With a planless New Years’ Eve barrelling down on us, I’ve given in to retrospection—a messy business, especially after a year like this one. It was a bad one, quite likely among the worst of many Americans’ lifetimes. Every glimmer of good felt tempered by more bad (like the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine as the first case of a new strain appears in the U.S. and hospitals in Los Angeles County remain so swamped that they’re putting patients in gift shops). And yet, we must keep on (blogging). I present: A nonexhaustive list of this year’s winners and losers.
Perhaps the biggest winners this year: the extremely wealthy, who took a year of mass unemployment, long lines at food banks, and no significant expansion of healthcare coverage for the people who needed it most DURING A PANDEMIC and turned it into a ton of cold hard cash. The rich people who got richer because of their elected office: Sens. Kelly Loeffler, James Inhofe, and Dianne Feinstein! David Perdue! (Two of whom are on the ballot next week in Georgia, none of whom will face charges for their actions!) Then there’s Jeff Bezos, who’s closing out the year some $70 billion richer, Elon Musk, who raked in $110 billion, the CEO of Zoom, now among the 400 richest people in America, and the world’s other billionaires, who are now a staggering $2 trillion richer. If profiting off a year that left so many without their lives and their livelihoods doesn’t make you ill, I don’t know what to tell you.
This is a continuation of “rich people” but worth mentioning on its own. As it stands, the invention of COVID-19 vaccines in such a short period is a medical marvel. While Johnson & Johnson and the UK’s AstraZeneca have pledged to sell the vaccine at the lowest price possible to cover their costs, Moderna and Pfizer have not. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel became a billionaire all the way back in April. He’s now reportedly worth more than $5 billion. One final data point, before anyone gets all Silicon Valley on me, via CNBC:
Moderna separately said the deal for its vaccine, mRNA-1273, is worth $1.53 billion and will give the federal government the option to purchase up to 400 million additional doses. The U.S. has already invested $955 million in Moderna’s vaccine development, bringing its total investment up to $2.48 billion, the company said in a press release Tuesday.
Although the streaming juggernaut is publicly traded, it tends to cherry-pick what kind of streaming data is releases to the public, and the way it counts views is a bit muddled. But it’s undeniable that as an entire country tried to stay inside, it was a great year for streaming services. After a subscription surge, Netflix’s growth slowed in the third quarter, but it undeniably took a huge bite of the cultural pie. I’m mildly disturbed by how many Netflix original shows have come, become mini-sensations, and gone, among just the ones I watched: Queen’s Gambit, Emily in Paris, Love Island, The Circle, Love Is Blind, Selling Sunset, Tiger King, and Ratched. Was any of it good? Kind of, but in the same way that a Twinkie is good: low investment, cheap dopamine fix, slightly fattening.
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi
They remain simply useless and yet are still in power. Now that’s staying power!
The only nominee on this list I’ll fully endorse. Tay gifted us two excellent quar albums, folklore and evermore, which were thoughtful, quiet, and introspective. “‘Tis the Damn Season” indeed!!
As we’ve all stared at our phones trying to feel something, it’s been a breakout year for plenty of front-facing camera comedians on Instagram and other social media sites. So, so much has been written about them. Some are fine but now overexposed, most aren’t funny. I’ll leave it to you to guess who is who.
The American people
I’m far from a COVID conspiracy theorist, but this virus has been so uniquely damaging and uncontained in the United States that it couldn’t have been engineered to hurt Americans better. China is back at parties. New Zealand’s COVID death toll is 25. India has had 10 million cases and 150,000 virus deaths; for a country with a population of 1.4 billion, that makes its per capita infection and mortality rate among the lowest in the world. Meanwhile: Pick any number that reflects how the U.S. has responded to the pandemic, and see a story of willful ignorance, of needless, continuing suffering, of neighbors refusing to wear a mask to perhaps save the life of a stranger. It’s a dark tale that’s deeply reflective of our national values, and one we’ll be trying to reckon with for a long, long time.
This is a hard one. Over the holidays, I was talking to my dad about where “my people” on the left go next. It’s a question that many people have grappled with in the months since Bernie Sanders’ loss, and one that I’ve yet to hear a satisfying answer to. As such, I couldn’t answer him. Who’s our next big electoral hope? I don’t know. Do we anticipate becoming a more potent political force able to hold elected Democrats accountable? Now I’m getting even more depressed. What do we embrace if we shun electoral politics? If your answer involves the phrase “organize the community,” do not pass Go, do not collect $200. I’ll always believe in this project, but if we don’t own up to what the significant setback of Sanders’ losing means for anyone left of Pelosi, we’re doomed to keep losing.
Maybe this one is a bit wishful thinking, as QAnon adherents prepare to take their place in the next Congress, but there was something pleasing about watching MAGA heads (continue) losing their minds over their godhead losing the election by millions of votes. I considered putting Donald Trump himself in the losers column—he did, after all, lose big this year—but I feel sickly confident that he’ll be just fine after leaving office. I’ll be shocked if any of the legal challenges stemming from Trump’s business practices stick to him or his family. It feels more likely that we’ll see him on Newsmax or Fox Nation soon after leaving office, continuing to spew his toxic brand on nonsense just as long as he’s paid to do so.
See you next year!