Capitalism at its worst: Let older Americans die!

Chamba SanchezBy Chamba SanchezApril 4, 2020

As the novel coronavirus rages, many business leaders are concerned, the U.S. economy is in free fall, and the rest of the world economy is sinking. Business leaders are scared as they seek ways to keep the economy alive.

Trillions of dollars have been wiped out of the stock market, people are staying in their homes, and they are not shopping. And, workers are laid off by the millions. The economy came to a grinding halt when the virus began to spread very rapidly. The challenges that this country and the world at large are facing are of biblical proportions.

It is argued by some economists, that containing the virus successfully and having no economy will make no sense. Having major economic problems will lead to worse health problems; these business people appear to be telling Trump. People in financial distress will “commit suicides.”  “We have to go back to work,” Trump told reporters.  What Trump might have tried to articulate in this media presentation was that he, as a leader, had the responsibility to conceptualize what are the potential costs of shutting down the economy.  Clearly, he believes that those costs are astronomical.

The premises of these questions in this conversation are rational and within the scope of what should be discussed by leaders in societies when they are facing tremendous challenges.  However, then stupidity emerged, and some people suggested the many older Americans or grandparents are disposable and that in the name of patriotism, they should sacrifice their lives “for keeping the America we all love for their grandchildren.”

Yes, it is the survival of the fittest. After all, older Americans are so vulnerable, and they will eventually get the virus and die. So what is the point of shutting down the economy and asking people to stay home to save them?  Moreover, these older folks will also add more stress to our healthcare system. They will put healthcare professionals at risk and will prolong this deadly virus from being contained, these appalling people are suggesting.

This is a grotesque conversation for sure; it reinforces all the evils about capitalism that socialists frequently denounce.  It appears that it has already been decided that this economy cannot be reopened in  “a virus-safe way.” At the core of this conversation is the major assumption that older Americans are the most vulnerable to this virus, and younger Americans are somehow safer.  This findings are still not conclusive. There have been reports that young people are dying too in this and other countries. We need to conduct more analyses and have more clarity as to who is at higher risk across the age spectrum.

A leading voice against the president’s comment was New York’s, Governor Andrew Cuomo.  People will always “choose pubic health over the economy.” Human life should always be more valuable than trying to boost our economic system. “Neither my mother nor your mother should be expendable; he told reporters.

A couple of weeks ago, President Trump point-blank said that he was gravely concerned about the economy being utterly destroyed by the coronavirus. He told a group of reporters that he was expecting people in this country to go back to normalcy by Easter. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15 days, we will decide as to which way we want to go,” he asserted.  Then, he answered questions from reporters, “The holiday would be a beautiful time to have packed churches, he told them.  It was the utter opposite of what doctors have been saying; doctors are asking people to avoid gathering in crowds during the pandemic.

Almost immediately, President Trump was mocked.  His comments were interpreted as he was asserting, “the sick will rise from their beds and the dead from their graves on Easter and they will run to the malls in this country and will shop until they get sick and die again. Since then, he has modified his position.

The President’s comments sparked a forceful debate among economists, health officials, and politicians, mostly governors who thought that it was insane to ask people to go back to normal.

Worrying about the economy at this point might very well be counterproductive and self-destructive, endeavoring to identify solutions to end this pandemic can be the best way to strengthening the foundation of our economy. Collectively this country is nowhere close in containing this pandemic.  It is not clear if the government truly knows the number of people infected.  Since not that many people have been tested for the lack of test kits.  We woefully lack the protective equipment needed for our health professionals, and yes, we need ventilators to save lives.

Rather than start extrapolating what the future holds for our economy, we should use the power of the market place and forcefully enforce the “The Defense Production Act.”  We should mass-produce ventilators, face-masks, gowns, gloves that are desperately needed in this crisis.

Our leaders should know that crises will not only take place but also understand that these crises will always have competing interests.  The challenge then becomes how do we protect the national interest or public interest at the same time trying to strike a balance among all the competing interests involved.

Public health officials want us to exercise social distancing, and those concerned about the economy want us to gather at malls and shop.  These two principles conflict and will require creative and visionary leadership to balance them. Trump does not know how to deal with this, and it is clear that his business background is driving his comments.

Who would have thought three months ago that our entire planet was going to be paralyzed by a virus? Both developed and underdeveloped countries have been walloped.

The latest numbers: “More than a million people have been diagnosed with the virus worldwide, as the death toll surpassed roughly 51,000 while about 208,000 patients recovered.”

Moreover, our leaders should prepare us for the next pandemic, so we do not have to lock down the entire country. If we are serious about defending this country, then more resources need to be appropriated to battle future plagues more effectively.  Otherwise, the whole planet will be brought to a halt every other five years by pandemics.

Our leaders should think ahead and proactively prepare this country to confront future epidemics and pandemics. Next time around, we should be ready for the worst-case scenario.  In hindsight, spending a couple of hundred billion dollars now looks like pocket change in light of all the trillions of dollars spent and the thousands of lives lost.

Finally, this pandemic is testing this country’s ability to manage resources to contain this virus while protecting the weakest and the poorest among us.  It is also testing its “competence” and its “compassion.” So far, the U.S. is miserably failing on these three fronts.

Thank you for reading.

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Photo Credit: Picture used in this piece was purchased from Bigstock.

Sources consulted.

Concha, Joe. “Glenn Beck: ‘I’d rather die’ from coronavirus ‘than kill the country’ from an economic shutdown.” thehill.com 25 March 2020.
Heffernan, Virginia. “Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom deliver the leadership and straight talk Trump won’t.” Los Angeles Times 26 March 2020.
Katz, David L. “Is Our Fight Against Coronavirus Worse Than the Disease?” The New York Times 20 March 2020.
Kim, Victoria. “Will we ever bounce back from social distancing?” Los Angeles Times 27 March 2020.
Megerian, Chris and Sarah D. Wire.  “Trump Warns of Hard Weeks Ahead.”  Los Angeles Times 1, April 2020.
O’Connor, Lydia. “Billionaires Want People Back At Work, Even If It Kills Them.” huffpost.com 25 March 2020.
Roberts, Chris. “Ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Calls On America to Return to Work ‘Within a Few Weeks.”  Observer.com 24 March 2020.
Schumpeter, Joseph A. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. 3d ed. 1942. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950.
Summers, Lawrence. Interview by Judy Woodruff. PBS-Newshour 26 March 2020. Television.

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