Opinion: Take note of those who profit from pandemics

It’s important to recognize people who are using this pandemic to make a profit and hold them accountable for the consequences of their actions.


Peyton Downing, Opinions Columnist

Amid social distancing, it’s important not to lose track of all the news going on. Between constant news releases and inspirational commercials, certain individuals and groups are acting not in the interest of the people, but rather for their own gain. While we do live in a capitalistic society that encourages the elevation of the self over others, the actions of some can only be classified as immoral.

A prime example of this is Amazon — one of the biggest corporations in modern society, whose owner makes $149,353 a minute, is cleaning house. While it is nice to call their workers heroes for their service, Amazon also lays off those demanding basic protections for these frontline workers.

Chris Smalls is a labor organizer who helped to form a strike at Staten Island over a lack of basic protective gear and hazard pay. Amazon decided to fire Smalls, who had worked there for over five years, citing a violation of “social distancing guidelines.”

Amazon executives then decided to try and make Smalls the figurehead of the labor protests, as he is, in their opinion, “not smart, or articulate.”

Ignoring the fact that in interviews, Smalls comes off as incredibly conscientious, intelligent, and articulate, this behavior of Amazon is indisputably evil. The company is demanding that ill workers come in until they are able to get a confirmation from doctors to Human Resources departments, and not even providing protective gear.

This is the behavior of hand-wringing villains in some dystopian cyberpunk film thinking about how to squeeze every last line of credit out of the public. The fact that it is taking place during a pandemic in our time is a failure on the part of our federal government to ensure the safety of the people.

It is not just corporations and the federal government, though. Elected officials are also acting recklessly, or worse, calculating. Take New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s doing almost daily press conferences talking about his cabinet’s actions to help the people of his state.

At the same time, he proposed making $2.5 billion cuts to Medicaid in the state budget. The cuts would have made New York ineligible for $6.7 billion in emergency federal assistance for the state’s Medicaid program for the duration of the pandemic, because the funds require states to maintain existing program standards and eligibility guidelines.

Cuomo should instead tax those in the upper echelons of society — the ones who can afford expensive medical treatments without support from the state.

These cuts would invariably lead to more harm and death to lower-income families. Without support from Medicaid, there will be people who are directly affected.

While Cuomo could do far more to support the people of New York, he instead opts to ensure that the wealthiest in his state are affected the least by this increasingly drastic pandemic.

Despite these unfortunate acts of selfishness, it is also important to remember that there are people standing up and doing their best in these times.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered extensive shutdowns, going so far as to order a stay at home directive. This shuts down all nonessential businesses and restricts travel, as well as suspends public gatherings.

Violators of this order will now face up to $1,000 in fines as additional incentive to not go out.

This pandemic is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Anyone who is not doing their best to try and mitigate the damage done should be remembered as an enemy of their fellow man. When this has passed, it is up to all of us to remember that these businesses and elected officials failed the people, and to bring them to justice through whatever means possible.