Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says older people like him should be willing to expose themselves to Covid-19 and even die if it means saving the American economy for younger generations. It’s easy for Patrick to say. He’s older, for sure, but he’s also got excellent health insurance and a guaranteed paycheck. If he were to fall ill, you can bet he’d have access to speedy testing and, if he needed it, a ventilator. Those of us without high profile jobs may not be so lucky. The shortage of tests and basic medical supplies coupled with the slipshod health industry in America, means many people are at real risk of dying without ever being diagnosed.
If Patrick and other older Americans want to shore up the economy and help future generations, there’s plenty they can do without dying. Some things will require the force of law. Others can be done out of pure benevolence. Here are a few suggestions:
- Provide affordable health care to all Americans, regardless of employment status. The younger generations are increasingly working as contractors rather than employees and that means they don’t have access to the employer-provided health insurance that your generation took for granted. No one should lose health insurance when they are laid off from a job or when the company folds. Fix it, already.
- Raise the minimum wage. Some of the people putting themselves at greatest risk right now—grocery store clerks, stock room workers, janitors and other cleaning service employees—don’t make a living wage. We need to change that.
- Make sure people running businesses in America pay taxes in America. Duh.
- Stop letting corporations use government bailout money to buy back their own stock. While we’re at it, stop bailing out multi-billion dollar corporations while lecturing ordinary Americans about the importance of saving money.
- Set limits on CEO salaries and perks for any company that receives tax breaks or incentives from state or federal governments.
- Tax churches and other religious organizations.
- Elect younger people to public office.
- Hire young people. Hire people of color. Hire women. Hire LGBTQ+ workers. Your companies will be stronger for it.
- Stop ignoring warnings from climate scientists and start taking real steps to ensure your grandchildren and great grandchildren will have clean water and clean air. It’s hard to worry about your 401K when you can’t breathe.
To Dan Patrick and any other senior citizens willing to die for the future economic prosperity of this country: thanks, but no thanks. Your death won’t solve a thing, but you can make a difference. You can start by recognizing that our current system is fragile and unsustainable. It isn’t working. Nothing that falls apart this quickly was particularly strong to begin with. You can start by taking responsibility for your part in creating this mess. Nearly half of our nation’s senators and about 150 members of the House of Representatives are over 65. All of our current presidential candidates are well over 70. You show no signs of being willing to give up your power, so use it. Many of the systems that aren’t working right now are your systems. Many of the laws that don’t protect people are your laws. Many of the policies that fall short are your policies.
We don’t need senior citizens volunteering as martyrs for America’s hypothetical financial future. We do need senior citizens like Dan Patrick and so many of the nation’s lawmakers to clean up the mess they’ve spent a lifetime creating. That’s the best way to ensure a strong America for future generations.