The shocking disconnect between a thriving U.S. investor economy and its millions of unemployed as a recipe for even worse social unrest.


Don’t blame Lisa Scott, a 43-year-old certified nursing assistant who lives in the Oxford Circle section of Philadelphia, for not celebrating this week as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index soared to yet another record high


“I think it’s all bull——, pardon my language,” Scott told me when I asked her about the stock market soaring even as nearly 30 million Americans, that’s one-in-every five workers, continues to receive the unemployment benefits she’s still struggling to obtain. Like many in her shoes, the mother of six is losing faith in the system.


“I am an essential worker — I am needed, and look how they’re doing me,” Scott told me.


What’s so mind-boggling is that the increasingly desperate plight of America’s jobless, a crisis that’s approached the unthinkable levels of the Great Depression of the 1930s, isn’t the biggest story on the news. Instead, it’s squeezed out by a debate over so-called “law and order,” with a president who’d rather marshal the vast power of the federal government to send troops to arrest graffiti artists than enact a massive jobs-and-relief program.


Seriously? You’re worried about social unrest now? Just imagine the chaos in a few months, when homeless people sleep on park benches under a blanket of newspaper headlines that Jeff Bezos is the world’s first $300-billion man, or when the food lines begin to resemble “Hands Across America.” Personally, I don’t play the stock market but if I did, I’d be investing heavily in pitchfork manufacturers.

认真的吗?你现在担心社会动荡?想象一下几个月后的混乱吧,当无家可归的人们睡在公园的长椅上,而报纸上铺天盖地的新闻标题说杰夫 · 贝佐斯是世界上第一个身家3000亿美元的人的时候,或者当排队领取救济食品的队伍可以横穿整个美国的时候,就我个人而言,我不玩股票,但如果我玩股票,我会大量投资干草叉制造商的。

This isn’t a new problem, of course. Ever since 1980, when Ronald Reagan’s initial “Make America Great Again” platform” was cover (just as it would be for Donald Trump) for slashing taxes on the wealthy, the background noise of income inequality has gone from a whisper to the scream of “We are the 99 Percent!”

当然,这不是一个新问题。自从1980年罗纳德 · 里根最初的“让美国再次伟大”的纲领(就像唐纳德 · 特朗普一样)成为削减富人税收的掩护以来,收入不平等的背景噪音已经从窃窃私语变成了尖叫:“我们是99%的人!”

But the cataclysm of 2020′s pandemic and related shutdowns has taken America’s wealth gap from tragedy to farce. After a steep dip in the spring — shuttered stores and factories and millions of jobless claims will do that, at least briefly — Wall Street bounced back and kept going. Why? Some of the daily spikes have shown that America’s supposedly sharp-eyed stock traders — like the president they admire — are far too susceptible to dubious rumors and scammy press releases about imminent vaccines.


And so the billionaires who run these public corporations have seen their private wealth explode. Amazon’s Bezos became Planet Earth’s first $200 billion man (even after his divorce!) but other billionaires like Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have also become obscenely rich during the worst year of many people’s lifetimes.

所以,经营这些上市公司的亿万富翁们,看到了他们私人财富爆炸式的增长。亚马逊的贝佐斯成为了地球上第一个身价2000亿美元的男人(甚至是在他离婚之后!),像埃隆 · 马斯克、比尔 · 盖茨和马克 · 扎克伯格这样的亿万富翁,也在很多人这辈子最糟糕的一年变得非常富有。

Meanwhile, it was hailed as a warped victory on Thursday morning when ”only” 833,000 Americans filed new state unemployment claims. But that still dwarfs any week from the painful Great Recession only a decade ago, and it also fails to include a second class of emergency pandemic benefits that elevates the total number seeking new aid this week to 1.6 million. And yet somehow this massive societal shakeup continues to get lost amid a president’s increasingly delusional tweets or public comments, or dramatic video of small courthouse fires.


John Dodds, the activist who heads the Philadelphia Unemployment Project (PUP), in a city where the jobless rate is still at the near-Depression level of 17.7%, the priority remains trying to convince Washington to reinstate the $600 weekly unemployment-compensation boost that arguably prevented a total meltdown but expired at the end of July. Congress, which stayed in recess for most of August, didn’t have the same sense of urgency.

费城失业计划的负责人约翰 · 多兹是一位激进分子,他所在的城市的失业率仍然接近大萧条时期的17.7%,当务之急仍然是说服华盛顿恢复每周600美元的失业救助计划,这项计划可以说是阻止了一场彻底的崩溃,但是已经在7月底那时到期了。国会在8月的大部分时间里都处于休会状态,没有那种紧迫感。

The stories of America’s unemployed are as diverse as the nation itself. Rebecca Ansel, an unemployed violinist and musicians’ unx member, recently rallied with other PUP members in Philadelphia to extend the $600 benefit. Unlike Lisa Scott, she’d gotten her jobless claim processed quickly, and owning her own home in Collingswood has helped her get by. But she worried things will change with Philadelphia’s arts’ venues likely to remain dark for months, and not being able to do what she loves has already exacted an emotional toll. “Everything is taking a hit — it’s hard,” Ansel told me. She said “I feel a piece of myself is missing.”

美国失业者的故事就像这个国家本身一样多种多样。丽贝卡 · 安塞尔是一位失业的小提琴家和音乐家工会成员,最近她与费城的其他失业计划成员联合起来,要求延长这项600美元的救助计划。与丽莎·斯科特不同的是,她很快就申请到了失业救济,在科灵斯伍德拥有自己的房子帮助她度过难关。但她担心情况会发生变化,费城的艺术场馆可能会在几个月内保持关闭,不能做她喜欢的事情已经造成了情感上的伤害。安塞尔告诉我“一切都受到了冲击,这很艰难”她说:“我觉得自己缺少了一部分。”

For Scott, as for many, economic worries are front and center. She lost her nursing assistant job in March when — concerned about her six kids, including a 4-year-old — she declined to volunteer for a COVID unit. The setback, and her inability to get Pennsylvania to process her unemployment claim, is causing her to lose hope in the system. “I don’t think they’re handling it too good,” she said. “Look at me, a hard-working woman and for the first time in 15 years I’m on food stamps.”

对于斯科特和许多人来说,经济的担忧是首要和重点的问题。由于担心自己的六个孩子(包括一个4岁的孩子) ,她在3月份失去了护士助理的工作,她拒绝了去一个疫情单位做志愿者。这次挫折,再加上宾夕法尼亚州没有处理她的失业申请,使她对这个体制失去了希望。她说“我不认为他们处理得很好,看看我,一个努力工作的女人,十五年来第一次靠食品券过活。”

The fierce urgency of now that briefly allowed Congress and the Trump administration to pass relief bills in the first weeks of the coronavirus crisis needs to be rekindled, or the breakdown of American social order will only accelerate. It’s bizarre that we’re playing politics around the recent spike in murder rates in American cities and ignoring the obvious lix to the COVID-19 economic despair and disruption. That’s one more reason why the stock market rise matters; it’s a convenient distraction that allows policymakers to pretend that the economy is doing just fine when it’s utterly broken for tens of millions of forgotten Americans.


But we can’t ignore this forever. Last week, about 100 protesters showed up outside Bezos’ $23 million mansion in D.C. (where he owns the Washington Post) and, demanding higher wages and better coronavirus protection for Amazon workers, erected a guillotine. I’m reporting that and not endorsing it — lasting social change will only come through non-violent resistance — but I do think that symbolism should send a cold metal chill down the spine of anyone still buying the fantasies of late-stage capitalism.