May 5, 2020
I’ve been writing about inequality for some years. I have consistently argued that inequality is the biggest problem of our time–even more than nuclear weapons or climate change–for the US and the world.
Why? Because tens of millions in the US and billions in the world face a range of dire health and living condition outcomes, including food shortage, for those living in the lower levels of inequality. This translates to the fragility of life, desperation, and undoubtedly one way or another, to millions of deaths globally, annually.
And because the consequences of poverty are immediate, while we have a little time yet to deal with nuclear proliferation and climate change. That’s why.
More than 30 million Americans are suddenly out of work. They are filing for unemployment and desperately waiting for the government checks. My bank says they are fielding thousands of desperate calls from their small business customers.
The early mortality of our poor in the US most likely annually far exceeds the current estimate of 134,000 deaths from the virus. Suffering early mortality or starvation, or poverty related health issues, suicides, etc. Because we can’t develop precise statistics, Americans often dismiss the tragedies of inequality.
Today, I want to emphasize: We have a new context, a new crisis, and a vivid example of the fragility of our economic system.
From today’s Marketplace and Market Morning podcasts:
60% of people say they would have a hard time coming up with $1,000 for an emergency such as this.
41% say they would have trouble coming up with $250 for an emergency such as this.
And, as usual, the % of Blacks and hispanics having trouble with only $250 was significantly higher than 41%.
Here’s the point: What better evidence to illustrate, to prove, that we have evolved into a society, an economy, which does NOT focus on the working class. Does not focus on structuring a new economy to enable everyone who wants to work, to have a stable living wage. Does not even enable its working class to have enough set aside to meet a $1,000, or even $250 emergency need.
If one doesn’t even have that small nest egg, he/she probably can’t even make it a couple weeks to wait for the government check. And, what economists call “windfall” solutions to such an emergency–those are gone also. This includes opportunity for extra hours of work, or help from relatives–who are now in the same boat.
We know the government checks will soon terminate, but jobs will return only slowly,
Income inequality in the US is the highest in all G7 countries.
Wealth inequality is worse, and is worsening year by year.
Bloomberg reports that when the bottom half of the US is added together, this group in aggregate has a negative net worth.
Inequality by any other measure is horrific–white/black, white/hispanic, generational, educational, college/non-college, gender, etc.
Answers include improvements to cost of education, health care, and housing.
But more than anything: We simply need a complete restructuring of our economy, with focus on the creation of living wage jobs for all that want to work. How to do this is an opportunity yet to be designed.
But a good start would be for the President of the United States to put US inequality high on his agenda, and mean it–with constant focus on the progress of a new economic design. There should be quarterly reports on all forms of inequality, with specific targets set.
That would be a good start.
The US 2020 economic society is clearly unsustainable.
If you ever doubted that inequality is a huge problem in our country:
41% of Americans would have trouble coming up with $250!
Dale Walker is a retired financial services executive, living in San Francisco. He currently serves on the Boards of Beneficial State Bank, the Graduate Theological Union, Cambridge Science Corporation, and Pacific Vision Foundation. He is an active member of Patriotic Millionaires.
BTW: The previous post was written with a touch of sarcasm. I’m on the opposite side of this one–just wanted to poke a little fun at those on the far right, such as Trump and McConnell.