By Li Peng
The world was forced to press the “pause” button on its economic and social development as the coronavirus wreaking havoc everywhere. The COVID-19 has exposed the governments of all countries to a major test on their governance. Should the government first save its people or the market? In other words, which is more valuable, the people’s interests or the capital’s interests? It should not be a hard question but some governments have scored zero in this test by having a wrong priority list.
It is a universal and fundamental value that the people and their lives are of paramount importance. Every country should do its best to save lives from the coronavirus. China fought a tough battle against the COVID-19 pandemic for more than 100 days and won a phased victory. China’s success proves to the world that “early isolation and early treatment” holds the key to containing the spread of the virus. The US government did know this very well. A memo titled “U.S. Government Response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus” was placed on the desk of the decision-makers as early as February 14. The memo clearly suggested the government taking multiple “quarantine and isolation measures”, including significantly limiting public gatherings, cancellation of almost all sporting events, performances, and public and private meetings, and closing schools. The suggestions were immediately rejected because the decision-makers realized they would cause a crash of the stock market.
In addition to making half-hearted efforts on “early isolation and early treatment” at the beginning of the outbreak, the Trump administration was also bent on “reopening” the economy when the pandemic was still at its height across the country. It flooded trillions of US dollars and liquidity into the market and forced industries to resume work and production. Pr. Trump tweeted many times boasting about the backflow of manufacturing jobs, and threatened automakers such as Ford, BMW, and Toyota to move their factories from China to the US, all to sustain domestic economy at the cost of other countries.
It’s known to all that Corporate America’s large share buyback through piling up debts in recent years has caused substantial systemic risks. The policy of zero interest rate and unlimited quantitative easing adopted by the Fed is a wild gamble. It bets on the hope that government aid may keep the businesses running for two or four months until the pandemic is contained. Then work and production may be resumed, and the stock market will be fully recharged to ensure Trump’s reelection.
But the hope was too good to be true. The irrational and irresponsible actions of American leaders failed to contain the pandemic. These actions fully exposed the nature of the American system - capital comes first. Even with so many lives at risk, the mercenary nature of capitalism decided that Washington would be focused on protecting the interests of capitalists and few social elites rather than the welfare of ordinary Americans. Even worse, several Congressmen, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, were suspected of insider trading. They capitalized on their positions, learned about the risks of the pandemic and secretly dumped their stocks while deliberately downplaying the severity of the situation to the public, thus protecting their money before the stock plunge.
The pandemic basically ran amuck after Washington missed out on the “window” of controlling it, making economic recovery out of the question. In the end, it’s the people living at the bottom of the society and the disadvantaged groups that had to bear the brunt and pay the price. The high unemployment rate has pushed America’s working-class into a survival crisis. Official data show that 40.8 million people filed their first unemployment relief application from March 15 to May 23. The government presented a “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP), which, however, was exploited by some deep-pocketed conglomerates to secure massive loans. At the same time, small businesses and stores that relied on the program for survival could not get any help and had to lay off more employees. No wonder VOX reported that the easiest layoffs in this period are those getting minimum pay, such as those working in restaurants and retail stores. The fact that George Floyd died from a policeman’s chokehold over the alleged 20-buck fake money is a case in point that the working class has fallen prey to the government’s weak anti-pandemic measures.
As you sow, so you shall reap. The US, the self-claimed beacon of human rights, has no interest in saving lives but racks its brains to protect the stock market, only to find itself stuck in a helpless situation. It is now the epicenter of the pandemic, of the stock market disaster, and human rights violations. The concurrent outbreak of so many crises shows the world that America is incorrigible with its “American human rights” and lays bare its true color of “relentless capitalism”.