Week 4 was when dollar signs kept turning up, and up, astonishingly: price-tags on the virus’s damage, price-tags on fighting it. The bailout of bailouts came in at $2.2 trillion of disaster relief and, it’s fair to say, a pipeline of money to Wall Street, to the Boeing Company, and the airline industry. Who’d have expected Republican conservatives would bail out people, too: “four-figure checks” in mailboxes within three weeks, Mitch McConnell promised. The mantra is official now: don’t sweat the debt. Governor Cuomo in the virus’s bullseye of New York sounded desperate for hospital beds, but he also thought the spiky curve of cases was flattening.
For an immeasurable public health disaster, Washington has come up with unheard of relief, about double what the federal government budgets for all spending in a whole year. And the case loads and death toll of the coronavirus keep rising, unevenly, unpredictably, and by far the worst in New York, city and state. Mark Blyth is our almost reflexive call: our political economist at Brown University, eagle-eyed and irreverent on those places where money and power mix and mingle and make rules for the world. He can sound like the noisiest know-it-all in a Glasgow pub, but people always say he has a gift for making sense where they hadn’t seen it.
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