Opinion | How to Avoid an Economic Recovery that Worsens Inequality – By Tim Wu – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Wu is the author of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age.”

Credit…Michael George Haddad

“Since January, Amazon’s stock price has gone up from about $1,850 to about $2,600. The S.&P. 500 — comprising large corporate stocks dominated by technology companies — has recovered most of its recently lost value. And most highly paid professionals and managers have kept their jobs and experienced minimal changes in wealth.

Yet more than 20 million Americans are unemployed.

These are signs that the economic legacy of the coronavirus pandemic could be an increase in wealth concentration that will shock a nation that thought itself numb to such things. Arguments over whether the recovery will be “V-shaped” or “U-shaped” ignore the fact that different socioeconomic classes have been affected differently and will recover differently. Despite its populist airs, the Trump administration is orchestrating what will be, unless something is done, a rich man’s recovery.

While it may seem as if the federal government is throwing money at everyone, there’s a key difference between the support given to large businesses and the support given to small businesses and individuals. Large businesses have been given the security of long-term assistance, mainly through the actions and promises of the Federal Reserve: to buy corporate bonds (including junk bonds), to provide “liquidity backstops” by serving as a buyer of last resort and to lend money against an array of collateral. Collectively, these actions amount to a program not just of extraordinary assistance but also of extraordinary assurance.

By contrast, the money being spent on small businesses and individual workers is short-term and hard to bank on. Not only are many of the sums relatively small — a $1,200 check that might (or might not) come again some day — but the uncertainty also diminishes the value of the aid, since it’s hard to make plans if you don’t know what you can count on.

the aid, since it’s hard to make plans if you don’t know what you can count on.”

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