US COVID-19 crisis failure of democracy: Obama's ex-speechwriter

David Litt

Washington: David Litt, a speechwriter for former US President Barack Obama, has said the COVID-19 pandemic in America is a "failure of democracy" at the root.

"It's become commonplace to refer to COVID-19 as 'the worst public health crisis of our lifetimes'. But what has cost the US so many lives and jobs during the pandemic is not, at root, a failure of public health. It's a failure of democracy," Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday citing Litt as saying in an article published by the Time magazine.

"Poll after poll has shown that a clear majority of Americans trust, want our leaders to heed the experts' advice. Yet that hasn't happened. We were far too slow to implement social-distancing guidelines -- a delay epidemiologists found is responsible for 90 per cent of US coronavirus deaths.

"Now we're acting far too quickly to reopen the economy," Litt, also the author of "Democracy in One Book or Less: How It Works, Why It Doesn't, and Why Fixing It Is Easier Than You Think" and "Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years", added.

Dozens of US states have rolled out reopening plans in late April, with Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas among the first to allow certain non-essential businesses to resume operations.

Litt pointed out that lower-income and non-white Americans are those most likely to suffer from the US government's flailing response to the health crisis.

Citing a report analyzing the changes in the US political map in recent years from the University of Chicago's Law Review, Litt said "Americans' political power has been further diminished".

"As we battle the coronavirus, American lives depend on a successful government response. But with rare exceptions, House Members' jobs do not," he said.

"In early March, for example, as the virus was spreading, the first 15 US states to report cases of the coronavirus accounted for 56 per cent of America's population but only 30 per cent of America's Senators. No wonder the Senate was initially slow to act," he said.

Litt further said "the corporations' increasing clout with policymakers" has pushed the US government into acting more slowly and reopening more quickly than the American people believe is safe.

That capitalistic influence has more influence on policymaking than the people's welfare, in Litt's view, is "no surprise".

Currently, the US accounts for the world's highest number of cases and deaths at 1,600,782 and 95,972, respectively, according to the latest figures by the Johns Hopkins University.