What do we want after COVID-19?

By Walt Pavlo
For the Leader Herald

I knew a guy who worked tirelessly at his business, a specialty steel fabrication plant for large chemical plants throughout the United States. He was up early in the morning and stayed until his last employee was done. He worked weekends, worked holidays and missed vacations. His business, for a while, was successful, until it was not. The large plants that were his primary clients started sourcing to India, China and South Korea. The one day, the bank called his note and the company went bankrupt. The man lost his life’s savings. That man was my Dad.

There was no bailout package for his small company and many like it that were put out of business through pressures that were not of their own making. Large corporations have for years outsourced much of their manufacturing to cheaper labor in other countries. Labor unions were often criticized for wages that were too high, leaving the United States unable to compete. Corporate America justified and embraced supply chains that spanned the world but allowed them to maximize profits. Now, those same companies want a bailout. That hardly seems fair.

We have all come to expect that we need large corporation to care for us. They have the best health insurance through an ability to negotiate better rates with insurers. Their investment options for retirement plans have better options through the amounts of money pooled from employees. The security of a weekly paycheck has lulled us to sleep that we need them so much that we forget the contribution we make as individuals to further the corporate goals. Now, we as US taxpayers are being called on to bail them out. It’s not fair.

The United States has embraced a type of Corporate Communism where a select few can never fail. Government now believes corporations exist for a greater good of common people and that is just not true. It is also not fair.

My thought is that some of these companies should fail and we could have a great American cleansing. I am not for bailing out cruise lines, whose ships are flagged outside of the United States. I am not for bailing out companies whose goods are mostly manufactured out of the country, where they maximized profits for decades. I am not for companies who embrace vice, like tobacco, alcohol, dance clubs, and gambling. I am not for airlines who have stuck me in a confined seat where I could barely move. Through failing, better companies will emerge.

If you are looking for an example of how big corporations think, look no further than our own Jeremy Jacobs, the owner of the Boston Bruins. The Bruins made an announcement they would place 68 full- time employees on temporary leave on April 1 and give them a week of paid leave. Government unemployment will take care of those employees, so that’s us. Let me do the math for you. If Jacobs could dip into his own pocket, he could pay 68 employees multiplied by, a generous, $5,000 each month that would cost him $340,000. Let’s say that Jacobs kept them on the payroll for 6 months, that is $2 million. That is 0.00006 of his $3.3 billion net worth. That is like a person who makes $50,000 per year giving someone $30.00. Can you imagine?

Times like this call for heroes. Heroes to us are grocery store workers, janitors, garbage collectors, first responders of every kind and doctors and nurses. They are the GOATs and they showed up to work today.

This crisis is a chance for our great nation to align itself with the values that our founders envisioned. That means allowing some companies to fail. In their failing, some entrepreneur, some other company, will emerge with a better idea or a better product. That is the way it is supposed to work.

We should not let the fear of a virus make us embrace a system that is broken. Everett, once a manufacturing hub for the world, has as its major employer a casino that is closed. That alone should cause this community pause to look at what it wants to be after this crisis. Politicians who decided to embrace this path should be held accountable because they were wrong. It is okay to be wrong, but you should not be rewarded for being wrong.

We will emerge from this crisis and there will be a life after COVID-19. Let’s just hope it doesn’t look so much like our past.


Walter Pavlo writes for Forbes Magazine

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