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Wed 12 August 2020
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CJ Werleman explores the economic and social consequences of the US Government’s mismanagement of the Coronavirus crisis for the next President

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The 2020 US Presidential Election looks to be over. Nothing short of an attack from Mars will rally enough voters around Donald Trump’s re-election. He now trails his Democratic Party rival – former Vice-President Joe Biden – by double-digit points. His prospects of a second term are inextricably tied to an impossible economic recovery and, even more unlikely, the vanquishing of the Coronavirus.

The question is not whether Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, but rather what country is he likely to inherit on 20 January 2021?

When Biden was sworn in as President Barack Obama’s deputy on 20 January 2009, the US economy was experiencing the worst downturn since the Great Depression, with 800,000 jobs being lost each month and property values plummeting. But things are measurably far worse 12 years later.

Today, the US is faced with not only an unprecedented economic crisis, but also a once in a century public health catastrophe, with no end in sight.

As many of its Western democratic peers begin the gradual return towards pre-COVID-19 life, America remains a global basket case, after following the self-serving idiocy of a former television game host and a right-wing media that parrots his every destructive whim.

On the same day that neighbouring Canada recorded only 321 new Coronavirus cases, the US recorded a record 68,241. The worst COVID-19 affected locations in the world, (in order and as determined on a per capita basis) are Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, Bahrain, Louisiana, Qatar, Oman, Alabama, Nevada, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia and Panama.

At the same time the rate of infection is rising in 35 states, holding steady in 12 and exploding in seven – with each recording a greater than 50% increase above their respective seven-day moving averages – the President has sidelined the country’s top epidemiologist Dr Anthony Fauci, with his surrogates in the media smearing him with “deep state” conspiracies and baseless attacks on his character.

The darkest of storm clouds – which had remained out of view thanks to a soon-to-be-ending round of economic stimulus, short-term unemployment benefits and a resilient stock market – have arrived and are now raining hell across all 50 states, with each set of newly released economic indicators pointing to untold misery and gloom.

Last month, a full one-third of US households did not make their housing payment on time, marking the fourth month in a row with ‘historically high’ numbers struggling to make ends meet, with one in 10 households expressing fears that they will be evicted within the next six months.

According to Emily Benfer, chair of the American Bar Association’s Task Force Committee on Eviction, more than 20 million residential tenants are “poised to be evicted” between mid-July and September – the month the $600 per week federal unemployment insurance bonus is set to expire, meaning that the country is headed for a housing crisis of biblical proportions at some point between September and the likely inauguration of Biden.

With no national COVID-19 mitigation strategy in place and no vaccine in sight, alongside efforts by the right to downplay the affects and spread of the virus, the US has sleepwalked into adopting Sweden’s disastrous ‘herd immunity’ strategy, which has left the Nordic country’s citizenry and economy in sickness and ruin.

For the benefits of ‘herd immunity’ to materialise, however, 60-70% of the public would need to have contracted the Coronavirus – a far-off target given that only one percent of Americans are known to have been infected. Furthermore, it is a fool’s errand given that there is no guarantee that herd immunity is even achievable, with recent studies suggesting that antibodies remain in those who have had the virus no longer than several months.

Fifty million Americans have already lost their jobs and nearly five million have lost their health insurance. Giving further cause for alarm is the fact that the Coronavirus is still riding its first wave and that most of the states that reopened too early are now re-entering lockdown as their hospital and healthcare systems become overwhelmed, as public health officials warned would happen. Citizens of countries that have experienced a second wave have said that the second is far worse, psychologically and economically, than the first.

With an absentee tenant in the White House, who now spends his days rage tweeting about anything other than the pandemic, the number of new cases, hospitalisations and deaths are likely to continue to soar between now and election day on 8 November. In parallel, the economic wellbeing and security of the typical American will plummet, as home evictions rise and property values plunge.

If the abyss is defined by millions left sick, unemployed, uninsured and homeless, then the United States stands on the brink of an unthinkable abyss – one awaiting Joe Biden.


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