Alan Cafruny, the Henry Platt Bristol Chair of International Affairs and Professor of Government, recently discussed his research on the U.S. and global response to the COVID pandemic in invited lectures at King’s College London and the University of East London.
Cafruny said that “the United States possessed numerous advantages in responding to the SARS-COVID-19 pandemic, including its overall wealth, leadership in absolute and per capita health care spending, and unrivaled scientific and epidemiological expertise. Yet,” he said, “the United States’ record of management of the pandemic has been among the worst in the world in terms of both absolute and per capita infections and deaths.
“The U.S. experience accords with studies that have shown that right wing populism led to a distinctive and counterproductive response to the pandemic,” he said, noting that “the problems and contradictions in the U.S. efforts to contain the pandemic are not simply reducible to ‘culture wars’ or ideology, but rather reflect a broader crisis of neoliberalism, the ‘pre-existing condition.’”
He said that “efforts to contain the virus were constrained by the impact of decades of neoliberalism on U.S. society — and public health care in particular — and the increasingly polarized ideological environment to which it gave rise. At the same time the pandemic served to exacerbate the crisis in both its economic and political manifestations.
“While fiscal and monetary policies partially and temporarily cushioned society from the largest economic contraction in U.S history,” Cafruny said, “they also gave rise to a massive upward redistribution of wealth alongside increasing poverty for millions of Americans, with especially severe impact on minorities and women.”