While there are many grim aspects of coronavirus and the ensuing quarantine, we can not deny that some very positive developments are taking place. At the policy level, many of the ideas that were once deemed crazy are now being seen as viable. Suddenly even federal lawmakers who have long resisted these policy ideas are embracing paid sick leave, employment protections for contract workers, and even direct cash payments to people as solutions.
In a recent poll commissioned by the National League of Cities and conducted by Morning Consult, 85% of Americans supported mandating employers to provide emergency paid sick leave in response to the spread of coronavirus. These types of numbers reflect a growing group of Americans realizing — at least in the short term — that we are all in this together. Paid sick leave was popular even in earlier opinion polls when there wasn’t any national action, but the level of support has increased dramatically.
Even taxes, the American third rail in politics, are not off the table. Fully 80% of Americans would support a tax hike — with broad bipartisan support — to control the spread of the virus and support those most affected by COVID-19.
The biggest idea to gain support from all this, however, is direct cash payments from the federal government to citizens. Other than Andrew Yang, no major politicians were advocating for some form of basic income, which would provide people with a monthly stipend to cover their basic needs. It seemed no more than a glint in Yang’s eyes that we would see such a thing happen at the national level, but now we have the White House is getting set to make a direct cash payment of $1,200 to all taxpayers. With talks of a fourth stimulus package and more on the way, it is not inconceivable that this is only the first direct cash payment from the federal government.
These measures have been passed to respond to the unprecedented nature of COVID-19. But they also show that what sometimes seems improbable can suddenly become quite mainstream. As many city leaders who have been championing policies like paid sick leave and expanded worker protections will attest, not only are these programs incredibly popular with constituents, but they can and do transform lives.