Weeks from now my final project will have come into fruition and my paper will be submitted, hopefully fully answering the question, or at least as well as I can – Did COVID-19 and the consequential economic policies in the United States exacerbate existing trends in income or wealth inequality? The answer to this question should ultimately relay the truths about economic differences in the country right now as well as investigating the gains and losses different groups of Americans have made during the pandemic. But looking back in the future how would this answer hold up?
If I’m looking at this question in the near future in 2024, the answer to this question can provide a lot of insight into the performance and effectiveness of the winner of this presidential election. It has only been four years of President Trump yet income inequality has still skyrocketed in such a short time, this means that the four years between 2020 and 2024 will provide more evidence into existing trends. If by 2024 income inequality has decreased that means the president created successful economic policies that aided the majority of Americans, increasing their wages or just their aggregate amount of wealth. This would provide even more information, especially when used in comparison to the policies of President Trump during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, what if it’s 2050? By this time the world will be drastically different. It’ll be a drastic change from the present day as the consequences of climate change batter the world as well as decades of differing U.S presidents. Here people will look back at 2020, a defining year in U.S history that has been seared into the memory of almost everyone and reflect upon the change that has taken place. If income inequality has decreased, how? Is it because America has started becoming more class conscious? Have they been voting for candidates who will focus on taxation and government support? Will it be similar to the days prior to Reagan where cultural politics weren’t at the forefront of everyone’s mind? These are just a series of questions that will allow oneself to explore the realities of 2050 and reflect on what has happened.
Lastly what about the year 3020? A full one thousand years from now. The historian in me will suggest that if I were there, reflecting on 2020 would be entirely different because the prior dates mentioned were all ones where the majority of people experienced 2020 but a thousand years later this won’t be the case. Here, everyone will be utterly disconnected from that past, so when someone reads about the history of now they will see it as a story without relation, one that is full of statistics and ‘logical’ events. It’ll be the same as one of us reading about Justinian, his conquests and plague, or The Year of 5 Emperors in Roman history. They’ll look back and see these moments as small unimportant blurbs while we today would disagree. There is just such an utter disconnect between these two time periods, now and the future, that if a grad student were to answer my question for a thesis in 3020, it would appear utterly ridiculous, too nuanced, and just oddly specific.
Time really makes and creates barriers. As time moves forward, those with connections to the past fade away, leaving history to be nothing more than a story after its elements of relatability and human experience wither away.