We may die at home or we may die alone but we are surely dying

The Washington Post has a story about “excess deaths” in the early weeks of the pandemic, that is, the number of deaths recorded in excess of the number expected given usual mortality rates for the time period. We don’t know that these were caused by COVID-19 but a large number of such deaths in the absence of other causes suggests strongly that they were at least somehow related to the pandemic.[1] This dovetails with earlier reporting that, largely due to inadequate testing, many cases are being missed.[2] Not helping here is that the tests themselves are unreliable.[3] I’m trying—and utterly failing—to wrap my head around what the implications of this should be for states rushing to reopen their economies with what is likely to be undue haste,[4] which, of course, is what politicians, especially those invested in Donald Trump’s reelection, want them to do.[5] But I’m pretty clear at this point that the capitalist god will be receiving its human sacrifices.[6]

Notably, some people are not counted in the COVID-19 figures because they died at home, making it less likely their cases could be confirmed. Some such cases are especially tragic: They didn’t go to the hospital because their families feared they would die alone.[7]

I’m pushing this segue much too far, at least as of now, but of course, another potential cause of death is starvation, and while lines of cars at food bank distribution locations stretch for miles, farmers are plowing food into the ground because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been slow to get its act together on programs to purchase the food and distribute it to food banks. Some farmers have attempted to donate food but then they bear the costs of production and harvest which are often not negligible.[8] This is, of course, yet another example of Trump administration incompetence as we fail—utterly fail—at taking care of human beings and enabling them to do sensible things.[9]

As I read the latter story, however, I can’t help but sense that the USDA just really doesn’t have its heart in getting food from farmers to food banks. The agency insists it’s doing its best, of course,[10] and I should emphasize that in my encounters with federal bureaucracy, while I have seen despair and frustration with regulatory obstruction, I have also seen dedication. At least at the rank and file level, I would expect that agency employees really want to do their jobs and to do them well, whether you agree with those jobs or not. On the other hand, at the municipal level, the level allegedly closer to the people and where I worked longer, I have also seen disinterest and, I think, even malice.

Not that a lot of the people are doing better. This pandemic is a complicated problem and people are prone to looking only at one side of it, when in reality, all of it is evil, all of it is ugly, and it is hard to see an upside.[11] I see a picture that is darkening, not brightening, and only in part because of our political leadership,[12] the same leadership that is indeed much too anxious to sate the capitalist god.[13] I just don’t see how this ends well.

That’s a kind of death as well.

  1. [1]Emma Brown et al., “U.S. deaths soared in early weeks of pandemic, far exceeding number attributed to covid-19,” Washington Post, April 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2020/04/27/covid-19-death-toll-undercounted/
  2. [2]Emma Brown, Beth Reinhard, and Aaron C. Davis, “Coronavirus death toll: Americans are almost certainly dying of covid-19 but being left out of the official count,” Washington Post, April 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/coronavirus-death-toll-americans-are-almost-certainly-dying-of-covid-19-but-being-left-out-of-the-official-count/2020/04/05/71d67982-747e-11ea-87da-77a8136c1a6d_story.html
  3. [3]Steve Eder, Megan Twohey, and Apoorva Mandavilli, “Antibody Test, Seen as Key to Reopening Country, Does Not Yet Deliver,” New York Times, April 19, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/19/us/coronavirus-antibody-tests.html; Christopher Weaver, “Questions About Accuracy of Coronavirus Tests Sow Worry,” Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/questions-about-accuracy-of-coronavirus-tests-sow-worry-11585836001
  4. [4]William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and Joel Achenbach, “States rushing to reopen are likely making a deadly error, coronavirus models and experts warn,” Washington Post, April 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/22/reopening-america-states-coronavirus/
  5. [5]Jonathan Chait, “Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe,” New York, April 20, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/trump-coronavirus-open-state-governors-protests.html; David Frum, “Why Mitch McConnell Wants States to Go Bankrupt,” Atlantic, April 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/04/why-mitch-mcconnell-wants-states-go-bankrupt/610714/; Robert McCartney, “McConnell’s rejection of federal aid for states risks causing a depression, analysts say,” Washington Post, April 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/mcconnells-rejection-of-federal-aid-for-states-risks-causing-a-depression-analysts-say/2020/04/26/1fd4731c-8632-11ea-a3eb-e9fc93160703_story.html
  6. [6]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/; David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/; David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/
  7. [7]Emma Brown et al., “U.S. deaths soared in early weeks of pandemic, far exceeding number attributed to covid-19,” Washington Post, April 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2020/04/27/covid-19-death-toll-undercounted/
  8. [8]Helena Bottemiller Evich, “USDA let millions of pounds of food rot while food-bank demand soared,” Politico, April 26, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/26/food-banks-coronavirus-agriculture-usda-207215
  9. [9]Anne Applebaum, “The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff,” Atlantic, March 15, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-showed-america-wasnt-task/608023/; David Benfell, “Elite priorities: Why social, animal, and environmental justice remains essential with COVID-19,” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/26/elite-priorities-why-social-animal-and-environmental-justice-remains-essential-with-covid-19/; David Blanchflower, “Pandemic Economics: ‘Much Worse, Very Quickly,” New York Review of Books, March 26, 2020, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/03/26/pandemic-economics-much-worse-very-quickly/; Zak Cheney-Rice, “Even Naked, America Cannot See Itself,” New York, April 27, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/coronavirus-inequality-america.html; Kim Hart, “The coronavirus economy will devastate those who can least afford it,” Axios, March 23, 2020, https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-economy-layoffs-children-families-bad-d588cc93-ff26-4031-8be8-5654cce05a15.html; Zoë Hu, “A New Age of Destructive Austerity After the Coronavirus,” New Republic, April 23, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157417/new-age-destructive-austerity-coronavirus; Sarah Jones, “Dear Rich People: Please Stop Hoarding Things,” New York, March 30, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/things-are-bad-and-rich-people-arent-helping.html; Hanna Kozlowska, “Coronavirus is revealing ugly truths about social structure in the US,” Quartz, March 14, 2020, https://qz.com/1818548/coronavirus-is-revealing-ugly-truths-about-social-structure-in-the-us/; Eric Levitz, “In the Age of the Coronavirus, Biden’s ‘Results’ Require Bernie’s ‘Revolution,’” New York, March 16, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/who-won-the-democratic-debate-between-biden-and-bernie-coronavirus.html; Tony Romm, “Uber drivers and other gig economy workers were promised unemployment benefits. It may be a long wait,” Washington Post, April 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/02/uber-airbnb-lyft-unemployment-coronavirus/; Jenny Schuetz, “America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus,” Brookings, March 12, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/03/12/americas-inequitable-housing-system-is-completely-unprepared-for-coronavirus/; Luke Taylor, “When coronavirus is behind us, will you still think of restaurant and bar workers?” Vox, March 21, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/3/21/21188210/coronavirus-restaurant-bar-workers-economy-service-industry; Reis Thebault, Andrew Ba Tran, and Vanessa Williams, “The coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/07/coronavirus-is-infecting-killing-black-americans-an-alarmingly-high-rate-post-analysis-shows/; Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020, https://newint.org/features/2020/03/18/untenable-luxury-self-isolation; Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Denise Lu, and Gabriel J.X. Dance, “Location Data Says It All: Staying at Home During Coronavirus Is a Luxury,” New York Times, April 3, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/03/us/coronavirus-stay-home-rich-poor.html
  10. [10]Helena Bottemiller Evich, “USDA let millions of pounds of food rot while food-bank demand soared,” Politico, April 26, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/26/food-banks-coronavirus-agriculture-usda-207215
  11. [11]David Benfell, “Don’t just say #COVIDIOTS,” Not Housebroken, April 19, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/19/dont-just-say-covidiots/
  12. [12]David Benfell, “I fear for our world,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/09/i-fear-for-our-world/; David Benfell, “Elite priorities: Why social, animal, and environmental justice remains essential with COVID-19,” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/26/elite-priorities-why-social-animal-and-environmental-justice-remains-essential-with-covid-19/
  13. [13]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/; David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/; David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.