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Inept Western Response to COVID-19 Will Result in Public Backlash: 1

March 22, 2020 23 comments

Initially, I considered making this the next post in my previous series about how the coronavirus pandemic will cause the most damage to USA. But upon further thinking, I realized that while the USA is going to suffer the most direct and indirect damage from this pandemic, so would most other western countries- if on a smaller scale. Then it hit me.. the most important reason behind why the western countries would suffer far more damage than east-Asian counterparts has a lot to do with differences in how government is structured (and works) in those two systems. The west, especially in past four decades, have become truly capitalist in that the needs and demands of those who have capital (corporations and very rich) supersede those of everybody else. In contrast, east-Asian countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan etc are not capitalist in the same way as western counties, because the demands and needs of society will frequently supersede those of their moneyed classes. Let me explain..

1] Initially, the provincial administration in Hubei tried to first minimize and then cover-up the impact of this outbreak, but failed. Once this became obvious, the central government in China just stepped in put and put incredible amounts of physical and monetary resources to control the outbreak. Most importantly, they did it without any concern to the cost of doing so or potential economic losses which their own moneyed class might suffer. To make a long story short, they put the welfare of majority above the needs and demands of their moneyed class. Their ability to marshal resources to get personal protective gear to affected areas, stop price gouging, maintain law and order, ensure people are fed and taken care of during the ensuing lockdown, remove affected people into quarantine, start dozens of clinical trials is very impressive. Most importantly, they let people who understood the problem (medical experts in infectious diseases) make all important decisions rather than let commercial interests and local capitalists hinder or dilute their recommendations for controlling the outbreak.

But they did not stop at just epidemiological measures to control this outbreak. Soon after the central government got involves, it ordered banks to stop collecting mortgage and loan payments and well as made sure that utilities stopped collecting bills. They made sure that people did not have to worry about pay rents or not having enough money for food and other necessities. To that end, they poured hundreds of billions (at least) into their economy to make sure that people kept getting paid even when they could not work due to being under lockdown. They went so far to make sure that food was regularly delivered to apartment buildings in areas under lock-down and that important functions such as garbage collection, food transport etc were not interrupted. My point is that the Chinese government did a lot to make sure that its own people (at least the majority) did not suffer from the consequences of not being able to work or move about freely when under lockdown because of the outbreak. To summarize, they did everything a competent government which cared for its own citizens would have done.

2] Now compare this to the shitshow currently playing out in western countries. First, they were delusional enough to believe that the outbreak would not spread to the west. This was also when their presstitutes were busy writing editorials about how China’s response was either too much, too little or otherwise “not correct”. They also spent the next two months doing almost nothing useful such as developing and distributing diagnostic tests etc. Then some of these idiots were spending time fantasizing about how this outbreak would destabilize China or Iran. Of course, China has never cared about what some idiots in declining western countries have been saying about them for decades. I remember how even two weeks ago, many credentialed losers in the field of biomedical research in west were busy writing editorials about how China’s approach to testing any drug which might have some therapeutic effect in those patients was a bad idea. We now know who was right, don’t we?

But it gets worse. When it became obvious that the virus had reached and was spreading in parts of northern Italy, governments in the EU were more concerned with potential losses suffered by their capitalist minority than the health of the majority. It does not take a genius to figure out that a sharp but brief shutdown of northern Italy along with a simultaneous massive increase in testing (perhaps with kits imported from South Korea) could have prevented much of the spread we are now seeing in Europe. While Italy, Spain and some other European countries have since implemented such socialist ideas such as freezing mortgage, utility, loan and in some cases rent payments, along with income support, it took them much longer than China to take these obvious steps. My point is that they could done this much earlier and with far better outcome, but a combination of magical racist thinking, obsession with interests of capitalist minority and general lack of competent people in their bureaucracies prevented them from making the right decisions at right time. But, at least, they are finally catching up with reality.

3] The response in USA has, thus far, been the biggest shitshow of them all. And let us be honest about something else- Trump’s contribution to this farce is minor, at best. Many features of the american system which contributed to this farcical response predate Trump, in many cases by a least a couple of decades. The current round of downsizing in public health institutions began under Obama- not unlike putting brown children in cages. Similarly, many governmental programs for developing drugs to treat emerging infectious diseases have been downsized for almost a decade now. Also, institutional sclerosis which prevents the government or companies from trying out new ideas under extreme circumstances has been a feature of biomedical research in USA for over two decades. We also cannot forget how concentrating research money into a few “prestigious” universities filled with mediocre credentialed but highly politically connected researchers has destroyed the quality of research in this country.

The response in USA to this pandemic has similarly been pathetic and comically inept. They have closed down the livelihood of over 100 million people (most of whom live paycheck to paycheck) without offering them prompt economic relief in the form of no-strings attached governmental money. They are still pretending that young people have the same risk of death from infection as boomers- something, which is going to backfire real soon. They are trying to bail out corporations without making sure that average people are bailed out first. They have offered no timeline for the return of normalcy. They have offered no hope to people in the form of of-label use of drugs which might reduce mortality in high-risk groups. Trump promoting Hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine + Azithromycin to reduce viral loads and thus mortality is the probably the only good thing that has come out of the government, so far. And ya.. there is enough evidence that these drugs have some therapeutic effect- especially if given early in course of disease.

In the next part, I will write about how the poorly thought out shutdowns in combination with inadequate income and other support for most people will likely cause epically bad public reactions all over USA in the next two weeks. And yes, I am willing to bet that the legislative critters in Washington DC won’t be able to get their shit together and pass something that will stave off the beginnings of widespread social unrest in about two weeks. FYI- two weeks is about the length of time most people in USA can go without a paycheck. Did I mention that public trust in institutions (governmental or private) has never recovered since global financial crisis of 2008.

What do you think? Comments?