GUSTAVO FLORES-MACIAS: My name is Gustavo Flores-Macias. I'm on the faculty in the government department. I'm an associate professor there. And I'm also serving as Associate Vice Provost for International Affairs at Cornell. In a way, we've watched this movie before with the 2008-2009 global recession. It's just that that movie was playing out very slowly. And we have a little bit of a compressed movie here. Everything is just exploding.
So we don't know exactly what the consequences will be in terms of poverty. But we know that back then in the '08-'09 recession, millions of people fell below the poverty line. And we can expect the same to happen this time around. So we will see a country that is much poorer on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis.
Regarding inequality, inequality will be affected incredibly by COVID-19. We know that this blow will be much harsher, much more severe for some sectors of the population, for the poorer echelons of society. And we know that inequality had been growing over time in the US even before the crisis.
And the 2008-2009 recession did exactly what I'm describing. The poorer sectors of society had a very hard time bouncing back. And it took the country many, many years, about a decade, to get back to where it was before that crisis. And we can expect the same to happen but probably much worse. So on the other side of COVID-19, we're likely to see a much poorer country in terms of more population, more people below the poverty line, and a much more unequal society.
I think in the field of political science, everybody right now is thinking about the political, economic, social consequences of the pandemic. If one, for example, is studying civil military relations, now people are thinking with the militaries coming in to, say, enforce the lockdowns in many, many countries, what does that do for civil military relations? Are militaries here to stay?
Are people more likely to want the involvement of militaries? And this is just one example out of many in which COVID has touched so many aspects of life that we'll see people just obsessed. You know, in the courses that we're teaching right now, it is hard not to relate to COVID on every possible topic.
I teach a course on inference. And this course helps students come up with researcher science that help them uncover relations of causality, so what is causing something else. And the COVID experience has been amazing in terms of the challenges for inference and how to know-- how do we know that let's say a vaccine might be working? How do we know that a particular public policy may be helping?
And these types of things are, I think, just very interesting when we are able to relate to COVID. And students can understand just firsthand what is going on. And I think that this is going to stay with us for quite a while.
I think that the pandemic, at least personally, has brought out so many wonderful things about people. And it's been an opportunity to maybe reflect on-- you pause and reflect on how we relate to others and the things that we miss about these interactions in person. I have been amazed by how resourceful people have been-- students, faculty. But it has definitely been very challenging.
I think this pandemic, in a way, has both highlighted the fragility of just human life and society on the one hand, but also, for me, it has highlighted the importance of looking for solutions that are more-- I don't know if global is the right term, but solutions that require even more collaboration across borders and not less, sort of this trend of retrenchment toward national identities and building walls.
I think what we need is exactly the opposite. We need just more cooperation, and more reaching across and seeing what other people are doing, how can we help tackle these global challenges. And COVID has really highlighted that for me very personally.
I just want to encourage people to stay positive, and stay focused, and know that these crises tend to make society more resilient. And I think that's something that I personally take solace in and look forward to seeing what society might be like on the other side.
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Cornell University political scientist Gustavo A. Flores-Macías compares the economic consequences of COVID-19 to the 2008-09 recession. The pandemic, he says, will result in a poorer and more unequal U.S. society, and highlights the importance of solutions that require collaboration across borders. Flores-Macías is associate professor of government in the College of Arts and Sciences, and associate vice provost for international affairs. His research focuses on the politics of economic reform and on taxation and state capacity.