How the Coronavirus Is Exposing the Cracks in Capitalism

I know I know. The new coronavirus, officially named COVID-19, is probably the last thing you want to read about right now. From news cycles constantly bombarding us with the latest stats to endless social media posts about the virus, I’m sure you’re with me in wanting to go back to a time when corona was most commonly known as a beer you chugged on the weekend with your buddies instead of the root of a global pandemic. Personally, I finally felt like I had my life on track again when suddenly everything was cancelled, and the rest of the school year was put online. Although it’s completely valid to feel upset about these cancellations, I think it’s more important to realize the long-term implications of this virus. Not only is it a deadly disease disguised as the common flu, but it’s also having serious side effects on healthcare, society, and the economy. 

Honestly, no country has done a perfect job in handling this crisis, and that’s because we’ve never seen a global pandemic of this size in the last century. With that being said, I think how America has handled the situation has been completely inadequate, even more so because we had plenty of time to see how the virus had affected other countries. In my opinion, the substandard handling of this crisis is a result of our capitalistic centric economy that promotes greed and self-interest. 

Golden piggy bank Pixabay - Quince Media As soon as it became evident that the coronavirus was spreading across America, people panicked, ran to the stores and fought over toilet paper. There were even people mass buying products, so they could upsell these essential supplies once those products ran out. Did any other country behave this way? Is our country really that self-involved and devoid of compassion? 

As the crisis continued, reports emerged of rich and famous people easily getting tested while “normal” people with legitimate reasons to need a test were denied. And then it was revealed that a senator, Richard Burr, may have been involved with insider trading by selling his stocks based on non-public information he received being briefed on the crisis. A few weeks later the stock market plummeted. He currently has not been convicted; however, he is being investigated by the Justice Department. 

It’s astounding to think that a senator who we elected to make important decisions during a time of crisis, instead hurriedly made sure he and his money would be okay before anything else. I should also point out that while he was selling his stocks, millions of Americans were losing their jobs, per the stay home mandate, wondering how they would support their families without income. 

I just read a story the other day of a 17-year-old in California who died of the coronavirus after being denied treatment in a hospital for a lack of health insurance. He died in the ambulance ride to a different hospital. This is America. Aren’t we supposed to be a first world country? Aren’t we supposed to be the “leader of the free world?” Why are we turning our sick children away because of lack of insurance? There are 30 million uninsured Americans across the country. Are we going to let them die from this virus too? 

Even if you are insured, there is no guarantee you won’t face complications from lack of essential services. Hospitals are in serious need of life-saving equipment. In New York, doctors are in desperate need of ventilators while the virus grows exponentially. Eventually there will be more people in need of ventilators than there are available. Doctors and nurses are wearing Halloween masks as protective equipment. We are supposed to be a rich, first world country, and yet it has been a struggle to receive quick and efficient help from our government.

woman wearing mask Polina Tankilevitch Not only that, but the President keeps continuously repeating how everything is fine and that maybe keeping everything shut down was a ploy by his enemies to hurt the economy, thereby hurting, most importantly, his performance in the polls. Even the Lt. Governor of Texas suggested that the elderly sacrifice themselves for the sake of the economy. We are facing a public health crisis and depending on politicians to lead us through this time. And yet, they seem more worried about money and the economy than the thousands of Americans that are losing their lives to this virus. When did the economy become more important than human life? 

Unfortunately, I haven’t even grazed the tip of the iceberg of all the problems the coronavirus has highlighted, I would have to write a book to do that. I just hope that after this crisis is over, we won’t forget. We won’t forget how greed and self-interest worsened the crisis. How the wealth gap became even more evident and destructive. How the heroes were not the richest or most famous, but the doctors, nurses, grocery workers, and delivery people were. How our healthcare system far surpasses other countries in its flaws. We need to remember these things, so we can fix them. America should learn from her mistakes. Maybe capitalism is to blame, I know many will disagree with me, yet I definitely believe it played a role in our disastrous response. I’m not saying we should be a fully socialist country. However, I do believe that we should incorporate more compassion and less greed in our policies. It is evident, through our handling of the coronavirus, that we don’t already do so. 

self-love Original Illustration by Gina Escandon for Her Campus Media