While the coronavirus has affected all Americans, its pain has not been shared equally. The worst affected are the more than 167,000 victims of the pandemic and the more than 5 million infected who might endure the long-term effects of the crisis. Also hard hit are the more than 20 million people who have lost jobs in the economy's plunge, some of which will have vanished forever.
Other coronavirus "losers" are growing in number. Le Tote, which owns Lord and Taylor, and Tailored Brands, which owns Men's Wearhouse, have filed for bankruptcy, joining the more than 40 other retailers who have filed so far this year, reports Standard and Poors Global Market Intelligence. That list contains such retail icons as Neiman Marcus and the Gap. More retailers have gone bankrupt this year than in the past eight years.
There are, however, some surprising pandemic "winners," those who have benefited, some dramatically, from the pandemic sequestration. Consider pets. Never before have dogs, for instance, enjoyed such undivided attention from owners. Vet Success, which monitors the financial health of some 2,800 vet clinics across the nation, estimated that clinic revenues were up by 18 percent over last year.
Trupanion, a pet insurance provider, reported a 28 percent increase in second quarter revenues over last year, reports the New York Times. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recorded a 70 percent increase in animal adoptions in March over the same time period last year in New York City and Los Angeles.
Plus, applications for pets early in the pandemic rose 200 percent, the group told ABC News in April. Not all pets, of course, were thrilled by this. Trupanion, for instance, reported a 14 percent increase in cat urinary obstructions, often attributable to what one vet called "feline stress," or as she told the New York Times, "humans hanging around more than cats would like."
Other financial beneficiaries are the makers of masks and other protective gear, among them, 3M, Honeywell, and Prestige Ameritech. Mask orders alone rose from 45 million a month last year to 180 million a month this year, with orders expected to keep rising due to fears of a possible second virus spike this fall.
Amazon and its owner Jeff Bezos are also big winners. According to its most recent quarterly earnings report, Amazon's average shares have risen 90 percent since the pandemic's start. In July, Amazon posted earnings of $89 billion, up 40 percent from the same quarter last year, with profits far exceeding Wall Street's expectations of some $5 billion.
Bezos himself, estimated to be worth some $189 billion, will continue benefiting post-pandemic if his retailer giant remains the place for online shopping. Many new customers appear to have become addicted to the speed and efficiency of Amazon's user-friendly web site and speedy delivery. An indirect beneficiary of the Bezos boom is Blue Origins, his privately held space travel & exploration company. In 2017 Bezos vowed to spend $1 billion a year on Blue Origin. In August, he sold some $3 billion in Amazon stock, according to Geek Wire. While neither Amazon nor Blue Origin would comment, the space company is said to be getting a large chunk of those proceeds.
Netflix, too, has enjoyed spectacular growth in the pandemic, though it is mostly unreflected by the company's rocking stock price. In 2020's second quarter, the "Cadillac of Streaming" saw a 10.1 million surge in new customers, far more than the 7.5 million new viewers analysts predicted. Netflix, they say, will probably top out at some 300 million viewers.
Thanks partly to billions in subsidies from President Trump, desperate for a vaccine to boost his reelection prospects, Big Pharma is also betting heavily on becoming pandemic winners. In July, five leading biopharmaceutical executives told the House Energy and Commerce Committee they hoped that both the nation and their companies would benefit from their efforts to develop a safe, effective vaccine in record time. Only Astra Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson vowed to produce the vaccine at no profit. Merck, Pfizer and Moderna, by contrast, said they would not sell their product "at cost." That is, they expect to turn a profit from battling the coronavirus.
One of the pandemic's major results already seems clear: The pandemic is likely to make America's rich richer, and its poor far poorer. By rewarding the wealthy and further stressing the economically vulnerable, the pandemic is likely to accelerate not only the nation's growing concentration of economic power, but deepen the income inequality that has destroyed the American dream for so many. "If past pandemics are any guide," asserts an International Monetary Fund report in May, "the toll on poorer and vulnerable segments of society will be several times worse." The coronavirus may be novel, but its likely economic impact is far too predictable, and even more depressing.
Judith Miller is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a former reporter at the New York Times. Douglas Schoen is a political consultant who served as campaign adviser to Bill Clinton and Michael Bloomberg.