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Coronavirus brings out the worst in Americans

The Coronavirus may be bringing out the worst of America and Americans, as our response to the pandemic highlights maybe our greatest weakness, our lack of “societal values”. While some of this of course is subjective, using data there is also a strong argument to make that this statement of Coronavirus bringing out the worst of Americans is fact based or objective.

Countries are beating this pandemic, and they are doing it because they place a much greater emphasis on society values than they do on individual rights. Americans are the opposite, very little emphasis on societal value and more on individual rights.

Americans value individual rights/freedom, which is a great asset of this country. However there is a fine line there between freedom and selfishness. COVID-19 is sadly showing way too many people are all about themselves (selfish) vs. doing what is good for others and the larger society.

We as people have only a few tools available to us to beat COVID-19. Masks, distance, hygiene, mandatory quarantine if sick and contact tracing. Four of them are simple to do. Even doing something that is quite simple, like masks, hygiene, distance, or staying home if sick could make a huge difference. But it does not seem possible to do these things in America due to this mindset of individual freedom, even if others suffer. One of Americans biggest strengths, that freedom of the individual, may our biggest weakness when it comes to COVID-19. Though that mindset is very hypocritical as noted below.

Data – Look at the numbers to take emotion out of this

Let us look at some of the facts. For those who are not aware, many countries have succeeded in beating back the virus to date. While things can change, a number of countries have succeeded.

However America clearly has not succeeded using objective measures. To date, 83,000+ Americans have died, by far the most in the world. Now you can say we have a larger population, and that is true. So let us look at some data that shows even when adjusted for population we are doing a terrible job when compared to many other advanced countries. We have more deaths, much more economic hardship, and trillions in additional debt. Let us compare our data to some other democratic countries that most people agree have more emphasis on societal values.

  • South Korea has 259 deaths but 1/7 of the US population. That means the US has 46 times more deaths than South Korea when adjusted by population. In addition, the unemployment rate in South Korea is about 4% vs. 15% here.
    • Bottom line, US has 46 times more death that South Korea at the same time the US economy has collapsed.
  • Australia has 98 deaths but 1/16 of the US population. That means the US has 60 times more deaths than Australia when adjusted by population. In addition, the unemployment rate in Australia is about 7.5% (still TBD) vs. 15% here.
    • Bottom line, US has 60 times more death at the same time the US economy has collapsed.
  • Germany has 7,750 deaths but 1/4 of the US population. That means the US has almost 3 times more deaths than Germany when adjusted by population. In addition, the unemployment rate is about 6% in Germany vs. 15% here.
    • Bottom line, US has 3 times more death at the same time the US economy has collapsed.
  • Taiwan has 7 deaths but 1/17 of the US population. That means the US has almost 700 times more deaths than Taiwan when adjusted by population. In addition, the unemployment rate is about 4% in Taiwan vs. 15% here.
    • Bottom line, US has 3 times more death at the same time the US economy has collapsed.

I can go on and one with additional data-points. And these are all free countries with free people, free elected governments and not authoritarian rulers or governments (as authoritarian governments like China can obviously address COVID-19 in other ways).

America’s weakness

While a general statement, these countries (and many others) place greater emphasis on society and the greater good of society than Americans, who are about themselves and individual freedom. The unwillingness or inability to take even simple steps for the greater good of others or greater good of society reflects the worst of Americans. Even as 80,000+ people have died in 2 months..

While this is anecdotal evidence, when I safely leave the house for the occasional errand, I see so many examples of people not wearing masks or the doing basics things to protect others or society. You also see the selfishness in images on TV (both left leaning and right leaning TV stations), newspapers, websites, etc. But this is anecdotal evidence and/or images that can be “manipulated”.

Let us look at survey data too. Surveys show that a large minority of people do not believe in masks. Not sure how or why everything is political these days (as Coronavirus is a health issue and not political), however the data shows less than 50% or Republicans believe in or wear a mask. What is sad is that COVID-19 not a political issue but a health care one, but Americans (both Republicans and Democrats) have somehow found it in themselves to make it political. Another example of the the worst of Americans. Take politics out of it and do the basics to protect society.

I fear Americans are just too different, and selfish, to “win” the battle without tremendous death and continued economic hardship. I fear Americans cannot come together, like other successful countries, in beating back COVID-19. I do not think enough people can get it within themselves to social distance, wear masks, personal hygiene, etc. Not to mention how would we ever get to contact tracing or mandatory 14 day quarantine which countries that care about society and others do.

A strength of America is its love of freedom. But when it comes to the Coronavirus, that love of freedom is a major weakness. And Americans do not seem to be able to make even minimal sacrifices for the greater good or society, and since we do not seem capable of doing that, then in this case that value of individual rights is our greatest weakness, with a heap of vanity and self-absorption and lack of believing in science or data. Since they can’t make a tiny sacrifice for the benefit of society, Americans are shooting themselves in the foot as the economy and job marker will not get better or it will take much, much longer to start to improve.

Short term selfish thinking

COVID-19 shows how too many Americans have such a limited or no ability to make small sacrifices for the greater good of society. COVID-19 brought out the blame game, self-absorption, etc. The biggest thing I think it shows about Americans is their ability to make a small, ongoing (but time limited sacrifice) for long term benefit.

About 55 million Americans are age 65 or older, and millions of others have pre-existing medical conditions which may make them vulnerable to Coronavirus. Call it a total of 20-30% of US population is at very high risk, with millions of others at low to moderate risk. Those older people and vulnerable can be grandparents, neighbors, parents, volunteers, kids with medical conditions, service workers, etc. and all too many Americans cannot even do something as simple as wear as mask to help protect the vulnerable in society (and quite frankly themselves).

By refusing to wear a risk or use the fool tools we have to beat back COVID-19, those people who do not look out for society put everyone at risk. Ironically, they also put the economy at risk by not wearing masks and following health guidelines. Wear a mask, do basic health steps; do that which will make people more comfortable in venturing out more often, which will help the economy. Of course, the longer this American weakness of not being able to think about society vs. themselves, the more bigger the hole in the economy will be and the higher risk of permanent economic damage.

This is the worst of America…the self-absorption, vanity, ignorance, hypocrisy, and whatever other traits people have that makes them not wear a mask and take basic safety steps around health of society, and societal values.

Selfish and hypocritical

When it comes to this virus too, I think it does bring out even more of the societal hypocrisy. This is more venting, which can be a good release, but let us look at some of the examples of hypocrisy.

People who do not wear a mask to protect themselves from COVID-19, but then if they get sick they still want to be entitled to health care, thereby putting the lives of every health care workers (and those workers families and society at large) at risk. Hypocritical. So, they are so self-absorbed by not wearing a mask but they want health care if they catch COVID-19. Anyone who refuses to wear a mask, open a business without controls, etc. those self-absorbed people should need to sign a legal waiver saying they give up the right to health care. And their families and loved ones should also need to sign said waiver.

Farm workers are also heroes. They are critical, “essential employees” to keep our food supply system going during the pandemic. But there are several million (estimated) undocumented farm workers assisting as well. Those illegal workers are now “essential” workers (“heroes” to help keep American fed. We as a nation were slowly but steadily deporting them a few months ago…and probably will be trying to do so again in the future. Heroes one day, deported the next. What hypocrisy.

Ever hear the saying of “My neighbor lost his job – it is a recession.  I lose my job – it is a depression”. Apply this to Covid. An example may be “My neighbor lost hos mom from COVID-19 – Too bad but is a risk of living.  I lost my mom from COVID-19 – it is a devastating and needless death”. 

Protesters who want the economy to open or small business owners who express their “individual” rights by reopening without masks or hygiene, it is ironic/hypocritical that those protesters and businesses that do that are in fact shooting themselves in the foot and hurting the economy. As it is people that will open the economy, not the government. As people will venture out more often, spend and “open” the economy only when they feel safe.

Historically about 35 to 40% of our nation’s health care expenses go to senior citizens in this country. It is trillions of dollars per year. We have therefore historically decided, as a nation, to care for older Americans, try to keep them alive through expensive medical treatments, etc. Now, when coronavirus hits us, Americans show total disregard for seniors and the elderly in the society by not wearing masks, etc. and they show no value for them. So why did we spend trillions in the past? Hypocritical. I can’t wait for the next politician to say who cares what happens to the elderly and lets stop spending money on their health care and just keep them locked away, out of sight and out of mind. As Americans on a whole have decided we can’t take small actions to try to protect them so why spend trillions on Medicare, etc.

Once again, there are so many hypocritical, thoughtless and lack of critical thinking examples with our collective response it is quite incredible. Those are just a few examples. Now I do not have the answers, but some of this stuff is so blatant.

An American strength is shown to be maybe its greatest weakness

The individual freedom, an American strength, is now a total weakness as COVID-19 has shown many Americans inability to incorporate even very minor societal values at the same time as keeping that individual freedom. Anyhow, there is obviously some generalization in here as some Americans are taking the right step in fighting COVID-19. Many countries are and have been able to care for the vulnerable, keep death rates down, and keep the economy open. We have done none of those things. This is clearly shown in the data. Other countries most be laughing at us.

I always thought back in late January when I saw COVID coming that the country would rally together for at least most of the duration of this crisis, like we did in other events such as 9/11, World War 2, etc. I thought Americans would make small changes to their lifestyles to benefit society, with maybe some additional focused support for the vulnerable. I was not naive though and I did think that any potential “coming together” would not last for say years and years, as it never has before.

But I figured Americans could rally for the greater good of society for a defined, time-limited event like COVID-19. Boy was I wrong about that aspect of Coronavirus.

I guess our lack of leadership (both political parties, corporate, civic, etc.), personal responsibility, American’s entitlement, etc. sadly “won out”. I still wonder will there be a point in total deaths and economic carnage when people stop thinking about themselves and do the small, simple things needed and have some societal values? Or once again, is it just a matter of us waiting/hoping for the “herd” or vaccine?

joncmac

Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

3 thoughts on “Coronavirus brings out the worst in Americans

  • May 14, 2020 at 5:55 pm
    Permalink

    Through the years our government has shredded the power of the Constitution.
    Go get them you freedom fighters; just don’t show up to a hospital if you get sick. I think fining and locking people up is not the best course, but how do you enforce any law if there are no repercussions for actions?
    Curious about all you freedom fighters out there; if someone is sick do they have the right to go out and infect others?
    I’m all for herd immunity, but knowingly and willingly infecting others seems a bit much and unfair to others who may get deathly ill.
    Hmmm…testing then? Where are we with that in reality?
    Do you send your kids back to school?
    What if Johnny’s mom and dad lost their jobs in in this economy and there is no health insurance and little Johnny is a carrier. Do you let him go back to school and infect little Susie and little Susie infects her grandmother?
    It’s not that easy for the answers; most aren’t thinking enough of a bigger picture; just thinking of themselves and getting a haircut.

    Reply
  • May 18, 2020 at 12:24 am
    Permalink

    I am very offended by this article. I live in a small suburban town in Central Jersey and everyone I see is following the suggested regulations put out by our Governor. All of my family members are following the rules and only a minimal % of residents have visitors but they don’t impact on anyone else. As the state is opening up, all of my family is not rushing to go to the Jersey shore or anywhere else for that matter. Where are all of these people who don’t wear masks or follow the rules? At you stereotyping us based on what is going on somewhere else on the country? We may have our days that the lockdown gets to us but, we’re not selfish. Most people in NJ and PA who are complaining are those who own small businesses that are going down the tubes or people who lost their jobs and have not received an unemployment check since they applied 6 weeks go. Very valid reasons to complain and it is not selfishness. The reason we have so many deaths in the US, in my opinion, is that the President and all of Congress did not close our borders to international travel soon enough, Corona virus testing and serology testing is not adequate across the country, it was harder to contain the virus in overcrowded cities, the virus has mutated 10+ times since it hit the US and now US children are dying from a Kawasaki like disease that did not happen when the virus first began to spread. So, the US is not a selfish country as a whole and, by the way, the Democrat and Republican parties are the people who turned the Corona virus pandemic into a political battle and the media feeds the fire through articles like this one.

    Reply
    • May 18, 2020 at 9:21 am
      Permalink

      Hi Veronia,
      You same to take this article as a reflection of you and your family. It is not. We have no idea how you are! This is not about you. As we said, look at the aggregate data. Take emotions and anecdotal observations out of it. Using the data, the US is “LOSING THE WAR” in every objective measure.

      While there are many reasons why, that statement is a fact. Many countries with only a fraction on the resources and wealth we have here are doing exponentially better than the US.

      COVID is in every country in the world. Even if we closed the border earlier, do you really think America, one of the largest countries in the word, that we would have been the ONLY country to not get COVID? It was coming here regardless. It is how we respond which differentiates us from others, and the data clearly shows we as a country and as individuals have done a TERRIBLE job.

      South Korea has 259 deaths but 1/7 of the US population. That means the US has 46 times more deaths than South Korea when adjusted by population. In addition, the unemployment rate in South Korea is about 4% vs. 15% here.
      Bottom line, US has 46 times more death that South Korea at the same time the US economy has collapsed.
      Australia has 98 deaths but 1/16 of the US population. That means the US has 60 times more deaths than Australia when adjusted by population. In addition, the unemployment rate in Australia is about 7.5% (still TBD) vs. 15% here.
      Bottom line, US has 60 times more death at the same time the US economy has collapsed.
      Germany has 7,750 deaths but 1/4 of the US population. That means the US has almost 3 times more deaths than Germany when adjusted by population. In addition, the unemployment rate is about 6% in Germany vs. 15% here.
      Bottom line, US has 3 times more death at the same time the US economy has collapsed.
      Taiwan has 7 deaths but 1/17 of the US population. That means the US has almost 700 times more deaths than Taiwan when adjusted by population. In addition, the unemployment rate is about 4% in Taiwan vs. 15% here.

      Reply

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