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It may feel good that 2020 is over, but the first part of 2021 promises more of the same with the Covid virus still out of control. “Normality”—defined as we don’t need to worry about getting sick from the virus and can go to a bar or get on a crowded subway without a mask– remains months off and maybe not until year end. And then what? A sudden bounce-back to populated office buildings and vibrant crowds shopping in stores, booked hotels, and rising rents? Or has the pandemic accelerated uncomfortable paradigm shifts where there is no turning back from changes in how we live and work? Probably a mix of both.

Increased Debt and Poverty Over the past several decades, the economy has badly skewed into a dangerous imbalance favoring a minority of wealthier Americans, clouding a reality of growing poverty and an absence of financial security for a majority of the U.S. population who don’t have adequate savings and live paycheck to paycheck even when holding decent jobs. Millions of Americans may go back to work, but still be on the hook for missed rents, student loans, and credit card bills. And meanwhile, states and local governments face daunting budget gaps, which the federal government will be reluctant to fund given huge deficits. That could lead to layoffs of government workers and contractors. A V-shaped recovery for the few may not be shared by the many. And that could be an ongoing drag.

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