The coronavirus is first and foremost a public health crisis. In order to address the health crisis, policymakers have insisted for the well-being of us all that people stay home and shutter businesses, inducing an economic downturn. It has also put the people who can least afford it on the front lines of this crisis: low-wage and hourly workers, families, and small and medium-sized businesses.
Historically high economic inequality, which, when combined with a porous social safety net, makes the United States particularly vulnerable to economic shocks. This economic fragility is a direct result of prioritizing markets over people for the last 50 years. Though a dire problem in boom times, high economic inequality is particularly stark in a downturn because it exacerbates the severity of recessions and amplifies the impact on the people and communities who can least afford it.
At the same time, because many low-wage and hourly workers are women and people of color, the coronavirus recession will only serve to exacerbate existing economic and racial inequalities if we do not take appropriate action. A growing body of research provides a framework for how the federal government can make choices that fully supports people and families and ensure that we address the health crisis and move swiftly into economic recovery, rather than falling into a deep recession.
To effectively respond to the coronavirus recession and build a more resilient economy for the future, we must level the playing field between the rich and the rest of us and implement policy solutions that will protect U.S. families now and in the future. That includes prioritizing the small and medium-sized businesses who need support now while the economy is on ice, rather than shareholders.
The Washington Center for Equitable Growth is producing resources to connect existing evidence-backed research with the policymaking community to ensure the best available ideas inform a broad, deep, and long-term response to this growing crisis.