Lockdowns deepen America’s class divide

“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions,” said Thomas Sowell, “than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”

Accordingly, it should surprise no one that the drastic coronavirus lockdowns pushed hardest by credentialed professionals and government bureaucrats have, by and large, benefited credentialed professionals and government bureaucrats.

University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds has noted that it is the working class and not the elite who are paying the price for the lockdowns:

“ …it’s hard not to notice a class divide here. As with so many of America’s conflicts, the divide is between the people in the political/managerial class on the one hand and the people in the working class on the other. And as usual, the smugness and authoritarianism are pretty much all on one side.”

Writing in The Federalist, J.T. Young, a former Treasury official during the Bush administration, called the lockdowns the most regressive policies since the draft:

“Those people working in lower-earning occupations are most victimized by lockdowns, as they more likely lack work-at-home options. The same regressive dynamic applies to business-owners. Those with limited capital and limited opportunities to borrow suffer most. And it applies to those forced back onto their savings: The smaller, the more vulnerable.”

The tilt towards politically connected big business has its roots in New Deal policies. Economic historian Amity Shlaes has observed that:

“One of the tragedies of Covid is that it has advantaged big business over small (Wal-Mart over florist); the New Deal did something similar by assigning the bigger companies in each industry to write their industry's rule book for the economic emergency period. Guess who lost.”

There is also a noticeable difference between how the lockdowns have impacted public and private sector employees. In less than three months, the lockdowns have wiped out all the net job gains of the past 14 years. But the pain has been felt disproportionately in the private sector. The extremely limited impact on public sector workers can only deepen feelings of frustration. One wonders: where is the shared sacrifice by the public sector?

As Professor Reynolds concludes:

“There really are two Americas here: Those still getting a paycheck from government, corporations or universities, and those who are unemployed, or seeing their small businesses suffer due to shutdowns.”

The longer the lockdowns continue, the deeper the divide becomes.

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