Nightmare for the Oligarchs:
        Debt Strike 2020

        It’s easy, maintains social distancing and can be done from home.
        Citizens simply refuse to participate in the system so blatantly rigged against them, refuse to mail credit card, rent, property tax, mortgage and income tax paperwork—-until after all interest payments are suspended and the Federal Reserve types up enough keyboard money to create real relief.

        What are the elite puppet masters going to do? Wreck people’s credit rating? Oh Dear! Foreclose?, Evict?, order an elected and sympathetic sheriff around to the homes of 25% of Americans?–many of whom probably have a family protection arsenal? Many people are simply not going to spend their last dollar on debt, move into their car, or sidewalk, then work as a serf or starve to death.

        Is D.C. listening?

      2. JBird4049

        “For way too many, a genteel sufficiency is never enough, for some reason… there’s only one amfortas, it seems…“

        It used to be the norm to easily find work at a job that paid well and had decent bennies. If the boss played games, there was the union or just finding other decent job. American society had a very large middle class and both the wealthy and poor classes were comparably small. There was always poverty and homelessness, but generally one had to work at being homeless.

        Today, if you aren’t part of the 10% you are probably screwed, or scared, or both because the precariat is ever growing, regardless of their supposed class. To not be in the precariat that now is most of the 90% you have to be all consumed by money, ignoring all other values, for the number of chairs are always shrinking while the number of scared, desperate, increasingly amoral, empty souls are in competition with you. And it is not always just you. Supposed you had a family? Even despicable people are often willing to do anything for their children, spouses, parents, siblings.

        So now, greed is not only good, it is becoming necessary for survival. Being like amfortas, while good, is likely to put you and your loved ones onto the street.

        1. clarky90

          “Lions Led By Donkeys”

          https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/greatwar/g4/

          “The commanders were ‘donkeys’. They were incompetent and didn’t take care of their soldiers, the ‘lions’. They sat in safety behind the lines while they sent their troops charging against machine guns and barbed wire. Their men resented them and only obeyed because they would be shot otherwise….”

          1. Clive

            I’m going to be brutal here and say that I’ve come to absolutely *loathe* this metaphor.

            For one thing, it dis-empowers the rank-and-file troops. By characterising them in glamorised terms (the “lions”) it lumps everyone and anyone into a single bucket. It therefore commodifies them. It’s the same as calling everyone who served “heros”. Yes, collectively they were brave and heroic. But they were also individuals. Some were indeed brave. Some were cowardly. Some were reckless. Some were cautious. And so on. When you’ve lost the ability to individualise a collective effort, you’ve lost the essence of what it is to be a participant in our shared body of experience and existence.

            But then in alluding to the idea that the fighting force was duped and hoodwinked, you are making them gullible and stupid. Some were undoubtedly naively patriotic. But many were under no illusion about what war meant (some were veterans of earlier conflicts). And they were not exclusively passive bystanders, unable and unwilling to simply be led to their fate. In the British army and on the Home Front, mutinies happened and strikes were commonplace. The UK government was alarmed and concerned (and acted, to a degree, on those concerns).

            I know everyone likes a go-to phrase which encapsulates a powerful point quickly, but when these phrases come out of such as context as WWI, they can simply degenerate into meaningless tropes which devalue a great deal of their force. As is the case with this one. We’ve stopped, by-and-large, any conscious evaluation of who were the “lions”, who were the “donkeys”, why did so many go to their deaths, how did the society of the time function so as to allow this to happen and when did we come to see the conflict in this way?

            And who did the removal of “class” which, intentionally or not, gets dropped in this handy catch-all description? Because, search it line-by-line as you might, you’ll not find any real reference to class in this simile. Why is that? Where did class go? Because class was certainly a factor in the society of the time.

            And this is my real ire. The phrase implies that some deaths are more worthy, more meaningful than others. The implication is, if someone from the “leadership” dies, then they somehow “deserve” death. It is only if someone from the “led” group dies, they were innocent. I’d like you to take a look at picture (you have to scroll down all the way to the end). It’s given a description of “Sir Henry and Lady Alda Hoare with their son, Henry, who later died in battle”. Take half a minute or so and look at it, really look, not just glance.

            You might see, as I do, an awful lot going on in this picture. The older man and woman are, of course, the epitome of Edwardian elite in all their certainties and, yes, possibly arrogance. They owned one of England’s great estates and were part of the Hoare banking dynasty. Now, take a look at their son. He has none of this, He was only in his late teens or early twenties, I think. I don’t know about you, but while I thought I knew a lot at that age, I also realised, to a degree, I knew bugger all. And I had a lot to learn. He didn’t get the chance. His parents — the couple in the photograph — were, by all accounts devastated. This is entirely believable. Thirty years later, the estate was gifted to the nation and that “arm” of the family dynasty gone forever.

            In castigating the “donkeys” and reducing them (and the young man in the picture you’d probably lump in with the “donkeys”, because he came from that social strata which you’re associating with this group) to an anonymous, amorphous mass, you are devaluing any suffering they had to go through.

            By lauding the “lions”, you are elevating the value of the deaths and sufferings of another group and saying it cost more for the people who endured it and was therefore worth more. And you’re reducing them to a mere animalistic, unthinking and unquestioning ignorant mass.

            So by some analysis, you’re contributing to the ultimate neo-liberal triumph: you can take anything — anything at all, even dying — and assign a relative calculation of the costs and benefits of it, depending on how you view the utility of that generic service. By “you”, I should stress, I don’t mean “you” personally. I mean you, me and all of us who so casually trot out phrases and sayings without stopping to think, just once in a while, about what the are describing and what it might mean.

            1. JBird4049

              I don’t know about assigning worth to different individuals’ lives and deaths. I do know that France and Britain had generations of women made widows or spinsters because generations of men were thrown away for no good reason. That there were villages with no men and that as proportion of the number of men in their class and station the upper class families such as the Hoare lost the most men.

              I do know what is now called Neoliberalism was created by men who lived through the First World War, the immediate collapse of three empires, the prolonged dying of two, an entire world economically devastated by the war (IIRC about the the time I was working in international shipping in the early 2000s, international shipping finally reached the same level as it had have in 1914.) The entire interlocking system of trade and manufacturing was shattered over five years. Multiple countries driven insane. And finally the Second World War and all of its horrors.

              As best as I understand it, the economists set about creating a world somewhat like the fallen Austro-Hungarian Empire with its multitude of nations subsumed into a larger system. A system that could economically control the interactions between and within each nation like NATTA and TTP do or was supposed to. The reasoning was that since that empire, and I guess the others as well, was reasonable prosperous albeit at the cost of reducing the economic freedoms and maybe wealth of many, the countries of the world could also be subsumed into a larger system that controlled economic activity between and within countries; this would reduce the chances of a repeat of what happened from 1914 to 1947 or 48 IIRC. (The immediate post-wars were really bad with mass ethnic cleansing being common)

              Of course, neoliberalism was used to destroyed and replace the Bretton Woods system of strong but loose connections and firm independent economic control by separate countries with the current system of strong, tight economic connections and little independent economic control by most countries.

              So, I am not sure just what the heck I am going with this except to say that the sheer waste of life and destruction of centuries of art and architecture for no real reason that I can see as well as the creation of an ultimately pernicious and flawed economic system called neoliberalism; created as a system to reduce warfare, but ultimately perverted by the elites as a wealth stripping system. Maybe we should be mad at Gavrilo Princip.

              1. Clive

                Yet the Britain of 1949 would have been scarcely recognisable to the working classes of 1919 — only 30 years, scarcely a generation, later. The welfare state, the NHS of course. But also a commitment to social housing and full employment. Highly re-distributive taxation. Nationalisations across coal, steel, railways, ports and shipping. Plus a comprehensive programme of rural electrification which was key (along with transport infrastructure) to making sure that prosperity was not just an urban experience.

                Were these gifts bestowed on a mass population out of the kindness of the former elite’s hearts? Or were the taken, by the masses, through struggle?

                Or, to put it another way, if it really was lions led by donkeys, why did, demonstrably, the lions (those who survived) refuse to put up with donkey rule thereafter? And if the donkeys (those who survived) did, rather, end up sharing power with the lions, why did they do this?

                I’m not about to start to try to unpick the whole inter-war and post-war settlement for an entire society. But I am, to return to my original point, saying that, if we unthinkingly continue to cite a myth, of “lions led by donkeys”, we perpetuate a lie that the working class are mere passive recipients of debasement, either powerless or accepting (or both in turn) to do anything about it. This, I do not and will not accept.

                1. Noone from Nowheresville

                  Highly re-distributive taxation.

                  This is only necessary because the existing underlying structure / classes were left in place.

                  As an aside, we need a new phrase for this since taxes have become code in the US for stealing what I (donkeys) “earned” and others (lions) are trying to steal from me.

        2. Ian Ollmann

          > To not be in the precariat that now is most of the 90% you have to be all consumed by
          > money, ignoring all other values, for the number of chairs are always shrinking while
          > the number of scared, desperate, increasingly amoral, empty souls are in competition
          > with you.

          That goes a bit far. Some of us are just well paid. Doctors, attorneys, engineers. These people still work, and earn their cookies through the sweat of their own air conditioned brow. These are the pay scales that really you want everyone to have.

          Let’s make sure the firing squad rifles are not indiscriminately pointed, shall we?

          1. Felix_47

            Why are there so many highly paid African and Indian doctors in the US and so few African and Indian (excluding Ms. Warren) attorneys?

          2. cnchal

            I suppose it is essential for attorneys to add another page every year to the essential user agreements shoved into a mopes face when he she or it signs up for a new cell phone plan, for an essential million bucks a year wage, to essentially strip all rights from the phone user.

            Facelifts are essential too, to the doctor and the new Porsche sitting in the showroom, and the word “engineer” doesn’t mean what it used to as it is now applied to app developers creating essential apps to spy on the cell phone user, all covered by essential attorney client privelige.

          3. JBird4049

            I am not blaming the individuals and suggesting even metaphorically that they should be put to the wall in my rant. At least I hope not. No, aside from people like Biden, Pelosi, McConnell, Bezos, and others like them, I am blaming the system that forces people to become amoral, empty souls just to put a roof over them and theirs as well as food in their stomachs.

            Like rats in an ever smaller cage. The average rat has no desire to fight. Give him or her enough space, food, and water, perhaps a few toys for fun, and they are happy, peaceful rodents. Cram them and starve them like neoliberalism does to people and you get conflict.

    2. a different chris

      Here’s the problem. Ye peasants of olde were quite capable of feeding themselves. Now how many of us can even see farmland within a 1/2 hours drive?

      So what is to be done? Can a “strike” happen without criminal (aka looting grocery stores) behavior? And criminal behavior is so hard – for the working class, not so much the 1% – to get everyone behind.

      Italy might be able to figure it out given the combination of their luscious farmland and the Mafia. Wish there was another way.

  4. Off The Street

    As one does.

    Lambert,
    Yet another reason to enjoy the writing, even when some linked articles increase the stroking-out risk.

    Signed,
    A Formerly Essential, but now Useless Eater

  5. Tom Stone

    JT, Look at the unemployment figures, a substantial portion of those people will be homeless by this time next year.
    Dealing with millions of new homeless will be quite a task, will FEMA be supplying portapotties and handwashing stations?
    Where will all the new ‘Trumptowns be located?
    They can’t be where they will obtrude on the lives of the worthy people…
    Who will regulate them, provide health care and police them?
    And the Man in charge will either be Trump or Biden, a DINO whose brain has turned into cottage cheese.
    Not a comforting thought.

    1. Jason Boxman

      With bankrupt cities and municipalities, it may be we have lawless regions, like in Pakistan, but right here in America. What’s a country that can’t control its own territory?

  6. Michael Hudson

    Gee Lambert, if you’re going to pay “essential workers” a minimum wage, not give them masks and subject them to life-threatening risk, you at least should call them “heroic.” It’s like giving workers a paper award instead of a raise.
    If they were heroic, they’d go on strike.

    1. Ian Ollmann

      Life threatening not required. I feel relatively confident we can come up with a rather large number of green new jobs to do. If we are going to pay them to do nothing, we might as well pay them to do something useful. What’s more, people working on GND infrastructure might be classified as essential. This will have labor market value.

      Really, I’d rather see people trained up to install a National smart grid or repair failing overpasses and dams than work as a fry cook at a greasy spoon. If they are non essential we probably aren’t really in need of that job anyway. The whole service sector economy, well most of it, might be considered make work, from one point of view. Maybe we can do better.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > If they were heroic, they’d go on strike.

      I don’t imagine many nurses should go on strike right now. What is really grinding at me is the Sanders “movement”‘s failure to fund strikers, both workplace strikes and rental strikes. I know Sanders’ mind is occupied, what with pulling all the knives out of his back, so I won’t deploy “unconscionable,” but it’s really asking for a more, er, kinetic response later on, if indeed this recovery is neither V-shaped, nor UI-shaped, but L-shaped.

  7. Katie

    The pandering is insufferable. I have a question for Schumer: in a system where money is essential for basic survival, whose work is actually inessential? If it puts bread in your mouth, if it provides for a family, how is any work less than worthy and vital? You want to provide us all with an ample UBI, Chuck Schumer, then we might at some point exercise ourselves to examine together which jobs add to the welfare of society at large and which do not.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > In a system where money is essential for basic survival, whose work is actually inessential? If it puts bread in your mouth, if it provides for a family, how is any work less than worthy and vital?

      Thank you, Katie. I wanted to put this into words but I was rushing toward the end and cut it out. I siuppose another way of saying “inessential workers” is “inessential children.” That’s the logic of it.

      Sanders should not even have adopted the “essential workers” formulation. Very disappointing.

      1. Noone from Nowheresville

        I fear Sanders is too invested in the system and in the middle of muddle/puddle. He can’t see that the sell-by date has passed. The milk is separating but still usable as a nice buttermilk substitute. Soon it will start to get chunky and then the real spoilage will be begin. The whole thing will have to be thrown out.

        Once it’s thrown out there’s really nothing to salvage. Have to start over and procure new milk. Given circumstances like milk dumping and dairy farm failures that might be much more difficult than anyone imagines.

        Of course a nice pear-shaped tart could still work. Could use some Crisco or something. Wouldn’t be as good as the real stuff but at least it’s not 100% cottonseed oil anymore. A bunch of someones saw through the advertising at one point.

        But you can’t eat advertising. It gives one something to chew on and can look spectacular, but it provides no vital nutrition.

        1. Noone from Nowheresville

          I’m going to add another thing. The term “worker” is also kind of an advertising / propaganda term. Workers in our system means someone who provides value. Value in our system means someone who earns money whether that’s for themselves or someone else. That someone else may be a family member, a community or the system itself. The system values “free” but only for itself and any “free” workers are seen as valueless. It’s also a blindspot because a seemingly “valueless” person may be essential to the system’s continuation.

          So really it’s not workers or even essential workers. It’s people.

          People are or can be heroic regardless of whether or not our system values them as workers.

          1. Woodchuck

            This is another nice addition to the discourse.

            There is this notion that people of working age who are not “paid workers” are basically not worth quite as much. Mothers staying home to raise their children are not regarded in nearly the same way as those with a “career” in most circles, and yet giving them in many cases a better education and better health, leading in less dependance on security nets later, should certainly be viewed as beneficial for society.

            My wife has home schooled for many years previously (in Canada, but the situation isn’t very different in that regard), and when you compare any kind of benefits she could get from society compared with a “working” woman it was pretty sad.

            And mothers at home is just an example. It can be someone that decided to take time off work to help their parents, people who are suffering from depression and are currently not functional in a working environment, etc. Those are all people, navigating the world in our society for better or worse, and if you’re going to support people, just support people. Not just those you “deem essential”, because this quickly goes off track.

  8. Jat

    Umm Lambert have you not noticed the working class is too busy voting for Biden and trump? 😆

    1. Yves Smith

      Uuum, I guess you don’t read.

      More specifically, Making Shit Up is a violation of our written site Policies.

      Lower income voters strongly favor Sanders. As income rises, they like Sanders less and Biden more.

      The income of the average Trump voter in 2016 was similarly way above not only that of the average Sanders voter but also the average Clinton voter.

  9. Biologist

    Somewhat tangential:
    In the UK, we are having every Thursday 8 PM “clap for the NHS*” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52140383), where people peek out of their windows, balconies, gardens to applaud the National Health Service. I truly am in awe of nurses, doctors, cleaners, drivers, basically everyone keeping the hospitals running and the patients treated–whether designated essential or not–so I participate, and I think most ordinary people in my neighbourhood have similarly good intentions. But to me it has more than a whiff of Orwell’s 2 minutes of hate.

    I think those workers would much rather have proper PPE, enough tests, proper management, proper salaries, recognition in normal times, an actual strategy, and a government that had taken lessons from other countries’ experience rather than letting it come to this daily death toll of 1000.

    Or, perhaps a media that would be more interested in all these failings, rather than amplifying the propaganda effort that places all responsibility on individuals (‘Stay at home, save lives’), debating endlessly about whether or not we are allowed to walk our dogs more than 1 mile from our houses, or recounting minute by minute how heroically our fighter Boris has defeated his virus.

    But no. Instead, they get applause.


    *) Btw don’t google “clap NHS” :-)

    1. P.W

      As a healthcare worker in the US, I personally never expect or need overt signs of appreciation. I entered this field because I love the science, the caring, the complexity of human health and caring. It is the the feeling of making a difference even in the absence of that appreciation that fuels the passion. I think most of us in healthcare know that appreciation is self imposed as healthcare has become a business modeled on numbers that are truly meaningless for the most part. Appreciation in the workforce stopped being valued once big businesses’ stronghold changed how value is defined/evaluated. I have always believed that every job adds value along the chain. It is nice that everyone recognizes the risk that some healthcare workers are submerged in especially in such a situation, but I am not sure that justifies the unintentional/intentional diminishment of others value or risk simply because they are not immersed in the front lines. It does justify the need to be sure those who are in the thick of it have the safety equipment they need to stay safe and afford them the support services for emotional/mental wellness during this time. It is nice that we are being recognized/appreciated but I truly appreciate those who support me outside of my own workplace despite their own fears, needs and sacrifices! Everyone is a hero in this situation!

  10. Charles 2

    Emmanuel Macron on his last address :
    « Il nous faudra nous rappeler aussi que notre pays, aujourd’hui, tient tout entier sur des femmes et des hommes que nos économies reconnaissent et rémunèrent si mal. « Les distinctions sociales ne peuvent être fondées que sur l’utilité commune ». Ces mots, les Français les ont écrits il y a plus de 200 ans. Nous devons aujourd’hui reprendre le flambeau et donner toute sa force à ce principe. »

    Translation :
    We will have to remember that our country, today, relies entirely upon women and men that our economic systems acknowledge and compensate so bad « Social distinctions can only be based on common welfare ». These words, the French wrote them more than 200 years ago. We must today take up the torch and give back to this principle all its strength.

    Coming from someone who made his money on one M&A deal, it is quite ironic. But, you never know, he may have a « come to Jesus » moment… I wouldn’t bet the farm on that though !

  11. John A

    Why the safety concerns qualification for protecting whistleblowers in point 5?

    It should simply read: 5 ‘Protect Whistleblowers’

    Or maybe that would throw shade on the saintly Obama and his relentless persecution of whistleblowers

  12. Barking Tribe

    Actually there are four tiers, two additional. The non-essential essentials, can’t have lawn services ignored in the burbs; the power mom’s wouldn’t take to kind to exclusion there, and the essential non-essentials, have to push the bill out the door for payment. So we essentially have a nonessential business, essentially nonexistent except where our fearless leaders essentially tell us they should essentially be included for essential purposes except when essentially not needed. Well, that would be the weekend.

  13. Jesper

    Time to reduce the amount of time allocated to paid work? Doing so would reduce the amount of hours to sell and therefore put an upwards pressure on wages for the essential work.
    I suspect that the reason why the amount of paid vacation, paid parental leave and paid sick days can’t be increased is that the top 10% will get nothing from it. The top 10% are rarely ‘doers’ they are mostly managers and their primary concern is making sure they stay on top -> therefore it is common to hear things from them like: Worked 80 hours per week (only paid for 40) so therefore the pay is deserved. (Please don’t ask what was done with those 80+ hours as it was mostly un-essential work known as careerism)
    My latest contract was for a company with great salaries and great benefits. The result of the better than market average compensation was that people there stabbed each other in the back and going on a long vacation was a high risk behaviour. Once away from work for an extended period (3-4 weeks seemed to be enough) then the knives came out aimed at the one being away and therefore undefended…. Due to the time spent on office-politics they had little time to do actual work and therefore they had to spend money on external consultants who would actually do the work – that is where I came in :)

    And about Warrens number 10, ‘hold corporations accountable’….
    Once upon a time people used the excuse:
    ‘The (non-corporeal entity the) devil made me do it therefore punish the devil and not me.

    The modern version of the same excuse appears to be:
    ‘The (non-corporeal entity the) corporation made me do it therefore punish the corporation and not me.

    Hold people at the corporations accountable and/or dissolve the corporation.

  14. Adam1

    It’s amazing how politicians can be so daft. Right now 5% of all pork meat processing is going off line because one plant is closing because of Covid-19 infections. Are those workers not essential? I’d hate to be the politician who has to answer to the angry mob when the grocery stores really are empty.

    I’d suggest all “non-essential” workers take one day off (the same day) just to show them who is really essential. As Lambert has listed, there are way more people than these fools are considering.

    Here are some easy ones I’d add to Lamberts mentions…
    – Farmers and farm laborers (growing calendar isn’t going to wait for this to end. Cows don’t have milking vacations); Heck, everyone in the food supply chain for that matter!
    – Remote workers can’t work remotely if the communication network is down. In the first week or so of our local lockdown the communication workers were everywhere in my neighborhood. I assume because of needed upgrades to home networks to support working from home.
    – IT systems need people to be able to physically reset things or replace them when things really go wrong. Wait for that ATM network to stop working or for the “stimulus checks” that don’t get processed.
    – Ventilator and N95 mask factory workers and all they non-front line workers required to support the production line (things do break down)
    – How about all the people who are going to be needed to help rebuild, feed and shelter all the people recovering from the rash of tornados? Are they not essential right now?
    – Day care workers. You know the people taking care of all the kids while the “essential” (real and politically expedient essential workers) do go to work.

    Ah heck, it would probably be easier to list the truly non-essential workers… Corporate Executives and Congress Critters.

  15. Skyburn

    “There are two types of soldiers in an army: the infantry, and everyone who supports the infantry.”

  16. Mary L Isaacson

    Could we add teachers and professors to this list? Who will train, educate and prepare the next generations for what is needed? Few people have noticed how little public school teachers earn and even less understood is how MOST public colleges and universities have become “gig” , part-time, adjunct institutions where people with PHDs are paid per course on average $3000 per semester, no contract, no benefits, no offices, etc. Very much like today’s hospitals that are run by CEOs, Universities have huge administrative layers that manage mostly part-time faculty.
    At least two generations of highly educated academics, carrying huge student debts, have been lost already. They have not been given teaching positions and have left the field. They have not acquired the knowledge that comes from long careers of teaching and research. And professors are retiring in droves not to be replaced. The continuity that comes from building and maintaining programs has been lost. It takes years to build programs and only a short time to kill them. We have a small window to save what is left.
    There has been a propaganda war against teachers and professors for years. Now we pay the price. Who will train the next generation of doctors, nurses, engineers, climate scientists etc. Who will invent, design and create the renewable energies and medicines? Unless this country wakes up and invests in education and our next generations, we will be totally dependent upon other countries. We will have to look to China to save us.
    Teaching is a calling just as medicine is. Let us add them to the list of essential workers. Anyone working on a salary or wage deserves respect and a life.

  17. Grayce

    Confusion over words: Essential services are being enumerated. That makes sense to keep life going. Here’s what does not make sense: to identify specific people as essential workers. Let us all try to use the terms usefully in our own discussions.

  18. oaf

    Chuckie’s Hierarchy of Worker Value

    …Let’s see…

    1: Essential non-deplorables
    2: Non-essential non-deplorables
    3: Essential deplorables
    4:Non-essential deplorables

  19. Will G Nadauld

    Big scary economic depression headed our way just now. I work in a cheese warehouse. We move 10 to 15 million pounds of cheese per week. I work and have worked 60 hrs plus per week for years. My labour is no more essential than the bar keep or wait staff at the pub. Same with the roofer, the mortgage originator, the auto worker etc… If my money cant buy a beer in good company, cant buy a new roof or refinance a mortgage etc, what is its purpose? The mundacity of moving the cheese is the price I pay to be able to participate in society as i know or knew it.
    If my kids cant attend college because some jackass decided to ruin the good salaries for the wicked smart professors, I will have failed them somehow. They are too bright to be moving cheese.
    I miss the part of the argument about who is getting what free money. I am lucky to make a decent salariy and barring sickness or death will continue to do so. So send my extra money to the family of a nurse who died because she faced up to a bigger viral load. I feel bad for all those who are unemployed now. Send my extra money to them.
    It wont do me a bit of good if I cant enjoy it or spend it somewhere.

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