New York Times: The Worst Is Yet to Come

May 20, 2020 Media

Consider the emerging culture war about wearing masks or about whether to take certain unproven therapies. Look at the protests over whether it’s safe to reopen. Now play these divisions forward. As The Times’s Kevin Roose wrote last week, when a vaccine does emerge, what if many Americans, fed on anti-vax rumors, simply refuse to take it?

The virus’s economic effects will only create further inequality and division. Google, Facebook, Amazon and other behemoths will not only survive, they look poised to emerge stronger than ever. Most of their competition — not just small businesses but many of America’s physical retailers and their millions of employees — could be decimated.

Worst of all, it’s possible that the pain of this crisis might not fully register in broad economic indicators , especially if, as happened after the 2008 recession, we see a long, slow recovery that benefits mainly the wealthy. There are already signs that this is happening: Thousands died, millions lost their jobs, but stock indexes are rebounding.

The economic impacts feed into the political ones: The virus-induced recession could further destroy the news industry and dramatically reduce the number of working journalists in the country, our last defense against misinformation.

Matt Stoller, an antimonopoly scholar at the American Economic Liberties Project, a think tank, agreed that this crisis could be the jolt we need to fix American institutions. But he also noted that the United States has failed to make the best of our most recent national calamities. The 9/11 attacks pushed us into needless quagmires in the Middle East. The 2008 recession deepened inequality.