by Dorothy Van Soest, Coordinating Committee Member, Washington Poor People’s Campaign
When society puts people’s lives in jeopardy, so they die, it commits social murder, which is more malicious than individual murder because it is rendered invisible. It is a violence that is not seen as such.
It’s only natural for us to want so badly for it to be over—this pandemic that has left so much death and destruction in its wake. Yet, if we learned one thing from the COVID-19 epidemic it is this: that all of our lives depend on things not going back to normal. The exploitative economic and social systems that created the conditions for many of the negative outcomes associated with the virus are still in place and must now be confronted and dismantled. The approximately 140 poor and low-income people (over 40% of the population and more than half of our country’s children) who were rendered invisible before the pandemic by the widespread unequal distribution of wealth, income and resources in our country must be made visible.
The Poor People’s Pandemic Report that was released on April 4th at the National Press Club in Washington DC does just that. It exposes the glaring omissions and inconsistencies in the collection and dissemination of data on poverty, income and occupation, as they relate to COVID-19 outcomes. Since income and wealth information have not been systematically collected for people who have died or fallen ill from COVID-19 in the U.S, there is no systematic way to know the poverty status of those who died. That is why, with this report, a joint effort of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival in partnership with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), is an important step toward filling this gap and overcoming a long-standing aversion to understanding the full extent of poverty and economic insecurity in the U.S.
The Poor People’s Pandemic Report maps the intersections of poverty, race and COVID-19 by aggregating data from more than 3200 counties in order to connect information about COVID-19 deaths to other demographic characteristics, including income, race, health insurance status and more. Data is organized and an intersectional analysis used to uncover how poverty, age, gender, race, ethnicity, disability and class intersect with COVID-19 outcomes.
We make better possible by making the pain visible
A central finding of this study is that poverty was not tangential to the pandemic but deeply embedded in its geography. Counties with the highest death rates are both poorer than counties with lower death rates and have higher percentages of people of color. When the pandemic was broken down into six waves, it was revealed that after its first wave, COVID-19 became largely a “poor people’s pandemic” as poor communities grieved nearly two times the losses of richer communities during the second wave. After that, death rates spiraled even more in poor counties and vaccination rates did not explain the whole variation in death rates:
- During the third wave (winter 2020-2021), death rates were four-and-a-half times higher in the counties with the lowest median income than in the counties with the highest median income.
- During the fifth phase (Delta variant), death rates were five times higher in these low-income counties.
- The sixth phase (Omicron) has had a death rate nearly three times higher in counties with lowest median incomes than highest median incomes.
The Poor People’s Pandemic Report with its interactive dashboard offers an account of poverty, economic insecurity, race and COVID-19 by county and state that helps us to both develop our understanding of these intersections and summon the political will to implement bold policy solutions to fully address them.
A major mobilization is needed to confront and dismantle the exploitative economic and social systems that created the conditions for many of the negative outcomes associated with the virus
WHY WE MARCH
—We march because the system is killing all of us and the pandemic taught us that, if we don’t lift from the bottom, our whole society is at risk
—We march to declare that any nation that ignores nearly half of its citizens is in a moral, economic and political crisis
— We march to carry forward the lessons from the past two years and demand that we target the root causes of inequality such as poverty and discrimination, that the harm done must be repaired, and that no one is left behind.
— We march to declare that it is violent to deny people health care, a living wage and basic necessities
—We march to name poverty as the worst form of violence and show that it is killing people
—We march for 230,000 children in Washington state who live in poverty, more than the combined population of Bellingham, Yakima, and Wenatchee, and for at least twice that many who live in families with incomes too low to meet their basic needs.
—We march to expose the inequality of the three richest billionaires in the U.S who live in Washington getting $1 billion richer every day and yet not being required to pay the taxes we need to fund healthy communities and meet peoples’ basic needs.
—We march to demonstrate our people power because for far too long, cultural wedge issues and racial fears have been used to pit poor people against one another.
WE MARCH BECAUSE WE WON’T … WE CANNOT … BE SILENT ANY MORE!
For more information and to register/sign up, go to: www.washingtonppc.org