President Joe Biden’s announcement last week of a plan that would significantly boost vaccinations against the COVID-19 epidemic is not just a plan to save tens of thousands of American lives but is also a shot in the arm for our economy. The math is simple: a healthy population equals a healthy economy.
Meanwhile, Republicans have been busy undermining any policy that will help our health and economic recovery. And the effects of their sabotage have been evident with the current delta variant surge we have seen across Florida, a ferocious spike that made August our deadliest month since the beginning of the pandemic and is now causing over 300 deaths per day based on our current seven-day average. The differences between the two parties’ policy approaches — if we call Republican behavior policy making — could not be starker.
It is a fact that since the Biden administration launched its vaccination campaign, going from barely two million vaccinated on Jan. 20 of this year to nearly 180 million today, we have seen a sharp rise in employment and record economic growth not seen since the ‘50s and ‘60s. Of course, Biden’s American Rescue plan, which provided tax cuts for families with children, funding to prevent layoffs in state governments and municipalities, and bonuses for teachers and first responders, is also a major factor.
Infections stunt economy
It is also a fact that since COVID’s delta variant exploded, employment gains dropped from an average 703,000 a month to 235,000 in August. Sadly, that derives from the reckless anti-mask and anti-vaccine behavior that Republicans promote, and which leads to more infections, more deaths and, yes, a stunted economic recovery. In the case of Gov. Ron DeSantis, we have seen him go as far as trying to coerce our educators out of implementing health protocols supported by science like mask use among our children and forcing cruise lines to carry unvaccinated passengers.
It would be one thing if this new and devolved Republican Party simply wasn’t contributing to solutions. But they have gone further than that by unpatriotically sabotaging our recovery through the promotion of remedies such as ivermectin, which the FDA warns against use for COVID treatment. Just recently, DeSantis stood next to a vaccine denier who falsely claimed the vaccine changes RNA. The governor did not even flinch, much less try to correct the piece of disinformation. It has also been weeks since DeSantis, who spends his time traveling to out-of-state political events, has held an event to promote vaccinations.
Ever since Donald Trump downplayed the virus and neglected to act, sending us and our economy into a death spiral, Republicans have doubled down on behavior that affects our economy’s health.
On the other side, we have seen President Biden and Democrats promoting policies that are helping Florida and the country recover from the pandemic. In the case of Florida, and Miami-Dade and Broward counties in particular, the president’s American Rescue Plan has been a godsend for everyday Floridians, despite Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar, Carlos Gimenez and Mario Diaz-Balart voting against it.
Talk about chutzpa
Before ARP, the Florida Legislature was facing a budget shortfall and DeSantis was ordering state agencies to tighten their belts. But thanks to President Biden’s ARP, and the over $10 billion that went straight into our state government, Republican legislators gloated about the record $101.5 budget they approved. Then DeSantis started taking credit for bonuses for teachers and other public servants, which was made possible thanks to the president’s plan. Talk about chutzpa, or descaro, as we’d say in Spanish.
Here in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the Democratic policies have led to job creation and what amounts to a tax cut on property. In Miami-Dade, the budget will be buoyed by $321 million in ARP money and which will help keep the main tax rate flat, while increasing funds for police and parks, and providing needed dollars for the early childhood learning program known as Head Start. In Broward, $378 million from the ARP will help budgets for aviation, transit and seaport projects.
And now comes President Biden’s latest plan to protect our health and our economic recovery. Make no mistake, if we do not vaccinate most of our nation’s population soon as President Biden proposes, and Republicans have their way, we will be at the mercy of other variants that will continue to cause an unnecessary loss of lives and suffering. This could eventually lead to another Republican-caused economic downturn.
Thankfully, we have a responsible party and a president who have something to say about it, and that is a policy that saves lives and strengthens our economy.
Manny Díaz is chair of the Florida Democratic Party and former mayor of Miami.