The impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States and the resulting recession is best understood in the context of what has happened to the U.S. economy over the past 40 years. These four decades marked a period of growing economic inequality and slower growth that left the economy and our workers and families more vulnerable to economic shocks.

Prior to 1980, when our economy grew, the benefits were distributed fairly equally. But beginning in the 1980s, policy-makers began worshiping at the altar of markets, forsaking the government’s role in ensuring economic progress. The result? …


The continuing gallop of the coronavirus pandemic across cities and towns, suburbia and exurbia, and rural communities throughout the United States ensures our economy will not soon escape the ongoing coronavirus recession. But the ways in which the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, afflict some people in our nation more than others would seem to indicate this particular recession will be unlike any previous ones in our history in terms of the spark that set it off — a pandemic — and the public health measures required for an eventual economic recovery.

These are hardly the…


As small businesses across the United States fight to survive the coronavirus recession, and all too many succumb to the extraordinary pressures they are facing, we can see the continuing impact as millions of workers continue to file for unemployment insurance benefits. These small businesses are the lifeblood of their communities, and they are critical to the U.S. economy, employing nearly one-half of those who work in the private sector and providing the dynamism — the continual creation of new businesses — that is vital to productivity and sustained economic growth.

The importance of small businesses is one of the…


The voices of protesters on the streets of cities and towns across the United States over the past few weeks reverberate a message Black Americans have spoken out about for generations: They cannot trust and have never been able to trust government to act on their behalf, whether it’s addressing police and state-sponsored violence, a deadly disease, economic inequality, or the day-to-day racism that presses on them throughout their lives. In short, our public institutions have failed Black Americans.

These failures of our institutions of governance pose a fundamental challenge to our nation. In order to have an economy where…


On March 25, 1911, 146 workers were trapped and killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in New York City. More than a century later, the same callousness that led the owners of that company to lock exits and risk workers’ lives reverberates again across our nation. Millions of workers are returning to work with inadequate or nonexistent protections from a deadly virus that has already killed nearly 100,000 people in the United States.

It is no coincidence that a disproportionate number of the essential workers required to be in their workplaces and highly exposed to the coronavirus — healthcare…


The answer is we need to measure it. Here’s how.

This week, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) unveiled a new, comprehensive coronavirus relief bill. It is the first and only of such relief packages that would effectively measure how low- and middle-income families are faring amidst the crisis and beyond.

This provision would support efforts by the federal government to determine how gains — or, in today’s stark reality, losses — are distributed up and down the income ladder. That matters because it’s the only real way we can measure the success of whether the relief packages Congress enacts are actually working.

The measure is…


As millions of Americans feel the pain of the coronavirus and the unavoidable coronavirus recession, we need to focus on more than just our short-term priorities — defeating the virus and limiting the exposure and economic damage to workers and families. We also need to think about how we restore the economy, end the inequities and instability laid bare by the pandemic, and create a path forward for strong, stable, and broad-based economic growth.

The role played by economic and racial inequality in who has lost their jobs, who has been most exposed to the virus in the workplace, and…


Government officials at all levels in the United States are increasingly, almost frantically, calling for a robust testing system with the twin goals of containing the coronavirus pandemic and reopening the economy. Some states, such as Massachusetts, have been ahead of the curve, employing an extensive “track and trace” system. Our economy cannot recover without restoring the public’s confidence that the spread of the coronavirus has been contained and will not surge anew in the weeks and months ahead before scientists develop an effective vaccine.

Contact tracing, or track and trace, is a system that keeps track of individuals who…


This piece originally ran in The American Prospect on April 6, 2020 as part of an economists roundtable on the coronavirus crisis.

The coronavirus is, above all, a public-health crisis, and the economic impact could be devastating. But before any of us even heard of COVID-19, our society and economy suffered from deeply-ingrained problems, starting with economic inequality, which this crisis will undoubtedly exacerbate. The need for substantially increased public spending and investment will not diminish once the public-health crisis fades.

What will diminish is the broad political consensus that made possible the recently approved $2.2 trillion burst of federal…


Spoiler alert: This recession will be deeper and more protracted unless we take action now.

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that economists shouldn’t make predictions, as we’re notoriously bad at it.

There — now that that’s out of the way — I am about to make five predictions about our economy over the next year.

The economic model of allowing economic inequality to fester has failed, and I believe next year we will all be able to see why this is true. I’ve worked side by side with some of the best economists and social scientists over the past 6 years, and these predictions are informed by that work.

Prediction 1. The economic…

Heather Boushey

I’m president & CEO and co-founder of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

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