By Jacob Vito
Whether it be for the pizza, tacos, a sandwich or something else entirely, everyone has a favorite local restaurant. However, due to the pressures of COVID-19, those favorites may not have much more time left, if any at all.
Over 10,000 restaurants have closed in the last three months due to COVID-19, according to a CNN report. Such a mass closure accounts for 17 percent of the entire industry, with an additional 37 percent saying they would likely not survive the next six months.
This report comes at a critical juncture for the United States’ COVID-19 response. Over the last few months, much of the given aid is close to or already expired. Additionally, the push for a new aid package continues to stall in the Senate.
Undoubtedly, the legislature’s continued lack of action would be catastrophic to small businesses and those that run them in America today. Yet, for as many times as they claim that “small business is the backbone of the economy,” they still are dragging their feet on assisting.
It already appears, as noted by CNBC, that many of the most helpful aspects of earlier aid packages, including the $1,200 stimulus checks received by most Americans, have been gutted from any future bills. Instead, the discussions around the current package largely focus on funding for the upcoming vaccine.
However, with even the fastest plans for a vaccine rollout taking at least a year, according to the LA Times, there may not be much of an American economy left to save if something immediate does not happen soon. Any potential future without one of the worst and longest recessions ever will require aid.
So, why the indecisiveness from Congress? Why wait when almost half of an entire sector of the economy could collapse by the end of next year? Is it that hard to see what is going on?
Instead, it seems that the back and forth over the contents of past and future aid packages, and the actions not taken by the federal government over the last nine months seem to communicate a larger message. There is a reluctance in the U.S. government to understand what its purpose is.
In reality, such analysis should not be that hard. The government is ultimately an aspect of society and the people around it, so its goal is the same as most other social structures: self-preservation.
However, there are two different axes of preservation. The first is the preservation of the government itself, which the U.S. has already done very well. This is the motivation behind the excess army, counterintelligence and even local police forces.
There is a second part of preservation, though, the preservation of the people a government controls. Whether they like it or not, governments require citizens. So taking good enough care of one’s population to not be entirely delegitimized is necessary.
It is as close to a fact as anything in politics; governments require at least some support from their citizens. Because of this, most states will usually offer some level of consideration for people’s needs. Thus exists public transportation, public utilities, and in other countries, public healthcare.
Such logic would extend to the pandemic’s dire time, with the need to recognize a stable and functioning society and emphasizing necessary aid distribution. However, the legislative and executive branches seem not to have come to such a conclusion.
So, why have senators and representatives continued to stall while people suffer? Because, either knowingly or unknowingly, they’ve learned they can get away with not caring.
The American population, graced with many things compared to the world, does not exhibit empathy for their neighbors as one of those graces. In recent decades, a steadily growing emphasis on “personal responsibility” and extreme individualism has been found in the U.S. Thereby, leading to a culture that has a hard time thinking about those outside their field of vision.
Many politicians have come to recognize how prominent that mindset has become and have capitalized on it, hoping for reelection by promising to cut welfare, dismantle unions and damage a formerly stable social safety net. That aesthetic of personal responsibility has led to direct attacks against anything perceived as “cultivating dependence.”
However, the concept of personal responsibility doesn’t do much in the face of a worldwide plague. All of a sudden, that rhetoric is harming in a far more visible and dangerous way by encouraging people to actively work against public health in the name of their freedom.
Today, the challenge is that though one could recognize such messages and ideas as a danger to the public, decades of such prominent thinking has left people still susceptible to them. It doesn’t take much work to find someone who would stand to benefit from COVID-19 aid and knows it but dismisses the government-led effort doing it.
In short, Americans have spent so many years enthralled in the made-up fight against “big government” that they forgot how to function in a society under pressure. As politicians have capitalized on that, they’ve seen that they don’t need to meet the same aid standards for their citizens by leaning into that same narrative.
Because of this, there probably won’t be enough federal aid given to the dying restaurants and small businesses to save them. This is the grave that America has been digging. And unless newly elected officials enter office, who don’t believe in narratives of extreme personal responsibility, we may soon find ourselves lying in it.