Now and Always: The Poor are Left to their Fate

The poor always pay when the world crashes, no matter what happens. Isn’t that right?

These dark days are no exception. Politicians in cities, towns, and villages, in states great and small, from one end of the Earth to the other, are now rushing to take action to counter the pandemic.

They strain to be presented by the media as protectors of public health, as determined, dynamic, effective leaders – with an eye on the next elections.

And, as it seems, the measures that have been taken, especially that of social distancing, from China to New York, are working.
At least the cases of infection and deaths are not increasing at the same rate as before.

But now that the battlefield dust is starting to clear, and despite the fact that the evidence we have is incomplete, the picture in our country is that the percentage of African-Americans suffering from coronavirus is much higher than that of whites.

I would extend this and say that the percentage of poor people who are sick from the virus is much higher than that of the non-poor all over the world.

There is no official data based on race in New York, but look at which areas of the city the hospitals are on the verge of collapse and draw your own conclusions.

In Chicago, where there is evidence, 72% of the cases are African-American, although they constitute less than 1/3 of the city’s population.

So the measures implemented by politicians to deal with coronavirus, although they are effective for the entire population, are only operative for the middle class and above.

What about the others: the poor, the refugees, the immigrants?

How much can social distancing work in a slum where people are living on top of each other? So many people are living in small apartments. How many people have the economic capability of doing all of their shopping once a week?

How much can the “stay at home” measures be applied when a poor man with little or no money in the bank, the one who lives from paycheck to paycheck, must work in order to live?

And what will the immigrant do who, for alpha or beta reasons, is not registered with the state, and is thus not eligible for unemployment insurance when he is laid off, and because he is not on the tax rolls, cannot receive state aid?

And what about the migrant/refugee camps around the world – including Greece, where at least 20 occupants of a facility near Athens have fallen ill with the virus? (It was announced a few days ago that Germany will accept up to 50 unaccompanied children and Luxembourg 12 from Greek camps).

And what about the one billion people around the world who live in slums, in ghettos, without basic infrastructure, where disease and drug addiction are rampant and people are not being tested?

How and by whom will these people be protected?

It’s painful even to just think about it.

However, that is how it is: the poor are always left to their fate.


I’ve been issuing presidential report cards in this space since January, 2010: the conclusion of Barack Obama’s first year in office.

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