America’s ‘Failed Economic System’ Solely Protects Rich During Pandemic - Economist

© AP Photo / SCOTT HEPPELLPeople are seen queuing outside the Jobcentre plus at Gateshead, England (File)
People are seen queuing outside the Jobcentre plus at Gateshead, England (File) - Sputnik International
Dr. Richard Wolff, an economist and professor at the New School in New York, told Sputnik that his new book, “The Sickness Is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself,” shows how the US response to COVID-19 demonstrates the utter failure of the country’s elites to address public health crises.

“It’s not China that failed to prepare for this virus, and it’s not China that failed to contain it here in the US. That’s a 100% US disaster,” Wolff told Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary hosts Sean Blackmon and Jacquie Luqman on Thursday.

“The book is designed to explain to people how and why it was this system that broke down - not only in terms of failing to manage the virus, but on making the whole virus worse by having us collapse the economy with tens of millions of people losing their jobs, losing their incomes, wrecking their families’ finances. I mean this is a catastrophe that is mostly about a failed economic system, and that’s what this book tries to show,” he explained.

A Tuesday report published in the Washington Post revealed that the US Congress handed the Pentagon $1 billion in March to respond to the pandemic. However, most of that money has been paid to defense contractors and used to boost the shipbuilding industry as well as fund satellite, drone and space surveillance technologies, and not spent on pandemic-related expenses such as masks.

“We are not as a nation at this point threatened militarily by anyone. No one has the military power the US does. I want to remind people the US spends more on the military than the next nine countries put together spend, and that includes China, Russia, Britain and half a dozen others. What does endanger us is the public health disaster of this pandemic. So if money should be moving, it should be moving away from the military - where we are not threatened - to the pandemic, where we are,” Wolff added.

The $600 weekly unemployment benefit bonus that was signed into law by US President Donald Trump in March as a provision of the CARES Act expired at the end of July. In August, Trump bypassed Congress and signed an executive order and three memoranda on COVID-19 relief. The measures include a federal eviction ban, relief for student borrowers, a payroll tax suspension and a $400 weekly unemployment benefit bonus - $300 from the federal government and $100 paid by state governments - to replace the one that had expired. However, these unemployment benefits have already ended in some states.

“Over the last six months, the richest people in America, the CEOs, the big shareholders, have gotten much, much richer at the same time that over 60 million of our fellow American citizens have had to go get unemployment compensation because they lost their jobs and their income - a system that makes the already richest people richer,” Wolff said. 

“We still give corporations the support they need. The Federal Reserve is still lending money to big corporations. The government treasury is still supporting large businesses, but the help to the mass of people that were turned out of their jobs here, unlike Europe, that’s what got stopped. That is so unjust,” Wolff added.

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