Much of this funding is difficult to track, but the secretive distribution of resources has clearly been important in giving outsize influence to wealthy donors, corporations, and special interest groups. Even in the depths of the pandemic, inequality in the United States has continued to grow. Since March 18, more than 100,000 people in the U.S. have died of the virus and millions more have been immiserated by economic damage. During this same period, U.S. billionaires alone have increased their wealth by a staggering 19.5% ($565 billion).
The government’s rapid and massive mobilization to crack down on Black Lives Matter protests cast its own disorganized and perfunctory pandemic response in sharp relief. "Depraved indifference to human life," the crime charged to George Floyd’s murderer after several nights of protest finally led to his arrest and indictment, is also an apt description of the contempt at the heart of the Trump administration’s public health policies and approach to issues of racial and economic justice.
Perhaps the link between violence, secrecy and ideology in the United States government today can be conveyed by the appointment of Betsey De Vos as Trump’s secretary of education. A committed partisan of the privatization of public education, she is the daughter of a billionaire industrialist and sister of Erik Prince, founder of the private military contractor, Blackwater, which gained notoriety when its guards massacred Iraqi civilians in 2007. Prince now heads a private equity firm but still dabbles in mercenary security and intelligence operations. In March The New York Times reported that he
has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda.
If the American justice system criminalizes poverty, it legalizes the tax avoidance, influence-peddling and growing contempt for civic responsibility of the wealthy. The satirical newspaper The Onion, captured the contrast with the biting headline: "Protestors Criticized for Looting Businesses Without Forming Private Equity Firm First."
Small wonder then, that the protests in the United States today echo the chants of the Arab Uprisings. Yes, "Black Lives Matter" is uniquely American, but the protests also call for dignity, freedom and social justice. The demands of the protesters in Cairo, Damascus and Tripoli for free and fair elections, for security sector reform, for effective social service delivery and judicial independence are proving to be far more universal than they knew, and their chants now echo around the world.
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