The economic inequality of coronavirus

The biggest inequality of coronavirus is that those who are fortunate enough to be young and healthy have the additional good fortune of being less likely to suffer serious consequences from an infection.

What about the economic inequality?

Public school teachers around the country are getting weeks of 100% paid staycation (literally). In many places they need not do any work at all (though some school districts are moving to Asian-style online learning). Pension and retirement health care entitlements (worth $millions): guaranteed by law.

Other government workers? Either 100% pay to “work from home” or 100% pay to be exposed to a deadly virus in an “essential” job. (see “Towered airports reverting to uncontrolled fields”)

Americans who studied the Work Versus Welfare Trade Off and realized that, depending on the state, they’d have roughly the same spending power on welfare compared to working a median-wage job? Continue living rent-free in public housing, continue receiving free health care, continue receiving food stamps, continue chatting on Obamaphone, continue watching Amazon Prime streaming video at half price. No pressure to leave the apartment since no job to begin with…

The roughly 5 million Americans who live on cash payments from former sex partners (alimony, child support, etc.)? Paid at 100% or the former sex partner goes to prison (in theory, the alimony or child support court order could be modified to reflect the new lower income of the defendant, but the defendant would have to go to court, file to start a full-scale lawsuit, and wait for a resolution (could take 1-2 years in Massachusetts before the plague, but now courts are mostly shut down) before the obligation to pay is reduced).

Health care workers: Revenue collapse for those in elective/routine areas (mostly ordered closed). A bit of overtime pay and near-100% certainty of getting coronavirus for those in the emergency/hospital sector of the industry.

Restaurant workers? Fired. Collect unemployment at 30-40% of former salary.

Uber drivers? 0% of former salary unless they want to risk death from contact with customers, in which case it might be 15%.

House cleaners: 30% of former salary as customers become paranoid of what infections the cleaners might bring into the house from other households?

Retail workers, including at essential stores such as grocery and pharmacy? If they go to work, they get paid roughly the same as before, but with a constant risk of exposure to a deadly virus.

Small business owners: 0% of former income as government orders the business shut. Potential to lose all wealth accumulated in business if the enterprise cannot be restarted.

Big business owners (shareholders in public companies): 60% of former wealth due to stock market collapse; 0% of former income as dividend payments are eliminated.

The percentage of Americans who are willing to take a risk in the market segment of our economy dwindles every year, but I wonder if the coronavirus will convince yet more young Americans that their best futures lie either in working for the government (higher skill young people) or collecting welfare (lower skill young people). In an increasingly densely populated country that makes epidemics inevitable, why take the huge economic risk of working in the private sector?

4 thoughts on “The economic inequality of coronavirus

  1. I got my ass handed to me in 2008. Just cleared the last of the obligations from that catastrophe in December, ’19. This has the potential to be much worse for me and the family. We are heavily reliant on entertainment. If the arenas can’t be filled again soon, we are screwed.

  2. Public teacher is a nice ride but they do have a threat from this. If enough kids decide they like internet homeschooling, after forced exposure, loss of enrolled students is the one thing that can put a teacher(or a whole school) out of business.
    Imagine all of America’s mothers forced to stay home with their kids for weeks… A non-significant portion of them are not going back to work. Nothing else could have done that.
    Big pain from china virus hammer but the return to functional human values will be huge.

  3. For five years after the the Great Recession, my middling government worker’s salary remained flat and retirement benefits were slashed. This corona-recession will stall my salary growth right through until retirement and, in turn, negatively affecting my well-earned government pension for the rest of my life.

    Oh well, as a risk-averse public-sector employee, today, I liquidated 50% of my equity position. Did the same thing in March ’09 and missed the subsequent eleven year bull market.

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