The great puzzle about the lockdowns has been how support for the restrictions has divided along class lines. In general, low income earners, especially manual workers, oppose the lockdowns strenuously, while high income earners – the laptop class – seem to support it strenuously. This class divide, the elite versus the workers, is reflected in the media’s contempt for lockdown critics, who they caricature as ignorant “science deniers” or “far-right” racists.
On the surface this looks like pure snobbishness, an elitist contempt for the great unwashed.
New research shows that the reason for this divide might come down to nothing more than benefits and money. Analysis of incomes across the United States published jointly by Harvard and Browne universities and the Gates Foundation show that over the pandemic high earners (earning more than $60k) have experienced a 3.4% increase in employment, while low earners (earning less than $27k) had seen a fall of 24% in employment. Those in the middle experienced a more modest decline of 3.5%.
What these findings reveal is that government lockdown orders devastated workers at the bottom of the financial food chain but left the upper-tier actually better off.
Ironically, the lockdown has hit the most vulnerable the hardest, even though the justification for the draconian lockdown measures was to protect the most vulnerable.
Other benefits that accrued to high earners included a work-from-home shift in work practice that most office workers say they want to stick with.
The explosion in online shopping also benefited the work from home cohort as well as the ultra rich such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, while it killed off swathes of small businesses who make up a lower-middle class.
The decline in low income wages had the other effect of opening jobs for delivery drivers and Amazon dispatch workers. This monopolizing of low-skilled service employment is part of the reason that the brown box stores made record profits, while the employees in the same places saw record employment losses. Employment losses also means wage losses because of the reduced bargaining position of the workers.
While Jeff Bezos reportedly made $75 billion in 2020, employees in Amazon warehouses in New York and Texas say they are sleeping in their cars because they cannot afford rent on the wages they earn. Reduced employment options mean reduced wages, it’s a simple supply and demand equation.
Companies like Amazon are the clear beneficiaries of lockdown, it’s no wonder Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post is so supportive of it.
While the low income earners of the world got poorer during the lockdown and suffered psychological, health, and financial consequences, the world’s richest men got considerably richer. Gates, Musk, Bezos, Zuckerberg, these are all darlings of the progressive corporate left and they are making a killing on the backs of the pain of those most vulnerable – low income earners.
Interestingly one of the homeless Amazon worker’s in New York said that “Jeff Bezos donates to homeless shelters for tax write-offs and PR. He needs to know that some of his own workers (without family or a second income) can’t afford rent.”
The economic effects of this last 15 months are not just a grubby weighing of lives versus money, though that has been a powerful narrative on the lockdown side. As anyone who has financial stress knows – and this has been measured by economists – financial stress can lead to deterioration in health, in prospects, and not infrequently to death. This includes deaths of despair and reduced life expectancy, which is years of stolen life.
The singular focus on one medical problem to the near exclusion of all others has had many consequences in terms of missed diagnoses and curtailed medical and surgical procedures. All of these will have, and are having devastating social consequences. And yet no-body seems willing to talk about it. Why is that?
We recently discovered through a FOI request that our government was aware of some of these issues but don’t seem to think they are important enough. Aontú’s Mairéad Tóibín released documentation which shows that the Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, has been aware of the pandemic’s impact on domestic violence levels for months.
This may be the tip of the iceberg. Addiction, deaths of despair, domestic abuse, domestic child abuse, even the worrying trend of elderly abuse as adult children are closeted with their elderly relatives; these are all on the rise. Under-reporting of child neglect and abuse was an observable trend as schools closed for lockdown. These trends in the U.S. were highlighted last summer by Dr. Scott Atlas, advisor to president Trump’s Covid Advisory Task Force. However, these collateral effects of lockdown mostly continue to be ignored.
The Ombudsman for children, Dr. Niall Muldoon, in his annual report said 2020 was a “devastating year for children”. Home was “not always a safe place” for children, and he fears that children who were at risk of abuse or neglect and other issues that were not visible due to school closures will “come to the fore this year”.
As we have highlighted here before, the children who suffered most from lack of services were the ones who could least afford it, such as children with special needs. Dr. Muldoon said he had heard “heartbreaking stories” of children with learning disabilities regressing when separated from specialized help during lockdown.
The most vulnerable in our society can expect to lose out much more in the coming years with a housing crisis and steep double digit inflation predicted by many economists. Children who fell behind during school disruptions will have long term life consequences leading to poverty and even reduced life expectancy. The link between poverty and poor health outcomes is undisputed.
Lockdown has killed and will continue to kill long after it has ended, and the ones bearing the brunt of the pain are the most vulnerable. Despite the government sponsored propaganda we are not “all in this together.”