In this Nexus series, Jefferson experts discuss some of the most pressing issues surrounding the presidential election.
This article reflects the personal opinions of the faculty and does not reflect the views of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health.
Millions of people have lost their jobs since the pandemic began, and many are still struggling to regain their financial footing due to the impact of COVID-19.
One in four Americans have had trouble paying their bills, a third have used their savings or retirement funds, and roughly one in six have borrowed money from family or friends or needed a food bank, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center.
With Election Day less than three weeks away, The Nexus continues its coverage of some of the biggest issues that Americans face today.
We tackled healthcare earlier this year, and in this installment, we examine jobs and the economy. Climate change and policing and race relations will be covered in future installments, based on reader feedback.
COVID, of course, looms large this election season, but that’s not the only topic Jefferson experts say should be considered when heading to the polls. In their own words, here’s how faculty answered the question: What are the most important or pressing issues surrounding the economy and jobs for the 2020 presidential election?
Barbara Klinkhammer, Dean of the College of Architecture and the Built Environment
With every election, the people of the United States decide the path forward for the next four years. Few countries put so much executive power in the hands of the presidency, and as such, the individual elected—whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump—will set the agenda for the future of our country. In the middle of a raging pandemic, we have reached a moment of national crisis. We need a science-based handling of the pandemic at the national level; a quick and sustained economic recovery; and the creation of new jobs that have been lost due to COVID.
This could be the moment of opportunity for our country. Let’s not forget that the biggest threat facing humanity and our nation is climate change. There is an intrinsic connection between environment and economy. What is needed is a plan for a green economic recovery and clean energy production. Clean recovery and investment in future technologies and innovation will create high-quality middle-class U.S. jobs.
Dr. Teishan Latner, Professor of History
Economic inequality in America, which has now reached historic levels, is a source of significant social and political stress. Real wages for American workers have remained stagnant since the 1970s, while contemporary job growth occurs increasingly in the insecure “gig economy.”
As the COVID-19 crisis has revealed anew, inequality is racialized as a result of historical patterns of institutional racism, producing vastly unequal net worth, intergenerational mobility, life chances and health outcomes. The United States, remarkably, spends more on its military than the next 10 nations combined, is home to the wealthiest corporations and has the highest number of billionaires. Yet, it has no universal health system and has become the most unequal wealthy nation in the world.
Neither party has articulated a vision capable of solving the interlocking economic issues facing American voters. As Martin Luther King Jr. urged, to conquer what he called, “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism,” America must undergo a “radical revolution of values.”
Dr. D.K. Malhotra, Nydick Family Term Chair and Professor of Finance and Director of the Innovation MBA Program
Every country is facing a daunting challenge of coping with the pandemic and a mammoth task of adjusting to the new economic realities unleashed by COVID-19. With unemployment still hovering around 9%, the economy and jobs have become the centerpiece of this presidential election. COVID-related lockdowns and social-distancing measures brought economic activity to a complete halt and resulted in millions of Americans losing their jobs due to temporary and permanent business closures.
As the virus remains out of control, talk of recovery—and the type of recovery—is premature. The theory of a V-shaped recovery is already out the window. In fact, now we’re worried about a K-shaped recovery, which means economic recovery and job growth will be severely uneven and that will widen the wealth and income inequalities in the United States. As a result, the economy, jobs and the ability to lead in a crisis will continue to be the centerpiece of this presidential election.
Dr. Raju Parakkal, Professor of International Relations
At the moment, it’s a no-brainer that the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic implications form the No. 1 concern for both the presidential candidates. The major difference is in how they are going about it.
Some believe there is a direct trade-off between the economy and the fight against the pandemic. I believe that combating the health crisis would actually spur the real economy even faster to normal levels and with fewer COVID-19 fatalities.
A second pressing issue is to stop our trade wars with the rest of the world, especially China and Europe. A trade war typically represents a lose-lose situation, and we have been losing trade revenues and American jobs from the recent trade wars.
Dr. Philip Russel, Dean of the School of Business
While we’re entering this year’s election under unusual circumstances, the critical issues needing attention (indeed, reformation) have been simmering for a while. Chief among them is the wide disparity in access to basic and higher education, which has been amplified by the technology demands under the COVID-19 learning environment.
Public leaders and policymakers must collaborate with academia and the private sector to propose solutions to make quality education accessible for all. Such efforts also will help reduce communal tensions often rooted in economic inequality and lack of diversity intensified by our widening education access gap. It behooves us to combat the seemingly inexorable vicious cycle caused by our inequitable education system and create a future of equal education opportunity for the next generation.
Dr. Parviz Shamlou, Executive Director of the Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing
COVID-19 has taken a lot of oxygen out of the U.S. manufacturing sector. In the biopharmaceutical and biologics manufacturing, for example, the United States has been leading the rest of the world by a significant margin. Nearly 5 million people work either directly or indirectly in biomanufacturing here, contributing nearly $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy.
U.S. biomanufacturing remains at the center of the fight against COVID-19, whether it’s a vaccine, monoclonal antibody or both. Maintaining the nation’s lead in this highly regulated and specialized field in the current uncertain environment requires full commitment at the presidential level and investment in workforce development, innovation and research.
Dr. Les Sztandera, Professor of Computer Information Systems
The most important issues concerning the economy and jobs are to address college education and subsequent job openings. College continues to be viewed as an important investment in the student’s future. Federal, state and local government incentives should be encouraged and provided to support businesses and corporations that hire 2020 college graduates. As a token of appreciation for their resilience and professionalism, new grads should never walk alone in pursuing their dream jobs and contributing to the economy.