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November 26, 2020

A deliberate disaster

Opinion

November 26, 2020

With nearly 12 million cases and a quarter million deaths in the US so far (over 55 million cases and 1.3 million deaths world-wide), the COVID 19 pandemic is ravaging civilization. The disease is on track to be the deadliest epidemic since 1918.

The economic fallout for the working class has been severe. In the US, unemployment has skyrocketed, with 45.4 million new unemployment claims since March 14. At least 1/6 of those with jobs before the pandemic are now out of work. According to The New York Times, “The economic downturn is shaping up to be particularly devastating for renters, who are more likely to be lower-income and work hourly jobs cut during the pandemic.” As many as 40 million, or up to 43 percent of renters, may be facing eviction by the end of the year.

Breadlines not seen for generations now stretch for miles. Tens of thousands of small businesses have closed; millions more are threatened and may not survive. Strikingly, all of this was completely avoidable.

To begin with, the atrocious COVID 19 infection and death totals in the US could have been orders of magnitude smaller. How do we know? Because China, with more than four times the US population has had 1/50th as many fatalities! (86,398 cases and 4,634 deaths.) Blame for the failed US response is shared by the President, Congress, both political parties and many corporate conglomerates. How China spectacularly outdid the US and Europe in controlling their COVID outbreak – allowing Chinese citizens to attend work and school and enjoy restaurants, theaters, sporting events and pool parties while the US continues to languish under lockdown – is a story for another time.

The question for now is this: in the midst of a raging pandemic, was immense economic hardship and disruption necessary?

The answer is a resounding no.

Five basic measures could have prevented – and still could greatly mitigate – the Covid economic nightmare in the US. First, full, no-cost healthcare for everyone while the pandemic lasts. This should cover all healthcare needs, not just Covid-19 related care. No one should need to delay seeking care for any reason during a pandemic. Arguably, such universal care is a right that ought to be available whether or not there’s a global health emergency, but that broader debate can be deferred. Meanwhile denying free, universal care during a pandemic is self-defeating.

Excerpted: ‘COVID

Economy: A Deliberate Disaster’

Counterpunch.org