To quote Bill S., “It is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.”
Capitalism leads to just in time, and just in time leads to a fragile system:
By the middle of this week, nearly fifty thousand residents of New York City were confirmed to have the coronavirus. The actual number of coronavirus cases is of course much higher, as testing has been elusive. But the crisis is visible: over a thousand New Yorkers have died. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent the city eighty-five refrigerated trucks to be used as mobile morgues.
Hospitals are overwhelmed. The volume of calls for ambulance rides has nearly doubled. Nurses are comparing the situation to “battlefield triage.” In response, the city has transformed the Javits Convention Center and a tennis stadium into ad-hoc hospitals. A Navy hospital ship has docked at Pier 90 and opened its doors to overflow patients.
In Central Park, an evangelical Christian organization erected a field hospital with the blessing of the city and at the request of Mt Sinai. The organization, Samaritan’s Purse, is run by Franklin Graham, who’s known for his homophobic extremism. Mayor Bill de Blasio promised that the facility wouldn’t discriminate.
When you’ve reached the point where the mayor is assuring the public that the makeshift tent hospital in the city’s park won’t deny treatment to those condemned to an eternity in hell by the founder of the charity organization supplying the beds, something has gone terribly wrong.
Of course, desperate times call for desperate measures. But these times didn’t have to be so desperate to begin with. Typically if one hospital is overcrowded, a patient can be transferred to another hospital in the vicinity. But all of New York City’s hospitals are overcrowded. This wasn’t inevitable: New York City has lost nearly twenty hospitals, and tens of thousands of hospital beds, in the last two decades. In 2000, New York City had 73,931 hospital beds. Now it has 53,000, a reduction of nearly thirty percent.
The problem is not unique to New York City. Across the country, in rural and urban environments alike, hospitals are shuttering. A report by Morgan Stanley analysts “found that 8% of U.S. hospitals were at risk of closing and another 10% were considered weak.” At least thirty US hospitals entered bankruptcy last year alone.
If you want cheap underwear, capitalism works.
If you want public health and safety in an emergency, capitalism leaves you bereft of resources.