Later this year, gross domestic product will recover to its pre-pandemic level. Scars will remain that exacerbate inequality and the social conditions that can instigate the kind of civil unrest that stained the country during the public-health crisis.
Some 10 million more Americans will be unemployed, underemployed or stuck in part-time work as a consequence of the structural changes instigated or accelerated by the crisis. As stimulus aid recedes, they will have no real prospect for accomplishing the basics for a decent life — reliable sources of income for rent and groceries.
Millions left behind
Read "A Tale of Two Cities" — the French Revolution was instigated as much by hunger as by Enlightenment ideals. Economic frustrations, as much as the civil rights movement’s unpaid bills, fueled the riots, looting, burning and attacks on police that accompanied Black Lives Matters demonstrations last summer and the Proud Boys
and others who stormed Capitol Hill on Jan. 6.
Political frustration can provoke both the militant left and right, but President Joe Biden is not governing as the moderate he advertised during the Democratic primaries and seeking accommodation with Republicans to address grievances on both sides. His first weeks in office were dedicated to a series
of executive orders
and policy announcements
on economic relief, health care, racial equity, immigration and climate change and energy policy with a radical left bent.
Passed in whole, the federal deficit for 2021 would well exceed $3 trillion
and leave limited fiscal head space for his growth initiatives, such as rebuilding infrastructure, without unleashing the Fed’s money printing press beyond any reasonable restraint.
According to the Congressional Budget Office
, the proposed $15 an hour minimum wage would kill 1.4 million jobs. The mandate that private employers provide paid sick and family leave would only add to the carnage.
All that creates Republican opposition, risks locking up the Senate with its 60-vote rule, and provides political cover for Democrats to ram through a reconciliation bill with only 50 Democratic votes plus Vice President Kamala Harris.
All this will only inflame frustrations on the right — yet the conditions of minorities generally characterized as being on the left will not be adequately improved.
After the pandemic, the social conditions that gave rise to civil unrest in 2020 will remain but exacerbated. Another hiccup for the economy could then ignite the worst of last summer and January 6 again.
Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist. He tweets @pmorici1
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