The year is 2020, and humans are facing an unprecedented global pandemic. The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, spread rapidly from its origins in China to every continent. The United States of America is hurling into a recession as the unemployment rate increases. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the unemployment rate in April of 2020 soared to 14.7%, the highest it has been since the Great Depression.
To reverse our halted economy and fill the pockets of American citizens with financial security, boost nationwide morale, and continue to grow as a country, the government might be able to use President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal as a template. The New Deal opened new job opportunities, funded federal art programs, and leaned into technological advancements to push the country forward.
Rebooting the economy will require everyone going back into the workforce, but safely.
As businesses close permanently due to insufficient funding, workers lose their jobs. Without income, people reduce their spending, which means less money is flowing in the economy. When people begin to make money again, they can resume their spending, and cash can once again flow through the veins of the economy.
But jumping back into the workforce we once knew will prove deadly for many. We cannot, in good conscience, push people to treat this unprecedented situation as “normal” and allow them to carry on living the way they once did, sitting in close quarters with coworkers and clients, shaking hands with business partners.
Businesses that have not already done so need to take their services online. According to Ian Milligan’s observations from the International Telecommunications Union, “More than half of the world’s population is online and may be doing at least some of the following: communicating by email, sharing thoughts on Twitter or social media or publishing on the web. Governments and institutions are no different.”1
If working with people face-to-face can spread a deadly virus, businesses should turn to the internet to conduct their services for the foreseeable future. Businesses that remain open in an online format can keep our economy flowing by keeping themselves and their employees afloat in these times of uncertainty, all the while ensuring almost everyone, if not everyone, can stay safe at home.
Not only could businesses choosing an online transition in place of closing save already existing jobs, but they can create new ones. When businesses move online, many will need to hire tech-savvy individuals to assist in daily operations, web and marketing material designers, and even delivery drivers. So, rather than offering loans, the United States could instead offer technical support and marketing teams to transfer small businesses online. With this approach, America could get back on its feet from the comfort of the couch.
The arts rescued us before, and they can once again.
An article from Los Angeles times states, “Studies of the 1930s have shown how the economic meltdown was accompanied by psychological depression: loss of morale, a sense of despair, grave fears for the future. Going to the movies or listening to the radio could not solve these problems, but they could ease them in the same way that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s intimate fireside chats boosted morale and restored confidence.”2
Though this study refers to the 1930s, I can observe the same psychological consequences of the Depression and more. As COVID-19 demands families, friends, and loved ones to stay six feet apart, people are beginning to feel anxious, isolated, and depressed. And here we are, looking to platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ to lift our spirits.
Musical artists, too, are using their voices to boost morale and provide emotional release for those suffering in these difficult times.Not long after COVID-19 entered the United States, the American band OneRepublic released “Better Days,” which promises a brighter future beyond the pandemic.
But, as we move into an uncertain future, we will likely see another transformation in the music industry, just as Dan DiPiero described following the financial collapse in 2008. He claims that the music is a way of reacting to a future that seems bleak, and therefore a mindset of partying forever distracts from such a bleak future. 3
With things seeming far more uncertain and bleak in 2020 than they did following the 2008 financial collapse, the music produced as our nation recovers could be far more rebellious and insistent upon ignoring the problem and partying instead.
But, I think artists, just like OneRepublic, are deciding to talk about the issue now and provide the much needed emotional release that may prevent such a “party hard” mindset in the future.
Without drastic change, the younger generations will face extreme poverty.
Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 5 millennials were already living in poverty, according to Michael Hobbes from HuffPost.4 But since the unemployment rate skyrocketed, our nation faces an extreme recession, possibly another depression, and it will likely be more difficult than ever for people born in the 90s and early 2000s to live above the national poverty line.
But, just as Americans always have, we will get through this. We can only hope that our leaders will make wise decisions, though they are prone to do otherwise. We can only hope that our citizens will try to protect themselves and their families, rather than selfishly ignoring health guidelines. We can only hope that with a Newer Deal, we can move on from this pandemic and say that 2020 was the year that set us back, back to where we needed to be to rebuild our economy, create inspired artwork again, reconnect with our loved ones, redesign our healthcare system, and become the best version of ourselves.
- Ian Milligan. (2019, August 19). Historians’ archival research looks quite different in the digital age. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/historians-archival-research-looks-quite-different-in-the-digital-age-121096?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=twitterbutton
- Morris Dickstein. (2009, April 1). How song, dance and movies bailed us out of the Depression. https://www.latimes.com/la-oe-dickstein1-2009apr01-story.html
- Dan DiPiero. (2019, October 21). TiK ToK: Post-Crash Party Pop, Compulsory Presentism and the 2008 Financial Collapse. https://soundstudiesblog.com/2019/10/21/tik-tok-post-crash-party-pop-compulsory-presentism-and-the-2008-financial-collapse/
- Michael Hobbes. (n.d.). Why millennials are facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression.https://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/poor-millennials/