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Is America a Backward Nation? South Korea has US Equivalent of 1,311 Coronavirus Deaths as We Hit 16,000

The US is increasingly like a Third World country, with an isolated, coddled class of super-wealthy at the top, a crumbling scientific infrastructure, and a wasteland of plastic strip malls and 2 dollar an hour wait staff.

Coronavirus crisis volunteer Rhiannon Navin greets local residents arriving to a food distribution center at the WestCop community center on March 18, 2020 in New Rochelle, New York. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

Coronavirus crisis volunteer Rhiannon Navin greets local residents arriving to a food distribution center at the WestCop community center on March 18, 2020 in New Rochelle, New York. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

The US is heading for having the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world next week. Admittedly the US is a big country and it still won’t have the highest number of cases per capita. But it won’t even be in the running for the country with the fewest per capita. The United States was once the most advanced country in the world. America put a man on the moon. To have Germany and South Korea outflank us in dealing with the disaster is an enormous disgrace.

As of April 9, there had been 2349 deaths in Germany, which is a country 1/4 the size of the US. That that would be like 9,396 US deaths. The actual US death toll on the same date? Nearly 15,000.

While there are questions about the validity of Chinese statistics, there aren’t any about those of Germany, Canada and South Korea, all of them democracies. If anything their reporting is probably better than that of the US.

In part the disaster was caused by Trump dilly-dallying for two and a half months before the Federal government did anything at all. In part the disaster was caused by the American people having been so flaky as to put someone with narcissistic personality disorder into the White House. In part the disaster was caused by worshiping the Market at the expense of the welfare of you and me. The market doesn’t care about our health in the long run, it cares about share prices an hour from now. Stockpiling ventilators for a rare pandemic is against everything the market stands for.

Trump keeps saying that the US has carried out 2 million tests, the most in the world. But the US is huge, so it has by no means carried out the most testing per capita in the world. South Korea has tested for the coronavirus at many times the rate per capita of the United States, and Germany at twice the rate. Germany has done 350,000 tests a week. South Korea’s technique of testing widely, and tracing back all the people who came into contact with someone testing positive, has allowed its economy to avoid having completely to close down.

It is like for Trump to boast that 10 Americans, each worth $100,000, are richer than a single South Korean who is worth $900,000 all by himself. This is true, but the South Korean guy is still richer than each of the 10 Americans.

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Then there is just sheer technology. Quest Labs in California fell way behind in processing the tens of thousands of test kits it received and has a backlog of 115,000 tests. It was trying to process them manually. It has now switched to a technique of automatic testing developed by the Swiss company, Roche.

A Swiss company. American corporations have been playing the stock market casino, buying their own stock to inflate share prices, and concentrating only on highly profitable sectors, as well as overcharging consumers.

A Swiss company.

The US is increasingly like a Third World country, with an isolated, coddled class of super-wealthy at the top, a crumbling scientific infrastructure, and a wasteland of plastic strip malls and 2 dollar an hour wait staff.

When did we become so backward?

Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His new book, The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East (Simon and Schuster), will officially be published July 1st. He is also the author of Engaging the Muslim World and Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (both Palgrave Macmillan). He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

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