Donald Trump has failed America with his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, says Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
The COVID-19 pandemic is putting a strain on the medical system and governments should either do more to support essential services or face the dire economic consequences.
So says Stiglitz, who is now a Columbia University professor. He argues that in failing to act quickly the US government is causing the deaths of many citizens unnecessarily.
The shortage of medical equipment and protective gear for healthcare workers is becoming a key issue in the fight against the coronavirus, as the push comes to get more manufacturers involved in the production of face shields, masks and the ventilators needed to keep the infected alive.
Here in Canada, new reports from the Ontario government have said that one in four intensive care unit beds is now being occupied by COVID-19 patients, while in BC, the provincial health officer is saying that gloves and masks are being used up more quickly than previously thought.
“It's a challenge that we have nine long-term-care facility outbreaks where additional protections are needed in those facilities, And then we now have increasing numbers of people in hospital, and that is going through way more personal protective equipment than we expected,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s provincial health officer, in a briefing last week.
The link between economic and social health has never been displayed quite so graphically, with governments worldwide trying to support faltering businesses even as the virus has yet to peak in many Western countries. Stiglitz says that in the US, the federal government has been too slow on the draw, causing both more economic pain and likely more COVID-19 tragedies.
“One of the things that is astounding in a market economy is the shortages of essential materials that have showed up — shortages of tests, shortages a masks, shortages of ventilators shortages of protective gear. And it is very clear that the market economy not only did not make adequate provision of this before the crisis is not responding,” said Stiglitz, former chief economist at the World Bank, speaking to BNN Bloomberg on Friday.
“In the United States, we have a law that gives the federal government the powers to actually compel the production of these goods. Those powers, should be used. It's a little late, President Trump should have done that three months ago. He failed and as a result of that, there are going to be many, many deaths unnecessary deaths,” said Stiglitz.
One of the things that the US federal government neglected in its major aid package, the $2-trillion relief bill signed into law last week, according to Stiglitz, is doing more to help businesses keep workers on the payroll so that healthcare benefits are maintained.
“It’s especially important in the United States because employees depend on health insurance that is provided by their employer. It’s not such a big issue in Canada but in the United States maintaining that nexus between the worker and his employers is really important,” Stiglitz said.
“There were some big gaps, [for example], inadequate provision of assistance to the States, and Governor Cuomo in New York has been particularly and I think rightfully critical of that major deficiency, which is a threat both to our economy but also to our health because the states in the end are responsible for providing health care in the United States,” Stiglitz added.