Monday July 04, 2022

Poor choices

Americans across the country have suffered during this pandemic. But new research by the Poor People’s Campaign strongly suggests the poor and low-income have suffered the most. Even controlling for vaccination rates, they found that Covid-19 death rates in poorer US counties were nearly double those in wealthier counties. During the deadliest phases of the pandemic, it rose to five times as many. White Americans still make up the largest share of America’s poor and those who’ve died from Covid-19. But Black, Hispanic and Indigenous Americans are significantly overrepresented in America’s poorest counties, and COVID-19 casualty rates run significantly higher for many communities of color.

Poor Americans are hit hardest for many reasons. Since they make up a large share of low-wage, frontline workers, they’re more exposed to the virus and often lack paid sick leave if they contract it. They’re also more likely to lack health insurance and suffer from pre-existing conditions. But it’s not just that the poor have suffered. Equally important is that the very richest Americans have seen their wealth skyrocket.

As of this May, America’s billionaires’ collective wealth had ballooned by $1.7 trillion since the pandemic began, according to the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Americans for Tax Fairness. Elon Musk alone saw his wealth increase more than tenfold. That’s not all. In 2020, more than half of America’s largest low-wage employers bent the rules to give CEOs enormous pay raises even as their essential workers suffered cuts. On average, CEOs at these firms made over $15 million – more than what their median employees would make in eight centuries. And now, those who’ve benefited the most from this pandemic are trying to pull the rug out from those who’ve suffered the worst. They’re spending big to undo some of the most important public policies our country has seen in generations.

President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan made testing and vaccines nearly universally accessible. It also delivered stimulus payments, expanded unemployment insurance, made the Child Tax Credit more generous and increased assistance for everything from food to health insurance.

These life-saving provisions got hundreds of millions of Americans vaccinated and helped millions more weather an extremely difficult time. The expanded Child Tax Credit alone reduced child poverty by 30 percent – a stunning, if incomplete, achievement. But billionaires, executives and corporations who’ve seen their fortunes flourish have poured money into the campaign coffers of politicians who oppose these measures. When Democrat Joe Manchin joined every Senate Republican in opposing the renewal and expansion of these programs – and was showered with campaign cash in return – they withered on the vine.

Excerpted: ‘One Million American Covid-19 Deaths Is a Searing Indictment of Poverty and Policy Choices’. Courtesy: