But for those very many who do not succeed, the failed American dream does not look so dazzling.
For example, medicine and higher education in this country are not basic rights, but a privilege that must be bought for a lot of money. In recent decades, these contrasts have increasingly divided the country in half, and the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to twist them to the limit.
Plunged into internal strife, America was completely unprepared to repel the viral threat. Americans make up a third of the number of infected in the world and a quarter of the dead. Where does the crisis lead the United States? How will they change within and how will it affect their role in the world? What will happen to American exclusivity?
Peter Kuznik, professor of history at the American University, answered these questions.
America at one time became one of the pioneers of globalization, exporting millions of jobs to Southeast Asia, where labor is cheaper. But it came around when the borders closed because of the pandemic. Will the authorities strive to return the links of the production chain to their territory?
Peter Kuznik: The pandemic will create significant pressure on governments to bring back some strategic goods production and stockpile strategic raw materials in case of the next crisis.
But in my opinion, the real problem is not globalization, but in the neoliberal capitalist economy. The existing system is focused on maximizing private profits, and not on public needs. It is based on specialization, the inadmissibility of surplus. For example, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that "product inventories are a fundamental evil." The world economy relies on production chains, where everything comes as needed, there is only what is needed right now.
But during the crisis, the demand for some goods sharply increased and exceeded their availability many times over. As a result, the chains are immediately broken. As, for example, happened with ventilators or equipment for hospitals. Countries that relied on outsourcing such critical goods, especially those that did not prepare for the crisis, despite many years of warning about the threat of pandemics, now walk with outstretched hands. The United States was not alone in facing such a situation, but it was highly unprepared.
Opponents of globalization, such as Peter Navarro, Donald Trump's trade adviser, are already calling for a reduction in dependence on other countries and a shift in strategic production back to the US. This crisis is fueling this kind of economic nationalism, which has been the driver of the policies of the current administration from the very beginning. In particular, Trump's advisers see this as an opportunity to weaken China.
World and global economy more fragmented? Or, conversely, will this crisis push everyone towards joint action and reduce confrontation?
Peter Kuznik: The world is at a crossroads. It can go towards nationalism, mistrust, militarism and increased competition. Or it may go towards greater unity and cooperation. While creeps are noticeable in both directions.
Instead of recognizing the administration’s inept approach to this crisis, Donald Trump is involved in discussions about some miracle cures and is looking for scapegoats. He talked a lot about the mistakes of Barack Obama and the Democrats, but his main target is China. This works with his voters. But it is very dangerous.
China did not hesitate sometimes to respond, generally acting smarter, resorting to diplomacy of generosity after its mistakes. Beijing supplies aid to countries that need it, including America itself. When the Europeans remained deaf to the pleas of Italy, the Chinese sent two million masks and respirators there. When the EU ignored Serbia’s calls for help, China entered the scene. When the United States withdrew its contributions to the WHO budget, China provided financial support. In early January, the PRC shared genetic information about the virus, which gave rise to the search for a vaccine. The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrel, cynically described this as a "policy of generosity," but the generosity race between the two major powers is anyway, than, for example, the arms race.
Alas, the United States was lost somewhere at a time when the world needed help or advice, a united struggle against a real common enemy. Donald Trump concentrates on his own interests, largely giving way to China, as well as Russia, if it manages to cope with the spread of the virus within the country.
But what will surely be the victim of a pandemic is the myth of American exclusivity. Under Donald Trump and Michael Pence (US Vice President – WG), the country became an international laughing stock, which it began to turn under even under George W. Bush. US claims of moral superiority have always been in doubt, but now they look ridiculous.
What lessons should the world learn from a pandemic?
Peter Kuznik: A multipolar world is the best solution for the world's population. We need leaders who speak for the whole world, not only for their country. We need changes in global priorities. If we do not draw conclusions from this pandemic, the next will be even worse. We now face the threat of new waves of a pandemic. In 1918, the "Spaniard" spread in the US in three waves, and the first was the softest. The second killer was the real killer, but the third was quite deadly.
Coronavirus is an alarming alarm clock for humanity. Let us hope that this time she will get out of bed with the right foot and deal with the problems of social and financial inequality, lack of funding for health and other public needs, militarism and the nuclear threat, and environmental degradation.
How can a pandemic change America from the inside out? For example, the author of the theory of the “black swan” Nassim Taleb predicts the beginning of the end for megacities. Will people massively move out of town, work more from home?
Peter Kuznik: Working on a remote site will become more common and widespread, but this does not mean the end of big cities or the mass movement to villages and towns. In the United States, the dynamics have long been reversed, especially among young people who like an urban lifestyle with all the social and cultural benefits that it provides.
On the other hand, life in the city has become complicated and expensive for many Americans. Working remotely will give them more flexibility. Some of them may decide that instead of exorbitant rents for an apartment in New York or San Francisco, it is better to have more spacious and affordable housing elsewhere.
And, of course, there is a great social benefit from lowering traffic and air pollution. Now the air in many cities of the world is cleaner than it has ever been in recent decades. Wild animals are seen where they have not been seen for a long time. Nature as if restored. These are all the benefits of telecommuting that people might want to take advantage of, expand on.
The man turned out to be a weak link in the production chain, many enterprises were closed due to coronavirus among employees. Will people be replaced by robots?
Peter Kuznik: Definitely – yes, a pandemic will accelerate this process. There are disadvantages and advantages. Over the past century, we have seen an increase in technological unemployment due to progress. In literature, even the Great Depression in the 1930s was associated with this. Or, for example, in the auto industry, robotization has reduced many jobs. Recently, not much has been thought about this because of the populist tendency to focus on trade and export of jobs to countries with cheap labor. But now, due to distance measures and rising costs of maintaining workers, many enterprises will come to the conclusion that robots are the way out.
In a positive sense, the replacement of human labor can strengthen the movement in support of a guaranteed annual salary, which has been brewing for a long time.
How can a pandemic change education around the world? Does it mean the imminent end of traditional lessons in schools and universities, the transition to distance learning?
Peter Kuznik: The pandemic will not translate all training online, but it will lead to moderate changes. She will surely create the conditions for transferring part of the educational process in the USA to distance learning. Colleges and universities have already experimented with this.
As a teacher, I thought that the charm of learning is largely in the personal interaction of the teacher and the students. But my personal experience these days was positive, the distance learning barrier is not as difficult as one might think, it has a right to exist. I am sure that for administrators, distance learning is a way to reduce costs, such an academic economy.
However, online learning cannot completely replace classroom instruction. Considerations of economy should not stand in the way of the deep and personal experience that classes give in certain situations. In addition, it must be borne in mind that not all students have equal access to computers, technologies, and a fast Internet connection.
What about healthcare? For example, can a pandemic finally bring the United States to health care for everyone, not just those who have insurance or a lot of money to go to the doctor?
Peter Kuznik: I would like to see real changes here. It is simply embarrassing that the United States, being the richest country, does not provide medicine to all its citizens as a basic right. It is a pity that Joseph Biden, a likely candidate for the US Democratic Party, does not support medicine for all in one form or another (as well as the current president, Donald Trump – WG).
Bernie Sanders, who would have to win the nomination, was going to make this the cornerstone of his campaign. Opinion polls show that the Americans are finally ready for this. Health should not be an area for revenue generation. Corporations should not profit from the diseases and suffering of people. In the USA, twice as much per capita is spent on medicine than in other developed countries, and the result from this is much worse. In the American province, there is often no access to hospitals, quality healthcare, and all because there it is commercially unprofitable. It should not be like that. Therefore, the reform is long overdue. Now there is a new chance and it must be used.