JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon joins Ray Dalio, Mark Cuban, and other billionaires sounding the alarm on inequality in the US

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is the latest billionaire to speak out about inequality in the US during the coronavirus pandemic — joining the ranks of Ray Dalio, Mark Cuban, and others.

In a memo to stakeholders on Tuesday, Dimon said the coronavirus pandemic was “a wake-up call” for the country to address inequality. And he’s calling on government and business leaders to act.

“This crisis must serve as a wake-up call and a call to action for business and government to think, act, and invest for the common good and confront the structural obstacles that have inhibited inclusive economic growth for years,” Dimon wrote.

A number of business leaders have been vocal about the stark inequalities the pandemic has exposed. Mark Cuban, the billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner, has spoken out about income disparities in the US, joining Dalio in highlighting the issue. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is calling for paid sick leave and bereavement leave, and Melinda Gates is urging corporate leaders to prioritize childcare.

Here are the changes they’re highlighting. 

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon says the coronavirus pandemic shows that too many Americans are “living on the edge.”

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Getty/Win McNamee

Dimon said he hoped leaders would take the opportunity to build a more inclusive economy, which he defines as one where there is “widespread access to opportunity.” 

“The last few months have laid bare the reality that, even before the pandemic hit, far too many people were living on the edge. Unfortunately, low-income communities and people of color are being hit the hardest, exacerbating the health and economic inequities that were already unacceptably pronounced before the virus took over,” he wrote. 

For example, one in 10 black Americans in a recent Morning Consult poll said they personally knew someone who died from COVID-19. Almost 20% of black Americans in the survey said someone in their household had lost their job amid the crisis, Business Insider’s Eliza Relman reported. 

While Dimon did not mention any one particular issue or call for any specific change, he did say that the period during which the economy reopens is a time for big conversations on a variety of topics. 

“From the re-opening of small businesses to the rehiring of workers, let’s leverage this moment to think creatively about how we can mobilize to address so many issues that inhibit the creation of an inclusive economy and fray our social fabric,” he wrote. 

Bridgewater Associates founder and billionaire Ray Dalio says the American dream “does not exist” right now.

Ray Dalio. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Dalio, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, recently said in a virtual interview that America’s jarring inequality is a “national emergency” that is threatening capitalism.

He specifically called out income inequality in the US, as well as the disparity in education between the rich and poor.

“If you don’t have a situation where people have opportunity, you’re not only failing to tap all the potential that exists, which is uneconomic, you’re threatening the existence of the system, and I think that’s coming to home very clearly with the downturn in the economy with this virus,” he told the founder of Khan Academy, an education nonprofit that offers free courses on a variety of topics.

Dallas Mavericks owner and investor Mark Cuban is urging leaders to tackle income inequality.

Mark Cuban. Jin S. Lee

Cuban recently urged action around income inequality on Twitter.

“Whenever we get through this, we will look back and wonder why we didn’t use this as an opportunity to attack income inequality. Let’s not make that mistake. This is our chance to do the right thing and reward EVERYONE who contributes to the turnaround in the economy,” he wrote.

Many workers on the front lines, such as grocery-store workers, food-delivery workers, and factory workers make less than people who are receiving unemployment benefits from the US government.

For example, according to self-reported salary data from the careers website Glassdoor, a cashier at Walmart may make $10 per hour, which translates to a salary of about $20,800 per year. This does not include the company’s onetime hazard payment of $300 for full-time hourly associates and $150 for part-time hourly associates.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer and billionaire Sheryl Sandberg says the coronavirus pandemic underscores the need for paid sick leave and paid bereavement leave.

Sheryl Sandberg. AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Sandberg recently told Business Insider that the pandemic underscored the need for paid sick leave and bereavement leave.

“This is a full-on economic crisis. So we need full and effective support for families. And this is showing us that in America, we don’t have the support we need in the first place,” she said.

There is no federal regulation mandating paid sick leave for workers. The majority of corporations, 54%, provide between five and nine days paid sick leave per year, with 27% providing less than 5 days, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the coronavirus pandemic, people who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus are told to self-isolate for 14 days.

Workers need paid sick leave to adequately recover from the coronavirus, the exec said. They need time to tend to sick loved ones. And as the country grapples with a rising death toll, which now tops 90,000, workers who’ve lost a loved one need time off to grieve.

The US does not guarantee paid time off for any of these reasons. When it comes to bereavement leave, the national average most companies provide is three days for the death of an immediate family member, with many companies providing just one day, according to multiple human-resources experts.

Billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates says the pandemic shows the need for a new childcare system in the US.

Melinda Gates. Getty Images/Bryan Bedder

Gates is calling on leaders to address childcare in the US, which disproportionately falls on the backs of women. Research has shown that mothers perform about 60% of childcare: 7.2 hours per week for fathers versus 13.7 hours for mothers.

A recent Business Insider report said the pandemic was set to close 30% of US childcare centers for good, as many depend on daily enrollment fees that are no longer coming in. Economists said these potential closures could prove catastrophic for the careers of American women, who may drop out of the workforce to care for their children.

“I would say to business leaders, think about what you can do,” Gates told Politico. She suggested they have more flexible work hours and consider on-site childcare.

“You can make this happen,” she said.

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