Myth-busting the post-pandemic economy

Politicians and pundits may claim the U.S. economy is in recovery from the Covid downturn, but millions of Americans aren’t feeling it. Many women, low-paid and essential workers are doing worse than ever. The capitalist deck is stacked.

In Virginia, workers prepare nutritious lunches for students. Women, people of color and immigrants are often employed in the food service industry. PHOTO: USDA
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So if the financial system is going strong and post-pandemic inflation is down, why are real people hurting? What went wrong? For one thing, a recovery is determined by whether the overall economy is growing, in other words, whether businesses are doing well. And for decades, corporations have prospered at the expense of everyone else.

Inflation may be climbing more slowly and the stock market humming along, but the high cost of groceries, gas and housing is putting great pressure on families. Food prices are up 25% since 2020. Housing rates are sky high, for both renters and buyers.

The loss of Covid-era benefits like the Child Tax Credit, increased food programs, and moratoriums on evictions, student loan payments and cuts to Medicaid rolls have resulted in painful income losses. During its brief life, the Child Tax Credit was credited with reducing child poverty by 50%.

None of the cuts affect women more than the loss of childcare. The Covid shutdown closed day care centers all over the country and many of them did not reopen. These days if it can be found, childcare is extremely expensive. The Child Tax Credit helped pay for childcare. With that benefit gone, some women have been unable to return to full time jobs.

Another thing the Biden administration likes to promote is consistently low unemployment numbers. A closer inspection reveals that these gains are not universal. Black unemployment is about twice as high as white. In New York City in early 2023, Black unemployment hit 12.2% compared with only 1.3% for white workers. In general, unemployment among Black women is even higher than for Black men.

The fields of hospitality and retail took the biggest hits during the pandemic. They have been slow to recover. These jobs, especially in hospitality, employ large numbers of women and people of color.

The cutback in food stamps under SNAP has been particularly hard on women. Benefits were reduced by $90 per month in March 2023. Many families depend on food banks to augment their sparse benefits. As the primary shoppers in the family, women must often spend time in line. Women with children feel the stress the most.

Homelessness continues to rise in spite of the so-called recovery. The rental assistance program and eviction moratorium provided by Covid relief are now a thing of the past, creating the conditions for more housing loss. In fact, it increased by 12% between 2022 and 2023. Now, 20 out of every 10,000 people are unhoused.

Not everyone is suffering the economic doldrums of our post-pandemic world. Wealthy individuals and corporations made out like bandits, literally. The gap between the rich and poor has never been greater — and it’s increasing.

The pandemic only exacerbated the problems created by the capitalist system itself. What’s needed is a complete transformation of society so that those who produce all the wealth decide how to distribute it. Until then we must fight to replace our tattered safety net.

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