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Good-bye America ?

By Shlomo Maital

 

     A terrible leaky social safety net, social and economic inequality, poor schools, a broken divisive political system, a worse-than-awful President (worst in history) – and a pandemic. It has finally caught up to America.  All its problems seem to be converging, at one point in time.  Here is how Bloomberg News sums it up:

¨   In the three months since isolation measures were first imposed in a belated effort to slow the spread of Covid-19, the world’s largest economy has become a basket case. One quarter of small businesses and two-fifths of restaurants have closed. Some 1 in 4 American workers is out of a job.

¨ At least 40 million people have filed for unemployment. And while the virus has devastated almost every economy it’s touched, individual Americans entered the crisis in an especially vulnerable position. The planet’s wealthiest country is renowned for having one of the weakest social safety nets among developed nations. It is home to more than two-fifths of all millionaires but has the highest poverty rate and the widest wealth gap among its peers.

¨ Despite a booming stock market (increasingly disconnected from the reality of everyday people) and robust job growth (largely low-paying service jobs) in recent years, more than 38 million Americans scrape by. The causes of U.S. inequality are well known, but they have jumped to the fore now that the nation is transfixed by disease, recession and outrage. —Josh Petri

  ¨ Racial repression is built into the American economy, Peter Coy writes in Bloomberg Businessweek. Almost two centuries after the U.S. defeated the slave states, the color of money is still white.

¨  Over the past four decades, the cost of policing in the U.S. has almost tripled, from $42.3 billion in 1977 to $114.5 billion in 2017, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data conducted by the Urban Institute on behalf of Bloomberg Businessweek. That budget is 10 times greater than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which led the Trump administration’s botched response to the pandemic) and 12 times greater than the Environmental Protection Agency ( which has been dismantling environmental protections). Crime, however, has been trending downward since the early 1990s. As protests over police killings of unarmed black people continue, this disconnect is leading to calls to defund law enforcement agencies and instead fund mental health and social services.

¨ Trump’s performance during national upheaval and the pandemic appears to be having a disastrous effect on his reelection bid. Polls show him performing poorly in 2020 battleground states, and one of his campaign’s most recent ads, entitled “Make Space Great Again” violates NASA guidelines.

¨   Americans filed almost 2 million applications for unemployment benefits last week, reflecting a slowing of the torrent of job losses. Trump administration officials say they expect to spend up to $1 trillion in the next round of economic stimulus, though of course that’s up to Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said Democratic-leaning states crushed by the virus shouldn’t get financial help (despite being the biggest source of those federal dollars), said any new bailout wouldn’t occur until after July 20.

 

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital

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