Economist Thomas Piketty: Coronavirus Pandemic Has Exposed The "Violence of Social Inequality" | Video | RealClearPolitics

Economist Thomas Piketty: Coronavirus Pandemic Has Exposed The "Violence of Social Inequality"


DEMOCRACY NOW!: As nearly 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment in just six weeks and millions worldwide face hunger and poverty, we look at the global economic catastrophe triggered by the pandemic and its impact on the most vulnerable. As the World Food Programme warns of a massive spike in global hunger and more than 100 million people in cities worldwide could fall into poverty, can this crisis be a catalyst for change? We ask French economist Thomas Piketty. His 2014 internationally best-selling book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” looked at economic inequality and the necessity of wealth taxes. His new book, “Capital and Ideology,” has been described as a manifesto for political change.

AMY GOODMAN, DEMOCRACY NOW! HOST: Well, for more on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the most vulnerable and whether the crisis could be a catalyst for change, we’re joined from Paris, France, by French economist Thomas Piketty, whose work focuses on wealth and income inequality. His 2014 internationally best-selling book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, looked at economic inequality and the necessity of wealth taxes. His new book, more than a thousand pages long, is called Capital and Ideology. It’s been described as a manifesto for political change.

Thomas Piketty, welcome to Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: Well, it is a great honor to have you with us. Can you talk now about how this pandemic is likely to trigger the sharpest recession in the United States since the Great Depression, perhaps a depression? Can you talk about the long-term effects of the crisis, and perhaps what can be done to ameliorate it?

THOMAS PIKETTY: Right. So, you know, what I show in my new book, Capital and Ideology, is that this kind of crisis, very often in history, has a potential to change dominant views about what we should do about the economy, how we should organize our societies, the level of inequality.

So, you know, the first visible impact of the crisis is that we see the violence of social inequality. So, you know, people are not equal with respect to lockdowns. They are not equal with respect to joblessness, income loss. So, you know, you can see people who have a very small home or people who have no home, who are homeless, are in a very different situation than people who are locked down in their nice apartment or nice house.

And in terms of income support, you know, when you don’t have any wealth in saving and when you are in a very precarious labor market position, you lose your income resources very fast. And I should say that, you know, the unemployment benefit system in the U.S., in particular, is far too restrictive, and you have lots of workers who actually don’t have access to adequate income support. You have lots of people who don’t have access to housing.

And we’ve seen some of your reports, from just before, that it’s a service issue. You know, we should do more. And the U.S. government and governments around the world should do more about changing their view on what we do with housing, you know, getting urgent solutions for the people who don’t have proper housing, extending income support, making them over and beyond what we’ve been doing in the different countries.

And then we also need to start thinking about a different kind of recovery. We cannot just go business as usual with the same economic sectors again. I think it’s an opportunity to rethink about a different kind of recovery, you know, more green, more social and trying to reach a more equitable and more sustainable development model, because this is something we’ve been discussing for a long time, especially since the 2008 financial crisis. And I think, with the financing of this crisis, we are going to have to change our view about what’s a proper level of inequality in a society.

You know, we see today that all the ideologies against government action, in particular against public health systems and public investment in the hospitals, this discourse today, of course, looks very weak, given the reality of the situation. So, you know, I think this is likely to change. It has already been changed to some extent, but this needs to go much further than what we have done so far.

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