The pandemic response failure in the US is a capitalism failure
Many Americans are saying that the response to the global pandemic is the failure of president Trump and our government in general. While this is absolutely true, there is a much deeper truth. The pandemic response failure in the US is a capitalism failure.
It is sickly amusing how those who claim to be against big government, against government intervention are the ones most guilty of screaming that the government should be bailing them out. The ones who want business reopened want to do so why? Profit. They claim lives are being impacted by the shutdown. Why? Because people cannot afford rent, food, medicine, etc. That’s not the shutdown causing the problems. That is capitalism causing those problems.
Farmers destroyed crops because of capitalism. Animal agriculture businesses killed and buried millions of pigs and chickens because of capitalism. While food banks had the longest lines ever seen in US history and millions of families have reported food insecurity. Not because the food did not/does not exist. Because they do not have the money to buy the food. Or housing or medicine. The homes are there, the food is there, the medicine is there. These capitalists are fully willing to place millions of human lives at risk for what? Money. Even as we are being told there is some kind of recovery occurring, the number of people at risk continues to grow as more and more workers are laid off.
Almost without exception, those who claim the pandemic has caused the collapse of the economy still believe that the US economy was doing fine in 2019. Or doing better in 2016. The fact is, they paid absolutely no attention beyond their own immediate conditions and what corporate media has told them to believe. They still think that the economy would be humming along if not for this global illness. Many still think there will be a significant recovery in the near future. They still believe that lifting restrictions will accelerate a “return to normal”.
These are people oblivious to things that have been happening around them for many years. Occupy Wall Street in 2011. The fight for universal healthcare since 2008 (most noticeably). The Fight For 15 which began in 2016. Wages which have remained stagnant or declined since 2008. Auto manufacturers laying off tens of thousands in 2017 because vehicle sales have been declining since 2015 or earlier. Vehicle sales never truly recovered to pre-2008 levels. Student loan defaults at record levels since 2015. Rent prices increasing since 2009 to historic highs. Residential home sales have never recovered since 2009. Over 9600 retail outlet closures and over 200 trucking companies went out of business in 2019 alone. The fact that was highly public in 2019 that over half of Americans could not afford a $400 emergency without going further in debt.
The debt to GDP ratio has been over 100% every year since 2014. Estimated consumer debt was estimated to be over $14 trillion in 2019 and has been rising year upon year since 2014 or longer. Corporate debt stood at $17 trillion. Combined they equal $31 trillion on top of the $27 trillion national debt, making US debt total $58 trillion for 2019, before the pandemic ever caused a single disruption. This for a country with a GDP of $21 trillion. The US accounts for only 5% of the global population yet over 34% of global debt. The Federal Reserve began the bailout of the Repo market in Sept of 2019. These are not the signs of a healthy economy by any measure.
Corporations were already lining up to declare bankruptcy in even greater numbers than 2019 before the pandemic.
When we look at the slow response of our government to the pandemic compared to all other industrialized countries, the picture is clear that capitalism is to blame. When our government did respond, they did so not as other countries did, by subsidizing wages of workers. They subsidized corporations laying off millions of workers. Those workers lost not only wages but employer subsidized health insurance. We stand at over 30 million unemployed and adding another 800–900 thousand per week. The failure of Regal Cinema may mean as many as 45,000 jobs lost (not all in the US). Disney has announced over 28,000 layoffs, over 15,000 of which are in Florida. Amtrak plans layoffs of 2,400 workers. Airlines and hotels are laying off hundreds of thousands more than have been laid off so far. United Airlines announced layoffs of 1,900 workers from a single airport in PA. At least 60% of businesses that have closed this year are now permanent, according to Yelp. Every single bank you can name is laying off workers.
Through all of this, the stock market has mostly kept going and recently even increasing. The specific entities listed in the top 500 have changed, though that makes no real difference. Over 200 people globally have climbed to billionaire status in 2020. The top 50 wealthiest Americans now have more wealth than the bottom 165 million people, a full 50% of the US population.
No, it is not the pandemic which places people at risk or causes suffering for those who are not ill. The pandemic will not throw you out of your home, repossess your vehicle, cause you to be malnourished or leave you without insulin and heart medication. The pandemic will not force you to choose between low wages or crushing debt to pay for a higher education. The pandemic will not call you a failure and impact your self esteem because you lack money. All of these problems are because of capitalism. All of these problems existed as very real dangers for millions of Americans for many years before the pandemic. All the pandemic has done is make these threats a reality for a vast and growing percentage of the population.
A system which fails the people living under that system is a failure by design. Any system which fails the majority of people under that system should be abolished.
The only way our system is going to change is if enough people in this country suffer enough to demand different. To demand different, the change has to come first and foremost with ourselves. If we do not demand different, it is we who fail ourselves. We fail ourselves, each other, our children and their children.