To GOP: Are we really all in this together?
Betsy DeVos, Trump's Secretary of Education, is using the coronavirus crisis to funnel money away from public schools and into private religious schools. | AP

“We’re all in this together.”

Is anybody else tired of hearing this mantra?

I mean, in many ways I love it as an aspirational sentiment reflecting both a cooperative way of being and our dependence upon one another. If we don’t grasp that fact now, when will we?

The fact that we’re dependent upon one another can be a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people. Albert Einstein thought so, defining the resistance to accepting this fact back in 1949 as “the essence of the crisis of our time.” He wrote, “The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence.”

Refusal by some to accept this reality is keeping us, during this pandemic, from really all “being in this together.”

The Unholy Trinity of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Betsy DeVos, among others in the GOP, are doing their best to distribute the monies earmarked for relief packages away from the majority of Americans and toward millionaires serving their private agendas with taxpayer dollars.

Mitch McConnell, unconcerned about the plight of the majority, has been wonderfully patient when it comes to passing the next relief bill.

Moreover, he has given his assurance that whatever the Senate passes will look nothing like the $3 trillion package the House of Representatives passed and will definitely not include the $600 dollar boost to unemployment benefits the March relief package provided because, in his words, it would “make it more lucrative not to work than to work.”

This language smacks of typical Republican talking points that ignore the actual material conditions making it hard, if not impossible, for Americans to work and succeed. Their talking points instead depict Americans as lazy and averse to work if they can game the system.

McConnell echoes the likes of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who said, in the midst of the Great Recession, “We don’t have a jobs problem; we have a work problem,” or Newt Gingrich who at that time advised protesters to “take a bath” and “get a job.”

At that time, Republicans resisted extending unemployment benefits.

Despite the U.S. becoming a jobs desert, then as now, Republicans still somehow think Americans are just lazy and looking for a free lunch.

Most appalling is the fact that it is the wealthiest among us in the most recent relief package who are reaping windfalls while most Americans struggle in uncertainty.

In his recent New York Times article “Crumbs for the Hungry but Windfalls for Rich,” Nicholas Kristof explains how a provision titled “Modification of Limitation on Losses for Taxpayers Other Than Corporations” somehow mysteriously made its way into the 880-page March relief bill.

Democrats have asked Trump for any communications that would shed light on how the provision magically appeared in the bill.  According to Kristof, the bill provides $135 billion dollars in “relief” for real estate developers, offering retroactive tax breaks for periods that preceded the coronavirus outbreak.

Kristof retitles the provision the “Zillionaire Giveaway,” writing, “About 82 percent of the Zillionaire Giveaway goes to those earning more than $1 million a year, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Of those beneficiaries earning more than $1 million annually, the average benefit is $1.6 million.”

In other words, a single mom juggling two jobs gets a maximum $1,200 stimulus check — and then pays taxes so that a real estate mogul can receive $1.6 million. This is dog-eat-dog capitalism for struggling workers, and socialism for the rich.

Well, so much for all of us being in this together.

And Kristof indicates that Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner may be in line for some of this windfall.

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proudly admitted recently that she is in fact taking advantage of the pandemic to funnel public money away from public schools to private ones.

Matt Barnum, writing for Chalkbeat, recently reported, “In a conversation with DeVos on SiriusXM radio, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, suggested that the secretary was trying to ‘utilize this particular crisis to ensure that justice is finally done to our kids and the parents who choose to send them to faith-based schools,’ including through a new program that encourages states to offer voucher-like grants for parents.

“Am I correct in understanding what your agenda is?” Dolan asks.

“Yes, absolutely,” DeVos responded. “For more than three decades that has been something that I’ve been passionate about. This whole pandemic has brought into clear focus that everyone has been impacted, and we shouldn’t be thinking about students that are in public schools versus private schools.”

As Americans endure this current economic crisis, relief packages should be aimed at easing nerves and helping Americans have what they need to get by. Relief packages, common sense dictates, are not meant to fatten the already excessive surplus of millionaires.

But that’s what is happening.

We should all be in this together.

Unfortunately—and disgustingly—we’re not.


Tim Libretti
Tim Libretti

Tim Libretti teaches in the English Department at a public university in Chicago where he lives with his two sons.