Ian Bremmer: America's Average Coronavirus Response

How is the United States doing so far? We're not the best; we're far from the worst. Overall, about average.

To understand how countries are responding to COVID-19, look at the whole government: federal, state, local. Is the government working effectively with the private sector? Look at the healthcare response; fiscal; monetary. Ensure that the virus is contained and people are treated. Make sure the economy continues to function. Finally, are people listening. Given a strong government response, people aren't paying attention, it gets worse. You need alignment & compliance.


The US response on the healthcare side has been late and comparatively ineffective. US already underinvested in healthcare infrastructure, particularly Red States and rural areas with under-served populations. Lack of testing, wasted time, inability to understand the level of spread - real potential of healthcare systems in the US to get overwhelmed.

When Dr. Fauci suggested 100,000 or 200,000 deaths in the United States - an extraordinary number (context of a normal flu season: about 2-4 times vs last year) - it implies that healthcare systems don't get overwhelmed. It implies 20 to 50 million total cases in the US; people who need ICU treatment get it; they have personnel to provide ICU treatment. That may not happen in New York, New Orleans. Compared to most developed countries, the US healthcare response has been substandard.

The private sector response has been strong, ensuring active efforts to develop a vaccine, drugs, to get testing up to speed quickly. The American corporates have done better than the European corporates.

On the monetary and fiscal side, the US has outperformed the scale, scope, and immediacy of the bipartisan 2008-2009 response. Also well-beyond Europe, Japan or South Korea. It's necessary - shutdown of global supply and demand will last at least 3 months. That's a big deal.

All together the Americans are responding slightly better than average. It's not Italy on the bad side, not Germany on the good side. Not South Korea on the good side. Closer to France, the United Kingdom. The UK was late in talking about shutdowns, lockdowns and social distancing. Put the US in context of other rich states.

Put the US in the context of poorer states, which can't afford economic shutdowns like the wealthy world. They can't physically social distance because the average citizen doesn't have space to keep other people distant. The governments don't have the healthcare system to take care of those who will need treatment. The good news: most emerging markets have had comparatively limited explosions of cases so far. In part because they don't have the same level of globalization, people transiting from all over the world, China, Europe, the US. One of the reasons for limited African cases is because they're comparatively deglobalized. But they're not testing much. The exponential rise of cases will be on the same path as the US and in Europe. Turkey, Brazil, Mexico.

International support for those countries isn't there. 3 weeks ago, we got $50 billion in support from the IMF for emergency funding, expecting 3-5 countries to ask for it. It was 81 countries, as of this weekend. Expecting 100+ this week. The money won't be enough. They'll need 10% of GDP in fiscal relief. It's not going to come domestically. It's probably not coming internationally.

Criticize the US response for lack of international leadership. The US has done virtually nothing. No coordination with other countries in data, responsive communications. No good advance information to allies. No good coordination with China. Historically, in major crises, the US takes a leadership role, not always in a productive way. After 9/11, the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - money spent, human consequences, failed wars. But the Americans took a leadership role. 08-09, as well. Today, complete absence of American leadership internationally. That's where the Americans fail.

The response from the US has been slightly better than average. If you focus on Trump, the response has been lousy.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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