Why is the world’s richest country so unprepared?

The big question one must ask about the COVID-19 epidemic — which as of Jan. 2 has killed more than 1,850,000 people around the globe — is “Why was the United States so unprepared?”

 This is a highly developed and rich country. It has more than 600 billionaires, according to Forbes. It has the most expensive and powerful military on the planet — supposedly to defend the people. Yet way more people have died in the U.S. of the coronavirus — over 360,000 as of Jan. 3 — than in any other country in the world. 

Furthermore, this is not the first pandemic to have gone global, hitting the U.S. especially hard. Nor is it the worst.

The so-called Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 was more deadly. It is now thought to have started in Kansas, but due to WWI quickly spread to Europe and through the Western Hemisphere and then around the world. Before it was over, it had “infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide — about one-third of the planet’s population — and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans.” (tinyurl.com/yxnnex62)

Many of those killed by the virus in 1918, as the first global imperialist war was grinding to an end, were U.S. draftees living in packed barracks before being sent overseas. (A relative of this writer was eyewitness to that grim experience.)

It is now a full century later. In this time span, science and medicine have advanced enormously. The standard of living has risen in the United States; communications and transportation have leaped ahead. Government budgets at all levels have skyrocketed. And the population can be informed of new developments almost simultaneously via radio, television and the Internet. 

You might think that this new pandemic, less deadly than the one in 1918, would be quickly overcome. That the very large, modern and expensive medical system here would have been more than equal to the task. And that a plan would have, at the least, been discussed about what to do to prepare for the next pandemic.

But none of that has happened. The U.S. medical system is now in a crisis. The economy is a mess. Millions of people have lost income and are facing unemployment and loss of housing, all because of the virus. 

And, as always in this racist capitalist country, it is the poorest and most oppressed who are suffering the most. Hunger is growing, even as the stock market rewards the very rich.

Vaccine distribution bungled

Vaccines have been developed! They should be available now. But they are not getting to the people in a timely fashion. NPR reported on Jan. 3: “More than 4.2 million people have received the initial vaccination dose as of Saturday [Jan. 2], according to the CDC. That number is far below the government’s goal of having 20 million people in the U.S. vaccinated by the end of December.” 

The distribution of vaccines is not taking place on a federal level. There’s no plan. Instead, it is up to state and local governments to do the job. The billionaire gangster in the White House is focused on trying to overturn the election he lost.

Some states and cities are much poorer than others. Already it is clear that the people with money and political power are jumping the line to get their shots, even as many in frontline jobs most exposed to infection are passed over.

The prisons, where poor people are warehoused for “crimes of survival,” are hotbeds of the pandemic. But this makes headlines only when prison guards get infected. When will incarcerated workers get the vaccine?

Oppression breeds resistance. The suffering and tragedies unfolding today can arouse a higher level of awareness of the crimes committed by the powers that be and a greater struggle against the profit system itself.

Fighting for a free national health care system would be a good start! Dumping capitalism for socialism is the only solution. 

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