The countless tragedies caused by the coronavirus pandemic in the United States could have been – at least in part – avoided, if the actions of current ex-President Donald Trump had not reinforced historic inequalities and had been particularly damaging to the public health policies.
The assessment comes from The Lancet Magazine’s Commission on Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific publications. For experts, the former US president has brought misfortune to his own country and to the entire planet.
Formed in April 2017, shortly after Trump took over the US presidency, the group analyzed the four years the Republican occupied the White House and released a report on Thursday (11) outlining what it considers to be the main mistakes of the last American. chief.
The commission is made up of a group of 33 American, British and Canadian specialists with extensive experience in fields ranging from clinical medicine and epidemiology to law, economics and politics.
“President [Joe] Biden must deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic consequences, in addition to Trump’s corrosive legacy, “a Lancet editorial accompanying the report said. The text says the Trump era was marked by setbacks that make up “a frightening, but crucial list” on issues such as universal health coverage, denial of science, racism and income inequality.
According to the report, about 40% of the more than 460,000 deaths attributed to the coronavirus in the United States could have been prevented if the death rate in the country were equal to the average of the other six countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and United Kingdom). United Kingdom) which make up the group of major world economies.
The number of deaths from Covid-19 among Americans since the start of the pandemic also resembles the figure that experts are calling a “silent epidemic of shortened lives” – an additional 461,000 deaths per year considered unnecessary, the result of decades of political failure. exposed and aggravated “by the Trump administration.
“Instead of galvanizing the American people to fight the pandemic, President Trump publicly rejected his threat (although he acknowledges it in particular), discouraged action as the infection spread and prevented international cooperation.” , they say.
The report also highlights situations in which the Republican claimed Covid-19 was a scam, refused to comply with evidence-based measures, promoted therapies without medical evidence (such as the use of hydroxychloroquine) and made dangerous suggestions to the population (case of injecting disinfectant “to kill the virus”).
Additionally, budget cuts, some before the Trump administration, cut the jobs of about 50,000 healthcare professionals between 2008 and 2016, a contingent of frontline workers who could provide the United States with a completely different scenario for respond to the coronavirus.
“The pandemic has explored existing health and social inequalities, and nowhere is this more evident than in the United States,” says Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet. For him, the coronavirus has shown how insufficient the American health system has been to protect the population.
The scrapping of public health, however, had political weight long before the pandemic, which refers to the neoliberalism propagated by former President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) in the 1980s.
The effects of this ideology, which the authors say has eroded social programs, helped make Trump’s election possible in 2016. The report states that during his presidential campaign the Republican exploited anger and animosity of the white population to distract from policies that generate the accumulation of power and wealth among billionaires.
“Their racist, anti-immigrant and nationalist calls resonated with some middle and low-income white communities who sought scapegoats for their declining life prospects, even as they maintained certain privileges denied to non-whites,” says the Commission.
Although the Lancet team of experts met to initially assess only public health policies, issues such as racism and social relations recur in the report precisely because they relate directly to various aspects of the US government’s response to the pandemic.
The document cites data, for example, which indicates that Covid-19 widened the pre-existing gap between the longevity of whites and blacks in the United States. Coronavirus death rates among African Americans and Latinos are up to 3.6 times higher than rates among whites. The statistics of hospitalizations due to severe cases of the disease also show the same disparities.
For experts, Trump’s approach to responding to the pandemic was dismissive and referred to historic neglect, such as the United States’ inability to create a quarantine and vaccine policy to mitigate smallpox outbreaks among people. Blacks emancipated after the American Civil War (1861-1865).
The former president is also accused of exploiting the pandemic to tighten his anti-immigration policy, using the rationale of protecting public health to further shut the country down, despite the United States at the top of the list nations with more cases and deaths from Covid-19.
Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric, according to the report, has generated fear and confusion among the immigrant population, so these groups tend to avoid health services even when they have access to them. In practice, this hinders efforts to identify and screen for new coronavirus infections.
“The disastrous and botched response to the pandemic made it clear how long-standing and existing racial inequalities simply go unaddressed,” says Mary Bassett, committee member and researcher at Harvard University. “It’s time to stop saying these shortcomings. preventable actions cannot be eliminated. “
Even globally, the expert report points out that Trump played a destabilizing role in withdrawing funding from the World Health Organization (WHO). In other areas, such as environmental policy, its lack of commitment to multilateralism has also set bad examples for the world.
In this regard, the document cites Trump’s influence over the President of Brazil. According to the authors, Jair Bolsonaro has “adopted policies that accelerate the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and will accelerate climate change”.
Besides Bolsonaro, the presidents of Turkey and the Philippines and the prime ministers of India and Hungary fall into the influential category.
“Unfortunately, Trump’s policies are not an isolated American phenomenon,” the report concludes. “Authoritarian agendas are spreading across the world, as politicians mobilize insecure people with their prospects of decline to go against those below them in racial, religious or social hierarchies.”