Will There Be More Forgotten Men? Coronavirus’ Impact on America’s Class Divide

Ty Aravazhi Contributor
Will There Be More Forgotten Men? Coronavirus’ Impact on America’s Class Divide
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Cover: Will There Be More Forgotten Men?

Will There Be More Forgotten Men?: Many have called the coronavirus the “great equalizer” due to the fact that virtually anyone can contract the illness. While this may be true from a medical perspective, from an economic standpoint, the impact has varied greatly. As the unemployment rate passes 20%, wealthier Americans have remained relatively insulated. Middle and lower-class families, however, are struggling to keep their heads above water. Many have either lost their jobs or been forced into harm’s way by working on the front lines. Delivering packages, bagging groceries, maintaining farms, and driving trucks are jobs that cannot be done remotely. Some worry, COVID-19 is exacerbating America’s class divide and widening the income inequality gap in the United States.

On The Left: Many Democrats are publicly recognizing the disparity, and some are zeroing in on the discrepancies, especially as they relate to race. Steven Brown, a research associate at the Urban Institute states that, “when white America catches a cold, black America catches pneumonia.” Senator Elizabeth Warren echoed those sentiments by outlining how decades of “institutional racism” have made it difficult for minorities, particularly black Americans, to access affordable housing and healthcare, and the “coronavirus crisis is blowing these disparities wide open”. Several instances across the country illustrate the points above. In Michigan, for example, black Americans account for 35% of cases and 40% of deaths in the state, but they represent just 14% of the overall population. Others have also acknowledged that abiding by social distancing measures is more difficult for poorer Americans. Jason DeParle at The New York Times suggests, “shelter in place is a dictate that assumes the existence of shelter…[an] environment that poor people often lack.”

On the Right: Republicans have also acknowledged COVID-19’s impact on America’s class divide. Conservatives, however, tend to speak more to the impact it’s had on the “American worker” and the lower-income segment of society as a whole, rather than just one population based on race. James Lucas, a contributor at The Federalist, acknowledges his own privilege by admitting that he is able to comfortably work from home as a lawyer. He further clarifies that “white collar” workers like himself typically have the ability to work remotely; however, members of the “working class” are unlikely to have that luxury. This difference is heightened by the fact that remote jobs generally pay more. Lucas continues: “It is a divide between those with investment accounts, and those who live paycheck to paycheck. It is a divide between those who know what it’s like to be on unemployment…and the securely employed…for whom working remotely is just an inconvenience.”

Flag This: Ultimately, these class divisions highlight how one group may be able to comfortably weather the economic downturn, while the other will struggle greatly, and fall further behind. Whether you believe it or not, many outlets argue that the 2008 financial crisis led to “populism” and “nationalism”, which gave rise to historic events like Brexit and Donald Trump’s election in 2016. Both the Brexit movement and Donald Trump spoke to the “forgotten man” who was left behind as companies moved operations overseas, and their employees lost their jobs, benefits, and safety nets. The worry now is, will the coronavirus super-charge this sentiment? We may not see it for another decade, but that’s the thought as some of the earliest class differences emerge while the pandemic continues.