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.