Comments: Week of May 11, 2020

1 New York’s latest issue explored the ways in which the coronavirus is furthering economic inequality. On Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough praised the issue, saying that the virus “really has highlighted the great disparity between rich and poor: the two Americas that we’ve had for quite some time, but my gosh, if you just look at the death rates … this pandemic has really underlined it in ways that we can’t ignore.” In the opening essay, Zak Cheney-Rice argued that the inequalities exposed by the pandemic are actually flaws in America’s design (“Even Naked, America Cannot See Itself,” April 27–May 10). Katie Couric called it “an incredibly well-written, important piece.” @AnyaAscendant added, “Reading it I felt humbled, outraged, grateful, and to an extent ashamed that this crisis hasn’t affected me to the extent that it has people of color.” Mark Cullen, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, wrote to the magazine, “Congratulations to Zak Cheney-Rice for his searing glimpse at how the affluent have been spared from confronting the stark disparities in health risk exposed by COVID-19. I disagree only in one subtle way: willful blindness to health disparities is far from a novel feature of this plague. The coronavirus has attacked the US in the midst of a longer, deeper and even more dreadful disparity-inducing pandemic — that of chronic, non-communicable diseases — that has resulted in gaping social-class gradients in life expectancy and quality across society. Differences in rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease, disability and many cancers result in a vast difference in lifespan between counties.”

2 Anna Silman talked to five nannies about their experiences working during the pandemic (“Sheltering With Your Boss,” April 27–May 10). On Twitter, the stories inspired ire for some of the nannies’ employers. Evette Dionne, the editor of Bitch, called it “illuminating and absolutely awful. It’s so unbelievably cruel.” Readers also shared their own stories: @djb1109 tweeted, “My friend is a nanny. She showed up to work the other day to a kid with a fever and a dry cough. The parents didn’t warn her beforehand, and just left for work with masks on.” @akeirans wrote, “My niece is a nanny and had a similar situation. The father was sick and coughing and even lied to her that he didn’t have a fever. She saw the thermometer and told them she wasn’t coming back until he was tested. He harassed her & threatened her job if she didn’t come back.”

3 David Wallace-Wells spoke with Thomas Piketty about what the current crisis might do to global inequality (“In Conversation: Thomas Piketty,” April 27–May 10). Martine St-Victor said of the interview, “Not a feel-good read but a must-read, nonetheless. Thomas Piketty … gives us the cold shower we all need, including on the violence of the inequalities the pandemic highlights and his thoughts on the USMCA.” Burmese historian Thant Myint-U wrote, “Piketty’s absolutely right to be concerned about the impact of the pandemic on poor countries. In Burma, we have just a handful of coronavirus cases so far (partly because of very little testing), but all the ingredients for a catastrophe here already in place: the collapse of income from millions of migrant workers abroad, half a million otherwise impoverished garment workers set to lose their jobs, millions more near-destitute people, who will go hungry if a lockdown is attempted, one of the worst healthcare systems in the world, dozens of rebel armies and militias, a multi-billion-dollar narcotics industry, and the already severe impacts of climate change. If by a miracle, Burma escapes disaster, it’s also a place where the fresh thinking, about a new and radically different economic system — one that’s part of a fairer global economy — will be needed more than ever.”

4 Elsewhere in the issue, Matthew Schneier wrote about committing poetry to heart (“Now Is the Perfect Time to Memorize a Poem,” April 27–May 10). @pinkapothecary tweeted, “My heart is warmed reading this article. I too memorized the first 18 lines of Canterbury Tales in Middle English in high school, and find myself repeating the words to this day.” The New Yorker’s Helen Rosner called it “one of the most wonderful, devastating things I’ve read, in the current strangeness or ever. Sometimes you read something and you can just see the generations of people who will also read it, for decades and decades to come.”

5 In the “Look Book” (April 27–May 10), we visited NYU freshmen at home in their childhood bedrooms. One detail stuck out to reader Lisa Howorth: “Just opened my newest issue and am shocked — 4 of the article’s freshmen, all of whom are from big cities and smart enough to go to NYU, are wearing their shoes on their beds! I can practically see the cooties and hear their moms shrieking … As my 5-year-old Brooklyn grandgirl would say, ‘Ewww!’ ”

Correction: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made partner at Goldman Sachs in 1994. In “American Winner” (April 27–May 10), the year was misstated.

*This article appears in the May 11, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!


Comments: Week of May 11, 2020