Today’s NYT has, on its front page both physical and virtual, what I think is an unintended juxtaposition. On the left side of printed paper was this story:
The gist of the story is that in China what would be an independent civil society group in the US prioritizes real and imagined state interests to the point of paralysis and unhelpfulness in a crisis. (Unmentioned are allegations of incompetence, greed, and mendacity of the US Red Cross, but never mind, we’re talking about the Commies here!)
As the NYT tells it,
In Wuhan, the charity’s officials were quickly paralyzed by bureaucracy, competing mandates and chaos. For days, tens of millions of dollars in funds went unused, while piles of protective gear sat in a sprawling warehouse as desperate health workers battled the virus without it.
When officials did distribute aid, they sent tens of thousands of masks to private clinics that were not treating coronavirus patients. In one early shipment, they prioritized local officials over health care workers. In another delivery, the equipment was substandard.
Compare that to the story on the right hand side of my morning paper:
Here we have the head of the US Government announcing a plan to prioritize the supply of goods over the lives of the people who prepare those goods. Although there is no justification in law that I am aware of, President Trump also claims he will issue an order protecting Big Chicken and Big Meat companies from liability — that is somehow immunize the firms from suits by workers exposed to COVID-19 on the assembly line whom the firms endangered by poor safety practices. Or, maybe, this immunity is meant to be only prospective, i.e. to block lawsuits by the workers whom the firms will endanger if they obey the order to go back to work (the temporal aspect of the claimed authority is as unclear as its alleged source).
So, on one side we have a structure in which the Party comes before efforts to get vital PPE and other supplies to hospitals and others who need them, and which diverts supplies to government favorites who do not.
And on the other side we have a government which injects confusion into the mask supply chain and stockpiles substandard ventilators, led by a man who proudly puts the interests of a few large firms ahead of the lives of their workers, and seeks to erase any financial claims of their survivors’ families.
What are we to make of this juxtaposition? Under Chinese Communism civil society is corralled to serve the interests of the Party, as (mis)understood by bureaucrats, even if it leads to the the deaths of first responders and other citizens. Under US Capitalism, the power of the state is invoked to serve the interests of large firms, even if it kills the workers due to the firms’ organization of the workplace. No wonder other countries now pity us.