Continuing Robert Reich’s email:
Why is America so different from other advanced nations facing the same coronavirus threat? Why has everything gone so tragically wrong?
Some of it is due to Trump and his hapless and corrupt collection of grifters, buffoons, sycophants, lobbyists and relatives. But there are also deeper roots.
The coronavirus has been especially potent in the US because America is the only industrialized nation lacking universal healthcare. Many families have been reluctant to see doctors or check into emergency rooms for fear of racking up large bills.
America is also the only one of 22 advanced nations failing to give all workers some form of paid sick leave. As a result, many American workers have remained on the job when they should have been home.
Adding to this is the skimpiness of unemployment benefits in America – providing less support in the first year of unemployment than those in any other advanced country.
American workplaces are also more dangerous. Even before Covid-19 ripped through meatpackers and warehouses, fatality rates were higher among American workers than European.
Even before the pandemic robbed Americans of their jobs and incomes, average wage growth in the US had lagged behind average wage growth in most other advanced countries. Since 1980, American workers’ share of total national income has declined more than in any other rich nation.
In other nations, unions have long pushed for safer working conditions and higher wages. But American workers are far less unionized than workers in other advanced economies. Only 6.4% of private-sector workers in America belong to a union, compared with more than 26% in Canada, 37% in Italy, 67% in Sweden, and 25% in Britain.
So who and what’s to blame for the worst avoidable loss of life in American history?
Partly, Donald Trump’s malfeasance.
But the calamity is also due to America’s longer-term failure to provide its people the basic support they need.