Thu, 07 Jul 2022

Washington's dilemma in dealing with COVID-19

Xinhua
19 Jan 2022, 02:19 GMT+10

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"The United States today is, once again, headed for civil war, and, once again, it cannot bear to face it. The political problems are both structural and immediate, the crisis both longstanding and accelerating. The American political system has become so overwhelmed by anger that even the most basic tasks of government are increasingly impossible," said Stephen Marche, author of the book "The Next Civil War."

by Xinhua writer Sun Yi

BEIJING, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has recorded over 65 million confirmed cases and 850,000 related deaths, both ranking the first in the world, according to statistics released by Johns Hopkins University on Monday.

In a country considered the most developed in the world with a leading health care system, the government's botched COVID-19 response is yet another testament to the dysfunction of U.S. democracy.


DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM IN TROUBLE AGAIN

In an article published on Jan. 4 on the website of The Guardian newspaper, Stephen Marche, author of the book "The Next Civil War," warned that the next U.S. civil war is already here -- "we just refuse to see it."

"The United States today is, once again, headed for civil war, and, once again, it cannot bear to face it. The political problems are both structural and immediate, the crisis both longstanding and accelerating. The American political system has become so overwhelmed by anger that even the most basic tasks of government are increasingly impossible," said Marche.

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"The legal system grows less legitimate by the day. Trust in government at all levels is in freefall, or, like Congress, with approval ratings hovering around 20 percent, cannot fall any lower," he added.

"Right now, elected sheriffs openly promote resistance to federal authority. Right now, militias train and arm themselves in preparation for the fall of the Republic. Right now, doctrines of a radical, unachievable, messianic freedom spread across the internet, on talk radio, on cable television, in the malls," he added.

"Under such conditions, party politics have become mostly a distraction. The parties and the people in the parties no longer matter much, one way or the other. Blaming one side or the other offers a perverse species of hope," he noted.

Last year, after the Delta variant caused a new wave of outbreaks in the southern states, home to low vaccination rates, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a vaccine injunction, originally scheduled to be implemented from Jan. 4 this year. However, a number of Republican-run state governments took the issue to court and halted the mandate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about the U.S. political system. A December poll last year by Schoen Cooperman Research found that a majority of Americans now believe democracy in the United State is in danger of disappearing, with those aged 18 to 29 expressing the most concern.


"ENTROPY OF CONSTRAINT" INCREASES IN U.S.

"Entropy" is originally a physical concept, which represents the disorder or randomness of a system. The higher the entropy, the more chaotic it is. How to bolster the "Entropy Reduction Mechanism" for all parties to better coordinate and eliminate buck-passing is a major issue facing many governments. Clearly, the U.S. government must reduce its entropy.

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"The pandemic has proved to be a nearly two-year stress test that the United States flunked, with an already distrustful populace exposed to a level of institutional failure that added fuel to the angry battles over how to respond," said Zeynep Tufekci, an opinion columnist, in an article in The New York Times.

The United States is "bankrupt" in trust as its people have lost confidence during the pandemic, the columnist said, citing Martin Cetron, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention veteran of battles against Ebola in Africa.

"America's pandemic playbook assumed the U.S. could take collective action. The country proved that wrong," correspondent German Lopez wrote in a story posted on news website Vox.

"Whenever collective action is called for, Americans don't do it -- or, at the very least, don't do it sufficiently. America is too politicized, fractured, and, above all, individualistic for a collective move to save it," said Lopez.

"America's federalist structure also makes collective action, handed down from the federal level, extremely difficult. That's the context in which one very loud politician or a handful of contrarian states have managed to throw the collective project into chaos over the last year and a half," he said.

With the absence of a national strategy at the federal level, states and cities were largely left on their own in battling the pandemic in a disjointed, piecemeal fashion, which proved to be woefully inadequate.

As of Saturday, nearly 40 percent of the population in the United States is still not fully vaccinated.

Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean of the Emory School of Medicine and Grady Health System in Georgia, told Xinhua last month that the main reasons for the recent surge were increasing transmissibility of new variants, seasonality of the pandemic which sees the number of cases increasing in colder weather, and the number of unvaccinated.

"Mandates are important to get more people vaccinated," del Rio told Xinhua. "Getting more people vaccinated through mandates and requirements, providing boosting and making rapid testing readily available are the priorities," he said.

"A more united front (to fight the pandemic) would be very nice. Unfortunately the politicization of the pandemic has been an issue from the start and will continue to be so," del Rio noted.


INTENSIFIED SOCIAL FRAGMENTATION

When a pandemic raging, should the government save the people or save the market first? Which is more important, pandemic prevention and control or economic recovery? These are two must-answer questions in the global fight against COVID-19.

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For the United States, protecting the economy is more important than saving lives and saving the stock market is more important than ending the epidemic, clearly exposing the selfish nature of capitalism.

Neoliberalism advocates laissez-faire market economy. In the past decades, American economic governance has been deeply influenced by neoliberalism, and the decline of people's livelihoods in the "Rust Belt" region and the prosperity of Wall Street have become the epitome of social imbalance.

In this regard, American economist Heather Boushey said that to completely transform the American economy, policymakers should understand that the market cannot play the role of government.

Most medical institutions and medical insurance companies in the United States are privately owned, and the cost of medical care is high. About 25 million people belonging to vulnerable groups cannot afford insurance. Many infected people become sources of infection themselves because of the difficulty of securing timely treatment, thus accelerating the spread of the virus.

According to the CDC, Hispanics have twice the risk of contracting COVID-19 and 2.3 times the risk of dying from the virus compared to Whites. Native Americans and African Americans are also at higher risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19 than Whites.

While low-income groups are under the pressure of unemployment, poverty and high infection risk, from March 2020 to January 2021 the total wealth of more than 600 American billionaires increased from about 2.947 trillion U.S. dollars to 4.085 trillion, an increase of 38.6 percent, all thanks to the generous financial rescue aid of the U.S. government.

In addition, some politicians have taken advantage of anti-intellectual and populist sentiments in the United States to spread anti-science rhetoric in an attempt to deflect blame for the government's failure to contain the virus.

"The fact that the United States fared so poorly ... is a profound sign of how decayed our institutions and capacity have become," said opinion writer Tufekci.

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