What might such “revolutionary” changes look like in our post-plague society? In the immediate future the monied classes in America will take a big hit, as their stock portfolios shrink, bothacquisitions and new IPOsget sidetracked and the value of their properties drop. But vast opportunities for tremendous profit available to those with the financial wherewithal to absorb the initial shocks and capitalize on the disruption they cause. As in 2016, politicians in both parties have worked hard in the new stimulus to get breaks for their wealthy constituents, whether they arebig retail chains,rich California taxpayers, or, in some cases,themselves.
Over time, the crisis is likely to further bolster the global oligarchal class. The wealthiest 1% already own as muchas 50%of the world’s assets, and according to a recent British parliamentary study, by 2030, will expand their share to two-thirds of the world’s wealth with the biggest gains overwhelmingly concentrated at the top 0.01%.
In an era defined by “social distancing,” with digital technology replacing the analog world, thetech companiesand their financial backers will prove the obvious winners. In a sign of what’s to come,tech stocks have already soared.
The biggest long-term winner of the stay-at-home trend may well beAmazon, which is hiring 100,000 new workers. But other digital industries will profit as well, including food delivery services, streaming entertainment services, telemedicine,biomedicine,cloud computing, and online education. The shift to remote work has created an enormous market for applications, which facilitate video conferencing and digital collaboration like Slack—the fastest growing business applicationon record—as well asGoogleHangouts, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. Other tech firms, such as Facebook, game makers like Activision Blizzard and online retailers like Chewy, suggestsMorgan Stanley, also can expect to see their stock prices soar as the pandemic fades and public acceptance of online commerce and at-home entertainment grows with enforced familiarity.
Growingcorporate concentrationin the technology sector, both in theUnited States and Europe, will enhance the power of these companies to dominate commerce and information flows. As we stare at our screens, we are evermore subject to manipulation by a handful of “platforms” that increasingly control the means of communication. Zoom, whosedaily traffic has boomed 535%over the past month, has been caught sharing data from its users with its clients widely, andwithout approval. Not surprisingly these platforms are mostwidely deployedin tech centers like the Bay Area, Seattle, and Salt Lake City as opposed to areas like Las Vegas , Tucson, or Miami where more jobs require close physical proximity.