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Common Dreams - May 8, 2020

While a record 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs and one-third of people were unable to pay their rent or mortgage by the end of last month, the stock market in April enjoyed its strongest month since 1987—again supporting the common critique that Wall Street wealth is not the same as economic health. 

The stock market has long been President Donald Trump's favored measurement for the wellbeing of the country, but as the pro-wealth tax group Patriotic Millionaires wrote on Twitter Friday, "The stock market is not the economy."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged more than 300 points at opening Friday, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq continued to steadily climb from a low point in late March, when states across the country were imposing economic shutdowns.

The Dow also increased by 250 points right after the Labor Department released its May jobs report Friday, which showed an official unemployment rate of 14.7%, the highest since the Great Depression. Economists estimate that including people who lost their jobs in the last two weeks and people who have not filed for unemployment, the actual unemployment rate is likely higher than 20%. 

At New York magazine, Eric Levitz wrote that the incongruous response of Wall Street to the coronavirus pandemic while nearly one in five Americans are out of work is due to an economy which places corporate profits ahead of workers.

"Long before the pandemic hit, e-commerce was displacing retail, robots were replacing warehouse workers, and an erosion of labor's bargaining power was putting downward pressure on service-sector wages," wrote Levitz.

Amazon, for example, spends millions of dollars per year lobbying lawmakers to pass legislation that would make it easier to maximize its product-delivery abilities as cheaply as possible, pushing to extend the maximum length of trucks and for approval of autonomous delivery vehicles.  

"The companies most immune from the shuttering of public space and, to a lesser extent, from declining working-class purchasing power—capital-intensive technology firms—were already laying claim to an outsize share of the S&P 500 before the coronavirus hit our shores," Levitz wrote.

People who are able to invest heavily in the stock market as tens of millions of Americans are out of work, "in their view...haven't lost touch with reality—equity values simply no longer depend on the functioning of society," he added.

A number of progressives on social media wrote that Wall Street's performance amid the pandemic shows that the economy must be "fundamentally" changed into one that works for working families.

"This is what a rigged and corrupt economy looks like," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote. ...
See full report at Common Dreams