Essential Workers provide the human infrastructure without which our society would collapse.
The pandemic revealed many realities of our society, especially the identification and role of “essential workers” as we called them.
“Essential Workers” came under the following broad categories
+ health care workers in general, especially nurses more than physicians or surgeons.
+ child care workers in specific.
+ elder case workers in particular.
+ Grocery clerks stocking and retail.
+ Food processing workers. Meat producers forced workers back on the job despite COVID-19 outbreaks in their ranks.
+ Food banks to provide relief for uncertain food supplies, exactly what USDA Food Stamps and school meals help to do, but which fell short during the pandemic
+ US Postal Service (USPS) workers who delivered the vast majority of packages that people ordered offline to avoid going to bricks-and-mortar stores.
+ Package delivery services for items less well suited to delivery through the USPS.
+ Truck and van drivers who picked and did the long distance for deliver of the health care supplies, the bulk food supplies as well as the packaged good people bought online.
Without these people going to work and doing their job in the hazardous and life-threatening environment of the pandemic then the rest of the economy would cease to function rather than simply functioning at a lower rate.
These essential workers suffer from inadequate compensation for the essential job they perform, less access to healthcare as well as less access to the goods the more wealthy in our society could stay at home and order online for deliver,
In fact, the essential workers often lacked the very services they themselves performed for the rest of society, especially a high percentage of household income paid for housing and transport to and from their essential work.
Inadequate compensation ranks at the top of the list of indignities these essential works have had to bear, and which they continue to bear.
Nobody doubts the necessity of investing in the maintenance and construction of the physical infrastructure on which our society depends; the roads, bridges, tunnels, electrical power distribution, and even clean air ventilation in buildings.
Everybody can see with their own eyes the negative consequences from absence of investments and up-keep of physical infrastructure.
However, we turn a blind eye to the even more critical needs of the human infrastructure provided by essential workers through the pandemic.
Just as with physical infrastructure we need to invest in the well-being and productivity of our essential works but increasing their compensation and the health-care, child-care, elder-care, availability of food and clean water, and fresh air that every human being requires for the quality of their life.
Income inequality undermines this human structure just as much as a shoddy foundation undermines physical infrastructure.
Same have advocated paying less unemployment insurance to force these essential workers back to work, and that suggestion just focuses a bright light on that fact that our essential workers are wage-slaves who must live from paycheck to paycheck never building up enough savings to improve their economic conditions.
Some policy makes have suggested a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to address this issue; however, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) the 38 member countries intergovernmental economic organization recommends a Negative Income Tax rather that Universal Basic Income as the best way to stimulate economic growth and lift people out of poverty.
Even Milton Friedman, hardly someone people would call a socialist, advocated for a Negative Income Tax.
VOX did an excellent article explaining the difference between a Universal Basic Income and a Negative Income Tax as well as the advantages of a Negative Income tax over a Universal Basic Income. You can find the article here:
The VOX article cites a recent American Enterprise Institute report on a budget-neutral universal basic income (UBI) program, which would provide unconditional cash transfers to citizens by cutting most other social welfare programs. The author argues that this form of a UBI would benefit middle class families at the expense the elderly, and cites a negative income tax policy as an alternative worth considering.
“In an absolute must-read paper for anyone interested in the basic income debate, the University of Michigan’s Jessica Wiederspan, Elizabeth Rhodes, and Luke Shaefer estimated the cost of the US adopting a negative income tax large enough to wipe out poverty,” Matthews writes. “They find that a household-based negative income tax, set at the US poverty line and with a 50 percent phaseout rate, would cost $219 billion a year.”
Nobody would mistake the American Enterprise Institute for a hotbed of left wing, socialist theorists.
You can find the original paper here:
However, like Medium, sits behind a pay-wall; therefore we can only hope that the more affluent among us including our policy makes can afford to get the article and read its results.
For the benefit of our society we must invest in the human infrastructure as represented by our essential workers just as much, perhaps even more, than we need to invest in the physical infrastructure because of the essential role the strength and assured function of both physical and human infrastructure contributes to the economic health and well-being of our society.