It used to be Wall Street and Main Street.
Now it’s Wall Street versus Main Street.
When you read all the analysis, what can I add, other than connecting the articles to a story that highlights the challenges society faces through this pandemic. The stories are new, the underlying themes are not. I have been talking about them for a couple of years. What is new is that they are getting broader attention. Amplification.
Now we need to do something about it. Before we fall back into the ‘normal’. Or worse – accept a ‘new’ normal, because that is ‘just the way it is’.
Over on Wall Street on the 28th of April, stocks jumped 2%, putting the S&P 500 on track for its best month since 1974. (CNBC) and the next day it went even higher, dropping back on the last day of the quarter and now two days into the new quarter it is fully 5% down on that peak. I mean, it really is just a game isn’t it? There really is no rhyme nor reason to the fluctuations, Wall Street can look around at the overall economy just as Main Street can. But that’s not how they work. Bailout news appears and ‘Wall Street’ buys-in, sells at ‘peak’, watches it crash and then buys back in at the low and with that done another several billion of ‘the people’s wealth’ is extracted and pocketed by the few. The Markets have absolutely no relation to the well being of the country, it is simply a place that people with money go to gamble and make money (off the taxpayers back – after all – where is all this bailout money coming from?) They must be doing well because while the world is hunkered down, billionaires wealth grew by 10%. (IPS), so let’s stop pretending that they are in the same boat as the rest of us during this pandemic. (The Guardian)
Meanwhile … in the real world, the economy shrunk by a 4.8% annual rate in the first three months of the year – and the worst is yet to come. (NPR) To put that into perspective, this was the “first quarterly contraction since 2014 and the largest since the Great Recession”. Not only that the number of people unemployed in the USA is sitting at 30 million (that’s 20% of the workforce). (CNN).
So, of course, we need to get back to work. Would you risk your life to go to work? What if you decided that you don’t want to go back to work because you don’t think it is safe? Well, you could lose your job. (NYT) The article focuses on Amazon and Walmart – but we know they aren’t alone. But heh, life’s a crapshoot, right? I’ll suck it up, go back to work and if I catch it. I catch it. I mean it’s not as if I am likely to die. And I’m unlikely to be the only one. If we all catch it, then we can hold the company liable. Right? WRONG. If you do go back to work and catch COVID-19, it might well be that the company has protections against any liability for you. (WaPo)
Amazon (to pick a ‘random’ company) has received a lot of criticism, but it looks like there are some right-minded people in there. Oh wait – correction … were, not are … an Amazon VP quit over the whistleblower firings (The Verge) .. which of course means that he is no longer in any kind of place to change Amazon policy (if he ever was), but he did write a blog post (TBray) which has obviously got attention – so who knows?
“They fired me to make others scared.”Bashir Mohamed
The Amazon story alone would take books to properly record. Suffice to say while businesses around the world crash, Amazon soars. Even in 2020.
While people around the world are losing their livelihood (CNN), their businesses (CNBC), the food off their table (NYT), their running water (The Guardian), Bezo’s fortune soars. It has soared so much that in the middle of April his personal worth was estimated to be $138.5 billion. (Fortune) ( I remember his net worth not that long ago being $1Bn – and that was before his divorce. His ex-wife is worth $45 billion.
But with all that growth and wealth his workers on the frontline are essentially treated as cogs in a machine with no rights, no voice and highly replaceable – often as contract workers with no rights – but as it turns out even if you are employed by the company you have no rights. (The Guardian)
Finally, ‘gig workers’. We shouldn’t forget them. Those people who still go out and risk it all because they have nothing left to lose. A few months ago, they were hailed as people showing us what The Future of Work looked like. I am here to tell you – that need not be your future, but if we follow the ‘it will be ok’ road – that is exactly the future.
But Tech’s Fine. Right?
Ummm … depends which part of tech. Here’s an under-reported fact: As I write 366 tech startups have laid off 35,969 employees since Mar 11. (Layoffs.fyi) that’s one extreme. And at the other, we have the ‘tech-a-liths’, who, when all this is over, could have all the power and absolutely none of the accountability, (NYT) though of all of the industries you might look at – tech is the one where they won’t be going back to work in offices.
But I’m sure everything is going to be fine. I mean this is what Boris said (The Guardian), the US is re-opening (Morning Brew) and Bolsonaro has written off COVID-19 as a ‘little flu’ (Morning Brew). (WorldOMeters). So what’s the big deal? Other than the fact that here we are in May, America is moving into Summer (AKA ‘disaster’ season, think Hurricanes, Floods and Fires), but someone is thinking … FEMA has ordered 100,000 ‘human remains pouches’ (also known as body bags). (Axios)
Finally, in case this is all a little depressing ans cynical – let me end with a short video that is doing the rounds. It is lovely. I think it made me think that I wanted to write a story this week. I don’t think I did. It’s too real.