The essential workers are cannon fodder in America’s war against the coronavirus.
Merriam-Webster defines cannon fodder as: “soldiers regarded or treated as expendable in battle” or “an expendable or exploitable person, group, or thing.” Those definitions are an accurate description of America’s treatment of essential workers.
For example, coronavirus has killed eight essential workers at the JBS meatpacking in Greeley, Colorado, 9News reports. Dramatically, The Washington Post compares conditions at grocery stores to a war zone.
Additionally, President Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) ordered meatpacking plants to remain open in April 2020. Notably, The Guardian’s Steve Greenhouse described that action as “Trump is marching meatpacking workers off to their deaths.” Another military metaphor.
COVID-19 is winning the war against America
Strangely, the dramatic headline writers capture a truth of the coronavirus crisis most observers miss. The United States is at war with COVID-19 and the virus is winning.
For example, the number of coronavirus deaths now exceed the death tolls for all but three of America’s wars. Worldometers estimates coronavirus had killed 104,583 Americans as of 30 May 2020.
Consequently, only the two world wars and the Civil War killed more people than the coronavirus. In detail, the Veterans Administration estimates 364,511 Union soldiers and 133,821 Confederates died in the Civil War. Meanwhile, 116,516 Americans died in World War I and 405,399 Americans died in World War II.*
Note: I combined the VA’s battle and in-service death estimates to get those numbers. To elaborate, in-service deaths include all the military personnel who die of something other than combat. Accidents and disease, for example.
Coronavirus has Defeated America
Therefore, Coronavirus is the deadliest enemy America has faced since the Axis powers in World War II. However, you can make the argument that the coronavirus is deadlier than the Axis.
It took the Axis three-and-a-half years to kill 291,557 Americans in battle, the Veterans Administration estimates. Coronavirus killed 104,583 Americans in under six months.* Note: the Veterans Administration estimates 113,842 died outside combat in World War II.
Frighteningly, Coronavirus’s economic impact is more devastating than the death toll suggests. In particular, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates coronavirus killed 20.5 million American jobs in April 2020.* As a result, America has a 14.7% unemployment rate that the Associated Press compares to the Great Depression.
The overall economic damage will be far greater. Goldman Sachs predicts America’s gross domestic product (GDP) will shrink by 39% in 2nd Quarter 2020. In addition, Goldman Sachs forecasts America will experience a 25% unemployment rate in 2nd Quarter 2020, Forbes reports. In particular, US manufacturing output fell by 26% in April 2020.
Therefore, coronavirus has defeated America. COVID-19 has shut down our economy and disrupted daily life beyond recognition. Hence, coronavirus has inflicted more damage on America than any enemy since the British in the Revolutionary War.
Coronavirus is winning the War
America cannot cope with coronavirus’s vicious attack. Disgustingly, America’s ruling classes have adopted a ruthless strategy often seen in history to fight COVID-19.
That strategy is to use the working class and the poor as cannon fodder in the coronavirus war. Supermarket workers, delivery drivers, Amazon employees, meatpackers, truck drivers, nurses, home health aides, and many others have to stay at work to keep the economy going.
In contrast, executives, CEOS, investment bankers, journalists, pundits, software engineers, politicians, entrepreneurs, writers, podcasters, and actors shelter in place and work from home. Meanwhile, the supermarket cashier risks catching coronavirus and exposing her family to it to pay the bills.
A Frightening Precedent
Thus America sacrifices the working class to keep society’s leaders arrive. Sadly, this cynical strategy has a frightening precedent in American history.
During the Civil War, upper-class northerners could exempt themselves from the draft by hiring a substitute, or paying the federal government $300. A substitute was a poor person; usually an Irish immigrant, an affluent northern man paid to take his place in the draft.
Thus, famous Americans; including financier J.P. Morgan Sr., future President Grover Cleveland (D-New York), and oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller Sr., bought their way out of the draft.
Economic Warfare on coronavirus
Interestingly, the Civil War Draft was a logical economic policy for the North.
Exempting businessmen and professionals from the war effort allowed the Northern economy and industry to function. Hence, the Union Armies in the field had plenty of supplies and regular pay.
In contrast, the Confederacy drafted every able-bodied white man. As a result, the Southern economy collapsed, making it impossible for the Confederates to wage war. By 1865, Confederate soldiers lacked guns and shoes, and received payment in worthless paper money.
Predictably, large numbers of Confederate soldiers deserted. Making it impossible for Generals Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnson to sustain the war effort.
Similarly, modern American leaders are sacrificing ordinary people to protect those with skills and knowledge essential to the functioning of our society. For example, software engineers, investment bankers, virologists, economists, and business executives.
Are Essential Workers Essential?
Perhaps “essential workers” are not essential. We only have a few people who can create algorithms, operate giant corporations, close billion dollar deals, understand the coronavirus’s DNA and run hedge funds but millions who can stock shelves or drive delivery trucks.
Interestingly, America’s ruling class is glorifying essential workers as heroes. Just as Northern leaders and intellectuals lionized Union soldiers during the Civil War.
Unfortunately, working-class whites; including many poor immigrants, had no escape from the draft. One result of the Civil War conscription was the 1863 New York Draft Riots, the most destructive civil unrest in American history. Historians estimate up to 1,200 people died in the Draft Riots.
Coronavirus could Lead to Violence
The draft riots began when working-class mobs began attacking African Americans and the rich. Both groups were exempt from the draft.
Thus history shows using essential workers as cannon fodder could lead to violence. A frightening possibility is that racists will blame members of some ethnic group for the crisis. That violence could have already begun.
Disturbingly, violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans rise as coronavirus spreads, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) claims. Bigots blame Asians for coronavirus because COVID-19 originated in China.
Predictably, some Asian-Americans are arming themselves against racist attacks, ABC News claims. Remember, the Civil War draft rioters blamed African Americans for their plight.
Coronavirus Cannon Fodder and World War One
Europe saw a similar use of cannon fodder in World War One.
To explain, in 1914 Europe’s leaders discovered new weapons technology had destroyed their military strategies. Machine guns could stop cavalry charges and massed infantry assaults, for example. Much as modern America’s leaders’ institutional and political strategies cannot stop coronavirus.
Europe’s rulers’ response to the strategic failure was to throw an enormous amount of cannon fodder into the trenches. European generals and politicians sacrificed enormous numbers of conscripts and volunteers to prevent a catastrophic defeat that could cause the total collapse of their nations.
For example, British forces suffered 57,470 casualties in the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. Moreover, both sides suffered over one million casualties in the five-month Battle of the Somme.
Predictably, European leaders glorified the men in the trenches while using them as cannon fodder. Movies, newspapers, and songs celebrated the sacrifices the boys were making.
Sacrificing Ordinary People to Save the Nation
However, five of the nine major powers that fought in the First World War collapsed in the next decade.
Those powers were Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and Italy. Four other powers; the British Empire, France, the United States, and Japan avoided collapse.
The other four powers experienced catastrophic collapses in the decades after World War I. For instance, the American and Japanese economies collapsed during the Depression, the British Empire and traditional British society fell apart during World War II, France collapsed in 1940, and Japan collapsed during World War II.
Thus, Europe’s elite preserved part of their traditional economic, social, and political orders temporarily by sacrificing millions of ordinary people. For example, some German institutions; such as the army, survived World War I while others, including the aristocracy and the monarchy, died.
Loss of Faith
One result of the European elite’s sacrifice of ordinary people in World War I was a massive loss of faith in traditional institutions. Many Russians and intellectuals embraced Communism after World War I, for example.
Others turned to radical right-wing movements such as Nazism and fascism. Notably, two the most prominent fascist dictators; Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler, were World War I combat veterans.
Radicals such as Hitler, Mussolini, and Vladimir I. Lenin took power because World War I had discredited traditional political and intellectual leaders. Even in Britain, the historic Liberal Party, which led the UK through the war, collapsed in the 1920s.
People lost faith in the nation, political parties, the church, and other traditional institutions because of the carnage of World War I. Predictably, veterans who had seen the horrors of war first-hand were among the most radical and disillusioned survivors.
Disillusionment and Collapse
Therefore, one result of coronavirus in the United States could be a complete loss of faith in the traditional and political and economic systems. Americans’ disillusionment with basic institutions and leaders was already high before coronavirus.
History shows that America’s leaders’ decision to use their fellow citizens as cannon fodder will have horrific consequences. A probable consequence of the cannon fodder policy will be the collapse of the current political and economic order in the United States.
America’s leaders could have saved their lives and money at the cost of the entire country. Only future history will reveal the extent of the damage that horrendous decision is doing to our country and its institutions.