Covid-19 killed the United States of America.
This truth is simple, stark, and has grave implications for the entire world over the coming decade.
But it is a truth that will never be admitted in the biased mainstream American media. The scam that passes for democracy in the United States is too profitable for too many powerful people to abandon without a fight.
And so they are set to doom us all to a truly wicked five to ten years.
Taking a step back — who the hell am I, you are probably wondering, and what could I know that legions of experts with fancy PhDs don’t?
Well, for starters, I myself was on the PhD track for much of my life. I earned an undergraduate degree from Berkeley in political science and two masters degrees focused on public policy. I’ve even published peer-reviewed scholarly work and completed all the coursework and the bulk of the research needed to complete a doctorate, but I bailed on academia in 2017 once I realized the vast majority of social science scholars in the United States are not scientists at all, but applied philosophers.
The precise reasons why these self-proclaimed experts are failing to understand what is happening in the United States is a topic for another essay. What matters, if you hope to forecast America’s likely future to figure out how it needs to adapt, is accepting that nearly all the publicly-acclaimed experts have adopted a set of paradigms rooted in racism, sexism, and imperialism.
Most “western” social science is deeply flawed, and so predictions made by the majority of professionals working in disciplines like political science, economics, and sociology, are fundamentally broken. Massive world-changing events like the fall of the Soviet Union or the 2008 Financial Crisis aren’t seen until it is too late, even when later analysis show these were not “black swan” events, but predictable outcomes if you evaluate the system across many decades.
Because of this failure of these experts the American media is presently filled with debates about the country’s future that have no connection to reality. Fake news, cancel culture, tribalism — these are not new or mysterious at all. What is happening in the United States is a process all countries go through over time, an eternal cycle of dissolution and reconstitution that like the seasons you can never master, only cope with.
The attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, should have served as a perfect, timely illustration of how far things have deteriorated that prompted a national effort at reconciliation. Unfortunately the aftermath has only seen a redoubling of the same partisan vitriol that produced it in the first place. This makes more future violence a near certainty given the fact that 40% of Americans believe the Biden administration is illegitimate and up to 10% condone violence against it.
And how does Covid-19 play into this?
Because the total failure of virtually every level of government across the United States — federal, state, and local — to address the Covid-19 pandemic honestly and effectively has left it vulnerable to a collapse cycle so severe it — like the Soviet Union, British Empire, and so many predecessors before — won’t recover.
Let me state the bald-face truth: America’s elected leaders deliberately chose to sacrifice hundred of thousands of Americans because the perceived costs of taking appropriate measures were judged too high. This was an act of criminal negligence that has proven America’s leaders honestly do not care about the people they’re supposed to represent. All they care about is their own careers and bank accounts.
Sadly it doesn’t look like any of them will be held responsible anytime soon, just like those responsible for the Iraq War debacle ultimately got away with it. And these are exactly the sort of total failures that bring down the most powerful nations across history, over and over.
The reason for that comes down to trust.
People aren’t as dumb as social scientists think. They usually have a pretty good sense of when the things they’re being told doesn’t fully square up with reality. The root of the divides that emerged between Americans over responding to the Covid-19 pandemic — masks, lockdowns, and the like — was never a product of insufficient information or bad education alone. It lies in the unwillingness of American governments to level with their people about what winning the war against Covid-19 really meant.
Yeah, you have to lock down and endure the economic pain until cases are reduced to zero. It’s rotten, but that is what massive government spending is for — it freezes the economy until things get under control. Nobody likes to sit at home bored and separated from friends and family, but the shared sacrifice across several months leaved no one short of the income they need to get by. You purge the virus, avoiding the long-term costs associated with uncertainty about new waves, vaccine effectiveness, and the inevitable mutations that result from giving a virus a perfect training ground to evolve.
But none of that happened. And politics is a major cause. In the 2020 Elections the Democratic Party did everything it could to tie the failed pandemic response to the Republican Party. And because of the imperative they felt to get rid of the Incumbent, Democratic leaders wound up with a brutal incentive to let the pandemic rage people blamed the death toll on the Republicans.
Whether their failure to respond and the rush to reopen after the initial lockdowns had more to do with this or their own simple incompetence will never be fully known, I expect, but the existence of a plausible explanation for their unwillingness to follow their own health experts’ guidance will always leave doubt in people’s minds, particularly when this is all over and they start looking for answers.
What can be known is that Covid-19 response became bound to the perpetual conservative-liberal civil war — with fatal consequences for half a million Americans, these perhaps only the first victims of greater calamities to come. How people came to see the threat of the pandemic depended on the media they consumed, and because all media outlets in the United States now have some affiliation with one side of the political divide America saw the full codification of two utterly opposed truth worlds.
When people see major deviations between their leaders words and actions — for whatever reason, even the simple fact that they have been convinced of opposing truths — this generates a loss of trust. Across the United States, leaders in both parties said they were taking appropriate responses to fight the pandemic… yet most saw numbers keep getting worse as the year went on. Not wanting to accept responsibility at the ballot box for their failures, governments simply chose to abdicate their responsibility to respond, placing most of the burden on individuals.
The American media by and large fails to report on places that have actually beaten Covid-19, democracies like Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Norway have proven that China’s draconian methods aren’t the only way. Unchallenged by the media Democratic and Republican leaders across the United States have consistently dumped the original, scientifically-determined goalposts, loosening restrictions whenever a major business lobby pushed back too hard. Almost everywhere the real objective of governments became clear around the middle of the summer of 2020: keep hospitals from overflowing, but otherwise leave people to their own devices.
As a result nearly 500,000 Americans have died in a single year.
When people lose enough trust in their leaders, they look for alternative solutions. A market is produced — and entrepreneurs rush to fill the new demand, many of them opportunists peddling magical cures or even fantasies like the pandemic being a hoax or the result of a leak form a secure lab.
To look at the impact more locally, in Oregon, where I live, the Oregon Health Authority and Governor Kate Brown have allowed over 2,000 people to die in a state of 4.2 million. By contrast, across the Pacific in Singapore — a densely-populated city of over 5 million not far from China — has lost fewer than 100. Oregon’s death toll is higher than South Korea’s, and it is a country of 50 million.
Yet every week Oregon officials constantly remind Oregonians of how low our death tolls and infection counts are relative to other American states, while reminding us that it is our job to avoid being infected — not theirs to keep us all safe.
Their failure was only mitigated by grace of the fact that Oregon, like Washington and British Columbia, relatively low population densities and are fairly isolated from the rest of North America. The death toll isn’t higher here despite Oregon state government’s bungling response — the entire West Coast could have been like Australia, but its leaders failed to cooperate.
I guess they’re in good company though: states like New York, which — thanks to so many powerful media outlets being based there — got great press coverage after the first wave was over after initially downplaying the danger Covid-19 posed. Anyone watching Europe in February of 2020 knew the United States was in trouble, yet Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio totally failed to respond in time.
A wave of anti-establishment feeling is set to break across the American social and political landscape in the coming years, an acceleration all of the discord and strife that led to the Capitol Attack. Failure to deal with a generation’s worth of structural decay has already left much of the country in dire straits, a recipe for increased social tension as people respond to the growing inequality they see all around them.
America is rife with social, economic, and political inequality. Which is precisely why the Biden Administration’s unity rhetoric is actually incredibly dangerous. People, again, aren’t stupid — they know things are broken. And they also know from personal experience that it is impossible to embrace unity when members of a group can’t agree on basic, fundamental principles — truths held in common.
When you tell people they have to be unified when they know the group contains people who hold radically different truths, if they are part of a minority group they automatically become suspicious. This is because majority groups often use the rhetoric of unity to justify using power at the expense of the minority. Under conditions of low trust, this effect produces a deadly feedback look driving the opposite of the unity you want.
This is why a loss of trust is so tragic and the damage long-lasting. Once gone, it is difficult to get back in the best of times. And the distortions to the economy and society created by the Covid-19 pandemic will reverberate for years into the future. Once things are back to normal people will re-emerge into a changed world and begin to reassess what happened.
The irony of the bitter outcome to the 2020 Presidential election — closer than 2016 in the swing states that mattered — was that the Republican Party won by losing. The twice-impeached Incumbent was simply too vain and self-absorbed to realize that the best possible outcome after his bungled first term was four years out of power.
Beyond the many bombs set off by the 45th President across the federal government and abroad that the Biden Administration must now try to defuse, the period of recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic was always bound to be fraught. Half a million deaths means millions of grieving families who will at some point demand justice. That will be a potent force producing a substantial degree of frustration with the system, whoever is in charge.
The Republicans securely hold the Supreme Court and the majority of state legislatures. The 2020 Census was damaged — who knows how badly — and redistricting will lock in Republican seats in Congress for a decade. And with the Republican Party firmly under Trump’s grasp for the foreseeable future it can be expected to close ranks and oppose every piece of the Biden agenda with absolute conviction while paying none of the penalties that come with being in power.
They will feel justified in doing this because that’s what the Democrats did to Biden’s predecessor — at least in their eyes. And perception is everything in this situation, that’s what happens when truths are no longer shared. Impeachment in both cases primarily served to convince Republicans and leaners in that direction that the Democrats and media were out for blood.
This reinforced the bond between Republicans and their leader, which is rooted in grievance. He sticks it to the establishment and drives it mad, losing a few supporters but gaining many more — precisely because so many people have lost trust. They tolerate his racism because they feel they have no other choice — anti-racist has become associated with Democrat, and in much of the country Democrat is as dirty a word as Republican is in blue areas.
That is why his support remains rock solid, and he owns the Republican Party despite all that has happened. And the Democratic Party’s efforts to tie all bad things to the Republican Party only strengthens their grievance case. Until 2028, when the digital generations comprise the majority of the electorate in enough of the country, this dynamic will remain a source of great power for those who can capture it.
This means the Republicans will very likely retake the House of Representatives in 2022, and possibly the Senate. Biden will be unable to pass any legislation after January 2023, and revenge impeachment is likely. Then the fragile Democratic Party coalition will face a set of difficult choices that seem likely to rip it apart.
The Progressive movement has historically served as a stalking horse for the mainstream Democratic party — this was Bernie Sanders’ true legacy across his four decades in the Senate. He proposes socialist-ish things common in the rest of the world so “reasonable” moderates can shoot him down to appeal to centrist Republicans. It’s a neat trick, but he’s getting old — and this strategy has left the Progressive movement in a bind. Either it backs the Democratic establishment, perpetuating the game, or it splits off and gets blamed for putting Republicans in power.
But depending on how anti-establishment the climate ultimately gets, the Progressives may finally splinter to form an urban, coast-based third party. The 2024 Presidential Election then sees a 3-way split in the Electoral College and likely a Contingent Election decided by Congress, very probably producing angry protests that dwarf those of 2020 in terms of anger and violence.
Americans no longer want to share the same system of government, yet both sides are locked in a battle to control it out of fear of what the other will do. Meanwhile, a full third of the population is so turned off by the whole thing they have given up. These are the conditions that lead — if people prove willing to use violence to achieve their political aims, as has now happened — to national fragmentation.
A better future will only come into view when Americans accept that the country they knew is dead and gone. What has to happen now, to prevent a second civil war, is the emergence of a countervailing force capable of breaking the two-party doom loop.
Because ultimately, it is the two-party system that is failing, not the United States of America as a whole. But its failure threatens to drag everything else down with it. Self-reinforcing feedback loops as real as those that are changing the climate are at work now that are actively driving Americans apart.
And they aren’t composed of Russian hackers, or nefarious Chinese technology thieves, or any of the other tropes trotted out on TV to try and convince Americans that some shadowy foreign power only the United States federal government can protect them from is the cause of all evil. They are produced by a vicious loop connecting the media, political parties, and lobbyists. So long as it is profitable to represent politically biased content as news and to lobby politicians for favorable regulations and tax rules, a nexus will persist that like a vampire will slowly drain America until there’s nothing left.
America is wealthy because it had the good fortune to be in a dominant position after the Second World War. For generations America’s leaders have failed to fix lingering inequities in the way the American system works because they judged the effort too costly, too much of a risk to their own personal wealth, celebrity, and authority. They have refused to invest in solutions to the basic collective action problem all societies, all nations must confront: how to keep everyone invested so the system works well enough.
Half a million deaths to Covid-19 is proof positive that it does not. The only path forward now is through meaningful, structural reform — and fast.
Can Joe Biden’s administration get it done?
I doubt it. All indications are it is full of the same old D.C. hands, whose failures have led to this point. Truly innovative, unbiased, systems thinking is needed — but any new ideas are fast suppressed or co-opted by the media-politician-lobbyist complex. Climate change is an excellent example of this in action — the return to the Paris Accord is being hailed as a victory, but it is very doubtful it will ultimately matter as in four years the United States might be right back out again. And real climate action is a whole-of-society effort, not simply shifting from fossil fuels to renewables (though that is part of it to be sure).
But the current debate around Climate change frames the issue in moral terms, and this covers for the fact that under the hood of the debate is the economic interest of renewable energy related industries. The moral framing forces the discussion into territory favored by the powerful in the media and politics, avoiding real consideration of other options.
This pattern matters not only to Americans, but the entire world. Climate change is indeed a global threat — yet no current efforts to fight it stand any chance of success because the planet lacks the political systems needed to prevent policy leakage on a massive scale. The United States going carbon-neutral is utterly meaningless except as a means of social justice cosplaying if its emissions wind up outsourced to Africa, for example. But that is the likely outcome of the “green” efforts the Biden administration will adopt.
The ongoing collapse of the United States — really, it began with the War on Terror — should be of grave concern to anyone who cares about, well, anything on a global scale. Yet political catastrophes are one of the most poorly understood phenomena, largely because of the long-term failures of the social sciences.
But it’s happening — and people around the world need to prepare for the consequences. Ideally, the United States could be supported through its inevitable ten-year reboot by allies abroad who can fund democratization and stabilization programs — something like a reverse Marshall Fund. It would shed a substantial portion of its bloated military budget and back away from the pointless confrontations with China and Russia that are, in truth, simply an excuse to funnel precious tax revenues to well-connected companies. Slash income taxes by 50%, reinvest the Defense budget, or a combination — but it has to be cut.
But the United States needs other stabilization support as well. It needs an unbiased social media network operated on a non-profit basis where users have total control over their own data and moderators are employed to keep content open but non-violent. Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube amplify insane content because it pays — but give people alternatives, and they’ll flock to them, if the big tech companies aren’t controlling the playing field.
And allies abroad and anyone else interested in keeping the United States from collapsing completely should directly lobby American political leaders to push for structural democratic reforms as quickly as possible. A third party — or better yet, shifting at least the House of Representatives to a proportional representation system — would help cut the two-party doom-loop.
Do I have much hope any of this will happen? Sadly, no.
But there is always some hope. People can do incredible things if they can organize and gain access to the right tools. China, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates all have probes arriving in orbit over Mars this month. Political reform only looks hard — in truth, it is about setting up a game where nobody always wins, nobody always loses, and all the players walk away with a more or less even shot of being on either side at any given time.
Unless you want parts of the United States to look like Syria or Yemen in a few years, now is the time to act.
Or at the very least, plan your exit accordingly — and execute when the time is right. Because you won’t want to stick around for what happens next.