COVID-19: Inequality

By James Kwak

By some measures, in the short term, COVID-19 will surely reduce inequality of wealth, and probably inequality of income as well. As a purely mechanical matter, the rich have a lot more money to lose when the stock market crashes and most sectors of the economy grind to a halt.

Photo by Free-Photos from Pixabay

At the same time, however, this pandemic is throwing into stark relief how unequal the lives of Americans are today. Most of the upper-middle class and rich seem to fall into one of two categories. Those without children in the house trade suggestions on how to fill their time: virtual happy hours, virtual yoga, free streaming opera, binge TV-watching, etc. Those with children in the house trade suggestions on how to keep said children occupied so that we can get anything done or have any time to ourselves: educational apps and websites, home science experiments, live streaming from zoos and aquariums, etc.

There are exceptions, of course. Doctors generally make comfortable livings, and many of them are currently facing difficult working conditions and high risk of infection to save as many lives as possible. But the most difficult thing many rich people have to endure is figuring out how to get a Peapod or Instacart delivery slot, or finding a good recipe for canned tuna.

On the other side of the great income divide, things are very different. Tens of millions of people suddenly lost their jobs and barely have enough cash to buy groceries, let alone stock up on gourmet canned tuna. Remember, 17 percent of adults already couldn’t pay at least one of their bills even before COVID-19 hit. Economic insecurity is so widespread that a large portion of the population is just one shock away from being unable to make ends meet. Well, that shock just hit.

Then there are the people who still have jobs, whom all of us are relying on: people who work in warehouses, distribution centers, delivery services, grocery stores, pharmacies, and hospitals. Many of them go to work, keep our society functioning, and face an elevated risk of infection because they can’t afford to lose their jobs. Amazon warehouses, of course, are so efficient that there isn’t time to wash your hands. And Amazon workers don’t get paid sick leave—unless they test positive for COVID-19 (then they get two weeks), which is virtually impossible given the lack of testing in this country. But Jeff Bezos doesn’t even need to call out the National Guard to force his employees to go to work. As one warehouse employee said, “A lot of people are going to be there for longer. People will take as much OT as they can get, because we’re all poor.”

The vague parallels between COVID-19 and September 11 have been drawn a million times already. Then the heroes were first responders who risked their lives to save people. They were also underpaid, but at least many of them knowingly took jobs that involved risk. The people on the front lines today are doctors and nurses, of course, but also millions of low-wage workers (including many in hospitals) who have been drafted into this war and are kept there by poverty and economic insecurity.

Is this the society we want?

6 thoughts on “COVID-19: Inequality

  1. The philosophical geneology of this crop of 1%ers, globally, is the Nihilistic spawn who took out Czar Nicolai.

    They learned this from their mistakes, though. This time around, “religion” is a protection racket. Just one mega-church in Texas has a net worth of over 700 million.

    So the answer to your question is “Yes”. Jesus wants them to be “rich” through the “service” of others. Its all right there in the “bible”, you see…?

    James, you would find it interesting to read some “religion” forums, but gird your loins before you do it. The iniquity and hypocrisy is breath-taking. Even Jesus lost it with them and went on a rant that got him crucified.

    Self-proclaimed “influencers” get their marching orders about who to de-platform, in order to keep their “Matrix” clean of real people and real SCIENCE, from “voices” chanelling through the e-net, ranging from Razputin to Hoover. Turns out that one whole chaneling cult was listening to a just one creative British soldier working for one of the MI-wha’evers….he couldn’t make it as a decent fiction writer, but what the heck…it worked…they believed…

    Everything that is known about the material specifications of the hydrogen atom and the oxygen atom is not enough to predict that combined – voila! – water.

    Aerosol coronaviruses self creating…?! Reasonable speculation, based on the water example about what just IS, is that a maximum tolerable density of 5G microwaves was breached in Wuhan when 10,000 5G towers got turned on.

    Think about it – it’s going to keep happening if it happened once – electron charged viruses.

    Why are they arresting and sending people to the psyche ward in Vegas if you complain about electric gizmos damaging your health…? Shaman protection racket – “you MUST use the internet”…?

    PROVE it didn’t happen…clinical trial anyone…?

    And all that just so you can order lunch from “brave” service people – “convenience”…

    Love him or hate him, the Prez has got the “crazy” correct…more than one “unseen enemy” out there…oh those “voices” in their heads coming from the angels…bat sht crazy…see, creative plagerism – a bat started it…

  2. A Universal Credit Line at the Central Bank (better still, a Universal Basic Income) should be part of the solution to addressing economic and social insecurity.

  3. Nurses’ aides, orderlies, intake workers and scores of other healthcare workers are on the front lines in the pandemics, as are first responders. It’s not just doctors, nurses, grocery clerks and delivery personnel. Tens of millions are at sharply higher risk than those of us who are able to stay at home. Here’s my quote of the day: “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.” — Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto, Chapter 1

  4. You’ve been writing on this blog for nearly 12 years and all you can muster is a rhetorical “is this the society we want?”

  5. Dad came home early, and unexpectedly, and found the kids passed out and the house robbed and trashed after a massive “party”.

    Talk about an interesting REALITY show…”media” making up stuff is over.

    “…What is that noise?! It ain’t music! Shut it off!…”

    Wait until Mom shows up….

    Would Munchkin ever be elected by We the People to be lord god pope and publisher over We the People through an embedded chip in our neck near the vocal cords that the Federal Reserve Board funded with as much FIAT $$$$ as they needed….?

    Enough with the “clinical trial” worship – how many drugs had to be yanked off the market after going through that “data-driven” trial shtick…?

    Not enough FEMALE “economic geniuses” being asked for “suggestions” – maybe Melania should have a tea party? Carly Fiorina gave a good interview on CNBC today.

    The geniuses at the Federal Reserve Board never take a phone call from a small tool making company who needs some operating currency…

    Been a FULL MONTH cycle of “auto deposit” that Congress wrangled for itself before they got all nice – “here’s, MAYBE, a thousand bucks for your GENIUS “working poor” tool and dye expert…

    Everybody is OUT a month of $$ – how many millions of “working poor” living on that edge that they just fell over…? Probably a LOT of hospital workers…

    It NEVER was our fault – ESPECIALLY with the flash crash of 2008.

  6. The Senate bill as first put forward by the Rs and the completed bill as passed shows that our leaders learned nothing. Thanks to corruption by the private sector, gratuitous handouts for our masters are a given, the Fed is now committed to unlimited handouts and support to Wall Street, and we get crumbs. This is a crisis where, literally, nearly EVERYONE will be hurt. The kind of help our corrupted elected officials are providing do NOT trickle down.
    And there’ll be Phase 2 of the pandemic. At least we’ll learn by then that MMT is a thing and it works because it won’t be able to not work.

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