The most fundamental tragedy of the coronavirus crisis is human. It is lives being lost. Somewhere close behind is the feeling of desperation shared by working people. In an economy where it is estimated that 50 percent of the labor force survives from paycheck to paycheck, we are facing an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions that exposes a fundamental flaw in our widely accepted idea of the relationship between working people and their places of work.
That fundamental flaw is a long-standing acceptance across the ideological spectrum of a division between wage earners and the owners of capital assets. While owners of businesses are able to fall back on accumulated wealth and assets in a crisis, it has become abundantly clear that a majority of workers are prisoners of wage income. As long as that divide persists, the threat of economic breakdown will loom both in the coming months and into the next crisis. That divide is the heart of economic inequality. Near-term measures that maintain or increase wage income should be implemented. But it is time to think more deeply about the causes of inequality, and it is time to introduce remedies that serve as conditions for the provision of federal government assistance.