We here in real America should be growing accustomed to wearing masks in public, avoiding crowds, social distancing, and rubbing our hands raw with prodigious amounts of hand sanitizer.
We here in real America have to contend with the fact that the number of our fellow citizens who have died from COVID-19 because of Donald Trump’s incompetence is equivalent to a September 11, 2001 terror attack every day for 66 days.
We have to fret about the future of our children’s education and their and their teachers’ health in a Google-dominated hybrid configuration that cannot guarantee all emerge unscathed.
But in the other America–the realm of yachts, mansions with car elevators, jets that whisk the wealthy off to private islands, personal sports car showrooms–COVID-19 is not anything to fear.
Because while we languish in a land without adequate testing or contact tracing, without any definitive way of knowing whether the person behind us in the supermarket checkout line is one of 50% of asymptomatic carries who never develop symptoms, the mega-wealthy are laying out upwards of $2.6 million for international citizenship credentials to escape the plague.
They’re also requiring their party guests submit to 15-minute rapid tests before coming in and living it up.
Someone who has become recently very popular among the Hamptons, NY glitterati is Dr. Asma Rashid for her members-only medical concierge service that administers real-time finger prick or nose swab COVID tests.
She performs these tests in people’s cars, and only allows them to proceed to their parties if they come back negative.
Most doctors don’t even have test kits, many of which produce false negatives and can take up to two weeks for results.
According to The New York Times, many clients book Dr. Rashid in advance when they plan on having guests stay over, or throw a barbecue or wedding.
Some, though, call her in the middle of the night.
“Every time there is an event, a protest or Fourth of July celebration, there is higher demand.”
An example is a drive-in “Safe & Sound” concert, where Goldman Sachs’ chief executive and “The Chainsmokers” performed, for which attendees–who shelled out $1,250 per car–were supposed to remain in their cars.
But they didn’t.
Social media posts showed crowds gathering and dancing by the stage.
Dr. Rashid commented:
“I can’t even tell you how many requests we got after that.”
It’s as if the pandemic is only afflicting the poor and what’s left of the middle class.
That’s exactly what’s happening.
Apple enjoys a $2 trillion market windfall.
A month ago, Amazon boasted record $5.2 billion in last-quarter profits, doubling last year’s numbers.
Meanwhile, over 16 million Americans are unemployed, costing them their employer-provided healthcare (if they had any at all).
Millions are losing their homes.
As the warmer months wane, many fear a seasonal flu and COVID double-whammy.
According to Nick Bilton’s Vanity Fair piece titled, “‘All These Rich People Can’t Stop Themselves’: The Luxe Quarantine Lives of Silicon Valley’s Elite“:
“One investor worth several billion who has several homes told a friend—who then parlayed the information to me in tones of shock and awe and more than a tinge of jealousy—that he was in Miami when the numbers were lowest at the start of the pandemic; hopped over to Los Angeles when Florida got a bit dicey; and now that California is a hotbed, is in New York enjoying the season’s outdoor dining. Another billionaire in Los Angeles has been hosting lavish dinner parties (no social media allowed) where an on-site nurse administers 15-minute coronavirus tests outside as guests drink cocktails, and allows them in to dine once their test comes back negative.”
The affluent still unfortunate enough to not own their own private jets (or “P.J.”) are contributing to the ballooning jet rental market.
According to a spokeswoman for private rental company NetJets, inquiries for flights increased from last year.
“Meanwhile, the gap between the haves and the have-nots in Silicon Valley has only grown. The coronavirus pandemic has proven to be more fruitful for tech than almost any other single event in history. Surfer-guy Zuckerberg is now the fourth-richest person on the planet, worth $100 billion. Jeff Bezos has reached another vertiginous high; he’s now worth around $190 billion, depending on the time of day, and he set a record last month when his net worth jumped by $13 billion in single day. Elon Musk, who has spent half the pandemic schilling conspiracy theories about COVID-19 or attacking Gavin Newsom for shuttering businesses, has seen his net worth skyrocket; last month it reached $70 billion, helped along by a $6.1 billion bump in a single day, edging him past Warren Buffett on the list of the world’s richest people. When he passed the benchmark, Musk told Forbes, ‘I really couldn’t care less.'”
The affluent have always found a way to insulate themselves from real-world problems.
It isn’t just occurring now during the pandemic.
For example, middle-class and lower-income Californians are seeing their homes go up in smoke while their affluent neighbors–many celebrities–are employing private firefighters to protect them and their mansions.
The coddling too many of us here in real America give the wealthy is misguided at best, ignorant at worst.
The Republican party has for years adopted the Libertarian position of privatizing all social programs and safety nets upon which the middle class was built–Social Security, Medicare, unions, environmental regulations, public education, fire and police protection, libraries, etc.
To them, if we simply relieve ourselves of “big government,” we will organically become more self-sufficient and, eventually, “freer.”
In their minds, we could all be rich if we just eliminate “government entitlements.”
We here in real America know, though, this is just a ruse designed to hook-wink us into supporting economic policies that disproportionately favor the wealthy, making the rest of us poorer.
If the wealthy can afford private firefighters to protect their mansions and rapid COVID tests so they can throw wild bacchanals like Prince Prospero in Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Masque of the Red Death,” more power to them.
But therein lies the problem.
In 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collected $3.5 trillion in taxes, almost 95 percent of total federal revenues.
But there is also an amount taxpayers do not pay by the filing deadline, called the tax gap, the IRS estimates between 2011 and 2013 to be, on average, $441 billion annually.
Harvard University research shows those responsible for 70 percent of that tax gap are the richest one percent of income earners.
Donald Trump isn’t alone. The richest 1% of Americans is responsible for 70% of all unpaid taxes.
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) September 28, 2020
That means the wealthiest Americans–the ones many assume are paying the most taxes since they should–are gypping the American public out of about $266 billion.
There is something fundamentally wrong with an economic system that deprives everyone else of the security government is supposed to provide simply because they do not have as much disposable income.
By repealing the tax cuts Ronald Reagan instituted in the 1980s, George W. Bush in the 2000’s, and the $1.5 trillion in permanent tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy passed two years ago under Trump, we would be in a good position to, as Sen. Bernie Sanders argued two months ago:
“Fund tuition-free college for all, eliminate child hunger, ensure clean drinking water for every American household, build half a million affordable housing units, provide masks to all, produce the protective gear and medical supplies our health workers need to combat this pandemic, and fully fund the U.S. Postal Service.”
Republicans are always screaming about “welfare,” so let’s finally cut the billions of taxpayer- funded subsidies we hand corporations just for the privilege of being called American companies–while they off-shore to low-wage countries.
Let’s raise the minimum wage to a living wage.
Let’s finally “make America great.”
Because, frankly, this ain’t working.
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