America Fails Pandemic Stress Test

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America Fails Pandemic Stress Test

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Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

It is well established in scholarly literature on international conflict that whenever a country behaves in an erratic, aggressive manner, it is nearly always a reflection of deep-seated internal social, political, and economic problems which the country’s leadership is unable or unwilling to address. United States is an example of what happens when that country is a superpower facing not only international decline, but also internal decay. Zbigniew Brzezinski infamously described the Soviet Union as “Upper Volta with rockets”. That was never a fair comparison, since USSR lacked the massive pockets of poverty, social exclusion, and downright police repression that the United States boasts. Likewise the Soviet health care system could have coped with a pandemic better than the US one or even the current Russian Federation one. Today’s America, however, is that country Brzezinski spoke about. Expanding its global influence through direct, proxy, and hybrid wars became the most attractive policy tool intended to restore the health of the US economy which, since the end of the Cold War, was kept alive mainly by extremely permissive monetary policies of the US Federal Reserve which in the end inflated several stock market bubbles. Even today the Federal Reserve’s main concern is keeping the Dow Jones rally going, because a collapse on the markets would permanently cripple the US economy.

However, at risk of mixing metaphors, an economy built on equity bubbles is a house of card that will collapse at the slightest shock. COVID-19 proved to be that shock, a “Black Swan” event that has been predicted for many years  that would precipitate a radical transformation of domestic political systems and of the balance of power in the international system. The pandemic became a test of not just public health systems, but of the strength of each country’s economy, the cohesion of its society, and the ability of its government to govern. Even though we are still in the early stages of the crisis, we can already see that some states are passing the test (so far) with flying colors, while others are being wracked by internal turmoil. To quote Warren Buffett, when the tide recedes you see who has been swimming naked. The United States has been revealed to be quite wardrobe-challenged in this instance.

America Fails Pandemic Stress Test

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The Spark

The callous slow-motion torture and murder of George Floyd in the Democratic Party stronghold of Minneapolis by four police officers with long histories of brutality against ethnic minorities was the spark that ignited the powder keg of US race relations. It certainly did not help that the United States created forty million new unemployed and failed to provide them with adequate financial support, due to the infamously miserly US social safety net. And just as COVID-19 is disproportionately lethal to US ethnic minorities who suffer from a higher level of underlying medical conditions due to poverty, malnutrition, and stress, so did the job losses disproportionately affect African Americans. The average black worker does not “work from home” on his laptop computer. Rather, the average black worker is employed in food service, hospitality, and retail, all of which have been crushed by the pandemic and, especially, the lockdown measures. It is no wonder that the conservatives wanted to “re-open” the economy as quickly as possible. Chasing millions of African Americans back to their menial jobs, even when it involved them facing greater risk of infection and death, would at least deprive them of the free time they have available to protest.

The Fuel

The speed with which the protests spread across the country, affecting every state and most large cities, is a reflection of the universality of the problem that the events in Minneapolis revealed. In the face of slow-motion economic collapse and the destruction of the American middle class, the US political system at both state and federal levels has subtly but effectively sought to shift the economic pain to the minorities, in order to preserve the standard of living of the white middle class on whose support the legitimacy of the US political and economic system still rests. The armed white militias that protested at several state legislatures only a month earlier are an expression of that fear. The “don’t tread on me” Gadsden Flags quite clearly express who is to be tread upon, and who is not. They are a warning that should US elites attempt to economically marginalize the white middle class, they may expect a forceful response. The weak police response to law-breaking perpetrated by armed white militias was not lost on most commentators, either. But these politics of “economic triage” where the pain is shifted to the communities of color also implies the need for heavy-handed police repression which US police forces are all too happy to deliver. US law enforcement should not be seen as a collection of politically-neutral guardians of law and order. Rather, it skews heavily toward the right, even the far-right, and it is no surprise that Donald Trump enjoys the overwhelming support of American police unions and organizations. While these trends were evident for the last decade at least, since the 2008 crisis to which the US government never found an adequate response, the pandemic accelerated it to the point of the tensions and grievances finally boiling over.

The Firehose

Whenever a fire breaks out, it is ultimately either put out or burns itself out due to lack of fuel. It is doubtful this is going to burn itself out on its own, given that the US law enforcement is now providing more provocation with its heavy-handed tactics on daily basis, and moreover neither the pandemic nor the economic crisis are going anywhere any time soon. Since the United States is now in the throes of domestic unrest not seen since the days of Vietnam War, it raises the question of what is to be done about it? Which leaders, which policies, might definitively address the grievances of the masses?

We can safely say Donald Trump will not be the one, because to the extent he is wielding a fire hose, it seems to be mostly spraying gasoline on the fire. Literally every action, every statement, every tweet, has served to polarize and exacerbate the problems. It may be Trump is doing this deliberately, hoping to replicate Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” strategy, an idea that is supported by Trump himself tweeting these words. Yes, the riots polarize, but the hope is that, when the smoke clears, Trump’s half is the bigger of the two and, like Nixon, he secures his re-election. Richard Nixon won his re-election by a landslide, even though after the fact almost nobody admitted ever voting for him. However, few things motivate voting for conservatives in the US more than the sight of black rioters and looters.

Of course, the problem Trump faces here is that Joe Biden has impeccable “law and order” credentials, complete with the ability to “dog whistle” to white conservatives. Biden, after all, is the politician who said in the 1970s he did not want his children to “grow up in a racial jungle”, and his support of anti-crime legislation which led to the mass incarceration of African-Americans in the last few decades suggests he is willing to put his money where his mouth is. Thanks to his role as Obama’s vice president, he also has certain sway among the African American community that has served him well in the primaries and obscured his previous racist record. But in the end Biden is no Obama, whose combination of personality and politics was just enough to keep America from blowing up. Biden does not have the same combination, and moreover he is presiding over an economic catastrophe that will not be as easy to rectify by throwing money at banks the way the 2008 crisis was.

The one politician who correctly identifies both problems and solutions and who also commands considerable popular support, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has been effectively sidelined by the Democratic Party which is utterly uninterested in adopting policies of economic and social justice. It means that, in the longer term, America will move toward greater police repression which will be far more easily accepted by the white public when it is done during a Biden presidency. Given that neither Biden’s nor Obama’s public appearances were effective at demobilizing the protests, it means the United States is facing the prospect of its own Yellow Vest-style uprising, namely a continuous low-level anti-government uprising that will ebb and flow but never entirely disappear.

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  • Chinese Dog

    Hopefully us will reach Chinese assholes a lesson which they would never forget

    • Bobby Twoshoes

      I don’t think “how to kill poor black people” will be a useful lesson in China, though if India gets too uppity it might come in handy.

      • Ashok Varma

        Real Indian people are not that naive, we don’t stand a chance against China and our military leadership is not blind. However, the US and Zionist agenda pushed by the British as usual is to use India as cannon fodder for the west, it will not happen.

        • Bobby Twoshoes

          I’m confident you are correct, I actually thought to myself “I hope Ashok understands this is just a joke” as I posted. :)

          I don’t mean to pry and tell me to piss off if I’m being rude but are you Hindu? If so what caste are you? I ask because my experience with Indian expats has been that they are either salt of the earth people I respect and admire or aloof and arrogant snakes out to swindle everyone with few falling in-between, all of the snakes have been from the upper castes so I’m wondering if it’s a caste thing.

          • Ashok Varma

            No offense taken. I am a secular person but my family name is also used by Brahmins (upper caste). Our caste system is sadly a relic of not so glorious past and many adopted Islam to get away from this curse, which is similar to racist Zionism or Apartheid. Some upper caste are arrogant like White Supremacists, but then many of our great leaders like Nehru and his family have been Brahmins who fought for human rights and against imperialism, but the British imperialists inflamed the exploited the caste system along with Muslim sectarianism, favouring the extremist 19th century Salafism in India and wider Muslim world..

          • Bobby Twoshoes

            Thanks for the reply, super interesting stuff, sounds like my reductionist assumptions were way off. That sounds about right for the Poms though, no prizes for guessing the mother culture of the US.

          • cechas vodobenikov

            caste unlike class reduces status anxiety, reduces internal antagonisms and displaces materialism…I would not reflexively dismiss caste as entirely negative—Ghandi only rejected violence fully aware that the violent British possessed advanced weapons….historically they allied with minorities to enforce their imperialisms—in India the Sikhs, in Uganda Idi Amin’s minority tribe—also true of the amerikans—the Hmong in Vietnam, Essen in Thailand, Mosquito in Nicaragua, the CIA funded Muslim National Salvation Army, Karen in Myanmar, etc

        • Zionism = EVIL

          India will never go into a suicidal war with China. It learnt its lesson in 1962.

    • Simon Ndiritu

      Please, Surprise us one day by posting something sensible.

      • Ashok Varma

        He can not, as he is a troll and meant to say outlandish idiotic things. An embarrassment.

    • Wayne Nicholson

      They did …. about 20 years ago …. that’s why the USA is now getting their ass kicked by China

    • Gary Sellars

      Wow… it sucks that your parents were siblings doesn’t it?

  • Swift Laggard II

    [That was never a fair comparison, since USSR lacked the massive pockets of poverty, social exclusion, and downright police repression that the United States boasts]……this is nonzense

    • Simon Ndiritu

      There is truth in the statement you quoted, I mean USSR didn’t have homelessness unemployment or racial enclaves with high unemployment and low social services like the US.

      • Swift Laggard II

        i just said that is a false statement; a lie; nonzense. total nonzense. just another statement of idealism divorced from reality

  • RockyFjord

    Pretty fair analysis overall. Belying the race face of current happenings is the politico-economic
    system that has extended disparity of wealth about to breaking point. Belying that systematic
    problem is that the anthropocentric center of Modernity with Science and pure reason — has
    failed to resolve the problems, now turned into crisis, which I think no reform is capable of
    correcting. A revolution is required, whether bloody or a revolution like the scientific was to
    the crisis that Medieval theocracy had evolved . . . maybe both. Awaiting a new organizing
    idea for the Carsonian epoch we have already entered in time and natural condition. Ancient
    world was cosmocentric, medieval was theocentric; modern anthropocentric. What’s NECKst?

  • Simon Ndiritu

    The US is in 3-way standoff created by 1) belief that they have a functional democracy 2) Domination by crony-capitalism especially in financial market 3) disdain for social/welfare state.
    On the first side, its false belief to be the best democracy (city on the hill) means that politicians are unlikely to change the policies that have precipitated the current problems.
    On the second side, the economy is not driven by real value creation (extraction, manufacturing or service provision) but by crony capitalism branded as “financial service”. In this, a few, well- positioned cronies of the powerful get low interest money through the Fed and which they use to buy stocks, purchase real and paper assets raising their demand and hence prices. The rise in prices of stocks and assets is branded as “economic growth” but no money goes to productive sectors hence shrinking middle class (The author stated how the government is primarily focused on making Dow Jones to rally).
    On the third side, the US cannot create functional welfare system or invest in education, healthcare or in infrastructure as this undermines crony-capitalism. Therefore, the government (public sector) cannot provide employment, raise household incomes, provide affordable health care otherwise enhance the living standards for common citizens. My view is that this three-way standoff will continue for several years until another trigger either causes eventual collapse or gives impetus to real reforms.

    • verner

      for the time being, the world is at the end of a gigantic investment cycle, nothing much being spent on new technologies or new factories but the capitalist economy has turned much more predatory and the banking system, flush with money it can’t invest with a decent return, will provide any amount of money for a take over, friendly or not. the suckers are the poor souls saving up for a decent pension and any savings today will be hollowed out by inflation and 0-rate yields.

      • Simon Ndiritu

        True, the more the US/West doesn’t climb down and agree to use capital for production instead of a means of ostentation for crony-capitalist thieves, the more their economy will remain in Zombie-Zero-growth state. I see the rest of the world returning to descent growth centered in Asia, More-so China soon. The M.E may experience some peace as the West’s war machine becomes rather bankrupt while stealing M.E oil is no-longer as lucrative as it used to.

    • Swift Laggard II

      pretty good summary of the situation

      • Simon Ndiritu

        Thanks sir!

        • Zionism = EVIL

          You are good intelligent man.

          • Simon Ndiritu

            Thanks sir, Good to see you back!

    • Ashok Varma

      All dying empires end with violence, India experienced the worst of them all, the British who are most insidious liars and hypocrites and it took second world war to finish them off. The US is a failed state hooked on racism, global theft of resources and greed, so it will take some time for it to collapse, but it will.

  • verner

    the disunited states of A would fail all stress tests regardless, mismanaged and on course to an early oblivion. what with a close to 700000 billion in open credit and currency swaps and a national debt of some 26000 billion and and and – spells disaster.

  • “the United States is facing the prospect of its own Yellow Vest-style uprising, namely a continuous low-level anti-government uprising that will ebb and flow but never entirely disappear.’

    But isn’t that just what the US has had for years?

    Street violence, police violence, highest incarceration rate in the world, massive drug consumption, massive gun ownership, militias and gangs.

    Many, particularly from abroad, do not realize what a chaotic place much of the US is.

    Many Americans – ensconced in safer small towns or suburbs or rural places – do not want to recognize the fact because they do not want to deal with it. It is someone else’s problem. This then becomes just one more of the many deep divisions in American society, including race and extremes of socio-economic level.

  • Dick Von Dast’Ard

    I see steel forts making a comeback in 2020’s USA.

  • RichardD

    The protests and riots are caused by scamdemic unemployment and will dissipate to the extent that the lockdown and scamdemic do. The longer that the democrats drag out their virus fraud economic collapse and extinguishment of basic rights and freedoms in the US, the longer the protests will continue. If these democratic traitors fueling this virus fraud crisis get reelected to continue their subversion, then the protests will continue. If they get replaced with pols who won’t support the scamdemic, then the protests will stop.

  • RichardD

    Richard Proctor, Phd of the US Constitution Party makes the case that municipal militias are authorised under the US constitution as an anti insurrection tool in this video:

    https://youtu.be/zkClMUTZivE

  • RichardD

    Alex Jones makes many valid points in this video that can be viewed at the link below. What he doesn’t address is that his globalists are almost all Jews and Zionists like he is.
    https://banned.video/watch?id=5edd3c6d3df0b000240a0771
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0074999e533461b9938b69ff46b4f2e887826b3c8356c2dc902a35cf9caf6389.png

  • RichardD

    Protesters burning an intersection after a shooting earlier in the day.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/79cfd38a51ff84ac31a388a373fc314818a3b5a525cd198d42619b1f0b58c074.jpg