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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/23/20

America is Exceptional in All the Wrong Ways

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From Robert Reich Blog

As our incompetent president flounders in the face of crises -- leading the worst coronavirus response in the industrialized world, and seeking to crush nationwide protests for black lives -- the hard truth about this country comes into focus: America is not exceptional, but it is the exception.

No other industrialized nation was as woefully unprepared for the pandemic as was the United States. With 4.25% of the world population, America has the tragic distinction of accounting for about 30% of pandemic deaths so far.

Why are we so different from other nations facing the same coronavirus threat? Why has everything gone so tragically wrong in America?

Part of it is Donald Trump.

He and his corrupt administration repeatedly ignored warnings from public health experts and national security officials throughout January and February, only acting on March 16th after the stock market tanked. Researchers estimate that nearly 36,000 deaths could have been prevented if the United States had implemented social distancing policies just one week earlier.

No other industrialized nation has so drastically skirted responsibility by leaving it to subordinate units of government -- states and cities -- to buy ventilators and personal protective equipment.

In no other industrialized nation have experts in public health and emergency preparedness been muzzled and replaced by political cronies like Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who in turn has been advised by campaign donors and Fox News.

In no other industrialized nation has Covid-19 so swiftly eviscerated the incomes of the working class. Around the world, governments are providing generous income support to keep their unemployment rates low. Not in the U.S. Nearly 40 million Americans have lost their jobs so far, and more than 30% of American adults have been forced to cut back on buying food and risk going hungry.

At best, Americans have received one-time checks for $1,200, about a week's worth of rent, groceries and utilities. After a massive backlog, people finally started collecting their expanded unemployment benefits -- just in time for the expansion to expire with little to no chance of being renewed.

In no other nation is there such chaos about reopening. While Europe is opening slowly and carefully, the U.S. is opening chaotically, each state on its own. Some are lifting restrictions overnight.

And not even a global pandemic can overshadow the racism embedded in this country's DNA. Even as black Americans are disproportionately dying from coronavirus, they have nonetheless been forced into the streets in an outpouring of grief and anger over decades of harsh policing and unjust killings.

As protests erupted across the country in response to more police killings of unarmed black Americans, the protesters have been met with even more police violence. Firing tear gas into crowds of predominantly black protesters, in the middle of a pandemic caused by a respiratory virus that is already disproportionately hurting black communities, is unconscionably cruel.

Indeed, a lot of the responsibility rests with Trump and his hapless and corrupt collection of grifters, buffoons, sycophants, lobbyists and relatives.

But the problems at the core of our broken system, laid bare by this pandemic, have been plaguing this country long before Trump came along.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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