Going ahead, how do you see the real estate sector performing? It’s been five years since demonetisation happened, then GST, RERA and the NBFC crisis came.
Why can the Chinese government bear all the medical expenses in this outbreak (Chinese people do not need to spend a penny), but the US government can’t?
Because in the US, no amount of money could ever do what was done in China. Both Americans and Chinese have naïve assumptions about how the American health care system works. One of the most naïve assumptions is that the US has a robust system of public health. It doesn’t. It has a for-profit system of personal healthcare for individuals. Never the twain shall meet.
More money put into a fundamentally dysfunctional system doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes. It can even be part of the process of worsening the problem.
America’s private healthcare system doesn’t simply mean private doctors as opposed to state-owned clinics, hospitals, and provider services. It means that the mission of American health care is to tend to private individual’s personal emergencies and healthcare needs. In what may be called ordinary times, the medical difference between a personal emergency and a public health crisis may seem purely abstract, to some. Events like the pandemic of 2019/20 show that the distinction has a direct bearing on costs and outcomes, and even the functioning of society itself.
That private system is costly to the point of exclusion by design. Despite having a generalist to specialist ratio not very different from other industrialized countries, the US relies on more costly specialists for treatments far more often. The system is organized to serve providers, not the patients.
American professionalization is based on complicating treatment for its own sake, as can be seen from comparing certification regimes on reiki and other remedies. Parallel with this, maximum profit comes from using the most expensive options to charge each patient the most, while providing limited services and service categories to individual patients. This also reduces costs to the provider and healthcare system, but not the costs of treatment.
Less inclusive of the overall population, but requiring a greater part of national wealth.
For instance, in pretty much any other country but the US, not only would a tooth crown be cheaper than in the US, but there would be a choice of materials and procedures from bare-bones cheap to very expensive, including shorter-term solutions. In the US, only the most expensive option is considered —which is usually more invasive and dangerous to boot. So, in this example of a tooth crown, given any excuse a crown will be discouraged, preferring much more expensive implants, and even the crown will only be available in the most expensive materials.
This is pitched as saving the patient money by making a more long-term investment, but this also ignores that it is unaffordable for many. Misleadingly, the health care industry will often justify lack of choice and access as a cost containment measure they are helpless to control, rather than the monopolistic practice to inflate prices that it is.
Like the US, China’s pandemic response has been constrained and determined by the bureaucratic/ organizational processes and interests. For China, this means those who came to full hegemonic ascendancy in the suppression of the anarcho-communist uprising of 1989. Nothing that could even vaguely resemble a gong dong, a grass-roots mass campaign, is tolerated. This has institutionalized an organizational logic and structural framework of highly imperfect, sometimes contradictory, rigid top-down public emergency response mechanisms actively hostile to the transparency and independent state health authority that its public health campaign needed against this unforeseen outbreak. It is better suited to respond to outbreaks of political and material brush-fires. This led to the slow and counter-productive initial response.
On the other hand, China, despite sharing many of the systemic dysfunctions as the US, has preserved a medical professionalization based on simplicity, fluid protocols, patent-free treatments and medicines, and popular accessibility, as well as a material command structure that can be coherently mobilized for the national interest. They also could mobilize local party members as a ready-reserve for popular enforcement once initial reactions and political confusion were overcome. That allowed them to organize treatment and containment responses whose effectiveness the United States would be horrified to achieve, even if it could.
China’s leadership is engrossed with maintaining social stability through active social and economic management. The goal is adequate employment and a rising standard of living to promote stability, and stability to promote economic growth. On the other hand, the US leadership deliberately promotes social insecurity as a means of labor discipline and social control, resulting in a polarized society.
Thus, in contrast to the universal social mobilization necessary in the US, we see exclusion and selective concentration. With the Covid-19 epidemic, ventilators could be produced more cheaply and in greater quantities, but preference is given to the most expensive, patented-feature-rich, deluxe-models. Use of these expensive ventilators is delayed until patients have deteriorated to the point where most won’t survive, even if they are cured of the virus. Lengthy use of ventilators for advanced Covid-19 is physically traumatic, potentially bearing complications that can be fatal. Less invasive, traumatic, and expensive treatments at less severe levels of Covid-19, such as intravenous vitamin C and holistic medicine, are dismissed in favor of promises of time-consuming development of expensive and scarce patent medicines. Delays in diagnosis and treatment is early treatment itself, also called letting nature take its course, as if nothing can be done until the patient gets worse.
The lack of public regulation leaves no other standard than the complicity between commercial and political interests, including insurance, pharmaceutical, and provider industries. Patients are reduced to objectified consumers based on where they fit in this model. If a patient can’t afford something, doctors will conclude there is something wrong with the patient, not with the options given to the patient. After all, the doctor is making a fortune off of the patient and assumes the patient has a sheep to fleece, too. Smaller charges, and cheaper procedures, are refused because given the same profit margin, the more expensive option is more profitable. An individual patient wanting a lower-profit procedure is not worth their valuable time, nor is a lower-profit population segment. Deeper pocket institutions dominate the process.
Scarcity is built not only into the provision of services, but into the corporate buy-outs of smaller clinics and hospitals to concentrate services in vast expensive, centrally-located campuses that monopolize the medical market in order to set prices at will. Increased money to for-profit health providers, like in the cases of banks bailed out in 2008, would be most profitably used by healthcare companies to buy out rivals and consolidate the market, not to increase beds and services, or to decrease wait times.
What public clinics exist are often adjuncts of the private system, mostly careful not to offer competing services, supporting the for-profit sector by providing limited services to low-income people. They are often operated by the local public health departments, confusing that agency’s role. Treatments may consist of giving patients referrals to private providers that they know those patients can’t afford.
Pandemic response #1, recommended by public health authorities: One hand washing the other.
The subordination of public health to personal providers presents a fundamental structural contradiction to pandemic control. Pandemic control requires testing that is both systematic and comprehensive. When public health authorities refer the public to private healthcare providers, who test for individualized treatment according to the providers’ interests, an ineffective and profiteering response is hard to avoid. Since the US lacks a structure to provide universal healthcare access, one must ask what the financial arrangements for universal testing would look like.
And even when the state provides health insurance, there is no legal requirement that it be accepted, and no mechanism to regulate fees, only participation in the market. Since the state’s insurance pays less, and there is no legal obligation to accept it, providers who accept it subsidize the excessive profits of those who refuse it.
Ron Paul, doctor and perennial presidential candidate of the far right in the US. As a doctor, he refused to accept patients with state health insurance on the principled grounds that it was paid for with “stolen money”. A personally convenient principle and definition of theft. Paul called the Covid-19 pandemic a ‘hoax’, and called for Anthony Fauci to be dismissed from the White House Coronavirus Task Force to stop him from hurting the stock market and grabbing power for big government; After all, power is currently in the right hands, where God’s wisdom put it, those of the Wall Street barons who finance his presidential bids.
Since the for-profit healthcare industry has such monopolistic powers, and those profits work in parallel with those of the pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies, the more money put into this system, the higher the profits and less the service. In answer to one reader who doubts this, I would add that according to David Belk, author of The Great American Healthcare Scam: How Kickbacks, Collusion and Propaganda have Exploded Healthcare Costs in the United States: “The revenue for any health insurance company is. In other words, the more a health insurance company spends each year, (through premium increases the next year). Therefore, the last thing any health insurance company would want is for their overall expenses to drop.”
This is the tip of an ice-burg of a system not only of collusion for inflated price-fixing, but parallel strategies from patent monopolization, price kickbacks, and corporate buy-outs. Monopolistic practices reduce treatment options through service rationing and market exclusion. The 2012 buy-out of ventilator manufacturer Newport Medical Instruments by Covidien to remove their simpler and less expensive rival ventilator from the market is a case in point. This is a system that doesn’t necessarily respond to increased investment the way free-market ideology teaches us it does.
US HOSPITAL CONSTRUCTION SPENDING
This enormous increase in debt-financed hospital construction has been paralleled by the closing of small cash-starved rural hospitals with lower profit margins and smaller urban hospitals to engage in real estate speculation. This trend continues to accelerate, even during the Covid outbreak, as shown for the first quarter of 2020 alone.
Wait times for service have increased at a time when increased money has gone into hospital and clinic construction, mostly financed on debt that includes junk bonds.
During the Covid-19 response in the US, the Trump administration announced that environmental regulations would not be enforced during the crisis. What could that possibly have to do with the pandemic, besides the chronic excuse that ‘business’ needs more money? Answer: The same thing as the country’s weak food safety regulations and weak work safety regulations. In response to the pandemic, the Trump administration’s Department of Transportation has also removed limits on the hours many truck drivers can (be forced to) work. Or as they put it, they would, “provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers.”
What a relief! Clearly, America is over-protected.
Those regulations exist within a legal system dependent on civil litigation to enforce the laws that do exist, rather than direct enforcement by the state, as exists in Europe. This creates a legal system subordinated to powerful individuals and entities who can purchase the law and suppress its enforcement, as enforcement is tied to a weak and politically complicit public authority.
What this has to do with an effective epidemic response is that, as I said, for most intents and purposes the US does not have a genuine and coherent public health system. It simply isn’t anyone’s job. It is not the private providers’ job and isn’t supposed to be. It isn’t the public authorities’ job, as they are tasked with defending private interests. It is then left to ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘choice’. Choice is a word that neoliberals chant like a mantra, but more perceptive people understand that what is called ‘exercise of choice’ usually is just a right-wing double-talk for exercise of privilege. Even elections are not really choices but exercises in privilege by the most powerful.
Times like the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 reveal how deeply and fundamentally divided and contradictory our societies are, but liberal ideologues can say that looked at from a certain perspective events like these affect us all equally and bring us all together as one. We can choose to rely on our neighbors and families and come together in a common effort. The virus doesn’t discriminate and we’re all in this together. Were it only so, as it is the sentimental imaginations of these people.
Yes, looked at from a certain perspective, the perspective of someone privileged. Yes, we are all coming together to funnel trillions to corporations, speculators, and capital markets. Yes, those who have the money and security to prepare for events like this, as they can prepare for major medical events of other kinds, or even retirement, do have a choice and do come together to secure their private, personal interests. Yes, the virus doesn’t discriminate, but people do, and they do in their use and abuse of the pandemic, and in who receives testing and treatment, who gets protected and exposed, and who dies abandoned in their homes.
No matter how much is funneled into private interests, aspects of the public interest will be left unattended, or even worsened, by all matters being decided by a competition of winners and losers. Regardless of what course is taken, no universal solution will be implemented, because anything universal would be a right rather than a privilege. Americans never even speak of their social rights, only obliquely of a social “safety net”, for a reason. Unequal and inconsistent treatment and prices seen in American healthcare reflect the parallel lack of equal educational advantages, livable wage job opportunities, affordable housing options, environmental and work safety standards, and legal protection.
The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates despite market saturation in many specialties under current conditions in the industry, an overall shortage of over 20,000 doctors in the US in 2017. In addition to that number, there is an added shortfall of 30,000- 95,000 doctors that would be needed immediately in order to equalize healthcare use patterns across race, income and social demographics, insurance coverage, and geography, “in addition to the policy changes and economic considerations needed to improve equity.” Lack of medical insurance was described as a relatively lesser issue among these.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought out the deep and fundamental structural divisions and inequalities determining national responses to the crisis and the misanthropy of the ruling ideology that justifies it.
Aside from the fundamental structural change that the US would need to undergo to do what the more advanced countries like China and Korea are doing, Americans would have to undergo an equally fundamental change in their fanatical neoliberal ideology. There is a reason that communist governments have been popular and successful in countries with high rates of infectious diseases that have long gone unattended by their predecessor regimes.
Public health, however, is not a communist idea, but a small “d” democratic one, a popular institution. It is therefore an idea opposed by fanatical anti-communists, and by stubborn regimes of entrenched interests, like the current American one, which has proven systematically incapable of improving the lives of the bulk of its own people for more than half a century now despite extreme need.
The principle upon which the fight against disease should be based is the creation of a robust body; but not the creation of a robust body by the artistic work of a doctor upon a weak organism; rather, the creation of a robust body with the work of the whole collectivity, upon the entire social collectivity.
Someday, therefore, medicine will have to convert itself into a science that serves to prevent disease and orients the public toward carrying out its medical duties. Medicine should only intervene in cases of extreme urgency, to perform surgery or something else which lies outside the skills of the people of the new society we are creating.
The work that today is entrusted to the Ministry of Health and similar organizations is to provide public health services for the greatest possible number of persons, institute a program of preventive medicine, and orient the public to the performance of hygienic practices.
From: On Revolutionary Medicine, Ernesto Che Guevara
Even if I were to accept the fantasy that the US has the best health care in the world—a laughably ignorant and subjective claim—that best treatment could only apply to a small group of winners. In American thinking, that is the “best” outcome.
In Chinese thinking, the “best” solution may not be the best treatment for a minority of the population that looks like something from a science fiction movie. The solution is important, but access to the solution is important too. The best solution is the one that balances the best outcome with benefit reaching the most people. A solution that is a less Buck Rogers, but still an effective treatment that applies to 99% of the population, is seen as better.
Western allopathic medicine objectifies the patient and projects the doctor’s interests and views onto the patient, as a number of studies of racism in western medicine has shown, referring to the abuses of the “medical gaze”. Health care providers in both countries treat patients according to their own treatment goals, not the patients’ goals or any “objective” need. This cultural tendency as to what constitutes the ‘best’ solution will color what subjective judgment providers make.
Let the Market sort ’em out.
Someone who hasn’t worked in the US healthcare system, let alone during this pandemic as I have (though in my case I am an active observer rather than an interested one), might naively think that American doctors would like to do a more comprehensive job of infection control, but they are victims of the larger healthcare system. This vastly underestimates the violent hostility many doctors and nurses have to administering any tests ‘unnecessary’ to their own needs as healthcare providers, and takes certain reassurances from them too much at face-value. This naivete misunderstands their role integral with an entire system. It also assumes that public health authorities in the US don’t have interests parallel with the dominant social interests, often deferring to the private system.
The spiral of infection this anti-testing attitude provokes can lead to misleading complaints by the medical profession. Though doctors may complain that the healthcare system in the US isn’t supporting them as they would like it to, don’t assume you know what they mean by that, or it is necessarily in your interest.
And while the liberal mantra of individual choice is invoked whenever the broader interest rears its devil-spawned head crowned with hissing snakes, it is these same people, as Margaret Thatcher famously did, who say, ‘TINA’, There Is No Alternative. Tax cuts starve public services. Regulatory agencies are often administered by the corporate lawyers and executives whom they are supposed to be regulating but instead protect. This means that structures that could provide public interest have been subordinated to a system of specific private interests.
Legal roles supporting Dr. Zaius
Consolidation of regulatory agencies in the name of ‘efficiency’ means that agencies have such a broad and disparate set of missions that they can’t effectively perform all the many functions they are assigned; Their broad mission scope creates a vague and complex mechanism for enforcement where regulation is undertaken. And while these choice-loving people hate ‘big government’, they ignore that corporations only exist at all by virtue of charters granted by governments. They say that those governments who abrogate that part of their power to those companies should demand nothing in return, even that those companies pursue their private profit in the broad public interest. Instead, they say, these companies should be left to their ‘choices’. They tell us that where regulation is in order, it should be “self-regulation”.
For the American private healthcare system, there is nothing it can do with “mild” cases of Covid-19. “Mild” does not describe the experience of the person with the illness, but the requirements for healthcare provider treatment.
Treatment in early stages and while symptoms are less severe, as China did along with quarantine dormitories to deliver that treatment while controlling contagion, simply can’t be translated into American private care terms. In the US, most of these people would fall under the category of, DENIED, not worth the system’s valuable time. Meanwhile, there is simply no institutional place for them to exist in the American neo-liberal ideological and economic structure.
This kind of treatment in Wuhan is deemed worthwhile because of a broader concept of value, not strictly a private one.
What the American system did instead is to promise to send checks to ‘everybody’ and tell them to stay home for an indeterminate time. It was a questionable promise, already disproven by those who have been excluded from payment, but for the sake of argument: That money could go to certain private individuals to help with their choices, and to provide private treatment, which may include testing IF it is relevant to that personal treatment. But the distribution of cash simply evades the question of the contradiction of a personal strategy against a social problem, such as a public health crisis.
Some think that such spending makes us all a closer and healthier big family with common interests. But most of the bailout money will be spent to privilege maintenance of business as usual and the status quo everywhere, including in the healthcare system. So, how can anyone seriously believe that any amount of such money could change anything when that’s what it is prioritized to prevent?
Personal emergencies and circumstances will take precedent over public prevention, because that is not a private service. This will inevitably lead to infecting others. No personal treatment regime will be tailored to preventing progression of the illness once, let alone before, it is contracted, unless it relates to that individual’s treatment begun after they became seriously ill.
Putting more money into a system that prefers high-cost treatments of serious illness over treatment of a multitude of lower-cost, less-serious early stages of the illness, doesn’t necessarily mean improved outcome. It does, however, while reducing the total number of patients, carry the highest cost per patient treated, obviously by more exclusively and more often treating more highest-cost patients. This is the definition by which many claim that the US has the ‘best’ healthcare in the world.
Compare this map
With this map
The American system has a toolbox of hammers, which is why it has “wars” over social issues, such as poverty and drugs; It has no such scalpels as a universal system of testing, universal data collection and sharing, comprehensive safety regulation, and targeted isolation that are the cornerstones of an effective contagion response. Where it has such tools, such as the NSA’s data collection, re-purposing them for public access contradicts why they exist. Blunt instruments ensure that the system’s fundamental details are not altered or eliminated.
“. It always has been…one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives”—Smedley Butler. Fitting caption to Trump, acting as self-proclaimed “war president”, invoking Defense Production Act and authorizing trillions to the oligarchy.
Wars are logically fought to defend the existing society, the status quo. War is a means of addressing a question by mobilizing a society rather than by changing a society in any fundamental way. The endless social “wars” are fought as a defense of privilege against whatever that privilege feels may be challenging it. The War on Poverty at the height of the cold war was fought against the threat of a rival system emerging.
Just as testing is subordinated to private treatment, so is protective gear. In the US, masks have also been privileged to healthcare professionals, though not to say necessarily available to them. Their public at first was actively discouraged from wanting, much less using, them systematically. American authorities then moved on to encouraging DIY solutions that ignore standardized quality and effectiveness, coordination, and the reason that disposable PPE is disposable. Rather than reducing exposure, or taking responsibility, the American system thinks mostly of reducing liability.
By contrast, in China, people in public places wear face masks so they won’t infect others. Americans are acting in ways that do not care about infecting others, as there is no shame in it and little profit in infection control. In fact, a display of defiance is a rejection of potential liability—a cornerstone of business. The western ideal of freedom gives a false sense of liberty that the objective reality of the virus has made impossible, not “big government”; This is something that only privilege can ignore.
Thatcherism #1: A person’s first duty is to themselves.
Rather than being a problem of individual or collective psychology, this is a matter of a particular psychology, championed by powerful, interested narcissists, that imposes itself onto policy, even in collectivist shame cultures, like Japan.
Whatever is going on in society is somehow not real to people with this ideology. Society is something that happens to somebody else, often beneath them, if at all. Hence, they view the pandemic as a hoax or those with public space concerns as paranoid meddlers.
We see the sobering implications of this extreme ideology at work in the Covid pandemic. Despite the British NHS being state-operated, it exists within the same ideological and financialized regime. NHS’s public efforts are contradicted and sabotaged by a society where public health emergencies and private emergencies are distinct and separate, and one is exclusively privileged over the other. Predictably, the UK’s response to the pandemic has been among the worst in Europe in terms of infection and mortality rates, as the crisis has been left to be solved by individuals and families in the scope of their private lives, and by statistics.
Americans can treat infection as a public order question, but not as a public health issue. That’s because the public is a threat hanging over the privileged, not something they share in.
They can lock down the country, but they can’t universally distribute effective face masks, because that is an individual matter to be solved by uncoordinated individuals with unequal standards, no particular professional training, and disparate intentions.
Contrast American DIY this with the kind of comprehensive public health crisis response in by Taiwan:
Deutsche Welle (DW) English language report on Taiwan’s face-mask strategy.
In the American cultural ecology, there simply isn’t any central agency to administer the tests on a massive scale, even on autopsies, and no systemic logic for one to exist or be organized for public use. Even the CDC lacks such a mandate, deferring to local authorities that may not even exist in some places, much less cooperate with other jurisdictions. There would be nothing for a central authority to do with the information, even if they had it.
Where data is even collected, there is no comprehensive standard or systematic process that enables data to be combined from local health authorities in a way that we can even get an entirely coherent national picture. ProPublica reports, “the quality and speed of the data coming in varies so much that it can feel like wrangling reports from more than 50 countries.”
The same ProPublica article says American public health authorities can not even give real time Covid-19 data to the public in April 2020 because of, “thin staffing or antiquated computer systems”. If this is war, America is going to war with the military it has, not the one it needs.
What does exist within the American healthcare system is an ecology of service providers and vendors, and an infrastructure that supports that system. To understand that ecology, let’s take a look at the supply chains that support the American healthcare system.
Service provider supply-chains can be vague, mysterious, and complicated. That is even more true for health service providers because of safety concerns, standards that can be subjective, a decentralized market, and multiple people within an organization who can be responsible for ordering supplies. Healthcare supply chains contrast with traditionally more integrated and centralized manufacturer supply chains.
Manufacturer supply chains tend to be throughput-oriented, while healthcare supply chains tend to lack standardized processes that help overcome bottlenecks and systematically address quality control issues. American private health care systems center on individual doctors, even in large groups, who may have unique preferences in terms of quality and quantity assessed per appointment or procedure.
The US is geographically diverse and spread-out. Given that most US healthcare is provided by disparate providers and non-acute centers rather than hospitals, there are few centralized inventories, and no large public stockpile. Disparate providers have different needs based on staffing and local circumstances and infrastructure. There is no standard distribution, quantity, price, or availability, and a plethora of parallel markets.
Despite some particularities, this is not entirely unique to the American healthcare system; However, in the US, this highly imperfect, slow responding, and inefficient supply chain system exists in an economic and political regime hostile to regulation, long-term planning, or overall economic coordination. Coordination would smooth out supply, but it would also have the unwanted effect of reducing speculative and market profits from imperfect information, local imbalances and supplier availability, bulk and limited purchase, and market swings. This means that, in the US, there is no structure or motive to meaningfully coordinate and track all raw and finished materials in that supply chain. Materials may be hoarded or encounter production or distribution bottlenecks, but there is no recognized process for resolution or command.
On the contrary, the Defense Production Act invoked by President Trump to coordinate the public response has been interpreted to turn this problem on its ear. It was iconically used to attack the site of the first work and food safety regulatory reforms of the 20th century in the US, the meat packing industry. The Trump administration identified supply chain “bottlenecks” as regulatory closing of unsafe work environments in the meat packing industry by state and local authorities. Meanwhile, rather than enforcing high uniform quality control, such as in use of PPE by health workers, policy has been to allow relaxation in standards, resulting in elimination or a multiplication of particular workplace protection regimes, further complicating the market. Complication also enhances profits.
The freedom of speculative and other capital to circulate, and prices and supplies to fluctuate unhindered, is a priority to those with commanding positions in the intangible goods economy, which the United States dominates. Bottlenecks in the flow and leveraging of capital, not in production or delivery, are the issue. Or, to be more explicit in what I am saying, there is a direct connection between deregulation, which has been done for reasons of speculative profit, and the demotion or absence of public health and other infrastructures necessary to mount an effective pandemic response.
Due to commodities being rapidly resold and arbitrarily repackaged on an international scale countless times a minute, horse meat ended up shuffled into IKEA’s beef lasagna like financial packages were turned into toxic assets in the financial crisis of 2008. Enron made billions before going bankrupt by profiting from the change in value of oil and gas, not the price itself. Such crises only attract lawmaker interest when it threatens to provoke unwanted regulation, which it’s their job to prevent, rather than protecting public health and interest.
In the case of surgical masks, the Covid-19 panic led to some withholding of materials and supplies, including finished products. 3M, which manufactures some N95 masks, does not sell them directly to health care providers. Instead, they use distributors who are free to charge whatever they see fit and withhold supplies themselves, or to sell them to other middle-men. This also gives an example of the unnecessarily complicated and vague supply chain management that reduces quality at point of service, and makes supply chains, and products and services, mysterious.
To further inflate prices, companies have resisted converting production to much needed medical supplies, such as PPE, because that would reduce their rate of profit on existing stock, which is the reason for hoarding, and reduce profit margins on future sales in an monopoly-established market demand. Any expansion of production must happen within that system of monopoly. What is produced is diverted to the highest profit markets, not the place of greatest need. That includes primary resources, such as cotton used to make masks, that speculators withheld from manufacturers to raise the price. The US Pentagon, with its revolving career door to its contractors, has not had the world’s best record of being an institution that suppresses the corruption and delays that a mysterious and complex process can elicit.
Once the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in medical supply shortages, American lawmakers responded with protectionist legislation to protect American medical supply chain vendors from Chinese competition against what they weren’t making and selling. This is the precise opposite of the Chinese response, which was to ease import taxes on pandemic essential supplies for epidemic preventative public health measures until domestic production could catch up.
This is based on two distinct ideas of economy. The Chinese idea of economy, having been influenced by socialism and their specific culture, sees economy as a collective body as well as an arena of personal profit. The American idea of economy is strictly one of personal profit, dismissing all else as “inefficiency”.
The American president delegated policy-setting for invocation of the Defense Production Act to people like his chief China advisor, trade-warrior Peter Navarro—a man without expertise either about China nor in public health and infectious disease control. The intersection of the US pandemic response with the trade war against China is not arbitrary nor the result of what Chinese responsibility for this pandemic may or may not exist.
Monopolies rely on controlled production and closed markets. Markets are controlled through some level of production as well as exclusion. The “liberation movement” pushing to maintain production, even in the face of drastically reduced demand and rising inventories, has no better example than the Covid-induced oil glut. That came about as a result of nations refusing to reduce production in order to maintain their existing market share at a time of plummeting consumption.
Oil tanker waiting off-shore with nowhere to put its cargo. Crude oil prices temporarily entered negative territory in 2020, when inventories from over-production was set to exceed storage capacity. Though exacerbated by the Covid-19 panic, over-production of oil is a long-standing issue.
Under supply-side economics, production and consumption have lost any direct connection, with production for its own sake and for market dominance, unrelated to economic coherency. Instead, production is finance capital-driven and directed toward wealth concentration and cost reduction. Ideally, the suppression of wages is compensated with exports expanding markets by undercutting rival nations’ wage costs. Under pandemic conditions, this model is in chaos. The auto industry is pushing for an unregulated return to work and unregulated market, in order to maximize profits, despite rounds of factory start-up and shut-down from outbreaks, supplier bottlenecks causing backlogs alongside excess inventories, and lack of available stock of specific options in a production model based on high consumer-specific variants.
While war-time production commands were invoked by President Trump, there was no public health authority to participate in prioritization and standards to direct and coordinate production. Instead of a public health or infectious disease experts, efforts are overseen by interested parties and political appointees. Those officials act in continuation of overriding policies and existing business relationships, not necessarily in the interest of fighting the pandemic itself.
This kind of direction of efforts, where the pandemic itself was a secondary consideration, has even meant forced prioritization of some things, such as chloroquine, that has no proven value against Covid-19; That is according to President Trump’s own scientific experts on his pandemic task force and a director of the agency overseeing vaccine development efforts.
The arbitrary privileging of chloroquine purchases, production, and even export for Covid-19 treatment has diverted supplies of the drug away from patients with conditions the drug is proven to help. What this can be thought to have accomplished would only occur to a “businessman”, like Trump or Navarro: They are fulfilling the needs of a targeted market demand that they have themselves created or that may not even objectively exist, regardless of the broader implications or its impact on overall human needs.
Why specifically chloroquine as the arbitrary choice of expensive patent snake-oil cures for Covid-19? According to one article, : “Novartis, working on a hydroxychloroquine treatment for the virus, paid (Donald Trump’s recently convicted lawyer Michael) Cohen more than $1 million for “policy insights” after Trump’s election in 2016. After their relationship was leaked, Novartis apologized. Later, a congressional revealed the real objective of Novartis, the company: “explicitly sought to hire Michael Cohen to provide the company ‘access to key policymakers’ in the Trump administration…”
Policy in implementing the DPA is to “negotiate” price and quality through the market, not to regulate it; The complex decentralized medical supply chain in the US makes such command implementation both legally and technically more complicated, and all the more in need of coordination on the highest level, including international.
It has been said that the cure is worse than the Covid-19 disease. Perhaps they are, but this is only said to evade that prevention, through a rapid, coherent, regulated public health response would have avoided both, as it has in Taiwan. There, the regulatory infrastructure was already in place, and will remain so.
Safe work, production, and product regulations would require vastly increased staffing, specialization, and litigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, among others. Instead, a regulatory regime is being negotiated by public pressure and market operations, including illegal reopening. It is being negotiated by lawyers and business people rather than set by public health experts.
Pandemic-response regulation would strengthen the role of unions, who have a leading role in complaint-driven investigations. It would strengthen direct spot policing authority to inspect businesses for violations, such as exists in Taiwan. It would be:
Leaving regulation of the pandemic to private companies, and their own profit and security driven priorities, has demonstrated itself to result in companies hiding outbreaks and whitewashing compliance through their control of information. This is done to evade employee opposition and imposition of public regulation. Only that kind of enforced state regulation would provide effective and supply-chain consistent measures to better ensure consumer and employee safety, as well as integrate into a coherent social response necessary to contain contagion.
Employee temperature check at Amazon, which has not prevented infectious outbreaks at their facilities, nor has it contributed to coordinated efforts to control the pandemic.
Placing testing in the hands of private doctors and hospitals is just as fundamental a conflict of interests. American private care is about doctors rationing services to individuals to contain costs and maximize profits, while providing testing to serve their treatment regimes and profits. The public interest is not in their scope. Asking hospitals and doctors to implement a regime of universal testing doesn’t actually make any sense in the context of their logic and role. There is nothing THEY can do with the data from those results, because they don’t test for data points.
Test results would need to be managed by a public health system that doesn’t exist in America, that nobody is responsible for creating, and that the existing system will continue fighting furiously to block, sabotage, undermine, prevent, and exploit any opportunity to achieve its opposite.
That isn’t to say the American system can’t respond at all to infectious outbreaks. The response to hepatitis shows it can, but only within existing frameworks. In the case of hepatitis, success in reducing the overall incidence of the disease in the US, even while local outbreaks continue, has come from public vaccination campaigns. This means individuals receive injections, even provided by public nurses and clinics.
In the case of an infectious disease that doesn’t have the private treatment option of vaccination, the system doesn’t have many effective solution options. Despite success with reducing hepatitis, the increases in lyme and other vector-borne diseases in the US demonstrates the systemic indifference or hostility to anything that doesn’t fall within the treatment goals and methods of the existing healthcare infrastructure.
Even in the case of vaccination, vaccination records are often discarded, though some states have recently been developing a limited registry. However, since the providers have no obligation to keep the records, and public authorities have no mandate to keep records either, responses tend to be incidental and uncoordinated. The lack of organization, as well as a lack of international coordination, make it difficult to martial a response when there isn’t a vaccine manufacturer and/or major stake-holder to lobby for it.
President Trump has pursued a deliberate policy of local entities creating their own infection control regimes rather than the federal government, including establishing a presidential task force that severed and further fragmented existing national emergency response networks. Ineffective, but in-line with pre-existing policy and resistance to taking any action that would harm corporate profits and deregulation. One of Trump’s first actions was to initiate a travel ban, which many experts contend is an ineffective strategy, but aligned with his existing hermetic and xenophobic policies.
His America-first policies see everyone as a competitor. In April, 2020, he moved to cut off the World Health Organization’s funding in a competition with its authority, calling its response too, “Chinese”. Ironically, WHO’s failings in the Covid-19 crisis, which are real, may be the product of WHO’s lack of independent enforcement authority over governments and lack of American interest in such institutions. This made WHO weak to Chinese pressure and influence, as they tried to coax more information from China without alienating them. In another irony, equally in line with American de-regulatory policy, cutting WHO funding will do nothing to alter Chinese policy, but it will hinder efforts by poorer, smaller nations, estimated to be half of 182 countries surveyed by the IMF, who lack their own resources that can as effectively oversee pandemic efforts. Meanwhile, lack of complete information sharing mean that every interested party must endlessly duplicate each other’s research efforts if only just to insure having all the relevant detail, costing time and wasting limited resources on counter-productive competition.
Of course, sidelining WHO also supports American efforts to control market concentration. One example is how this serves US attempts at domination of vaccine development, which is subordinated to the American healthcare monopoly system. WHO’s organizational logic would potentially support vaccine development and administration outside this closed system. That has the potential to allow outside interests to invade the American market by diversifying sources. Such a development would potentially abrogate intended American domination of global markets.
Apparently, those supporting this course of action against the Chinese virus would like a more American response; As if this is a national, rather than a human, problem, or as if the problem is governmental and foreign“interference” rather than the objective reality making state intervention and international coordination necessary.
Listening to the experts is never enough and isn’t a solution in itself. As with Global Warming, some have advocated “listening to the science”; However, science can only tell us about the disease, not how to implement a response to it. That’s a political rather than a purely technical decision that can be left to engineers and markets to sort out. When left to the experts, those decisions and strategies are left to the experts’ bureaucratic interests and social biases. A xenophobic nationalist course of action simply contributes to entrenched national interests dominating that nation’s response, and in doing so obstructs what may be the most appropriate response to the situation. One of the first principles of managing infectious disease is that they are specific, and have specific requirements.
As Prof. Terry Lum told a committee of the UK parliament investigating that country’s high nursing home death rate compared to Hong Kong’s, the UK relied on its own past experience and the institutional logic that evolved from experience with flu epidemics, while also conforming to a strictly private solution within existing structural frameworks. In the UK, and in the US, nursing homes are vulnerable due to the casualization of health workers employed at multiple locations, and lack of community isolation facilities as a contagion firewall. Instead, every individual nursing home requires their own on-site containment wards, which is a practical impossibility.
Countries that experienced the SARS and MERS outbreaks may have developed organizational processes and structures more appropriate to Covid-19. The American rejection of international expertise, in favor of its interested domestic experts, means America will not learn from foreign experience; Instead, as with each nursing home, Americans will be required to re-invent the wheel under conditions that resist change inconsistent with existing structures and practices, ensuring that responses permanently lag behind developments. Without structures for national and international coordination, lessons, when learned, are learned too late and when ignored, serve only the entrenched interests at the expense of the public. Meanwhile, the lack of shared resources results in weak links that promote outbreaks that will spread.
One group of experts, Scientists to Stop Covid-19, is led by self-styled “venture capitalist” Dr. Tom Cahill, and includes such notables as biotech and pharmaceutical philanthropist Michael Milken, (pictured above as young hot-shot junk bond promoter) implicated by Ivan Boesky for racketeering and securities fraud and pardoned by Donald Trump on February 18, 2020. Another member of the group is Peter Thiel, whose philanthropy goes beyond medical solutions to include seasteading, literally creating off-shore private capital havens beyond the laws of any nation. He justifies himself through the intellectual pretensions of fascism expressed in the “theories” of Carl Schmitt. Thiel has also made news in threatening to move operations he controls out of California because of what he calls California’s over-regulation of the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal reported that “the FDA and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have implemented some of their suggestions, namely relaxing drug manufacturer regulations and requirements for potential coronavirus treatment drugs.”
In the US, limited public health authorities, which are often local, also often have limited authority to direct jurisdictions as to what steps to take. Instead, it is often experts in non-public health related areas, under no central coordination or authority, to make decisions when and how it suits them. Agencies may purchase vaccines, but that doesn’t necessarily connect with IP, storage, distribution, and administration of the vaccines. Each step is uncoordinated and ad hoc, leaving no one watching the watchers. This not only causes slow and haphazard response, but quality control, corruption, and competition issues. During the Covid-19 crisis in the US, the price of ventilators has multiplied as different states, jurisdictions, and companies compete to purchase those available.
New York Governor Cuomo speaks about ventilator purchase competition.
I could go on about patents and patent monopolies, healthcare industry kickbacks to doctors, financing an entire economy or individual sectors such as healthcare through unsupportable debt bubbles, and tax policies that encourage charges so excessive that they can’t be paid, and the selling of unpayable consumer debts. I could also talk about trade wars and tariffs, data ownership issues in sharing pandemic related data with the public having implications that stretch to Google, Facebook, and other data barons, and tax regulations and subsidies that support existing manufactures and services (that is lobbyists for entrenched interests) over creating new ones.
Administering and overseeing this are public officials who live their lives in a bubble of lobbyists, or a public who, like their public officials, have their narcissism catered to, while living in a self-absorbed bubble, indifferent or hostile to anything outside their private scope.
It may even be claimed that if you don’t have a solution, then there isn’t a problem. Since the American pandemic response can not be repaired within the current parameters of its healthcare system, they tell us there is nothing to be done except continued expansion of deregulation, austerity, and liberal economics and waiting for herd immunity to kick in.
However, to put it more succinctly, you just can’t get there from here.