Speaking for the The Giving Pledge campaign group, Bill Gates has announced their plan to make an unprecedented contribution to the current crisis. The aim is to commit 10% of their wealth to help all those who are falling through the net of the current rescue packages, including all the victims in poorer countries. The campaign aims to raise at least one trillion dollars.
“It kind of happened spontaneously … “, the world’s second richest individual explained, “… with a tremendous response to an appeal launched by one of our youngest members.” The group expects to attract most of the world’s 2000+ billionaires to this special campaign. (1)
Meanwhile the pandemic reality is laying bare socio-economic inequalities and could exacerbate them. In its weekend leader even the FT notes “…the virus, and the economic lockdowns needed to combat it, also shine a glaring light on existing inequalities. “
In the UK front line medics can’t get tested but I can order a test online for £250. As the NYT puts it, “The Rich Are Preparing Differently”. “Inequality and Pandemic Make for an Explosive Mix” not least because just as “The Coronavirus Deepens Inequality, Inequality Worsens Its Spread”
Using “…new survey data on workers in the US and the UK”, Abigail Adams-Prassl, Teodora Boneva, Marta Golin and Christopher Rauh show “that the impact of the spread of COVID-19 on workers’ current and expected labour supply and earnings is massive. However, the impact is not the same for all types of workers. The downturn is particularly harsh for younger workers and those in more precarious types of employment, such as the gig economy. Pressure on people in these segments of society is leveraged by their fear about not being able to cover their bills. The pressure is so high that many report going to work with flu-like symptoms, which poses a health risk to all. We find that this behaviour is particularly likely for those without paid sick leave.” read the whole article here
Or if you prefer inequality Keynesean style, here is a recent interview with Thomas Picketty on how a crisis can redefine an economy:
As expected the pandemic crisis has seen a plethora of unorthodox measures: “One taboo after another has been broken,” gasps The Economist. But these are primarily the taboos of anachronistic metallists and mainstream economics. Nor do they include a break from the Mathew Effect . Just as in 2008 it’s largely “Bailouts for the Rich and the Virus for the Rest”.
Rather than take the opportunity to reflect on how far the pandemic is itself a symptom of a sick system and address the fundamental problems of inequality and climate change , the mainstream is fretting over debt, inflation and the loss of liberty. The threat of intrusive surveillance and authoritarianism should be of concern not just for Foucault fans and libertarians but all democrats. But debt and inflation?
The uncomfortable truth for “believers in limited government and open markets” like The Economist is that “this vast increase in state power” may lead to “a permanently bigger state with many more powers and responsibilities and the taxes to pay for them. … The welfare state, income tax, nationalisation, all grew out of conflict and crisis. … (But as) that list suggests, some of today’s changes will be desirable. It would be good if governments were better prepared for the next pandemic; so, too, if they invested in public health, including in America, where reform is badly needed. Some countries need decent sick pay.”
Indeed. And then some.
Most countries need a lot more than better sick pay. Like any sick pay at all. In India, eg, the sudden “… lockdown worked like a chemical experiment … (where) towns and megacities began to extrude their working-class citizens … like so much unwanted accrual.” (2)
Paying attention to the fundamental problems would be a good start: inequality and sustainability. A sign of the times, perhaps, that it’s not the Socialist Worker or The Guardian but The FT concluding that “Radical reforms – reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades – will need to be put on the table.” (3)
Indeed. Just follow the money …
Covid19 + Inequality, articles updated 12/21:
timesofisrael.com 9/12/2021 Billionaires’ share of global wealth soars as pandemic widens inequality gap – World Inequality Report says 2020 saw steepest increase in global billionaires’ share of wealth on record, while 100 million more people fall into extreme poverty – By Ali Bakhtaoui
inews.co.uk 26/10/2021 From Mark Zuckerberg to the Sackler family, beware the rise of the ‘philanthrocapitalists’ – For multibillionaires, limitless profits and luxurious lifestyles are not enough – they want honour and virtue added to their CVs too…”… By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
“Yesterday Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager turned whistle-blower, gave evidence to MPs and peers scrutinising the Online Safety Bill. She says she has evidence allegedly showing that Mark Zuckerberg puts “astronomical profits before people” and does little to protect users. On Sunday, Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg’s wife, was profiled in The Sunday Times. She runs the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), a company which funds various good causes. Chan says CZI is “where our heart is and this is where Mark’s heart is”. So cute. …”…
theguardian.com 25/10/2021 Millionaires petition Rishi Sunak to introduce wealth tax – Open letter demands that recovery from pandemic is not paid for by ‘care workers, street cleaners and teachers’ by Rupert Neate
One of the signatories, Gary Stevenson, a multimillionaire former City trader, said: “Instead of raising national insurance and taking £1,000 a year away from families on universal credit, the chancellor, who is a multimillionaire, should be taxing himself and people like me – people with wealth. We can’t expect to have a strong or stable recovery if the fiscal burden of it is placed on our care workers, street cleaners and teachers – key workers who deserve better – while we don’t tax the rich.”
The technology entrepreneur Gemma McGough, who also signed the letter, said it made economic sense to tax rich people more. “This letter isn’t a goodwill statement, this is an attempt to shake the chancellor by the fiscal shoulders and wake him up,” she said.
“If we endlessly tax working people and never tax where the big money is being made, our country will continue to suffer. Any business-minded person will tell you it makes good economic sense to balance your books. Where is the balance when wealth gets stockpiled by a small group of very rich people and the cost of the country falls to those on lower and middle incomes?”
A wealth tax on the top 1% of UK households – those with fortunes of more than £3.6m – could generate at least £70bn a year, according to research by Greenwich University. That would be equivalent to 8% of the current total tax take but affect only about 250,000 households.
Such taxes are beginning to be introduced in Argentina, Bolivia and Morocco to help pay for the recovery. In Norway, about 500,000 people pay an 0.85% charge on their assets above the value of about £125,000. The prospect of such a tax in the UK is rich people’s second biggest fear after the virus, according to Knight Frank’s wealth report. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, and Sunak have dismissed the suggestion.
reuters.com In 2020 the ultra-rich got richer. Now they’re bracing for the backlash By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, Simon Jessop
…“There’s been a massive shift in the conversations we’re witnessing among families, in terms of the consideration of social inequity,” she said. “The younger generation has really been pushing this topic at the board level.” …
openglobalrights.org 6/1/2021 The pandemic of inequality – What do inequalities, Covid-19, and human rights have to do with each other? – Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky
Latin America is the most unequal region in the world, and it is also, as of September 2020, the one that has the most Covid-19 victims. What do inequalities, Covid-19, and human rights have to do with each other? Persistent inequalities explain why the virus and the recession are affecting disadvantaged groups. At the same time, we are discouraged from aspiring to return to the pre-Covid-19 state. This article presents the main arguments of the collective book on Covid-19 and human rights that, prefaced by Michelle Bachelet, has just been published in Argentina. … The disease, measures to contain it, and its social and economic effects impact lower-income people or those in other vulnerable groups at a higher rate and exposes them to multi-faceted and intersectional discrimination. … Thus, it should not be surprising that the notion of strategic sovereignty is emerging, which now focuses on the responsibility and power of national states to effectively protect the health of the population and guarantee the provision of essential goods and services and with it, social reproduction. It would be an economic model focused on people’s needs and human rights rather than on the expansion of capital. This notion of strategic sovereignty challenges some pacts forged during hyperglobalization, such as the unlimited flow of international trade;, the protection of foreign investment; the free movement of people around the world; the inviolability of intellectual patents; the deregulation of financial capital; the financialization of virtually all aspects of life, labor flexibility; the minimization of social protection systems; short-term fiscal discipline; and the commodification of essential public services such as health. Reversing these trends does not seem to be bad news for human rights.
twitter / AlastairLeyland Over a decade, inequality is estimated to have a 6x greater impact on life expectancy than the worst case COVID scenario. The paper comparing the mortality impact of inequalities with the mortality scenarios for COVID19 is available here
voxeu COVID-19 will raise inequality if past pandemics are a guide
theconversation Remote work worsens inequality by mostly helping high-income earners
TheNation Lockdown palliatives and the making of new billionaires “… a shoddy and sordid programme designed from the outset to turn a few people in government into emergency billionaires at the expense of poverty-stricken Nigerians in desperate need of redemption.”
biznews Why Richard Branson, where capitalism and ego meet, is enemy #1.
“The lockdown worked like a chemical experiment that suddenly illuminated hidden things. As shops, restaurants, factories and the construction industry shut down, as the wealthy and the middle classes enclosed themselves in gated colonies, our towns and megacities began to extrude their working-class citizens — their migrant workers — like so much unwanted accrual.
Many driven out by their employers and landlords, millions of impoverished, hungry, thirsty people, young and old, men, women, children, sick people, blind people, disabled people, with nowhere else to go, with no public transport in sight, began a long march home to their villages. They walked for days, towards Badaun, Agra, Azamgarh, Aligarh, Lucknow, Gorakhpur — hundreds of kilometres away. Some died on the way.
They knew they were going home potentially to slow starvation. Perhaps they even knew they could be carrying the virus with them, and would infect their families, their parents and grandparents back home, but they desperately needed a shred of familiarity, shelter and dignity, as well as food, if not love. As they walked, some were beaten brutally and humiliated by the police, who were charged with strictly enforcing the curfew. …
… Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality”, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.
We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
(3) read FT article here or below