Epidemiologists estimate 90 percent of the deaths in the U.S. from the first wave of Covid-19 might have been prevented had social distancing policies been put into effect two weeks earlier, on March 2.
No nation other than the U.S. 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.
In no other nation have experts in public health and emergency preparedness been pushed aside and replaced by political cronies like Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who in turn has been advised by Trump donors and Fox News celebrities.
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 percent of American adults have had to reduce their spending on food.
Elsewhere around the world, governments are providing generous income support. Not in the U.S.
At best, Americans have received one-time checks for $1,200, about a week’s worth of rent, groceries and utilities. Few are collecting unemployment benefits because unemployment offices are overwhelmed with claims.
Congress’s “payroll protection plan” has been a mess. Because funds have been distributed through financial institutions, banks have raked off money for themselves and rewarded their favored customers. Of the $350 billion originally intended for small businesses, $243.4 million has gone to large publicly held companies.
Meanwhile, the Treasury and the Fed are bailing out big corporations from the debts they accumulated in recent years to buy back their shares of stock.
Why is America so different from other advanced nations facing the same coronavirus threat? Why has everything gone so tragically wrong?
Some of it is due to Trump and his hapless and corrupt collection of grifters, buffoons, sycophants, lobbyists and relatives.
In other nations, unions have long pushed for safer working conditions and higher wages. But American workers are far less unionized than workers in other advanced economies. Only 6.4% of private-sector workers in America belong to a union, compared to more than 26% in Canada, 37% in Italy, 67% in Sweden, and 25% in Britain.
So who and what’s to blame for the worst avoidable loss of life in American history?
Partly, Donald Trump’s malfeasance.
But the calamity is also due to America’s longer-term failure to provide its people the basic support they need.