I write in response to Garey Forster’s atrocious guest column.
First, he shares anecdotes and opinions when he should be sharing sources. Who exactly is staying at home and refusing work for the extra COVID-19 unemployment?
I was laid off, but now I'm working for the Census. Could I have refused the Census gig to remain on unemployment? Yes. Did I? No.
Everyone I know who works in the service industry wants to go back to work, provided their employers implement practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect their workers. Forster might want to spend more time talking to service workers and less time talking on the radio.
Instead of acting as a megaphone for Louisiana's executives, Forster should ask questions: How did we get here? How do we prevent this in the future? How do we protect Louisiana's workers?
Maybe our predatory capitalist economy has been failing for years and the fact that rich and investing class keeps getting richer while the middle class dwindles is a sign that it has been failing for years.
Forster references the 1980s layoffs but doesn't seem to grasp that the service industry is not the same as the oil and gas industry and it's no longer the 1980s. Since 1980, the hourly minimum wage has only gone from $3.10 to $7.25.
Adjusted for inflation, the hourly minimum wage in 1980 was equivalent to $9 in 2018. Maybe the economic stagnation comes from wages not keeping pace with inflation? Louisiana's employers have been pulling in record profits for years while their employees need to use social services to survive.
Few people can pay their rent and care for their families on $247 a week but there are few jobs in New Orleans right now. What should they do? How do you get a job when there aren't any?
It's a disgrace Forster implies the $600 weekly benefit is a plot by Congress to destroy Louisiana's economy, when Louisiana's state reps do that all on their own by prioritizing oil and gas production and tourism instead of a more diversified economy.
There are no stunts, just too many people at the top who have let their greed and desire for punishment overpower their compassion.
The economy was broken before COVID-19 because we've let corporations and the uber-rich break it. The pandemic continues to shine a light on the cracks in American capitalism. Instead of patching it, we need to pull it down to the studs and rebuild it with a moral code that prioritizes people over profits.
But it's a lot easier to just complain and accuse, than to provide useful commentary on the state of our society.