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The coronavirus has reopened America’s wounds and poured salt into it

Yes, the coronavirus has hit the president and his White House is tough, probably because of the irresponsible choices this president has made, but let’s face it: the virus has devastated minorities and the poor with alarming effectiveness, especially in cities, while hastening our return to a more hierarchical world and much less democratic society.

The virus has been troublesome for the wealthy, many of whom could still work comfortably from home and who suffered from much lower infection rates. And it has been a boon for the bureaucratic elite and even more so for the already insanely wealthy tech oligarchs whose ownership of people’s data is even more valuable with shopping and entertainment largely online.

This is nothing new. Confronted with the plague in crowded cities, the rich of centuries past have often escaped to estates and rentals in the countryside, as they have this year. Of course, some of these escapees also died, but at a much slower rate than the hoi polloi. Whether in the towering insulae of Rome, in medieval hovels or in apartment buildings on the Lower East Side, the poor have always been the first and hardest hit by economic dislocation, infection and death. Although much less deadly, COVID-19 has followed this pattern.

Overall, counties with an urban density greater than 10,000 per square mile constitute less than 4% of the country’s population, but have suffered 14% of the deaths associated with the pandemic. By comparison, in more typical suburban areas (urban densities of 1,000 to 2,500 per square mile), where 53% of the population live, the COVID death rate is about one-fifth of it. In counties with urban densities below 1,000 (mostly rural) it is one sixth.

The biggest problem is what demographer Wendell Cox calls “exposure density,” which results from poorly ventilated places like crowded homes, public transportation, elevators and offices. The poor, as a new paper suggests, are much less able to distance themselves socially at home or at work. Because race and class often overlap in America, whites are about twice as likely to telecommute as African Americans or Hispanics.

Across the country, African Americans, who make up 13% of the population, account for 21% of COVID-related deaths. The difference in hospitalization rates between groups is even more striking, with Native Americans at 300 per 100,000, African Americans at 267, and Latinos at 265, while its 57 for non-Latino whites.

Poverty seems to be the common thread. Even in low-density areas like Native American reservations and along the Mexican border, the poorest often live in crowded, unventilated places that are prone to the pandemic. The areas most affected have been those with both high rates of poverty and household overcrowding, such as the outer boroughs of New York City and the south and west sides of Chicago. Although California’s infection rate has been lower, the worst effects by far have been felt in poor parts of Los Angeles County, home to five of the 10 most populous zip codes in the United States. much higher rates of infection and death. An analysis by the Houston Chronicle found that seven of the 10 postcodes with the highest infection rates were from predominantly black, low-income communities. Some suffered from double or triple the county’s average per capita rate (already high for Texas).

Poor and minority communities have also suffered the worst economic upheavals from the pandemic. Lockdowns, whether justified or exaggerated, have hit low-income workers. About half of all job losses in April were in areas as low-paying as restaurants, hotels and theme parks. Nearly 40% of Americans earning less than $ 40,000 a year have lost their jobs, seeing the wage gains made in the first three years of the Trump administration evaporate.

Overall, Pew notes, a majority of low-income households have seen someone lose their job or have suffered a pay cut, compared to 32 higher-income households. In some areas of New York, unemployment has now reached 30%. Forty-four percent of black households and 61 percent of Latino households, Pew notes, have experienced a job loss or cut in wages, compared to 38 percent of whites.

Minority companies have been particularly affected. Although advertised as saving small businesses, even The Wall Street Journal admits Washington’s stimulus plans have “put Wall Street ahead” of competing Main Street companies, with funds going to luxury real estate owners, hedge funds and brokers.

Small businesses, often run by minorities, lack links with banks or credit because much of their business is cash-based. Some small businesses, suggests Tracy Hernandez, CEO of LA Bizfed, also view the foreclosure conditions as fundamentally discriminatory. Hardware stores for clothing and footwear, many of which have operated for generations in working-class areas, were unable to open even as their larger competitors – Costco, Walmart, Target – remained open.

“There is general paranoia and people here are struggling,” observed Rudy Espinoza, executive director of the Leadership for Urban Renewal Network in East LA. “Here, it’s not a matter of convenience, it’s a matter of putting food on the table or paying the rent.

Small business owners were already reeling from competition from online competitors like the chains funded by Amazon and Wall Street. Now, in the wake of COVID, most face what the Harvard Business Review calls “an existential threat.”

On average, a recent study notes, small businesses reported reducing their active employment by 39% since January. The decline was particularly marked in the Mid-Atlantic region (which includes New York City), where 54% of businesses were closed and employment fell 47%. In New York City, up to a third of small businesses are unlikely to ever come back, according to a new study from the Partnership for New York City.

Across the country, a recent survey by advocacy group Main Street America suggests that up to 7.5 million small businesses are at risk of going bankrupt if the crisis lasts until the end of the year.

Small businesses that focus primarily on providing services to local residents are particularly at risk. As the funds were made available to better funded and better connected chain companies, local taquerias, cafes and Asian joints were left behind. If the closures last much longer, up to three-quarters of independent restaurants simply won’t make it.

The public sector and the parts of the economy that operate in keys – knowledge workers in fields like media, finance, software and accounting – have been much more protected from the economic impact of the virus and shutdowns . Despite a record of extremely false projections, often leading to something close to hysteria, those who are at the top of the clerics, “the privileged stratum”, in the words of French left-wing analyst Christophe Guilluy, have seen reinforce their sense of their much-vaunted “moral superiority”, enjoying a vast expansion of their ability to regulate people’s lives.

Yet at the end of the day, the real winners, as in the Middle Ages, are not the clerics but the modern aristocrats – notably Wall Street and the big tech giants, notably Amazon, which has grown over time. that people curl up in their homes. In an age defined by “social distancing,” tech companies and their funders have broadened their already growing hold on the stock market and the economy. The move to remote working has also created a huge market for apps like Slack, at one point the fastest growing business app on record, as well as Google Hangouts, Facebook, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams.

In the meantime, and despite cheerful rhetoric from tech companies about bringing people together and helping improve their conditions, a May poll conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago found the lowest percentage of Americans have said they are very happy for almost five decades. Only 14% say they are very happy today, compared to 31% in 2018. Sadly, neither Trumpism nor revival – each embracing its own brand of resentment – is likely to do much to significantly improve conditions.

Given his gruesome handling of the pandemic, Trump will likely be blamed for the landscape of closed storefronts, empty bank accounts, and dashed aspirations. But no one should expect social divisions, so accentuated by COVID, to be bridged under a Democratic administration. Unlike the progressives of the past – or Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren – Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who have close ties to California’s tech oligarchy, can count on both to advance their agenda, including allowing the importation of cheaper tech workers. from abroad, and by preserving the immunity of big technologies against antitrust and confidentiality actions.

Democrats, however, cannot rely solely on clear evidence of Trump’s incompetence and wrongdoing to secure a victory in November. Indeed, recent calls by Biden and his medical adviser, Ezekiel Emmanuel, to extend the lockdowns until next year could affect both struggling small business owners and millions of now unemployed service workers. , who may be less concerned with total immunity than with their lives. back together.

What America’s middle and working class need are policies that can help them recover what has been lost and even improve their conditions. Unfortunately, at present neither side appears to be seriously interested in such policies. Whether we see another four years of Trump or a Democratic resurgence, for most Americans, the sad social legacy of COVID will last, perhaps for decades.

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