At the time of writing, COVID-19-related deaths in the United States have already surpassed 555,000, and the figures show signs of increasing further. More lives of U.S. citizens have been lost during this pandemic than in the fighting during World War I and II.
Yet in the American superpower, the only one that really exists, it is not just a health pandemic that is developing. In the world’s current most powerful country, with its social characteristics of monopoly capitalism, a social pandemic is also brewing, a class-based pandemic across society. A study by the University of California in San Diego found that essential workers, who are predominantly immigrants, Hispanic and Black citizens, have suffered more infections and more deaths. The study shows that the higher mortality rate they suffer might be to do with certain social conditions related to health care provision, such as not speaking English and living in poverty.
Another study by a team of investigators from Harvard University focused on the fact that the number of deaths due to COVID-19 reaches far greater proportions within Hispanic and Black communities, as well as in the regions with higher concentrations of poverty. For example, adults that lived in households whose income fell below the median income in the U.S. represented two-thirds of the deaths due to COVID-19. And those without a high-school diploma represented approximately one out of every four deaths.
Another study, this time from Canada, demonstrated that the regions with the highest percentages of excessive consumers of alcohol, children living in single-parent households, higher numbers of adults without medical insurance, higher numbers of racial minorities, more women, greater population density, higher environmental pollution levels and residential segregation between white and non-white populations had the highest rates of COVID-19 mortality.
Sadly, since October 2020, COVID-19 has not only become the third-ranking cause of death in the United States for people aged between 45 and 84 years old and the second-ranking cause of death for those aged 85 and over; it has also demonstrated, with its cruel social consequences, the terrible inequities between social classes that exist in the United States.
While their leaders, whether that be Donald Trump or now Joe Biden, boast that the United States is the world’s superpower, the tragic reality is that it has also turned into a superpower of the pandemic, a superpower of incalculable suffering for the vast majority of its people.
Yet this terrible situation does not just refer to the deceased and the subsequent aftereffects for those who have had serious cases of the virus. This is also a pandemic in the living and working conditions of many more millions of Americans. This is a pandemic of social class, as the data unequivocally manifests. According to an article by Business Insider on Oct. 30 last year, the dominant class, the monopolistic bourgeoisie, increased its wealth by $500 million in 2020, while 40 million U.S. workers had to file for unemployment insurance.
Millions of people who survived COVID-19 must still face a loss of employment, as well as eviction. Up to 2 million people might suffer from food insecurity in the United States this year; but apparently, tackling hunger is not one of Congress’ priorities, nor is the financing of infrastructure such as public schooling, housing or transport.
Congress approved Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, signed on March 11, but it has rejected an increase in the hourly minimum wage to $15, an increase which would benefit more than 27 million workers. This is a measure that would obviously represent an improvement, especially since the increase in the minimum wage was initially included in the new legislation drafted to tackle the consequences of COVID-19. Its approval would have given some long-awaited relief to low-salary workers, predominantly Black and Hispanic communities, immigrants and women.
However, during the previous Trump administration, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act decreased taxes on large corporations to the tune of $1.5 billion, provoking an increase in the state deficit of $984 billion as well as a sharp rise in the federal indebtedness in the United States.
The CARES Act, alongside three other complementary measures approved in 2020 with the unanimous support of Congress, were drafted to ensure that the largest beneficiaries were the oligopolies and the oligarchic families in the U.S. While the CARES Act gave limited assistance to 159 million people with its left hand, with its right, it awarded tax exemptions to the value of billions of dollars to the monopolistic bourgeoisie, to the 1%.
In fact, even the U.S. Congress Joint Committee on Taxation was forced to recognize that five tax arrangements were specifically directed to benefit the oligarchic families, a value equivalent to all the stimulus checks delivered to the most heavily affected sectors of society. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest concern of the oligopolies has not been the number of deaths; rather, it has been any fall in their profits.
American workers need to be guaranteed a livable wage, one that protects them against evictions and secures sufficient access to food and health care, so that they are not forced to work in insecure conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic just to survive.