Guest submission by Nico Fischer
Coronavirus has devastated communities around the United States. Nearly 500,000 people have died, and millions have fallen into unemployment while small-businesses close at record numbers. Communities of color are some of the hardest hit. African-Americans are almost 3 times more likely to contract COVID-19. Despite the clear and devastating consequences of this pandemic, the American government has been slow to react.
One of the last major events to cause mass casualties in the United States was the 9/11 terrorist attack. This attack led to around 3,000 people killed in a single day. The US government was quick to react, launching the “War on Terror” (which has cost taxpayers over 6 trillion dollars). The government even created an entirely new department of the federal government: the Department of Homeland Security.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, Congress passed the Patriot Act, which allowed for mass surveillance of Americans, claiming that it was needed to stop terrorism. They sent millions of troops to the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, where hundreds of thousands were killed in the name of “freedom”.
9/11 was a moment where it seemed like all of America was united. The public was engaged, news outlets were publicizing the horrors of terrorism, and the political class felt affected. Huge amounts of resources and human labor were devoted to a single thing. After all, according to politicians, this was all for the safety and well-being of the public, and to make sure that there wouldn’t be another attack.
20 years later, we know that a lot of the response’s justification was outright lies and that the attack was used as a reason to wage wars that the military was already keen on fighting. But it begs the question, 9/11 killed only several thousand, while the Covid-19 pandemic has killed thousands daily for over almost a year and the death of 500,000 Americans. Why hasn’t America mobilized to fight a disease which is a clear danger to the public?
The answer is that the US ruling class has allowed Covid-19 to rage through the population because they favor corporate profits over human life. Most politicians have shown that their loyalties lie with the same group.
When hospitalization and death rates have gotten high enough to harm the economy, they’ve implemented simple mask-wearing measures or short lockdowns. But any serious attempts to bring transmission under control have been abandoned under the pretext that profit is more important.
The United States is the richest country in the world, yet has had one of the worst outcomes in the pandemic. The huge amount of resources at America’s disposal has mostly not been put to use in helping Americans (except when it comes to giving corporations gigantic stimulus checks). A 2,000 dollar stimulus check, while immensely popular with the American public, has not been issued.
Unlike 9/11, a rational, complete response to the pandemic would involve spending huge sums of money on the people, while the rich have spent decades cutting spending in that area. If they were to spend billions to protect the livelihood of the people, it would raise a question: why can’t this be the norm, instead of the trillions spent on war and corporate tax-cuts?
Though they may try, the elite cannot use the pandemic as a reason for war or tax-cuts. And try as they may, they can’t credibly blame China or any other foreign group. While hospitals overflow and a record number of people are dying, the blame should largely be placed on the actions of the elite, or lack thereof.
Currently, it seems like the response of the elite is to hope that the vaccines will put an end to all of this. And, the vaccines may very well do just that. But this could’ve all been avoided if the ruling-class had put human life before profit.