The coronavirus pandemic presents a new and unprecedented challenge to the United States. First and foremost, it is a public health crisis that makes it impossible for our society and our economy to function as usual due to the necessary social distancing required for the health of us all. Because the federal government neither acted early enough to contain the deadly coronavirus nor swiftly enough to forestall mass layoffs, our nation is now facing a health crisis and economic recession simultaneously. This crisis also puts the people who can least afford it on the front lines: low-wage and hourly workers, families, and small and medium-sized businesses.
The underlying problems of U.S. economic inequality today will only prolong and deepen this coronavirus recession. Historically high economic inequality concentrates economic resources among those at the very top of the U.S. income and wealth ladders while leading to fewer and fewer protections for the economic security of workers and their families. This leaves the United States particularly vulnerable to shocks such as health, climate, and economic crises.
Our nation now faces a grave economic challenge. Disparities by income, race, ethnicity, and gender render any response to a deep recession and eventual recovery all the more difficult. 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.
A growing body of research provides a framework for how the federal government can make choices that fully supports people and families, as well as firms hard hit by the crisis, and ensures that we address the health crisis and move swiftly into economic recovery, rather than falling into a deep recession. 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.