With Spain standing at reported cases of 131,646, Italy (128,948) and Germany (100,123,) USA has the highest number of reported cases of people infected with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). According to https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ as of yesterday morning, the US had reported 336,851 cases. President Donald Trump warned of a “tough week ahead” with infections expected to rise and overwhelm the already overloaded healthcare system.
Covid-19 has gone beyond being a health problem. It is an economic, social, and security problem. We may have to overstep human rights issues like freedom of speech, movement and access to food plus medicine for the sake of survival of the human race. Because of its highly infectious nature, one of the remedial measures is social distancing. This implies that there must be minimal movement and body contact. So, social and above all economic activities, must be restricted. The lockdown is the painful necessity that is being applied globally.
When the US, which has the biggest economy in the world, locks down, the entire globe will have to follow suit and consequently suffer because it is in many areas the nerve centre. Banking, shipping, manufacturing, airfreight, import and export, money tranfers, etc have drastically slowed down during the last month due to this pandemic. The USA and the globalised economy will go through more challenging times before things normalise. The Wall Street Journal reports that in the last week alone, 6.6 million people applied for unemployment benefits. Besides, the measures that authorities globally have asked people to observe to stop the spread of Covid-19 like hand-washing, wearing masks and social distancing, a lot is going to depend on testing and healing those who are already infected.
The US has carried out about 1,772,369 tests and is still testing. About 9,620 people have passed on amid an outcry by health workers of lack of basic personal protective equipment like face shields, mask, disposable aprons and gloves. Many are dying because medical personnel are overwhelmed by the numbers needing attention. There is a challenge of lack of ventilators that are supposed to help those whose lungs can no longer participate in respiration due to accumulation of mucus in the air way.
The US spends more than $8.12 trillion on healthcare (usgovernementspending.com.) Meaning that they are doing a lot, but still falling short.
The US is not Zimbabwe or any of the other well known hopeless basket cases. This is a country whose creative powers have given the world most of the ground-breaking technology that has made life easier. The Wright Brothers gave us the aeroplane in December 1903. USA developed the Internet and the worldwide web between 1983 and 1990. Google, facebook, whatsapp, and twitter are all courtesy of this venerable creative entrepreneurial spirit. This version of soft power adds to its credentials as a global leader.
What the US has to think about now are priorities that focus mainly on the American people.
The US more than any other country, spends a lot of resources on jingoism through an aggressive foreign policy. Using threats and actual force as opposed to peaceful relations. All these efforts are to safeguard what it perceives as its national interest and expand its sphere of influence.
As we read, the US and its proxies are involved in military action of some sort in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria. Statista.com in 2018 put the number of active and reserve military force personnel at about 2,377,153. The USA is in many places providing financial support to one group or another in the so-called war on terror.
Data collected by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, “shows US military spending approaching $700 billion in 2019. Spending in 2020 will exceed that figure, rising to about $725b, which is about four times more than China and 10 times more than Russia (Illuminateourworld.org.)
It spends more than $15b in foreign aid, whose ultimate aim is to win hearts and minds and expand its sphere of influence. So dictators on the African continent, for instance, can expect hefty sums annually as long as they fall in line with American foreign policy.
Fas.org claims that the US spends more than $55b on research on defence. This, for instance, helps develop stuff like the 10 tonne ordinance that cost a whopping $16 million dollars nicknamed the ‘mother of all bombs.’ It was in April 2017, dropped in the Achin District of Afghanistan in the war against the Taliban. One wonders what would happen if the US searched its soul and scaled down on some of this belligerent and jingoistic expenditure and channelled some of it to the domestic scene to support some of the poor, 40 million of whom lack health insurance.
Imagine if a faction of the war chest went to shore-up the numbers of doctors to attend to the sick. In 2015, there were nearly 1.1 million doctors of medicine all over the United States. This figure included some 160,000 inactive and some 55,000 unclassified physicians.
What if more was directed away from these wars and projects to expand the American sphere of influence, would people be crying out for ventilators that cost as little as $25,000? Then masks, gloves, etc.
The good book ask what it would benefit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? The US needs to ask the same question. It has the world, but is losing its own soul – the great people of the United States of America.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. firstname.lastname@example.org.