Inequality is nothing new in America, but the coronavirus pandemic has ruthlessly laid bare just how fractured our society is.
Some people are able to easily work from home ― articles welcome the “cozy catastrophe” and the new digital happy hours where we sip “quarantinis” with friends.
Meanwhile, underpaid essential workers on the frontlines of this emergency are risking their health every day to keep us safe and fed. And for a very large portion of society, this pandemic means they are unable to pay rent or bills.
The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the United States reached 6.6 million on April 2 as companies continue to close and lay off employees. Mothers are skipping meals to feed their children while young people are dying of the coronavirus because they don’t have health insurance.
Some people are just treating this, at least so far, as some sort of mild vacation, and others are in an existential crisis.
Economics expert and former Lehman Brothers executive Nate Hagens calls this gap between the haves and the have-nots ― where only a fraction of society reaps the benefits of economic growth ― the “bifurcated economy.” HuffPost spoke with Hagens, who now teaches at the University of Minnesota and sits on the board of the Post Carbon Institute, to ask him how we got here and whether it’s possible to rebuild after COVID-19 in a way that doesn’t further entrench inequalities.