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Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

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The greatest nation in the world!

In the southeast corner of Ireland, Brian Byrne’s event-planning business was confronting a calamity. It was the middle of March, and the coronavirus pandemic was nearing peak lethality. As the government barred gatherings like music festivals, his revenue disappeared, forcing him to consider laying off his four full-time workers.

But a swiftly arranged government program spared their jobs. It provided 70 to 85 percent of their wages, enabling Mr. Byrne to keep them employed.

“It oddly hasn’t been a stressful time,” he said. “I can keep the team together, keep them motivated. We’re basically doing everything we can to be ready for when the restrictions are eased.”

Across the Atlantic in New York, the pandemic cost Salvador Dominguez his job selling Manhattan real estate. He eventually qualified for an emergency expansion of federal unemployment benefits, but not before 72 agonizing days of waiting. He borrowed from friends and family members to pay his rent, and he harvested food from the trash at a high-end grocery store.

“How can I describe it?” said Mr. Dominguez, 39, taking a breath. “It was very tough.” He added, “I didn’t feel alone, because I knew a lot of people like me were doing it.”

The pandemic has ravaged Europeans and Americans alike, but the economic pain has played out in starkly different fashion. The United States has relied on a significant expansion of unemployment insurance, cushioning the blow for tens of millions of people who have lost their jobs, with the assumption that they will be swiftly rehired once normality returns. European countries — among them Denmark, Ireland, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Austria — have prevented joblessness by effectively nationalizing payrolls, heavily subsidizing wages and enabling paychecks to continue uninterrupted.

As cases increase at an alarming rate in much of the United States, the reliance on an overwhelmed unemployment system — the next infusion of money perpetually subject to the whims of Washington — leaves Americans uniquely exposed to a deepening crisis of joblessness. Europe appears poised to spring back from the catastrophe faster, whenever commerce resumes, because its companies need not rehire workers.

I mean, sure, we could do what any functional nation does. But that would require the governing political party caring about people living with dignity. But Republicans don’t care about people living period. So here we are, locked out of Europe and Canada because we are shitshow of a failing nation.

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