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.
As Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, has wisely counseled, no governmental interventions now being considered should be entered into without consideration of how that intervention will address inequality.
A prominent test case—the airline industry—can help lead the way. Any federal funds loaned to the airlines should be repaid in two steps. The first dollar repaid should be directed to newly established Employee Stock Ownership Plans, or ESOPs, at each company whose beneficiaries are the more than 500,000 airline workers, from luggage handlers and flight attendants to mechanics and pilots. The second dollar repaid should return directly to the federal government. Using that formula, over a short period of time, employees will accrue a substantial stake in these companies. They or their selected professional representatives should serve prominently on company boards of directors to give voice to the employees that make the business work.
Dick May and Chris Mackin think way out of the box. They offer here a radically different version of corporate governance for America to address multiple, profound concerns. They also propose a broad, expansive reconstructin corporation for the nation.
Our societal response to the COVID19 crisis should be guided by basic moral principles and economic common sense. This essay will explore five essential steps or programs that suggest how we might navigate forward while we reckon with the root causes of this crisis, some of which can be found in nature and others in our flawed but reformable social and economic institutions.
The first principle which should largely be delegated to journalists, scientists, lawyers and the courts is justice. We must determine who is at fault for this crisis, and the extent to which it was preventable or could have been better mitigated. While stressing the priority of prevention against further, imminent crises that lay ahead, we must also reckon with responsibility for what has transpired. We must establish who has been damaged and how they can be best helped. We must prioritize how health can be restored and maintained, how families can be protected and how schools, police, fire and other public services can be safely restored. We must then turn to how we can provide rational assistance to economic institutions, to businesses and organizations, small and large, for-profit and nonprofit, public and private.
A second principle that must be applied to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis is fairness. We need solutions that protect the least resourced of our citizens, those most in need. Those middle- and upper-class members of American society most secure in knowledge and wealth will get by though their knowledge or through their wealth. Government should prioritize the most vulnerable of our citizens in need and work its way up over time toward providing assistance to working-and middle-class citizens.1
The Aspen Institute
Jul 25, 2013
There has always been some gap between rich and poor in this country, but in the last few decades, what it means to be rich has changed dramatically. Alarmingly, the greatest income gap is not between the 1 percent and the 99 percent, but within the wealthiest 1 percent of our nation—as the merely wealthy are left behind by the rapidly expanding fortunes of the new global super-rich. Chrystia Freeland, an acclaimed business journalist who has spent nearly two decades reporting on the new trans-global elite, cracks open the tight-knit world of the new global super rich and proves that it is the wealthiest 0.1 percent who are outpacing the rest of us at breakneck speed.
Moyers & Company
Nov 28, 2014
From luxury skyscrapers — taller, more expensive and exclusive than ever before — the dark shadows of plutocracy are spreading across the commons of democracy. See features from this show: http://bit.ly/1vVW7is
euronews (in English)
Aug 25, 2018
That’s the stark warning from the United Nations. It’s exactly one year ago when 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, fleeing a brutal crackdown by the military…
May 30, 2019
On the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, the world’s largest refugee camp houses a generation of lost Rohingya children. Because Bangladesh bans them from school, they face a hard choice: Break the law, or relinquish dreams of a better future. In response, some children have begun teaching each other. Special correspondent Tania Rashid reports on the lengths these persecuted children go for an education.
Channel 4 News
Nov 1, 2017
They’ve fled unimaginable horrors: now they’re outcast, desperate and alone. Thousands of Rohingya children arrive in the squalid refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh every week: and more than 20,000 of them are unaccompanied or orphaned. Our Asia correspondent Jonathan Miller has spoken to some of the most vulnerable children: they’ve lost their homes, their families, they’ve witnessed terrible things – so how are they managing to cope on their own in such squalid and dangerous conditions?
As the Harvard Center for African Studies continues to broaden public and scholarly awareness about Africa, African experiences, and African perspectives, we will be continuously updating this page with Africa-related resources and initiatives that our community is currently involved in with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. We invite you to review how CAS Faculty Affiliates, Africa Advisory Board, Leadership Council, and Harvard alumni have been involved in the COVID-19 pandemic response below.
If you have any resources or you are doing work that addresses COVID-19, please do not hesitate to contact us at africa.
How the COVID-19 crisis can catalyze change across the continent.
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This article is a collaborative effort by Kartik Jayaram, Kevin Leiby, Acha Leke, Amandla Ooko-Ombaka, and Ying Sunny Sun, representing views from across the McKinsey Africa Practice.
COVID-19 poses a grave threat to lives across Africa, with the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that the continent could see up to 190,000 deaths over the next year if the pandemic is not controlled. 1 In the face of this challenge, governments have acted fast, both to strengthen the capacity of health systems and to contain the spread of the virus: as of May 19, about half of Africa’s population lives in countries imposing some type of lockdown. But despite accelerating case numbers and still-low testing rates in many countries (Exhibit 1), as well as recent reports of a worsening health crisis in hotspots on the continent, some governments have started to ease restrictions with caution as economic pain becomes more acute for households.