It’s probably not a coincidence that the post office scandal blew up on President Trump — it’s one of the few services that both the rich and poor use. Everyone still receives mail, and companies large and small rely on it. Unfortunately, there is no such urgency about the nation’s unemployed masses, almost three weeks after supplemental unemployment benefits expired.
Since the covid-19-related shutdowns began in March, tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs, either temporarily or permanently. An additional 1.1 million new claims were filed last week. These job cuts are not falling evenly across the population. An analysis by the Pew Research Center found that by mid-April, 39 percent of lower-income Americans had lost a job or been laid off, but just 18 percent of their upper-income peers reported the same. A more recent survey by Brown University’s John Friedman found that the economy had all but recovered for those earning more than $60,000, while those with lower incomes were still dealing with a contracted job market. “The recession is nearly over for high-wage workers,” he told The Post’s Heather Long. “But low-wage workers are no more than half-recovered.”
In fact, the wealthy are not only feeling little pain, but also making major gains courtesy of the stock market. (The S&P closed at record levels on Tuesday and Wednesday, erasing all its losses for the year.) Home renovation is booming. So are the prices of vacation homes in the Hamptons. Town & Country is running articles asking whether money can buy someone a “normal” life. Wealthy buyers are overwhelming banks with requests to refinance their loans as interest rates have plunged.
But the increasingly dire plight of the low-income unemployed is all but invisible. Long lines at food banks remain a thing. Rental evictions are resuming, now that both federal and state moratoriums are expiring. Mortgage delinquencies are on the rise. The president has promised to replace the previous $600-a-week supplement with a new $400-a-week benefit, but most workers would only get $300 per week, many of the lowest-paid Americans wouldn’t qualify and the benefits would take weeks to go out anyway.
Yes, it’s the Republicans and Trump who are refusing to renew the benefits, and they are the ones stalling on aid to state and local governments, without which hundreds of thousands of government employees will find their jobs on the line shortly. Yes, the Democrats passed the Heroes Act in May, which would provide for all this. But once the Republicans declared it DOA, this debate was all but forgotten. It’s not a reach to suspect that the fact that most members of Congress are millionaires plays a role in this. In many cases, the closest they are coming to financial desperation is an email from a constituent.
So here’s a suggestion. Next week is the Republican convention. It’s time for more counter-programming from the Democrats. Hold news conferences. Feature people who are suffering in the current economy — like those who appeared in videos at the Democratic convention this week. Come back from vacation and have them testify at congressional hearings. And don’t let up or give up until we get relief.