Dr Owain Williams By: Dr Owain Williams
Lecturer in IR and Human Security
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29 Mar 2020 : Federal Meltdown

Deaths in Italy surpassed 10,000 and it is the first country to reach this macabre milestone. It is very sad to see that beautiful and very social country in such trouble. Of course, rates of multiple generations living together have escalated in that country in the decade after the GFC. Spain and other countries are also characterizable by that demographic. So we can imagine the young infecting the old, couped up in the late winter weeks, while people were still out and about in bars and cafes. Spain now strengthening measures to lock down and self-isolate the population as hospitals are at capacity – only essential workers allowed out and spot checks on vehicles. In a stunning and humane move Portugal waives through all extant asylum applications opening  up welfare. Surely this also has good public health rationale above and beyond being the right thing to do ethically. Imagine such a response by Australia.

Trump today threatens New Jersey, New York State and Connecticut will quarantine from the rest of the USA. The governors going ballistic about this and the abuse of power it would represent and their abandonment by the centre. The move is branded ‘un-American’ by one of the governors on radio just now, clearly fuming. He adds that it is ‘like a declaration of war on these states’. Again, a federalised system is being exposed by the crisis, with different messages, over-lapping responses and capacities, as well as defections. What you do not expect is additional pressure from the President and the federal level. He is also firing hostile tweets and announcements to Democratic governors, Michigan and so on, as well as apparently no granting full federal aid when requested. Florida in contrast had 100% of its request granted. Will he pay for this? By the end of the day in the US I see he has backed down on the quarantine; what a waste of space he is.

States in the US are also bidding against each other for PPE and ventilators. One governor highlights that this is just driving up the prices. I guess that is how markets work with scarcity and demand. The lack of coordination is really quite staggering. Infections are also going through the roof, and I think it just hit 120,000. In a scenario where there are few winners, there are some who will clearly lose. I read that there are 150,000 homeless people living in the Bay area of California. San Francisco is one of the worst urban instances as I saw 2 years back. Of course this is potentially catastrophic; poorly nourished with sky high rates of respiratory conditions. It is announced that the UK that they will now house all homeless people, and once wag asks why this couldn’t have done before.

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