13:25 GMT08 March 2021
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    As identified cases of COVID-19 approach 2.63 million in the US and record numbers of the cases continue to be recorded daily, states such as Arizona have once again closed bars, gyms and theaters. One expert tells Radio Sputnik that US issues with rebounding may be related to the federal government’s initial response to the pandemic.

    “Millions of people cannot afford to go to work,” Professor Richard Wolff, a professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, asserted to Loud and Clear hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou on Tuesday.

    He explained that this means “they cannot take the risk of becoming seriously ill or dying or infecting the people they love - that they live with.”

    “Therefore, millions of American working people did the intelligent, rational thing, and they’re not going to work, because that’s the only non-crazy response here,” he said.

    As the time this article went to publication, 2,629,372 cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in the US, along with 127,322 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard. A tally from Reuters also reported that US novel coronavirus cases rose by more than 40,000 on Tuesday - the fifth such rise in the last six days.

    Wolff highlighted that France, Germany and England did not see tens of millions of people unemployed “because the streets would’ve been filled with angry people.” However, employers in the US advocated for the federal government to issue extensions for unemployment benefits.

    This allowed companies to lay off more than 40 million people, according to the professor.

    The attempts to reopen the US economy have put pressure on those who are unemployed, because while unemployment benefits are helpful, those individuals are still “suffering, because unemployment is nothing you want. It’s only something American workers took because going to work was even more dangerous,” Wolff noted.

    He said that while the phrase “reopening” of the country sounds “nice and neutral,” the reality is that bosses are in the position to fire employees who refuse to return to work during whatever particular reopening phase is being recognized across their state.

    “It’s an unspeakable position to put human beings into,” he argued, “let alone half our population.”

    The professor contended that what is occurring now is the “fruit” of the Trump administration’s failure to appropriately prepare for and react to the pandemic.

    “Failing to shut the society and the economy down the way that New Zealand did” and the “failure of this country to function in a humane, open way is why we are in the dead end that we are now facing,” he asserted.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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