Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Why Can’t America Handle the Coronavirus Crisis?

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Photo shows Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) making fun of the coronavirus warnings. Photo was take a day or two before one of his constituents died from COVID-19. Very funny.

Matt Stoller writes in Big:

The stock market was down by roughly 8% today, and the Trump administration seems to have no coherent view of what to do in the face of an epidemic. The response has been pretty ugly, everything from the Centers for Disease Control refusing to allow states to test people for coronavirus to White House official Larry Kudlow going on TV saying that the stock market declines are an opportunity to buy stocks. Most of the people I know in politics are in a state of shock, unable to know what to do with an institutional breakdown of this magnitude.

Without downplaying the immediate catastrophic response, I’ll note that the roots of this dysfunction are deeper than just Donald Trump’s sense of denial of an event he can’t control. America has not handled crises well for twenty years now. For example, here’s a piece I wrote on the status of New York City utility Con Ed before Hurricane Sandy hit the city, summarizing a report put together by their unionized workforce.

The union noted a lack of redundancy in voltage equipment, smart meters paid for by the stimulus that were never turned on, and a lack of basic supplies. “Our members have worked on cable so old,” said the report, “that it has paper insulation, and on utility poles that were installed in the 1930s and remain in service today.”

The company used to have a policy of keeping a “safety stockpile” of basic supplies on hand in the event of an emergency. No longer. So when Sandy hit, Con Ed ran out of utility ladders and utility cable. It had to rush order parts that did not work on Con Ed systems, including “entire truckloads of utility transformers” which the utility could not return “because of their specialized nature.”

Imagine that. Before Hurricane Sandy hit the city, Con Ed didn’t bother stocking up on ladders. Ouch.

The reason America can’t handle the Coronavirus is the same reason we can’t do anything else right. We don’t let the people who do the work have any say over how or whether the work is done. That’s why America has mishandled various wars, the response to Katrina, the financial crisis, big tech monopolies, Boeing, the Iowa caucuses, and the crisis with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. American institutions are organized entirely around the short-term horizon of financiers, and these financiers seek to create monopolies and to grab cash by thinning out supply lines and generating hidden risk. [Emphasis added. – LG]

Here’s how one reader put it when wondering where all our tax money goes.

Having served in the military and received an Ivy-league business education, I think the answer is simple: Our taxes pay for management consultants who make slides and defense contractors who can’t build anything. We also bail out the financiers (who deplore socialism) when they make bad decisions.

To put it a different way, this is who has been in charge of most of our political, cultural, and economic institutions for decades now.

How Should America Handle the Coronavirus Crisis?

Ok, so what should we do?

The basic answer can be . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and Stoller is always worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2020 at 2:53 pm

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