(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Harvard-Westlake High School

Opinion: How the pandemic inspired a greater chasm in American equality

Our nation has been at the mercy of economic inequality and social division for a long time, a gap that became exasperated by the 2020 pandemic. This chasm has created starkly different lifestyles for the two different halves in response to the pandemic, deepening the wealth gap to irreversible dimensions.

NBC shines a light on this burgeoning economic inequality: “The consequences of this will be long lasting. The deeper the hole you dig, the harder it is to dig out.”

The coronavirus pandemic and its implications have shined a light on the two halves of this class divide to an alarming degree. Brookings disposes that the trajectory of poverty was impacted immensely by the events of 2020, being 144 million people higher in comparison to the baseline path for poverty.

Although there has been a concerning financial imbalance for the past 50 years, any previous economic or racial inequalities face a new level of disproportion with this virus. Whereas one-half utilizes isolation to escape to the comforts of their second homes or five-star resorts, the other half faces fears of eviction or unemployment at unforeseen levels.

The pandemic has left 10 million individuals unemployed. NBC interviewed a series of individuals, including 26-year-old Alex Cruff.

At the onset of the pandemic Cruff lost her job at a travel agency, and since then has applied for over 400 jobs in an attempt to support her and her two-year-old daughter, an attempt that has proved futile, she told NBC.

“Luckily I have enough money to pay rent and my car — then after that it’s like I have to pick and choose between food for me and my daughter and my phone bill,” Cruff said.

Although this issue is nationwide, California proves to be an exemplar of this divide.

Politico reveals that at the onset of the pandemic, 20% of the state’s net worth was held by 2% of California’s zip codes. Although there have been attempts to amend such inequality with a tax increase on the copiously wealthy, such attempts resulted in a clash with Governor Newsom, who refuses to engage in such proposals.

The proposal by the California Teachers Associates to increase taxes on individuals holding over $30 million in assets is just one of the failed attempts at a more equal distribution of wealth. The political implications of tax increases have undermined many attempts of Democrats to pass such legislation, leaving the situation still unsolved.

The Western Center on Law and Poverty discloses the lack of attention to solving this problem: “It is a question of priorities — whether or not millions of people being plunged into poverty is seen as enough of a destabilizer to encourage the wealthy, business and political class in California to put money into addressing poverty and the trappings of poor environment in smart, sensible ways.”

It is evident that the current proliferation in poverty can much be contributed to the pandemic, leaving many Americans with the impression that they have little control. However, this conflict requires immediate and considerable attention. Without such, this social and economic gap will continue widening as the pandemic drags on, inspiring greater misery and increasing inequality.