“Much of the slow response of Western governments can be traced to an infection in their economies over the last 40 years called neoliberalism,” Charles Dunaway told Tasnim.
He added, “…now the US has almost no manufacturing capacity other than for weapons systems and few or no mechanisms through which the government can force private companies to produce necessary goods on a timely basis.
Charles Dunaway is an American radio host and journalist who runs an online political forum. After a career as a systems analyst, Charles began a new career in radio journalism, joining the staff of a local station and becoming News Director. In 2016 he began producing his own program focused on international affairs called Wider View.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: More than seven weeks into the Trump administration’s response effort — which began Jan. 29 with the announcement of a coronavirus task force and, two days later, the declaration of a public health emergency — ramped-up testing for the virus has only just begun, hospital systems say they don’t have enough beds and medical supplies to handle the onslaught of anticipated patients, and there is a shortage of respirators, ventilators and other protective equipment for nurses and doctors on the front lines. The emergence of the coronavirus exposed the vulnerability of Western governments in the face of such pandemics despite their “advanced medical technology”. There are reports that elderly people are not receiving medical treatment across Western hospitals due to shortages. Western governments always brag about their measures to fulfill social justice. Where is it now? What do you think?
Dunaway: Much of the slow response of Western governments can be traced to an infection in their economies over the last 40 years called neoliberalism. This is the idea of market primacy in which the role of government is diminished while that of corporations and banks is dramatically increased in the name of the "free market". Almost immediately this led to a globalization of manufacturing that sought out the lowest cost producers in the nations with the fewest restrictions on business. Now the US has almost no manufacturing capacity other than for weapons systems and few or no mechanisms through which the government can force private companies to produce necessary goods on a timely basis.
Vital resources such as medical technology, hospitals and clinics are designed to make a profit, not serve the people and while the US can brag about having the best health care in the world, that care is reserved for those who can afford to pay for it. There is no market reason to produce goods and services when those who need them cannot afford to pay. When crises like the COVID-19 pandemic occur, the weaknesses of this system become readily apparent.
Tasnim: According to reports, the coronavirus outbreak across the US is getting worse, with damage accelerated by shortages of key medical supplies. As of Sunday, there are over 123,000 confirmed cases nationwide, with more than 2,200 deaths. The spike of cases has hospitals around the country scrambling to keep up with the demand for care. Warnings of shortages have reverberated across the country as state governors have pleaded with the federal government to make more supplies available. What is behind this mismanagement? How do you see President Donald Trump’s role in this?
Dunaway: Trump seems to be catching on, finally, to the serious nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. He should have acted much earlier, and it's hard to know whether he personally disregarded the predictive information coming to the White House, or whether his aides, yes-men all, shielded him from the data knowing how he dislikes bad news, or whether the government might have responded more quickly had the Republicans not cut so many jobs from public health and scientific agencies. Regardless of the rationale, the US government responded too late and the President's statements on the crisis have been confusing and contradictory.
In the last few days, the blame is shifting to the Congress which is paralyzed by the deep partisan divide in this country and the influence of major corporate and Wall Street lobbyists who are lining up to be bailed out by the government. The economic help that many Americans need as a result of this pandemic will be longer in coming and probably be inadequate. What we are seeing is a powerful and wealthy failed state.
Tasnim: Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei recently spoke out about the bizarre US offer to help Iran in its fight against the coronavirus epidemic. He pointed out that it is very, very strange that the Trump administration would be offering some form of unspecified help when it is blockading medical supplies and equipment from reaching Iran, thereby making this medical crisis vastly worse. What are your thoughts on this? How could the US help Iran when it is facing shortages? What do you think about the origin of the virus?
Dunaway: Obviously the first, and I would say ONLY thing the US should do to help Iran is remove the sanctions fully and immediately. Unless and until they do that, the Iranian government should reject any offers to help from the US. How can the US, which has shortages of vital medical supplies and equipment, help Iran anyway? The US has had to fly Chinese face masks in from Italy because we have no capacity to manufacture them and no mechanism for the government to direct them to be produced rapidly. Any "help" provided to Iran (or Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq or any other nation in the region) would most likely be in the form of implanting regime change operations or pro-US propaganda.
There are a number of hypotheses about the origins of the coronavirus and I am reserving judgment until more evidence and scientific analysis has been made available. In the meantime, I think the responsible thing for governments to do is treat this pandemic as though it were biological warfare. By that I mean bringing all the resources of their nation and its allies together to stop the spread of the disease among the population, treat those who have been infected, and accelerate the process of finding a cure. Once the people are safe, then there needs to be a thorough investigation into the origins of this outbreak. If it is an offensive biological agent, whether released intentionally or unintentionally, the nation that created it should be ostracized by the world as a pariah state.