Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The COVID Class War Heats Up

Michael Lind nails it again.

By Michael Lind, Tablet

The bitter debate over lockdowns and mask mandates in America is not just another polarizing culture war between left and right. It also has elements of a class war. But it’s not the class war you might think it is.

Some on the populist right and anti-capitalist left interpret the prolonged state lockdowns as a conspiracy by big business against small business. It is easy to see how people could reach this conclusion. Many small firms have been destroyed during the pandemic by government-mandated bans and social distancing rules, while some bigger firms have had an easier time. According to Inequality.org, between mid-March 2020 and February 2021, the wealth of U.S. billionaires grew by $1.3 trillion. But the wealth gains for the rich have come mostly from their disproportionate representation in the stock market, not from their ability to steal customers from small companies that have gone under.

The major debate over lockdowns has been between small-business owners, who form the political base of the Republican Party, and professionals, particularly in the educational, government, and nonprofit sectors, who provide the political base of the Democrats. Compared to the multiracial working-class majority of the United States, both small-business owners and professionals are in fact elite minorities—though clearly less elite and much more numerous than billionaires and the executives of major multinational corporations and banks and media companies and foundations.

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