Letter: We need a COVID-19 Marshall Plan

The Detroit News

We may be approaching an existential tipping point for our Republic. I do not believe this is hyperbolic for the following reasons: massive unemployment, a restless, heavily armed citizenry and a government refusing or incapable of providing solutions.

A few weeks ago, we saw a preview of what could come when discontented citizens roamed the halls of the Michigan Capitol armed with assault rifles. Although the misspelled protest signs became the butt of late-night comics, the real signs were ominous. Most likely the men with assault rifles never had the courage to serve in the military, but they can still spew 45 deadly rounds in a minute. That was not free speech — it was intended to intimidate and threaten. 

Throughout history (think Weimar Republic) political threats are a pre-cursor to real violence. It is true that only a fringe of society roams around with Confederate flags, and assault rifles, but it is also true that most of the rest us are profoundly anxious about the future. If history has taught us anything, it is that we need a massive government program to address those fears.

We need a COVID Marshall Plan. 

Protestors brandishing guns gather at the state Capitol steps to oppose Gov. Whitmer's stay home orders in response to the spread of coronavirus in Michigan

As the number of unemployed exceed Great Depression levels, we should be reminded of what distinguished us from what happened in Germany and Italy: Roosevelt’s New Deal. What saved Europe from degenerating into chaos and despotism after WWII was the Marshall Plan. We need a massive jobs program with guaranteed income for working families to survive.

Employing people to track people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 will require over a million people. Industries can be retooled to produce PPE and therapeutics. Infrastructure projects could easily be accomplished with adequate protection for workers. 

For service workers who cannot return to work in the foreseeable future, a guaranteed income would provide support until work becomes available. If we can give trillions to save corporations, we can spare a couple thousand per month for citizens to make us safe and to rebuild the country. 

What we lack is any political leadership to design such a plan. 

We are already in social turmoil. The militia types obviously have no fear of parading their threats in public. The economy will not recover soon. A predictable second wave of infection (with much more severe consequences) will cause citizens to drift toward the political extremes.

Instead of leaving Americans to sit at home watching endless news of doom while facing disastrous debt, why not put our country to work and really focus on a better future? 

Geoffrey Fieger, Fieger Law