← back to articles


Coronavirus and Neoliberalism: How the Epidemic Revealed the Neoliberal Double Standard

Posted on April 3rd, 2020 in Coronavirus, Neoliberalism by James Deal
ShareShareShare

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons via DACV

N.B. This is the first in a series of articles that will explore the failures of neoliberalism in response to the Coronavirus as well as the importance of progressive policies in helping to mitigate its impact and proactively minimize the risk future epidemics, such as this, pose to society and the economy.

The dawn of the Coronavirus era in the United States has seen a rise in neoliberal and establishment political figures advocating for free Coronavirus testing and treatment across the country, yet these same individuals are some of the staunchest opponents of Medicare for All. The inherent double standard of supporting universal healthcare in response to the Coronavirus, but not in response to cancer, diabetes, and other life threatening illnesses has become more and more apparent with each passing day of this epidemic, which ultimately begs the question of what distinction neoliberals are using to justify their support of universal healthcare in this crisis versus their lack of support for the same reforms on a more universal level.

Source: Twitter @briebriejoySource: Twitter @briebriejoy

This implicit double standard was made explicit yesterday with the neoliberal attacks on Bernie's National Press Secretary, Briahna Joy Gray, when she called out Senator Harris on the inherent double standard of her proposal for free Coronavirus testing and treatment. Immediately, centrist pundit's rallied to defend Senator Harris's proposal, launching a barrage of vitriol attacks against Briahna's calls to end unnecessary suffering from the inability to afford cancer treatment or insulin.

But why does this double standard exist and how do neoliberal politicians justify such an arbitrary, means-tested version of universal healthcare? The answer is simple, the Coronavirus epidemic presents a threat to their way of life, whereas cancer, diabetes, and most other life-threatening illnesses are not. Neoliberal politicians aren't advocating for free testing and treatment for Coronavirus because they truly care about the suffering of individuals within our society; if that were the case, they'd support truly universal healthcare to alleviate the suffering brought on by other medical conditions as well as the drastic expenses of treating such illnesses. Rather, these politicians support free testing and treatment for Coronavirus simply because when those unable to afford testing or treatment are infected, they present a risk to everyone in society. 

If the support for free testing and treatment for Coronavirus came from a place of compassion or even as a means to prevent the spread of such diseases, these policy positions would not be reactionary to an epidemic, but supported as a universal reform to our healthcare system to alleviate the suffering and expenses of all individuals requiring medical treatment regardless of what illness they might have and to prevent another epidemic of this scale from ever occurring again. For the neoliberal, it's never been about protecting and fighting for the working class or the impoverished, but rather protecting their own accumulation of capital and position within society.