It's a much used phrase, and in its Spanish version, it is attributed to the bandits who once plied their trade on the Sierra Morena trails linking the Meseta to southern Andalusia: La bolsa o la vida! - Your money or your life! When heard from those criminals, it meant only one thing: that everything had to be handed over to save lives. Or at least to try to, because, in the end, if you gave up your life you would also lose your wealth. The expression has been passed down the years and is still applied frequently in situations when you have to choose quickly between two clear and sharply opposed options.
Who knows if the Spanish deputy PM and minister for the economy and business, Nadia Calviño, was thinking in these terms on Monday, when she categorically ruled out the total stoppage of economic activities that several Spanish regions are demanding (starting with Catalonia) and the total lockdown of its population, affirming that the economy had already been slowed enough. Calviño, with a background in the EU institutions, was the European Commission's Director General for the Budget and on the basis of this resume was called up by Pedro Sánchez. A Euro-bureaucrat at the helm of the economy ministry should be enough, the Spanish prime minister must have thought at the time.
Maybe EU orthodoxy was sufficient before the coronavirus - though I doubt it - but it's clear that the magic of that 200 billion euro headline will not stand up much longer. This is not about "our money or our lives", but rather "our money and our lives", starting with preserving, above all, the second-mentioned item, and then addressing the first. Chancellor Merkel had the courage to tell the Germans that the way out of the crisis would, for their country, be the greatest challenge since World War II. The simple comparison should give an idea of the dimension of the coronavirus crisis.
Sacrificing people who are doing non-essential jobs doesn't help eradicate or fight the virus. Nor should it be the path of a government that claims to be of the left, to back the economy over people's health. Production must be stopped and an immediate financial aid plan put in place through a basic income for those who have lost their jobs, the suspension of rent payments, and most importantly, the postponement of any tax payments to Spain's Hacienda. The old slogan was Hacienda somos todos - we're all part of the tax department; let's see, for once, if it's true.