Public Health in Times of Epidemics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Karyn Pomerantz, May 7, 2020

The corona crisis, on top of so many others, shows how lethal capitalism is. Poverty and racism are the pre-existing conditions that inflate the rates of death and disability. For billions of people around the world, this disaster continues the misery at the hands of the 1%. It hopefully wakes up other people to the inequalities, negligence, and outright murder of global capitalism. 

How has public health responded to such inequities and pandemics? What can we learn from previous infectious disease outbreaks caused by smallpox, TB,  and cholera? When public health is good, it is very good, but when it is bad, many people die. When public health gets ugly, it destroys our lives and future security and aspirations. 

Public health today operationalizes the prevailing political ideology: personal responsibility, the philosophy that individuals make decisions about what to eat, where to live, how to work, or  whether to graduate, and then pay the consequences. Public health has blamed the individual for poor health habits and focused on educating people rather than dealing with systemic issues. Even now, when many talk about social determinants of disease, such as housing, racist police violence, immigration policy, and employment, actual interventions still focus on individual behavior.

This article identifies some of the qualities of successful and failed attempts to control epidemics with examples from selected countries since the late 19th Century.

Continue reading “Public Health in Times of Epidemics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

A Different Kind of COVID-19 Protest

by Nick Pemberton, 5-4-2020; originally published on CounterPunch on 4-29-2020

This article addresses the return to work advocates and the left’s response to them and the pandemic. Capitalism has always sacrificed workers’ lives. Instead of providing the food and income necessary to stay safe, the bosses and their government are pushing people to work in dangerous conditions (and dumping crops and animals that are also extraneous to them). It’s a system that requires people to make choices that lead to death: work and risk dying or shelter and risk starving. Nick rightly calls for a communist solution based on love for fellow workers. His other writings can be found on Counterpunch.org

Amidst a deadly pandemic set to kill millions of people it is hard not to become reactionary and short-sighted. The coronavirus for all intents and purposes is the new Trump for the libs. On the one hand a force that remains criminally underrated in its capacity for destruction despite its overwhelming popularity and attention from the bourgeoisie. On the other hand a noise that is so loud that it erases all rationality and perspective.

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The New Normal: Cascading and Multi – Layered Crises

by Vincent Emanuele, 4-15-2020

Excerpt from The New Normal, the failures of capitalism. Click the link below to see the complete article at CounterPunch

“Without question, capitalism will survive COVID-19. The unfolding COVID-19 pandemic and economic crises will alter the future of capitalism. The real question is: how can workers and ordinary people nudge things in a preferred direction, a path that leads to more collectivism and cooperation? How can we exploit the contradictions within the system? How can we ruthlessly expose the inherent limitations and internal contradictions of capital accumulation.

Every single aspect of our society is under extreme stress. Even the most passive populations can only take so much. Human beings can only take so much. The living world can only take so much. Eventually, things will explode.

The question is: how? Will poor and working class Americans turn that despair and cynicism into a righteous anger and rage? And if so, who will that anger and rage be directed toward? Each other? Or the powerful elites?

The current social context in the U.S. and across the globe is ripe for radical political change, but that change doesn’t necessarily have to be progressive in nature. It could also be reactionary and fueled by religious extremism, xenophobia, racism, and tribalism. That’s up to us. “

How the Covid-19 Exceptions Prove the Rule

by Nayvin Gordon, 4-6-2020

Covid-19 is contained in Taiwan and Singapore.  There is no “lock down,” no mass unemployment, no rising death rate.  Factories, schools and businesses are open.  Contrast this with Europe and the US where the plague of Covid-19 is devastating the lives of millions with “lock downs,” unemployment, isolation, and death.  What explains the differences?  Why were the doors to death wide open in Europe and the US but quickly closed in Taiwan and Singapore?

How did Singapore become the “gold standard of near perfect detection?”  Simply put, they learned from the SARS 2003 epidemic that had killed people and damaged the economy.  Their answer was to invest heavily in building health care infrastructure: building 1,000 public health clinics, free aggressive testing and hospitalization, contact tracing, and quarantine with financial support, consistent public education and social distancing.  The virus was contained. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6914e1.htm 

Continue reading “How the Covid-19 Exceptions Prove the Rule”

A Better World is Possible: Pandemic Management Under Capitalism and Communism

by Karyn Pomerantz, 4-3-2020

This contrasts the ways capitalist countries (primarily the US) mismanage epidemics and the changes communism would make. Part 1 discussed the prevention of epidemics.

Part 2 – Pandemic Management Under Capitalism = Social Murder

As described in Part 1, capitalists operate to make profit off the backs of workers. Whether they pay low or high wages, they ultimately exploit their employees by paying them less than the value they produce. Corporate boards cut benefits, increase productivity, establish factories in low wage, non-union countries, and avoid taxes to increase their wealth. This leaves low wage and unemployed workers destitute and vulnerable to disease.

Furthermore, in the interests of short term gains, they don’t plan for future needs or stockpile emergency equipment. While no country would ever have sufficient beds lying around in case of a pandemic, capitalists don’t invest sufficiently in prevention, health care, or medical research that would decrease the death rate of contagious diseases. Over the last decade, the US Congress has stripped funds from the CDC that cut over 700 employees and from public health budgets, leaving state and local health departments unable to conduct contact tracing, deploy enough outreach workers to educate the public, or pay for protective body wear.

In the richest country, we have regular people sewing gowns and printing 3D masks for healthcare workers. We have nurses, Instacart shoppers, and Amazon warehouse workers striking for protective gear and hazard pay. In Taiwan, factories produced millions of masks per day; the US has already depleted its stockpile and recommends that people make their own. The US had actually contracted with a company that could make inexpensive ventilators, but when the medical device industry objected, the government cancelled the contract.  Currently, major hospitals will run out of ventilators this month (April 2020). This neglect amounts to social  murder.

Here are some of the ways US capitalism sets up people for the kill.

Continue reading “A Better World is Possible: Pandemic Management Under Capitalism and Communism”

A Better World Needs to be Born -Preventing and Controlling Pandemics, Part 1

by Karyn Pomerantz, 3-29-2020

Part 1 contrasts epidemic prevention under capitalism and communism

Part 2 will contrast management and control of epidemics (coming soon)

By Karyn Pomerantz, March 28, 2020

Like Hurricane Katrina, the coronavirus pandemic has stripped bare all the extreme inequities of capitalism. With millions at risk, it is the working class around the world, especially its poorest, black, and brown members, who suffer the most. As higher income people stay at home, low wage workers hold down jobs that endanger their health.  Added to this are lifetimes without quality health care, education, food, and housing, and often the stress of racism and marginalization. 

On March 27th, Black Agenda Report nailed it when it wrote: 

“The United States is a global vector of suffering and death, through the policies of its corporate party tag-team. When deadly diseases are set in motion, the crime becomes mass murder-suicide.”

Continue reading “A Better World Needs to be Born -Preventing and Controlling Pandemics, Part 1”

Covid19 in the Cauldron of Capitalism

by Ellen Isaacs

March 19, 2020

The current covid19 pandemic exposes the complete lack of concern of US capitalism for the welfare of working people. The just do enough mentality that governs public health and health care in ordinary times creates a system that cannot cope with surges in demand. Not only did the government fail to prepare for the emergency that was evident since January, but the fragile health, economic and social situation of so many workers could lead to a poor outcome for millions. The huge racial chasms that divide US workers at all times will turn into differential body counts. Only mass action by workers and students will guarantee that we come out of this alive and ahead.

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