In the USA, Life Is Incredibly Cheap

America’s counterfactual leader, hands posed like pistols, telling it like it isn’t

W.J. Astore

The coronavirus has made one thing clear: life is incredibly cheap in the USA.  Or so it seems to our leaders, who are desperate to put America back to work by Easter in two weeks’ time, irrespective of the death toll that would result.  It’s all about getting back to “normal,” keeping the wheels of capitalism rolling along, and the profits rolling in for corporate America.

Capitalism is America’s true national religion, and money is our god.  Our leaders make decisions consistent with that belief system.  And, as Dorothy Day, the famous Catholic activist for the poor, said: “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”

Worth citing here is Caitlin Johnstone, who in a recent article noted how America’s response to COVID-19 illustrates the pathologies of market-driven capitalism and the politicians who so willingly serve it:

The corporate cronyism of America’s political system has been highlighted with a massive kleptocratic multitrillion-dollar corporate bailout of which actual Americans are only receiving a tiny fraction. Instead of putting that money toward paying people a living wage to stay home during a global pandemic, the overwhelming majority of the money is going to corporations while actual human beings receive a paltry $1,200 (which they won’t even be getting until May at the earliest) at a time of record-smashing unemployment.

America’s capitalism worship has been highlighted with Wall Street Journal headline “Dow Soars More Than 11% In Biggest One-Day Jump Since 1933” running at the exact same time as “Record Rise in Unemployment Claims Halts Historic Run of Job Growth — More than 3 million workers file for jobless benefits as coronavirus hits the economy“. Stocks are booming, Amazon is surging, and mountains of wealth are being transferred to sprawling megacorporations, while actual human beings are terrified of what the future holds.

Nice to know a few are profiting while so many worry, suffer, and die.  But should we be that surprised by how callous America’s leaders are?

I recall reading Daniel Ellsberg’s book on U.S. planning for nuclear war.  Sixty years ago, U.S. leaders were prepared to kill 600 million people (that’s not a typo) in their efforts to “win” the Cold War.  As I wrote about in December 2017:

U.S. nuclear war plans circa 1960 envisioned a simultaneous attack on the USSR and China that would generate 600 million deaths after six months.  As Daniel Ellsberg noted, that is 100 Holocausts.  This plan was to be used even if China hadn’t directly attacked the U.S., i.e. the USSR and China were lumped together as communist bad guys who had to be eliminated together in a general nuclear war.  Only one U.S. general present at the briefing objected to this idea: David M. Shoup, a Marine general and Medal of Honor winner, who also later objected to the Vietnam War.

Notoriously, General William Westmoreland once mused that “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner.  Life is plentiful.  Life is cheap in the Orient.”  That philosophy helped to justify massive killing of the Vietnamese people (perhaps as many as three million) in a futile quest to “win” the Vietnam War.

Thinking about Westmoreland’s musing in light of our government’s response to COVID-19, as well as past plans for “winning” a nuclear war and prevailing in Vietnam by killing everything that moved, one wonders about which value system truly esteems life.  It sure doesn’t seem to be the “Western” model as espoused by our leaders.

Bonus Lesson: In its daily send out, the New York Times had this article today: FACT CHECK: “Trump’s Baseless Claim That a Recession Would Be Deadlier Than the Coronavirus,” by LINDA QIU.  The opposite is more likely to be true, according to research and experts.

18 thoughts on “In the USA, Life Is Incredibly Cheap

  1. I fear we’re going to find out how truly cheap life is here.

    What happens as the supposedly munificent payout to the citizenry is already seen for what it is: chump change compared to the gifts to the crony capitalists? What happens when our citizens refuse to accept a replay of the 2008 bailout, as they see themselves being evicted from their homes with no affordable medical coverage for their children and themselves?

    What happens after the citizens realize the hope of a Democrat on white horse to save them turns out to be a dementia-addled corporatist, promoted by a corporate party, who aided and abetted in the very system that is destroying their health and lives?

    I shudder to think about where we’re headed and the government response.


  2. Trump’s response was entirely predictable, of course. Though he is an irrational individual, there is this logic in the Federal “rescue plan”: without employers operating their businesses, where will employees get their paychecks? Make no mistake, this disruption to the economy is unprecedented. The economy is collapsing faster than during the famed Great Depression, and the effects will cascade through the business world for some time to come. Does this mean recovery will happen quicker, the way the stockmarket frequently snaps back into bullish happy talk after a huge downdraft? This question can’t be answered, even by competent (in contrast to incumbent POTUS!) public officials. No one knows how long it will take for the current virus to die down, or whether it or a mutation thereof will bare its fangs again next Winter. Mortgage foreclosures and evictions have supposedly (!) been put on hold. The big wave will rise when the emergency is declared over, and folks don’t have the funds to catch up on their rent or mortgage payments (and how about auto loans?), because what money they had has been spent during the lockdown. “This Just In”: We were told the Dems in Congress had held out on approving the “fiscal stimulus” package (now awaiting Trump’s signature, or perhaps already signed as I type) until language was included that barred Trump from making personal gains from the package. But according to money.cnn today, there ARE provisions that will hugely benefit real estate corporations. Some publicly-traded such companies soared today, as the stockmarket on the whole sank. So, Trump likely will benefit after all, once he returns to being Private Citizen Trump. Which can’t happen soon enough, for a lot of us.


    1. Greg: I think the push to return to the status quo, and pronto, is partly due to fear, or at least concern, on the part of the rich and powerful that Americans may actually consider radical change if they have too much time on their hands. With all this “dead” time at home, maybe we’ll even begin to think, even to dream.

      Well, maybe not. But I can dream, can’t I?


      1. Yeah, you trippin’, baby!!…BTW, every time we think Trump can’t sink lower, he springs something on us. Now he’s warning governors to toady to him and Pence or their states may be on short end of the stick for further Fed. assistance! This goes “beyond the pale,” to use archaic language once again.


  3. The only thing missing from tRump’s threat is the head of a horse showing up in some governor’s bed.


  4. Today Michigan’s Governor is in the media saying that PPE Vendors have told her they were “instructed” by the Feds NOT to sell PPE to her state. This is beyond the pale.


    1. CNN online version had been reporting instances of shipments of medical gear destined for a given state being order “re-routed” to Fed. Gov’t. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing…IF there was a competent and compassionate central authority leading the response to this crisis. One of the “bigger IFs” of all time, huh?


      1. Not believing that Trump and his gang have suddenly become competent and are actually LEADING America. It’s 50 state Anarchy now. That’s his leadership style — chaos as all the heads and mouths fight and collide trying to kiss his ass. I’ve worked for a few of those in the Marines — ugly.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Agreed. Chaos is his thing. Something just flashed into my head: The scene in “Citizen Kane” where Kane goes berserk and smashes everything in the bedroom! The infantile response to not getting one’s way.


  5. To state the obvious, these are the words of a sociopathic gangster:

    TRUMP: “When they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA, it’s not right. I say, Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington. You’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan. You know what I say? If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”


    1. Such a statement of blatant malfeasance and dereliction of duty should be grounds for new impeachment proceeding. But, of course, this is America, so dream on…


      1. Yes. Too bad they can’t put a dunce cap on him and have him play by himself in a corner. He’s such a tiny, petulant, child.


        1. I was thinking more colorectal cancer over a few months. Or maybe one Secret Service agent on his detail takes one for America…..


  6. Good read see excerpts below (sorry it is long):

    The coronavirus is the worst intelligence failure in US history. The Trump administration’s unprecedented indifference, even willful neglect, forced a catastrophic strategic surprise on to the American people.

    Most leaders lack the discipline to do routine risk-based horizon scanning, and fewer still develop the requisite contingency plans. Even rarer is the leader who has the foresight to correctly identify the top threat far enough in advance to develop and implement those plans.

    Suffice it to say, the Trump administration has cumulatively failed, both in taking seriously the specific, repeated intelligence community warnings about a coronavirus outbreak and in vigorously pursuing the nationwide response initiatives commensurate with the predicted threat.

    Unlike past strategic surprises – Pearl Harbor, the Iranian revolution of 1979, or especially 9/11 – the current one was brought about by unprecedented indifference, even willful negligence.

    Alerts made little impact upon senior administration officials, who were undoubtedly influenced by President Donald Trump’s constant derision of the virus, which he began on 22 January: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

    By now, there are three painfully obvious observations about Trump’s leadership style that explain the worsening coronavirus pandemic that Americans now face. First, there is the fact that once he believes absolutely anything – no matter how poorly thought-out, ill-informed or inaccurate – he remains completely anchored to that initial impression or judgment.

    Second, Trump’s judgments are highly transmissible, infecting the thinking and behavior of nearly every official or adviser who comes in contact with the initial carrier. Unsurprisingly, the president surrounds himself with people who look, think and act like he does.

    And, third, the poor judgments soon contaminate all the policymaking arms of the federal government with almost no resistance or even reasonable questioning. Usually, federal agencies are led by those officials whom the White House believes are best able to implement policy. These officials have usually enjoyed some degree of autonomy; not under Trump.

    I might add another “intelligence failure” was the TET offensive of 1968. Even though the indications were apparent they were ignored in terms of it’s size. After all we were winning, Right. Light at the end of the tunnel.

    Perhaps another good example, Bush the Younger and his Iraq War 2. From the above: “third, the poor judgments soon contaminate all the policymaking arms of the federal government with almost no resistance or even reasonable questioning”. This is not surprising since the official or military person learns you do not try to swim upstream.

    For the Proles in our society who will suffer greatly, a quote from the book 1984 is a predictor. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”


    1. We are told that Trump’s approval rating in opinion polls is up significantly now. I have no doubt that this is because folks are expecting “free money” to be deposited in their bank accounts soon. Of course, $1200 a head–for those who actually receive this “largesse”–will not go all that far, rent and mortgage, etc., bills being what they are these days. Many employees are already laid off with zero benefits to carry them thru, at least until they can secure unemployment benefits. The biggest “joke” will be on the American consumer farther down the road when the tab comes due for this governmental “generosity”: the $US is being intentionally weakened (it had been soaring recently against other currencies) by printing of trillions of new units, which will greatly reduce its real-world purchasing power. Thus, consumer prices are going to SOAR. If you’re old enough to remember the price inflation of the 1970s, get ready for a rerun, on steroids. I can confidently make these predictions because, unlike the “stable genius” in charge, I know something about Economics!


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