“We’re all in this together.” This phrase has been said many times with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is pretty true. No one is exempt from the possibility of infection. We all have suffered without our concerts, schools, movies, restaurants, travel, religious gatherings, holiday gatherings and other events.
Everyone has suffered as mail service has deteriorated, work is impacted and so forth. The inability of schools to operate normally has impacted many people, parents, teachers and, of course, students. Visits to hospitals, friends, prisons and to various government agencies have been affected. Our court system has been largely closed for jury trials for close to a year. Restaurants struggle with government regulations of various types.
No part of the economy or the country has been immune from adverse impacts from this pandemic, although the funeral industry is sadly booming. Professional sports have soldiered on, but with reduced schedules, empty stadiums and arenas, quarantines and other significant modifications.
I heard on the radio that there are efforts underway to give special tax breaks to first responders, teachers, nurses and some other subsets of the population (”Who gets checks, tax breaks — and when — from Maryland’s coronavirus pandemic RELIEF Act package?” Feb. 16). Well, if we are all in this together, why treat some people differently than others? One of our great problems today is the divisiveness of politics. We are divided into Democrats versus Republicans, blue states versus red states, and so forth. President Joe Biden calls for unity. President Barack Obama famously said, “We are the United States” in his convention speech.
Now, as a lawyer, I don’t save lives in my profession. But I’ve been to court exactly one time since March of 2020, and that was for a short hearing. Many of my colleagues are suffering from the absence of work and the inability to have a trial to conclude a case. Some of us only get paid when the case ends. If the case can’t end, because there are no trials, you don’t get paid. You still have to carry the expenses of litigation. Some lawyers bill by the hour, and if they can’t go to court, they lose those billable hours.
Do you lay off your secretary or your paralegal? Physicians, dentists and optometrists have had a decrease in patient appointments because people defer optional examinations and treatments under the present circumstances. Since people are driving less, auto repair places and gasoline sellers are affected. Even someone who is retired has impacts in daily life.
So, why treat some of us differently? Why tax breaks for a few souls? It will be hard for a legislator to decline to support tax breaks for emergency medical technicians, nurses and teachers. The legislature won’t want to be seen as anti-nurse or anti-teacher. But, what about the National Guard folks? What about grocery store workers? What about the people who stock the shelves in pharmacies, big box stores and the delivery people from UPS, FedEx, USPS and so forth who have increased workloads and still have to go to the workplace, load trucks, and encounter many people?
What about electricians and plumbers? What about the musicians at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra who are not able to perform concerts? What about persons who work in theaters? How about poll workers from the past election? What about small businesses, including restaurants, who have seen their business models decimated?
If we are all in this together, then maybe we should be treated equally. Unless, to borrow a line from George Orwell, some of us are more equal than others.
Irwin E. Weiss, Towson
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