Opinion: The free-market left America unprepared for a pandemic

Jacob Montgomery, Opinion Columnist

The real problem for struggling communities, like college students who do not qualify for the stimulus check, is not who is president or who controls Congress, but what their stance is toward America’s adherence to for-profit, corporate ideology.

The United States did not come to be so blatantly unprepared for this pandemic—relative to other countries—due to a lack of a supposedly homogenous population or solely because of Trump dissolving the pandemic unit of his National Security Council, but it came as the result of a continued effort to appease stockholders and corporations over workers.

Adam Smith, known as “The Father of Capitalism,” developed his primary thesis in The Wealth of Nations. Smith argued, if individuals were allowed to produce and trade goods free of governmental regulation and markets were opened internationally, prosperity would increase. This is the primary position put forward by Smith, and it is usually where its advocates wish to end the conversation about free-market systems.

The current economic system we employ is a perversion of Smith’s arguments for free-market systems. Smith would be in direct opposition to some of our practices, but given a more in-depth critical reading, one can see where we went wrong.

The attitude the United States has taken on in recent decades has been one of ignorant, favorable rulings in favor of corporations at the expense of workers and small businesses.

Politicians and political participants from Reagan to Obama to Ruth Bader-Ginsburg to Brett Kavanaugh to Hillary Clinton and now Trump have all opted for siding with corporations in various ways to allow them access to rights Smith would argue they should never have had.

The recent bailout of companies like Boeing has further solidified the principle put in place in 2008: corporations can receive socialized funding with little to no stipulations on how they spend their money.

Companies like Boeing are the face of unethical practices like stock buybacks, a policy in which a business shovels their money into the pockets of stockholders instead of putting that money into their reserves, investing in the business itself, or supporting their many employees who make the business run.

Although there is a ban on buybacks in this most recent bill, this begs the question of why states at risk of long-term destabilization should file for bankruptcy, as Mitch McConnell believes, while these irresponsible businesses receive multi-billion dollar bailouts.

An aspect of this pandemic that is usually not discussed is the effect it has had on the healthcare industry. Typically, the healthcare industry is discussed from the consumer’s standpoint, but when looked at from the provider’s perspective. Beyond the empty martyrization of healthcare professionals, we find that our lack of preparation extends to hospitals themselves.

Hospitals have been closing more frequently, and these closures have disproportionately affected rural and urban communities. Rarely do we consider that these hospitals are for-profit companies themselves. When they can no longer pay the bills, they are forced to close, thus putting local communities at risk of falling ill and having to travel hours to receive proper care.

This would not occur unless we had a government that believed in allowing for every service to have a price tag, regardless of its necessity.

The United States’ adherence to profit-first ideology is slowly poisoning the country and our fumbled response to this pandemic is just one of many examples of the government’s failings to police corporate influence in political matters.

We will continue to suffer these catastrophes by choosing to “get back to normal.” “Normal” is what got us here. Normal will keep us stuck.

Until something fundamentally changes about our political attitudes toward corporations and the free-market, the poor, the working-class, minorities, foreign nations, and the youth will continue to suffer.

– Jacob Montgomery is a philosophy senior


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