The tragic distinction

Robert Reich presents some blunt truths:

With 4.25% of the world population, America has the tragic distinction of accounting for about 30% of pandemic deaths so far.

And it is the only advanced nation where the death rate is still climbing. Three thousand deaths per day are anticipated by 1 June.

No other nation has loosened lockdowns and other social-distancing measures while deaths are increasing, as the US is now doing.

Much of this is because we’re not really an advanced nation, not in all senses. Technologically we’re hot shit, but socially and politically we’re a disaster.

We now know Donald Trump and his administration were told by public health experts in mid-January that immediate action was required to stop the spread of Covid-19. But according to Dr Anthony Fauci, “there was a lot of pushback”. Trump didn’t act until 16 March.

Epidemiologists estimate 90% of the deaths in the US from the first wave of Covid-19 might have been prevented had social distancing policies been put into effect two weeks earlier, on 2 March.

That’s a lot of premature deaths that are Trump’s doing.

And they’re Trump’s doing not even for any reason. It wouldn’t have cost him anything to pay attention to what the experts were telling him and do what needed to be done. He didn’t because…what? He got it into his flatulent head that paying attention to experts is a Democratic thing? He was too busy watching Fox and tweeting? He didn’t understand what the experts were telling him? He didn’t feel like it? What? Just sheer incompetence and stupidity and not giving a fuck, apparently.

No nation other than the US has left it to subordinate units of government – states and cities – to buy ventilators and personal protective equipment. In no other nation have such sub-governments been forced to bid against each another.

We like to be special.

In no other advanced nation has Covid-19 forced so many average citizens into poverty so quickly. The Urban Institute reports that more than 30% of American adults have had to reduce their spending on food.

Elsewhere around the world, governments are providing generous income support. Not in the US.

Oh but you see this is where we’re so clever. Having this massive impoverished underclass means the bosses can pay lousy wages for working in dangerous conditions. They get rich! They buy golf resorts and airplanes! It’s all worth it!

The coronavirus has been especially potent in the US because America is the only industrialized nation lacking universal healthcare. Many families have been reluctant to see doctors or check into emergency rooms for fear of racking up large bills.

That puts it too mildly though. It’s not “fear of” racking up huge bills – it’s certain knowledge that huge bills will be the result. There’s no element of chance here.

America is also the only one of 22 advanced nations failing to give all workers some form of paid sick leave. As a result, many American workers have remained on the job when they should have been home.

Adding to this is the skimpiness of unemployment benefits in America – providing less support in the first year of unemployment than those in any other advanced country.

American workplaces are also more dangerous. Even before Covid-19 ripped through meatpackers and warehouses, fatality rates were higher among American workers than European.

What I’m saying. Shit pay and protections, dangerous conditions, all so that a few people can amass more money than they know what to do with.

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