Former First Lady Michelle Obama said on her new podcast that the coronavirus is an opportunity to explore the distribution of wealth to lower-income essential workers.
Journalist Michele Norris asked Obama on her Wednesday episode whether enough was being done to compensate and care for essential workers during the pandemic.
"When we were told to stay home, they got up, got dressed, and went out into the world, risking their lives to drive garbage trucks, to work in warehouses, to work in grocery stores, to work in hospitals," Norris said. "Often doing invisible, but yes, essential work, and I struggle with it because I'm not sure that we treat them like they're essential."
Obama agreed, saying that we need to think about them when considering "how wealth is distributed." Remarking that many of these people "don't have health insurance," the wife of the former president worried that many of these essential workers will languish in the future with "some lung issue or some breathing issue" without the ability to afford the prescription medication they need to survive.
Obama also brought up concerns over "the people who are not from this country who are essential workers." She said it is not enough for Americans to merely vow to care for the hurting if they are not willing to support government policy changes to mandate it.
"It's not enough to just acknowledge that the pain exists, to acknowledge the struggle —we actually have power. We can change so much of what we do; we can sacrifice a little more. We can shift priorities, and not just in our own lives, cause it's not enough to just do it in your own life if you're not willing to do it in our broader policy," Obama said. "You know, if those conversations aren't going to happen, then we're just giving lip service to it."
Obama did acknowledge that her ideas would see opposition, but noted that those who resist are only doing so because they do not want to "give up things that they think they deserve." Those things must be sacrificed, she said, "for the sake of the greater good."