As Coronavirus Deepens Inequality, Inequality Worsens Its Spread

Mar 15, 2020 · 158 comments
Mark Singleton (Houston)
The news media inequality mantra is unsubstantiated by reported income and cost of living statistics. It is also unsubstantiated by consumer sentiment.
DUG (Menifee,CA)
Thankfully,most Californians rely on self-isolating private vehicles for transport.Having utilized buses and trains for 2yrs. as an experimental option for my work commute,I felt that the daily exposure to seasonal illness(I work in a hospital)combined with the additional time added to my commute made this a non-starter.The state of California should use this health crisis as an opportunity to bury the "bullet train" and instead invest in state-sponsored pharmaceutical a medical supply manufacturing.Additionally the education and training of future caregivers should be subsidized.No more waste on welfare for the wealthy friends of the Democratic and Republican "leadership".
Democracy / Plutocracy (USA)
Yet another way in which Trump and the Republican plutocrats betray our country.
czarnajama (Warsaw)
"About 114,000 students in the school system are homeless". This is false! A democratic, Christian state cannot have a city with homeless children. Fake. What are you trying to accomplish in writing such nonsense? Impossible.
jodi (boston, ma)
@czarnajama USA is not a "Christian state" but a nation which includes people of all faiths, and sadly, a nation in which homelessness is widespread for people of all ages. If you don't believe it, come see for yourself.
Meami (Washington)
@czarnajama I worked in a low-income school here in the states. We always had to check to see if kids were homeless to make sure they had food (not every parent filled out the necessary paperwork to assure their kids received free breakfast and lunch at school) and to make sure they were not fined for lost books. It was a sad fact of life and had nothing to do with religion.
Democracy / Plutocracy (USA)
@czarnajama Any you know it is false because .. ?This country has many good things about it, but also many faults. Trump and the Republican plutocrats are in the lattter category, Come sometime to see for yourself.
HoneyBee (America)
I thought the Times was for inequality. You do obviously favor a class of elites who actually run things, globally. Is that not bad for "inequality?"
Concerned Citizen (Everywhere)
feature not a bug, they're trying to automate the working class so they can leave them behind. turns out when the tide rises the rich start shooting holes in the other boats
Name (Location)
@Concerned Citizen There's a really good political cartoon in translating your sentiments visually.
ED (Az)
Leave it to the NYT to find ways to divide us as a country and a world. Nothing escapes their incessant drumbeat of "inequality", not even the coronavirus. In reality, the virus is infecting all because all humans lack immunity, even the rich. We are all vulnerable.
Nico Anderson (Richmond)
@ED Do you think someone who can afford care and someone who can't are at the same risk? What about someone who can take days off versus someone who can't? You pointing out that all humans have the same general immune system structure is inane and beside the point. Everyone is not equally vulnerable, and the resources one has under their command absolutely make a difference.
Magan (Fort Lauderdale)
Countries with the most financial equality will not see the suffering we will see here. Even if their health care systems are swamped by this health crisis, the aftermath wont hit them nearly as hard as it will in the "GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD"...USA, USA, USA!!! Countries like Finland, Sweden. Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Czech Republic and Ukraine will make sure that no matter how hard they are hit their fellow citizens wont have to worry about their financial well being. These countries have taken most of the greed out of their governance. We have not, and the middle class, lower middle class and poor will suffer on a much greater level. As Bernie Sanders has said his entire career, this should never be the case in the wealthiest country on the planet.
M Simon (München, Germany)
As an American, I am astounded by the difference in this experience. We all have healthcare, no ridiculous copays, out of pocket maxes, etc. We have an abundance of paid sick leave and nobody will lose their job. There is no fear to be sick, the fear I felt in America where I was just one bad situation from losing it all. America’s priorities are completely and wholly upside down. This pandemic will very much lay bare that fact.
Stephen Merritt (Gainesville)
It's crucial for people in positions of power and authority to think through the economic consequences of their decisions. Condemning people to lose their jobs, and possibly their homes, is only going to spread Covid-19 more extensively, and probably will contribute to the spread of other diseases as well. Once, as is all to likely, the virus is effectively all around us, we might as well have people who are sick but whose symptoms are mild continue to work, as being by far the lesser evil from pushing them and their families onto the streets. It also will make goods and services more available. Yes, we can "flatten the curve" to a certain extent, but we musn't do more harm than good in the flattening.
Peter E Derry (Mt Pleasant SC)
@LawrenceGarvin: If we had a functioning government with a functioning tax code, we wouldn’t have to beg billionaires for donations. The Republican mantra of no taxes, no government is directly responsible for this crisis.
Objectively Subjective (Utopia’s Shadow)
Loads of people will default on their mortgages in the next year or so. And hedge funds will swoop in and buy them at desperation prices. Then they will rent them back to the same people who used to live in them. Just like in 2008. Inequality will get worse until people choose to do something about it. Unfortunately, the reasonable approaches are dismissed as too “radical” and “extreme,” though similar policies work all over Europe. All this means is that we will likely get some REAL radicals and extremists, and they won’t limit their extremism to throwing their hands in the air or sounding angry and strident. Should be interesting!
Gwenael (Seattle)
Again and again the advice to shutdown everything for weeks never seem to be overreacting to the situation when it comes from the mouths of people who will continue to have a regular income in the next few months. Government officials and journalists on TV have no problem spending their days telling others to stay home and make no money while they keep getting direct deposits on the bank accounts
Tortuga (Headwall, CO)
Here in CO, it currently appears to be a disease of affluence. The jet-setters and global hob-nobbers brought the disease to the ski towns and spread it amongst their kind.
Dennis Menzenski (New Jersey)
For good background information on inequality, read Joseph Stiglitz's The Price of Inequality. Stiglitz paints a grim picture. "Today's divided society endangers our future." This NY Times article point reinforces this point.
Rick (Summit)
Poverty is deadly in America and the closing of everything is going to vastly increase poverty in America. With 70 people dead from the Coronavirus, I wonder how many thousands more will die from becoming impoverished as the country shuts down.
Autumn Flower (Boston MA)
This is just common sense...inequity breeds many problems, and disease is just one of them. Those who refuse to vaccinate their children bring the risk of disease to say care and schools. Those who don't have paid sick days infect others by going to work, and so on. Health care is for the common good of society.I What troubles me the most is that closing schools means thousands of American children will not have access to food. While many districts are handling this by making meals available, this is just shameful that families don't make enough money for food.
Meami (Washington)
@Autumn Flower I agree. I will say that schools in our area are setting up nutrition spots around the community where underserved children can pick up sack lunches. I'm sure many districts are doing the same thing.
Christopher (North Carolina)
For anyone who hasn't heard about it, there is a candidate for president whose entire platform is based on these social issues. His name is Bernie Sanders and you can vote for him if you want real change! Medicare for All, reduce income inequality, a 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights, a Green New Deal ... the list goes on. Not Me. US.
Marty Milner (Tallahassee,FL.)
The hashtag #CoughOnTheRich did not surprise me. When people loudly complained about the cost of testing AND mentioned that South Korea has the lowest death rate and had a single payer health care system- the testing suddenly became free. The virus doesn't care about our opinions. It is going to to kill about 10% of the people over 60 and a bunch of others. Many will be sick for months. Capitalism cures corona virus- but not for everyone. Figure it out- WE AREN'T IN THIS TOGETHER. The virus doesn't care about your party or country. A real leader knows this.
Strong Lead (Portland, OR)
All those “God fearing Christians” in Bible belt states that refuse to expand Medicare should read this article and remember a piece of scripture: “As you sow, so shall you reap.”
What is going to happen to the millions of people who live paycheck to paycheck when their workplace closes? Will we have bands of people hungry and homeless roaming the streets or dying on them? You can arrogantly call this natural selection. But, do you think you will be safe in your home? If common decency isn't enough to make you consider the plight of your neighbors, perhaps self-preservation should. A local school helped me "adopt" a needy family for the holidays. While stocking up for myself last week, I realized that the poor single mom had no such option to protect her children. She can barely cover the $600 rent she pays for the ramshackle room where she lives with her three little kids. So, whatever I bought for myself, I bought for them. All well and good and not much of an issue for me to do occasionally. But, what will she do if she can't go to work? Her landlord will not let her stay for free. I cannot afford to pay her rent. The groceries I bought for the four of them might last two weeks. What then? I will do what I can, but I am not in a position to feed them for months. How many millions of people are in this same situation? This can evolve into a disruption of society like we haven't seen since WWII. Our government seems unwilling to help us. We have to open our hearts to look after each other.
CMC (Port Jervis, NY)
I recently read that Serena Williams has chosen to self-isolate with her daughter for 6 weeks. I would not question her decision. However, this is the kind of option only available to people with substantial resources. My employer will not be closing and does not offer work from home opportunities. I cannot choose to decimate my savings and paid time off at this time with no idea what the future holds. And what about those with no savings and no paid time off? Difficult times for the rest of us indeed.
rlc (nh)
This is not surprising. Nor should it be. The greatest leaders throughout history have told us over and over again that a just society is good for all of us and that greed and envy are destructive qualities to be avoided. From the Buddha to Jesus to Gandhi and Martin Luther King we have heard the same truth. That caring for one another is in everyone's best interest. But only when those with the political power to change the social paradigm understand and accept the message of these great leaders will any meaningful change occur. Bernie is right! He's not the best messenger, I agree. But his message, no matter how strident the tone is the unavoidable truth that we must all learn to accept. It's not a matter of wouldn't it be nice if we were a little kinder, a little more equitable in the way we share the fruits of our collective labor. It's a matter of survival. For all of us. There is an opportunity in this pandemic if we choose to recognize it. It is an opportunity to modify our understanding of the way the world works. We are a nation that prides ourselves in our individuality. But in this interconnected world the individual must accept that her/his well being is inextricably linked to that of every other person on the planet. It's a lesson taught throughout the ages but never fully learned. The well worn phrase "We are all in this together" was never more appropriate. To those who say we can't do it, I say "Get over it!". We must do it.
IfOnly (NYC)
@rlc "There is an opportunity in this pandemic if we choose to recognize it. It is an opportunity to modify our understanding of the way the world works." So true.
Wanda (L.A.)
@rlc Brilliant. Thank you for your post.
Minh (Texas)
@rlc Brilliant post. JFK (a republican!) said "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do to your country". This is the time where each of us has to think on what we as individuals can do to contribute to fighting the pandemic, and to help our family members, our neighbors, and the less fortunate of our community live through this crisis, and as a family, a neighborhood, a community, a country, and as the human race, win this battle. If we use our energy to fight each other and to get ahead at the expense of our neighbors, we will all lose.
Edmund Dantes (Stratford, CT)
I find it hard to square this thesis with the news that two emergency room doctors have the disease and are in intensive care. They were fully educated and had access to the finest medical services. Doesn't seem to have done them much good.
Bob (San Francisco, CA)
@Edmund Dantes Don't be silly; they are on the front lines of this disaster. Did you read the Times' piece on which occupations are most in jeopardy? The medical and dental professions lead. This morning, just now, I got a call from my dentist. Tomorrow's dental appointment is canceled and he is closing shop for two weeks. An excellent decision. I can wait.
Hy Nabors (Minneapolis)
@Edmund Dantes Yes, higher incomes, certainly, because they're doctors. But you're missing the forest for the trees: as E R doctors they are on the front lines, encountering all of the sick, many of whom are coming in there because they lack insurance. ERs are also overrun with germs and viruses due to the nature of who is coming in. Frontline health workers are another highly vulnerable category of people. Or did you miss the info in the article pointing out that the poor are a disease reservoir than can affect the wealthy?
Concerned Citizen (Everywhere)
@Edmund Dantes do you know how words work at all? just because some doctors and pols get the disease doesn't mean that most people who suffer will be on the other side of the economic divide. comments like yours only serve to reinforce the status quo and mitigate the liability to provide for the poor
Walter (California)
Always remember the 1980's. "The Magic Marketplace." The market will solve everything. Reagan and the GOP sold it to Americans and now we have millions more poor people. Still think the "market" is the solution? Not now. This is closer to WWII. FDR did not have time to think about "magic." It's called PRACTICALITY.
Bob (San Francisco, CA)
@Walter I sincerely hope some good comes out of all this. Like, maybe we should have a National Health plan for everybody, not just those employed in large corporations. Maybe a little of this "socialism" might prove salutary, eh?
Glenn (New Jersey)
"But a body of research points to a third: low socioeconomic status." Actually, your third is really a consequence of the main cause, which supersedes even your main risk factors: When any threat to the general population arises, all federal and local government money and resources goes immediately and substantially to help bolster the economic foundation of the rich and corporate world. Everything, according to the prevailing theory, flows from that.
Bob (San Francisco, CA)
@Glenn Yep, the rich are the engines that pull the train and make the society move. The rest of us are just sleeping cars trailing behind. Makers and takers.
Loomy (Australia)
None of what this article is saying should be a surprise to makes obvious sense to me and just validation of that famous quote made by Gandhi... " The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members." As for the finding that increasing inequality and poverty increases the contagion of the disease such as Coronavirus and is regardless of whether you are rich or wealthy...I just call that Karma.
Concerned Citizen (Everywhere)
@Loomy what part of your white appropriation of "karma" accounts for the suffering of the poor? do they deserve it for not choosing to be successful?
Joel (Canada)
Thanks for some eye opening statistics on risk disparities. Unfortunately, I believe all of this has been well known within the upper class of society for decades [the one in power right now]. Yet nothing much has been done to address it beside an imperfect ACA bill. It feels like the gun regulation debate, everyone known how much of an outlier the US is in putting its population at risk from gun related deaths. Yet it isn't be tackled politically, just used to rally troops to the polling station. After this crisis is over, we will have prayers a few tears and too little change. How do move from diagnosis to cure here ? Can the US reform itself ? And will the change come fast enough to mitigate other global calamities ?
MIMA (heartsny)
Well, when the US president thinks he can get poor and uneducated people to believe this is a Dem hoax, so they will still support him, what is expected?
NotKidding (KCMO)
Billionaires, now is your time. That money that you wrongly took, to enrich yourselves, while others lived in homeless shelters (or jail), waiting for their kindergartner to bring home meal packs from school for supper? When the kids went to school unwashed in stained and torn and baggy second hand clothes? Now is your time to rehabilitate your conscience. Open up your bank account. Allot yourself a million dollars a year, for the rest of your life. How much does that leave you? Then turn the rest over to the federal treasury, where they can then tend to the needs of your fellow American citizens.
Walter (California)
@NotKidding More like raising top tax rates to levels where they cannot commit a third of the population to begging...
Bob (San Francisco, CA)
@NotKidding Turn over to the Treasury? Are you kidding? Do we need more carrier battle groups? More military bases in god-knows-where? More 100 million-dollar fighter jets? Good Lord!
ARL (New York)
Any older person can tell you that there have always been families who 'don't believe' in good hygiene. Has nothing to do with the status of the bank account. The media needs to broadcast videos on how to clean one's house, and how to clean one's self, as well as sanitary food prep.
Bob (Pennsylvania)
It has been thus since human began "stratified" civilizations: those that have been lucky enough to have more of whatever resources where available (leaves, grass, grain, water, health, brains, strength, gold, or whatever) have always fared better than those that didn't. This is Darwinian activity and nothing that anyone can do will ever change the fact that those with the best combination of assets will do better than those who lack them.
Joel (Canada)
@Bob When the assets are based on access mostly, fitness is defined as belonging to a certain group and being born wealthy. Don't get me wrong, this is great for my daughter and as a parent I do all I can do to give her a leg up. Still very unfair as a system. There probably is some correlation between certain "talents" and success. But in my opinion a lot of this is cultural for most jobs. Now if you want to be a great rocket engineer, you better be bright and excel at abstract model building, observation of trends and being able to learn a great deal of advanced physics and chemistry. Not so many jobs are like that and those jobs aren't paying incredibly well anyway.
Bob (Pennsylvania)
@Joel Your definition of fitness is biologically incorrect.
Bob (San Francisco, CA)
@Bob Yeah, but we're not animals any more. Are are we?
Kat (Here)
Bernie is right.
Bob (San Francisco, CA)
@Kat Ditto. No more socialism for the wealthy.
Bob (Pennsylvania)
@Kat About what?
Larry Roth (Upstate New York)
It's not just the pandemic inequality makes worse; according to the Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett it affects every quality of life measure: life expectancy, upward mobility, crime, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, education outcomes, etc. etc. Further, the corrosive effects are felt by everyone in an unequal society, all the way to the top from the bottom. This book has been out for some years now. It is based on thousands of man-hours of scholarly research with data from around the world. The conclusion is simple. In a developed society, the greater the inequality in that society, the worse everyone does. We hear all the time about "Atlas Shrugged", Das Kapital, and other similar works, but this book could have a far bigger impact if only it were better known. If we need big structural change - and we do - this book should be used to help us draw up the blueprints.
Leabharlannai (US)
I just read that Ireland is giving emergency unemployment to all their citizens who are going unemployed or underemployed for the next two months. It's about 250 euros per week. I'm a teacher's aide at a public school. My school has been called off for the next two weeks - one of which was Spring Break. My school district is paying me for that week were I have to stay home. But if this quarantine continues for a couple of months, will they continue to pay me? The teachers and bus drivers are unionized so they'll probably continue to get paid. But I am not. I feel so vulnerable. I wish I lived in Ireland.
Dan (NJ)
I am thoroughly disgusted with our country right now. I'm happy with a stratified society. Some people should be rewarded for hard work, ingenuity, or the simple scarcity of their skill set. But that doesn't mean we should treat the less fortunate like dirt. It's like we've spent decades engineering a situation where your economic standing no longer determined how much frosting you get on your cupcake. Now it finally determines whether you afford to shelter your family from a deadly disease. We just heard about Trump trying to purchase exclusive access to a vaccine developed by a foreign business. Why? So he or a subsidiary can sell it? Hold people's lives for ransom? And his approval rating is over 40%. It should be zero. He should be in jail for the simple thought.
Bob (San Francisco, CA)
@Dan Bingo, Dad. You rang the bell on that one!
Anna (Phoenix AZ)
@Dan I agree. ‘Some people should be rewarded for hard work, ingenuity, or the simple scarcity of their skill set.’ The communist ideal of everyone giving what they have and everyone getting what they need imploded in virtually everyplace it was tried. My angst is reserved for people being rewarded with billions for winning the birth lottery. Never having worked a day in their lives, frequently never even giving a thought to how the other half lives, much less paying any attention to it, these billionaire bad kids are taught from the cradle that they deserve what they have because they are better than others. They have a straight shot to the best schools and jobs and of course the halls of power. And because they have been taught that they deserve what they have, naturally they assume others deserve what they have as well, even if that is less than nothing. Too few are taught compassion these days. There’s no profit in it.
Baron95 (Westport, CT)
Most likely the need to rely on dense public transportation common in European cities, and NYC, vs using a personal car to get around, will be the number one determinant of the spread of this virus. I'd like to see the NYT report on it. All of a sudden, all that push to get people out of cars and into dense buses and subways does not sound so good anymore, does it?
Sm (New Jersey)
@Baron95 It's interesting that besides NYC area, most of the states hit hardest don't have public transportation. Even in NYC, the first core of the virus came from a suburb nowhere near as dense. Most of the influx of virus came from air transport and person to person, I think (although I need to look this up). If you actually look at the NYT page with the maps and the main sources of spread, you'll see that the argument against public transport is both fallacious and disingenuous.
say what (NY,NY)
While the middle class and beyond empty the toilet paper and canned goods shelves, those without savings, cash flow or credit cards must scramble day to day for essentials. Not only are they confronted with whatever may be left in the stores when they do have cash to spend, they are forced put themselves at risk. Where is the national-level plan to give them immediate access to basic necessities, trump?
Diane B (The Dalles, OR)
Medicare for All or any other health care for all is needed now more than ever--for all of us
Seems like a feature, not a bug. This approach has worked well for billions of years in natural selection.
Joel (Canada)
@QED I am not sure that is irony or a dark take on social Darwinism. There is very little that's natural about economic inequality.
Soliskimus (Chicago)
@QED Are you saying it is a good thing because viruses kill off poor people, lessening their numbers? If that is a terrible thing to say. Poor people are valuable human beings who deserve to live as much as you do.
Bob (Pennsylvania)
@Joel Since humankind began there have always been those who have, and those who don't. Applied to our progenitors, and applies to us now.
The essential inequalities in this instance are the poor and desperate who ignore and violate all attempts at border control and become the carriers of potential viruses.
Soliskimus (Chicago)
@BD border control, especially if you are talking about the southern border, is not the issue. Mexico has about 1% of the cases that we do. If you’re talking about border control from China and Europe, those borders cannot be ignored by poor people, who are generally not traveling by airplane.
Louise (USA)
Maybe we need to rethink about "morally bankrupt" capitalistic society.. Just saying what should be obvious - we are ALL our brothers keepers...
Grace (Bronx)
@Louise oh - you mean be like CHina which has 45 times more deaths than the USA, In fact, it looks to me that that's a reason to prefer our existing system.
sj (kcmo)
@Grace, while still claiming a communist government, China is even more hyper-capitalist than the US is now.
kas (Brooklyn)
@Grace Lady, they have more deaths because they have almost 2 BILLION people. This virus has just started spreading here. Trust and believe that our numbers aren't gonna look so good by the end of April.
“Preventive care and health education have steadily tilted toward the educated and the well-off. As a result, people at the lower ends of society are about 10 percent likelier to have a chronic health condition.” Ok. We have a cogent fact here. The solution(s)? Welfare? Inequities in life are life. Existence and survival is not a straight line equation is it?
Jerseytime (Montclair, NJ)
@NOTATE REDMOND All first world nations, and a considerable number of second world nations, view the provision of healthcare to all of its citizens to be an essential national responsibility. Our refusal to join their ranks is a national shame.
Eric (Minnesota)
@NOTATE REDMOND Have a relative in a nursing home? Get your roof replaced? Eat at a restaurant? Order products from Amazon? If so, you have benefited from the labor of people who are not paid living wages and do not have health care coverage. If those people die young or are unable to work because they're sick, will you personally be stepping up to the plate to do the work they do, for the wages that our country is willing to pay them?
@Jerseytime, We never have joined the ranks here and it appears that as long as the Conservative GOP remains in power, we never will. They continue to try to destroy the ACA, Obama’s legacy. When the SCOTUS, with their majority bank of conservative judges, get done with it this next term, there will probably be nothing left of it.
ADN (New York)
No Republicans on Capitol Hill appear to have read Camus, Dickens, or the Bible. The rest of the country will be victims of their ignorance and selfishness — and, eventually, so will they. Now, tune into Fox and wait for the outcry: it’s not just Republicans, “everybody does it.” No, everybody doesn’t.
Glenn (New Jersey)
@ADN Well how could they, they can't read, period.
Eric Valley (Washington)
16 paragraphs in, still no discussion of how or why - just that it happens. Read a book (writers are readers who emulate).
Terie Benton (Madison, Wisconsin)
Time to get rid of tipped positions, pay a living wage and institute sick pay for all.
Doug (San Francisco)
@Terie Benton - You might want to talk to those tip receiving individuals raking in decent money. Are you prepared to yet again ban something for the 'good' of the people when a lot of those people think it's pretty darned good the way it works right now?
Dan (Fayetteville, AR)
Sounds like the Times just discovered "inequality". I guess trust funder's used to vacations in the Hampton's don't tend to rub elbows with those who can't much afford to lose a day's pay much less a week. Yeah, privatizing profits, but socializing the risk has a reasonably predictable outcome and we are seeing it.
Robert M. Koretsky (Portland, OR)
In last night’s Bernie-Biden debate, Bernie acknowledged income inequality, whereas Joe hedged, particularly with respect to healthcare. Why? Joe is already bought and paid for by sixty billionaires! Mandatory reading for everyone: Thomas Piketty’s new book, “Capital and Ideology”.
Jerseytime (Montclair, NJ)
@Robert M. Koretsky Oh please. I know dozens and dozens of people who are not as left as Bernie. None of them are getting paid by "billionaires". Did you know that people can, and do, have different opinions than Bernie just because they disagree with him?
Kat (Here)
Trump isn’t capitalism. He’s Disaster Capitalism.
Kat (Here)
Essential reading for everyone: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein
johnw (pa)
The dismal failure of Trump could be slumped-off if he was just a lying, cheating blowhard muttering into his beer at closing time. However, his stream of lies, corruption and actions that continue to harm our poor and working families to feed his and the 1% gluttony has been fully supported and therefore fully owned by Pence, McConnell, the GOP Senate, GOP governors and local politicians, and fox “entertainment”. The GOP’s trump dismantling of healthcare and social systems to protect our citizens is well documented. Our citizens also deserve to know the total value of the wealth transfer that the GOP has made to the 1% and corporations in the last four years. Both should be front and center as people vote in November.
Bob (San Francisco, CA)
@johnw ...and not just the last four the last forty...just sayin'.
johnw (pa)
@johnw ...and the gop does not stop it's today's nyt ...."...Amid a Pandemic, Trump Moves Forward With Safety Net Cuts.... that could lead to nearly 700,000 people losing assistance...."
Casey S (New York)
And a Biden administration would further exacerbate this inequality. And of course democratic voters are just fine with that. Way to go, boomers.
kas (Brooklyn)
@Casey S Worse than Trump is/ will? Really? REALLY?!
Ilonka Van Der Putten (USA)
Most “boomers” I know go for Bernie! Why is it that youn(ger) people don’t vote? Why do they stay home during the primaries? So stop blaming us! Tell your peers to go out and vote in EVERY election!
Rick (Summit)
We need a moratorium on paying income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes.
Steel Magnolia (Atlanta)
So what did our president do to “help”? He pushed the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates to almost zero—which will only make it that much easier for the already wealthy to snap up not only small businesses that don’t have healthy enough balance sheets to weather this storm but also all that real estate that will gointo foreclosure when folks without paid leave can’t pay their mortgages. A double whammy to expand already gaping inequality—cheap money for those who don’t need it to snarf up the assets of those who do, and at bargain basement prices.
Bob (San Francisco, CA)
@Steel Magnolia The ueber-rich always benefit during a crisis like this. The pikers and weaklings are plowed under, and the the wealthy then enter the markets and scoop up even more of the economy at fire-sale prices. Happens every time. That's the 'magic of the market' for you.
Susan Megna (Albany, New York)
I visited to the social security office in Denver on Friday. Nearly every person waiting for service there looked physically frail and/or poor. The elevator was out of order and I climbed the two flights of stairs behind a woman who was struggling mightily, apologizing the whole way for slowing the line. An elderly man dropped the nosepiece of his portable oxygen on the floor, picked it up, and popped it back in place. There was hand sanitizer for the two security guards, but none for the public. I looked around and thought, ‘These people - along with people who are homeless, mentally ill, driven by addiction, who are unwell and uninformed and unable to practice the COVID19 preventative measures - these people are the walking dead.
Bob (San Francisco, CA)
@Susan Megna The mask has fallen and our society is naked. You are exactly right, S.M. It's not pretty, but obvious to anyone with eyes to see.
Broz (In Florida)
@Susan Megna yes, a tragedy happening now. But, the 1% are fine, not a worry in the world even if 30% or 50% of their wealth disappears. Some of them actually are a part of a pandemic to eliminate the poor.
Larry Lundgren (Sweden)
Is there anything that could have happened that could make crystal clear how extreme the need is for a national Public Health Program? In more advanced countries Universal Health Care is a central element of a National Public Health Program. Swedish Universal Health Care is built in part on having a foundation of local clinics called Vårdcentral - Care Centers available to everyone in their neighborhood. In addition. there are databases that can be linked together by researchers to study any public health situation in a way that I believe may be impossible in the US. In the US, even now, many researchers see one of the most essential variable to use in a study is so-called race. I will try to locate a report that came to me from Nawal Nour at the African Womens Health Center at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston, a report on the appalling situation for mothers to be who are classified by the Census Bureau as "black". I got the Email while on a bus crossing Sweden so I do not have it at my fingertips. Hoping comments stay open, if not will file a note at: Citizen US SE
Glenn (New Jersey)
@Larry Lundgren "Is there anything that could have happened that could make crystal clear how extreme the need is for a national Public Health Program?" Careful, your going to get yourself registered with the Committee on Un-American Activities.
Larry Lundgren (Sweden)
@Larry Lundgren - Here is the URL to an article by Tracy Millett at PEW that notes that maternal mortality has been increasing in the US and that the rate for women seen as black is 3 to 4 times that of women seen as white. I have a reply there pointing to the apparent failure of American ObGyn researchers to look to a country with a large population of Horn of Africa women - Sweden - where it appears likely that these women and their babies have mortality and health outcomes nearly as good as women in the general population. In Sweden these women benefit from what some researchers call the 1000 day Swedish pre, peri, and post-natal care system, a system entered by 99% of all pregnant women in Sweden. Implicit in designating women seen as black as belonging to a "race" is the ancient belief that they have some kind of genetic inferiority leading to maternal and infant mortality. That "ancient belief" is very much alive in America, just ask any of the White Nationalists that Donald Trump associates with.
Larry Lundgren (Sweden)
@Glenn you must be pretty old Glenn. Do you think they'll come to Sweden?
Charlie Calvert (Bellevue, WA)
It's not just inequality that's related to the Coronavirus. it's also climate change. Our planet is overpopulated and overburdened. One result is climate change. A second result is the rapid spread of viruses. Our planet simply is unable to sustain such a large population acting in such a careless and thoughtless manner.
Keely (NJ)
If these stats don't show you the gaping holes within capitalism what will? It might be cruel to say but I'm hoping this coronavirus outbreak will help revamp Bernie Sanders numbers and get him in that WH because this disaster is made of the stuff he's been talking about for years: a society that will actually take care of each other, a government guaranteed liveable wage, GUARANTEED single payer healthcare system that won't strain and collapse, etc, etc. Mr. Sanders is the only FDR, LBJ we have left, someone who understands how lethal inequality can be and how we need to finally once and for all fix it. 114,000 homeless kids in NYC? We don't even need corona, that was ALREADY a crisis that we refuse to solve. American society was ALREADY on the brink of collapse without corona: the idea that people are panicking now shows you how clueless everyone really is.
Amen to your piece. However should add Teddy Roosevelt to your list.
Len (NJ)
John Nash had it right: the likelihood of success is higher if we take steps to benefit all rather than focus narrowly on our own self-interest
Michael (NC)
I would think that the NYT should be ecstatic now that wealth disparities are now becoming significantly reduced due to the sharp drop in the valuations of the financial markets. too bad that teacher and public employee pensions will also suffer.
newwaveman (NY)
My 401k is shot. Could you please explain who has my money now, I think its the rich that have bailed and hunkered down. They will back to buy when everything is cheap. Ahhhh
ibivi (Toronto)
When you allow companies to pay low wages or wage stagnation, remove social safety net programs, don't building affordable house, etc, etc that slip is not too steep into abject poverty. The income divide is very great right now especially in countries with austerity or massive corruption. Healthcare systems are being undermined or blocked. Corporations run the politicians and do not pay taxes. They withhold their money and work to undermine wage improvements and union activity. Greed drives everything they do at a huge cost to society.
Charlotte Morton (Florence MA)
@ibivi Almost seems like they planned it.
This crisis has opened up new possibilities to create a more humane society. The facade is being lifted as capitalism proves yet again that it can not withstand crises. We need an immediate increase in our social safety net and people need access to high quality medical treatment regardless of income. Anything less is pure barbarism.
GreggMorris (Hunter College)
The CDC and WHO and other organizations and agencies will be providing regular/live virus updates – which we need. I wonder who or what will be posting, providing regular/lived updates for the Inequality Pox that " will widen social and economic divisions" and "make the virus deadlier." Any chance of that happening?
Kris (San Rafael)
Seems a great time to try Andrew Yang's proposal for a monthly stipend for all adults of $1,000 month. He called it a Freedom Dividend. It's commonly known as Universal Basic Income and it is being tested in a few locations already the country. A $1,000 a month for the minimum wage earner will bolster them while they are laid off from their jobs in restaurants or other closed businesses. $1,000 is enough to pay part of the rent and one's other basic needs like groceries. It's worth a trial run.
@Kris this needs to be coupled with a strong social safety net. 1000 dollars may help people pay some of their bills and for a small percentage keep a roof over their heads, but it is just a tiny fraction of what needs to be done.
Also since this allotment would also be put immediately back into the economy with the purchase of necessities, it would also help to lift our numbers. Better then giving it to large corporations and/or banks that would sit on it or use it to buy back stock or give added wealth to their already wealthy upper level employees!
Sara C. (Roscoe)
@Kris If Andrew Yang does the math, he would find that $1000 is the modern-day equivalent of Marie Antoinette's cake. If a studio apartment in Silicon Valley averages $2500-$2600 p. month (per WSJ), with basic bills, food, day care, insurance, and the like on top of that, an austere budget requires an income of $6000 p. month. And how can a family of four fit into a studio apartment? When the tech industry is ready to pony up $4000 p. month, from their out-sized profits, I'll be ready to support Andrew Yang. Until then, Bernie is the man.
Sonja Dahl (Minneapolis)
The growth in inequality also exacerbates the economic issues. With interest rates now at the zero-lower bound, the wealthiest Americans -- the "investor" class -- are sitting on cash and have access to free money. But, of course, they wouldn't invest in new hiring or equipment or expansion during this crisis, knowing there will be no consumer demand. This is how we drift deeper into recession now. But with increasing income inequality and chronically low wages, we are always in the danger of consumer demand declining, whether it's the a housing market crash or the cost education and health care.
FerCry'nTears (EVERYWHERE)
I was in an accident and had to use up all of my sick time. Now back at work for two weeks and don't know what would happen to me if I got sick. I work at a hospital. Ridiculous!
DCeleste (FL)
Did you notice who initial got tested when there was a shortage of coronavirus testing? Celebrities and politicians. In Florida, sick people were turned away at the hospitals and told to go home. And yet, Florida's politicians were tested even if they didn't show symptoms. It wasn't until the local news announced that celebrities and politician tested positive that people begin to take coronavirus serious. So, I have a question... if all of this is a hoax, why is the administration making such a big fuss? Exactly when did the hoax end?
Doug (San Francisco)
@DCeleste - If you peruse the internet, you'll quickly conclude that most people get their information FROM celebrities, so I, for one, think it's prudent to ensure they will still be around to provide us their informed political opinions or at least show us their latest look at my '50 years old in a bikini' picture as we head into the apocalypse.
Xavier Bruckert (Piriac-sur-Mer)
It looks like the begining of the end of the end of the Welfare State...
FerCry'nTears (EVERYWHERE)
@Xavier Bruckert Welfare for who? The Airline industry? Banking? Soy farmers? Or is the beginning of a new welfare state? I bet it will be more of the same
Mike S. (Eugene, OR)
It is so ironic that good public health saves so many more lives than mainstream see patients medicine. As a physician-later-neurologist, I saved exactly one life, and that was a guy who OD on the deck of my Navy ship in the Gulf of Thailand, 46 years ago. But even the huge numbers of lives other physicians save each year pales in number to having safe food, water, air, transportation, and so many other parts of our lives. Doing what the public health experts say will save far more lives now than the excellent but dangerous, and necessary work will save in hospital and adjacent tents in the coming days. Glitz gets headlines. Grunt work is what keeps the world going. Public health could take a military's motto: The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.
Snowball (Manor Farm)
The New York Times can help a lot here in this time of social emergency by reopening its Neediest Fund, which is typically just a Christmas season endeavor. Blue state inhabitants, all New Yorkers, and others are surely ready to make enormous donations in order to make sure that poor people and those pushed out of work have food and rent money. Money donated to the reopened fund can be sent directly as rent payments for low-income housing, to food banks, for and Meals-on-Wheels for seniors. This reopening would especially be a boon for generous and altruistic people in the "Resistance," who are less likely to be part of churches, synagogues, and other communal institutions that are already engaged in mutual social support.
SwingVoter (Roswell GA)
@Snowball Would we need a separate fund for Red Staters?
newwaveman (NY)
@Snowball And you think everyone in New York is rich?
WantToHelp (Indiana)
I am glad to see NYT giving this issue top-of-the-fold attention in a nuanced and well-researched way. But even more helpful would be an article on *how* to help right now. Which forms of assistance are most effective? Who is in greatest need? What are good channels to reach people (vulnerability by definition often makes it difficult to connect people to services)? I'm ramping up our household giving as of today but have no idea where to send food/cheques/etc. Ditto with policy advocacy: aside from contacting our representatives to urge them to take immediate measures to increase the social safety net, what else should we be doing? Our household has multiple medical issues that preclude us from in-person volunteering but I wonder if there are things we could be doing at a distance to be helpful. "Tele-volunteering" anyone?
Connie (Canada)
Your example from China rings false - everything was shut down and everyone was at home... rich, poor, lawyers, finance guys, hairdressers, massage therapists. You do have a valid argument - especially in the US where being poor drastically reduces lifespans - but don’t use your American centric mindset to create structural holes in your argument by making blanket global statements that are simple not valid.
Bonku (Madison)
This issue will be far worse for most developing countries, especially India with huge population but with 2nd worst income and wealth inequality in the world, only after Putin's Russia. These countries including many in East Europe with weak public institutions and more corrupt but "nationalistic" Govt would try to fake data and dilute the gravity of the situation there to portray a better image of itself.
A Glasier (Montréal)
@Bonku: The United States is not a developing country, and yet, this is the only comparison that is appropriate.
Bonku (Madison)
@A Glasier There are many such articles in credible news media. 1) U.S. Is a Rich Country With Symptoms of a Developing Nation. The country is backsliding based on a host of troubling metrics. (Source- Bloomberg News. Feb. 2019.) 2) US has regressed to developing nation status, MIT economist warns. (Source: The Independent (UK), Apr. 2017)
TimothyL (New York)
I fear it is only a matter of time before civic disorder (riots) arises as the public reacts to victimization of the poor working class caused by the deadly inequality depicted in this reports.
Joen (NYC)
@TimothyL The inequality of pay in the US tends to focus on the working poor. Not often do we focus on the inequality, unfair practices that allow the enormous income of the wealthy. Why do we have so many journalists (NYT?) , many TV, with these salaries? Does anyone need a multi millionaire (Matt Lauer type) reporting on inequality? We need open discussions for equitable pay scales for maximum and minimum salaries by job classifications. Dramatic proposal certainly, but we don’t need billionaires.
Glenn (New Jersey)
@TimothyL " fear it is only a matter of time before civic disorder (riots) " Why do you think Cuomo called out the National Guard? To help hand out food?
nora m (New England)
This shows precisely why it is foolish and wasteful (lost lives, lost productivity) for this country to continue without a universal health care program, Medicare for All. It may be expensive, but it is a bargain compared to the effects of not having one. The Republican "greatest ever" no health plan is going to prove extremely costly. The Democratic "some people" health plan is equally disastrous, only slower. We need universal care. NOW.
MS (nj)
@nora m Wall St/ Silicon valley type Democrats & Republicans must be relieved that Sanders threat was eliminated before folks realized the impact of Corona virus. We don't need Sanders-socialism for 8 years. Just 4 years to bring the pendulum back to the middle. For now, the pandering of 0.01% will continue, be it Biden or Trump in November....
Lawrence Garvin (San Francisco)
Once upon a time in an act of true philanthropy Ted Turner, the founder of CNN gave 1/3 of his fortune to the UN in a display of world consciousness. Although he is pretty much forgotten it is my hope that the Billionaire class in this country will look back and then look forward and realize that in their own self interest and self preservation they should follow his lead. If the 100 richest people in this country who’s wealth is estimated to be in the 2-4 Trillion dollar range would vow to create a crisis fund with a commitment of 1/3 of their wealth funded with perhaps $1trillion+ committed to making direct payments to the tens of millions of those unable to work we would actually have a chance of stabilization. Jeff Bezos and your friends, are you listening?
Name (Location)
@Lawrence Garvin Billionaires don't want to support people at the individual level, basic sustenance and such. They want to fund large initiatives that have broad impact such as medical research, infrastructure projects etc. So, you end up with poor people who can walk on a well-paved road to get their free immunization at the funded clinic, but who still lack improvement in their daily grind to survive. The economics of billionaire culture isn't friendly to the idea that they have left the lower classes with so little that they must give a measure back directly to keep these people alive, though that seems the unassailable reality.
@Jonathan WHO - which other organization do you think could have coordinated the world wide small pox eradication effort and do you think you here would have been safe if it was still spreading like COVID19 all over the world? Ditto polio. And that's just one example of work the UN and related agencies do to help poor people - educate yourself and yes, don't ask for whom the bell tolls in this globalized world.
Kevin (Sun Diego)
Viruses tend to cull the weak in order to keep the rest of the herd healthy. Too many years of no predation or no sickness allows them to multiply rampantly and creates a perfect storm for disease susceptibility. I’m talking about deer and caribou of course.
Matthew (Eugene OR)
@Kevin I appreciate your point. Of course, that is a biological mechanism of population control, in a healthy ecosystem. While a virus may serve to do something similar, in the biological sense, in our societies--the "weak" in all the cases pointed out by this article are made weak by our socioeconomic order. Elk and deer do not have a socioeconomic order that perpetuates inequality. The "winning" elk who breeds is likeliest to die over the winter. So. I appreciate your point. But we need to be careful with statements like this. The biological reality of a viral population cull is no excuse to allow the continuation of inequality in any way.
IfOnly (NYC)
@Matthew: Agreed. I see people trying to equate Darwinism/ natural selection/ virus-as-population- control (which is a fair point) with manufactured inequality. They are not the same thing. The former argument is used an excuse not to care.
HotGumption (Providence RI)
The very people who make our lives happiest and most comfortable --- those who serve food, brew the coffee, offer the manicure, care for play school children --- are now the ones most under threat of unemployment, of trying to find care for their children as they seek new work, and it makes me totally heartsick. I'm in the process where I live of trying to find a family impacted in this way so I and my neighbors might collaborate for two months to help them stay afloat financially. If 10 people each gave $50-$100 a month we'd be providing a small lifeline to someone facing tragedy. The cost of hair color, manicure/pedicure or what would gave been spent on dinners out or coffee every morning. Parents whose children are suddenly unable to go to school due to closures have to decide between leaving little kids home alone or risking the loss of a job. This newspaper ran an article on stocking your pantry wuth sardines, tahini and fresh spices. How about giving mightily to food banks right now for the desperate? Five new spices run about $40-$50 in NY. Give it away instead!!! This is a crisis for those wonderful people who make our lives so much better.
@HotGumption Thank you for your compassion. We need more of this from all of us.
Canyon (Out West)
Yet here in the U.S., the candidate who wants to address inequality with things like medical care and worker's rights is cast as a pie-in-the-sky dreamer, while Mr. Nothing-will-change is the "leader we need now." So sad.
MS (nj)
@Canyon Well-said...we needed Sanders in 2016, instead we got Trump, because folks wanted HRC.
IfOnly (NYC)
Unfair oversimplification of why we got tRump. Let's not forget election meddling, fake news, voter suppression, gerrymandering, electoral college, and the fun one: HRC is a woman (people still need to pretend America isn't sexist or racist, even though the facts are well documented for all who care to see them) I didn't care much for HRC, even though she was highly experienced and ruthless in much the same way many male leaders are. I loved Warren, but America has decided two dudes over 70 who look like they just rolled out of bed is a safer bet. P.S. I love what Berine stands for, I just don't believe in blaming Hillary or Warren for his current political standing. If Bernie wins, I may have to rethink my position.
Bonku (Madison)
There are so many companies around the world trying to benefit from this epidemic. Various Govt, for-profit security/intelligence would also be among them. It's an excellent opportunity for such companies to profit immensely both in terms of money and propaganda. Even theoretical vaccines (designed in-silico without any shred of real world data) bypassing time consuming & expensive clinical trials may become common. Competition to bring various forms of diagnostic kits is fierce. along with hostile takeover bids for promising companies. It's not just those companies involved directly but almost all other such opportunist companies will use this epidemic to get all sorts of benefits, as they did during 2008 financial meltdown. Everything previously unethical or illegal will be tried now besides benefitting from established practice of denying paid sick leave type practices. You also can expect sharp increase in University and public R&D guys submitting grants proposals "to fight Coronavirus" as a major objective. Most of such proposals would be nothing but scams at the cost of public money, as usual. This Coronavirus pandemic will test many Govt and public institutions in a way that never happened before in recent time. That's one of the reasons countries must develop a robust public institutions that people can trust and it's a painfully long term process.
Moses (Eastern WA)
It has been shown for some time that a critical aspect to healthcare is having adequate health insurance and for the large percentage of Americans with no insurance or insurance with significant cost barriers, it has always been a struggle and a reason for premature mortality.
FerCry'nTears (EVERYWHERE)
@Moses If you do get sick you you can be forced into Cobra which is prohibitively expensive, especially if you are not working
Doug (San Francisco)
@Moses - THE crucial aspect of healthcare is to live a healthy lifestyle. Then you don't need as much healthcare.
IfOnly (NYC)
@Doug: True, but it's easier to live a healthy lifestyle when you have safe, normal working conditions and hours, paid benefits, proper education, a sense of community and the luxury of time and money to work out and eat well.
Frank (Boston)
No news here. Read Bocaccio’s Decameron. The rich kids moved to the country villa to eat, drink, and tell stories. While the poor stayed behind in the cities to scrounge for a living, and died from the plague. And there has always been a large portion of commenters here who see human population as a problem per se. In a world of smart robots and CO2 pollution they see no need for hoi polloi. For them the virus is a kind of solution. So too with the young who are burdened with taxes to pay Social Security and Medicare. Thinning the herd of seniors is a kind of solution for them as well. Pandemics decrease empathy and community. Not the other way around.
Peggy (Point Richmond, CA)
@Frank And it’s a perfect environment for the rise of xenophobes saying ‘it’s all the fault of the Chinese and poor folks.’ Worrying times indeed!
Kb (Ca)
@Frank I prefer Edgar Allen Poe’s epidemic short story “The Masque of the Red Death.” In this case Prince Prospero and a thousand of his rich friends go to the countryside to escape the plague. Suffice to say, things don’t work out well for them. A very satisfying story .
Erin (New Mexico)
@Frank I think pandemics probably just amplify whatever proclivity one has to begin with. My communities have come together over this and I know many young healthy people who are restricting their activities even though they’re not likely to have anything worse than mild symptoms, in order to protect others. You can decide people are mostly dangerous or mostly good.
See also