The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge to our society. It has already exposed deep failures in our political and economic system, including the failure of our pay-or-die healthcare system, the failure of government officials to listen to scientists’ warnings, and the failure of our economic system to continuously protect working people.
We cannot expect the same political class that left us woefully unprepared for this crisis to solve it. Instead, we must raise our voices and demand real solutions to the systemic problems that have led both our healthcare system and economy to the brink of collapse once again.
In solidarity with Green leaders around the nation, the Wisconsin Green Party proposes a COVID-19 response plan and stimulus package aimed at addressing both the current crisis and the underlying weaknesses that led to it. We encourage people across the nation to join us in demanding our government immediately enact these urgently-needed policies at the local state and federal levels:
Health care: Everyone in the U.S. without health insurance must be immediately enrolled in Medicare, including immigrants. To facilitate this, the government should hire displaced workers as quickly as possible to process Medicare paperwork. Coronavirus testing and treatment must be provided without individual cost.
Testing: The federal government must partner with state governors to immediately commit resources to testing kits that can be deployed to every corner of the United States as quickly as possible. Testing kits ought to be consistent, and widely available, not only at hospitals and clinics, but also other well-trafficked spaces.
Medical equipment: The federal government must immediately begin coordinating the production of testing kits, ventilators, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies and equipment in the quantities needed as well as those medicines and other supplies which would otherwise have a future shortage due to the travel restrictions in effect.
Hospitals: The federal government should order the Army Corps of Engineers to immediately begin building hospitals and clinics to handle the expected increase in COVID-19 patients, especially in the hardest-hit areas where hospitals are already running low on available beds.
Paid Family and Medical Leave: Federal legislation must guarantee workers 21 days minimum family and medical leave per year, plus a social insurance program to cover extended sick days, family leave, and disability should more than 21 days be necessary.
Stimulus: Institute a temporary universal basic income that would allow for purchase of food and necessities for the duration of the crisis, paying $2,000 per month to every U.S. adult, plus $1,000 per month for each dependent child. Instead of means-testing the payments by making people fill out paperwork to prove they have sufficient financial need to apply for relief, increase taxes on the wealthy to recoup payments to high-income individuals who don’t need them.
Housing: Suspend rent, mortgage payments, evictions and foreclosures during the crisis. Disallow any future evictions and lawsuits over unpaid housing costs as a result of coronavirus-related work interruptions. House the homeless in hotels, and begin immediate construction of supportive long-term housing.
Financial services: Cancel all outstanding student debt. Suspend all consumer and small business credit payments, debt collection, repossession, garnishment of wages, and negative consumer credit reporting during the crisis. Use the Federal Reserve to reimburse creditors and servicers for lost revenue. Institute forbearance for mortgages on rental properties.
Utilities: Suspend utility shutoffs during the crisis, including water, power, heat, phone, and internet. Reconnect all utilities that had previously been shut off.
Social Services: Immediately cancel restrictions on SNAP (food stamps) and extend SNAP broadly alongside and as part of the universal basic income. The federal government must work with states to plan food distribution systems, including Meals on Wheels programs, to address food insecurity that will be worsened by disruption of supply lines.
Workforce: The federal government must work with struggling small and medium-sized businesses to help them stay afloat and keep workers on payroll, by offering no-interest loans, covering payroll costs, and other measures as needed. Classify staff of grocery stores, pharmacies, and other commercial establishments that provide essential goods and services as emergency workers eligible for free childcare. Restore the bargaining rights of all workers in both the public and private sectors to ensure the workers are able to protect themselves, and become part of the process in getting the needs of Wisconsinites met throughout the crisis and beyond it.
Food security: Resume processing of H2A visas for migrant farm workers from Mexico, in order to prevent loss of food supplies due to a shortage of farm workers.
Military: As quickly as possible, military forces must be converted into humanitarian forces, distributing necessities, doing wellness checks, conducting testing, etc. Officially bring the U.S. into peacetime by bringing as many service members as possible home from overseas and ending U.S. interference in foreign nations. Cut the military budget and convert the military production system to help deal with the virus and produce what we need to survive. All F-35 fighterjet expansions should be permanently suspended in the State of Wisconsin as a part of these critical transformations to peacetime services of all branches of the military including national guard.
Farmers: For the duration of the crisis, freeze all Farm Service Agency loan payments, extend crop insurance and emergency loans to farmers, extend rural development loans, and expand the Emergency Food Assistance Program.
Territories: Ensure these protections for residents of all U.S. territories as well as states.
Corporate bailouts: Any corporate bailouts must be carefully considered and provided only to essential industries. The following conditions must be strictly applied to any corporate bailouts:
Any government assistance to corporations must result in public equity stakes to go into a publicly-owned investment fund that will pay dividends to everyone in the country, as well as public ownership stakes
Maintain payrolls and continue to pay workers
Immediately enact a $15 minimum wage
Permanent ban on stock buybacks
Ban on use of corporate funds for political or lobbying expenditures
Ban on dividends and executive bonuses for 3 years after receiving relief
Corporations must allow elected worker representation on boards of directors
Respect existing collective bargaining agreements
No outsourcing of jobs
CEOs to be held criminally liable for any violation of these conditions
Taxation: Tax Wall Street and the wealthy to help pay for essential services to get through the crisis. Institute a one-time corporate wealth tax on cash on hand and corporate assets, to be collected immediately. Delay individual and small business income tax payments for at least six months.
State and Local Governments: Have the Federal Reserve buy short-term municipal debt securities to give state and local governments the financial ability to get through the crisis.
Prisons: Incarcerated people are particularly at risk of contracting communicable diseases. Both the federal government and the states should immediately release nonviolent offenders and incarcerated people whose age or health puts them at high risk, including the many low-income people who are currently incarcerated because of their inability to pay a fine or post bail. Further, we must provide these individuals with the means to house and feed themselves, along with health care.
Foreign Policy: The time for inter-country brinksmanship and saber-rattling is over. Sanctions must be lifted to ensure the free flow of humanitarian aid and supplies around the globe. In particular, sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Syria must be lifted. Using sanctions to destroy entire countries’ medical systems is a crime against humanity. Anywhere this virus continues to thrive represents a threat to global health, including to those of us here in the United States. We must partner with countries around the world to create the most efficient system possible for creating treatments and administering them as quickly as possible.
Green New Deal: The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the urgent necessity of making public policy based on science. This crisis, which has brought our political, healthcare, and economic systems to the brink of collapse, is minor compared to the climate crisis that scientists predict will threaten the survival of humanity if we fail to take decisive action. Now is the time to invest in putting millions of people to work to transform our economy into one that’s secure and sustainable.