The Real Reason We Are Stuck Indoors

My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy. I’ve grabbed all the money I could get. I’m so greedy.
Donald Trump, June 2016

The simpler explanation is most likely the correct one.
Occam’s Razor

South Korea and the United States each saw their first case of COVID-19 on the same day, January 20, 2020. Tonight, you can go out to eat at a restaurant in Seoul, or even in the hard-hit South Korean city of Daegu, with few restrictions. Large events are suspended, but otherwise businesses are functioning. Public markets are still open. Train stations and airports are accepting passengers. Over the past three weeks, new infections have plummeted in South Korea while the mortality rate hovers around levels normally seen with influenza. All the while, life there continues with relatively minor interruption.

Why are we sitting at home right now, waiting for a pandemic to run its course, haunted by a looming economic catastrophe, while residents in Seoul, Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo carry on with life mostly as normal with little risk?

Disease is personal. Pandemic is political. Over the past century we’ve largely tamed infectious disease, at least at the mass level. Infections will never be eliminated, but we are no longer helpless against them. Like famine and extreme poverty, pandemic is a product of political dysfunction, not microbes.

Emerging diseases are just another test of a society’s capacity to identify and respond to reality. We failed to contain this disease while others succeeded. We failed because our political system was unable to recognize and respond to readily available data. Now we sit in our homes, harassed by a microbe, with no end in sight. Why did we fail?

Our President speaks in incoherent, narcissistic rambles and acts in ways that appear arbitrary and occasionally insane. As a consequence, we habitually attribute most of this Administration’s failures to his incompetence. However, we got a glimpse this week of a simpler and far darker explanation for our government’s dysfunction, one more consistent with the available evidence. Our government’s failure to respond to this crisis may have been less about stupidity than greed.

We learned this week that two Republican Senators, Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler, responded to a sobering national security briefing on January 24 by making spectacularly large and lucrative stock trades calculated to profit from this non-public information. Loeffler’s crimes are particularly galling. While she touts herself as a simple farm girl, her career is built on being the wife of the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. In that role, she and her husband benefit from the complex legal shields available to wealthy investors like Donald Trump.

Citing these financial shells that protect her and her husband’s assets, Loeffler insists that she had no knowledge of these trades and did not influence them. It should be noted that Loeffler also said this in public after being warned in an official briefing about the realities of this threat:

And this:

While Loeffler lied to her constituents about the danger they faced, her portfolio was being carefully adjusted to profit from this looming disaster. By miraculous luck, the anonymous souls responsible for her trades started dumping stocks the day she received her first classified briefing on the pandemic. Her stock sales (and her husband’s) were complete on February 14, augmented by a strategic investment in a teleworking tech company, Citrix. Citrix reached a new all-time high on March 18 after the rest of the market collapsed.

Loeffler lied to the public about warnings she’d received and the extent of the threat, yet money always tells the truth. Her portfolio somehow processed her inside information and began trading on it immediately, on the day of the briefing. It’s nice to be so lucky.

Loeffler has embraced the Trump playbook, painting herself as a victim of the liberal media. Meanwhile Richard Burr has had much less to say about the incident. He cashed out most of his portfolio, worth around a million dollars, after a stark February 12 briefing, while the market was at record highs. Burr is not among the Senate’s wealthier members and doesn’t benefit from the complex structuring that helps figures like Loeffler lie about their finances. He’s just counting on the system to fail to hold him accountable, which is as good a bet as his insider stock trades.

Why does this matter? Burr and Loeffler’s corrupt moves tell us everything we need to know about our government’s failure to respond to this crisis. Or rather, almost everything. We know about their trades because of financial disclosure requirements. We don’t have any meaningful, validated disclosure of the President’s finances.

We’re in the habit of chalking up Trump’s disastrous public policies to incompetence, but that’s mostly because his real motives remain carefully hidden. Republicans have fought to keep Donald Trump’s finances secret, and we get occasional peeks at how they are profiting from this culture of financial secrecy. But it’s tough to find the details.

Early in January, when it was clear to US officials that a threat was taking shape, why did the US fail to follow an established playbook in response to this threat? Why did the Trump Administration deliberately create obstacles to testing and decline to accept test kits from abroad? Why did the Administration, including the President himself, lie to the American public repeatedly for weeks about the basic facts and implications of this outbreak? And who benefited from this Administration’s otherwise baffling response?

It’s clear now from the available evidence that Senators like Loeffler got their financial affairs in order before publicly taking this threat seriously. Isn’t that the simplest, most consistent explanation of Trump’s approach to this crisis?

Let’s be clear about the nature of this pandemic. It was never that difficult to manage. China experienced a brief, mostly localized disaster from this outbreak thanks to secrecy, incompetence and corruption in a city government. Beyond Wuhan and its surrounding province, the disease affected few people, with a mortality rate comparable to China’s experience with influenza. Within a few weeks, rates of spread were declining, and life began a return to normal. COVID-19 doesn’t kill individuals by compromising their personal immune system. COVID-19 kills individuals unlucky enough to live in an immune-compromised society. COVID-19 destroys weakened civilizations.

There’s a decades-old blueprint for coping with pandemic. You’ll find a reference to “test, trace and treat” in a 1992 New York Times piece on HIV. This maxim has been the backbone of infectious disease response for generations, and it would have worked for COVID-19.

We deployed this approach in recent years to limit US exposure to MERS, SARS, Zika, West Nile and H1N1. We exported it to West Africa to contain Ebola. When we let bigotry and religion get in the way of sound policy, shutting down this commonsense approach, a very small and limited disease outbreak, like HIV, becomes a sweeping, lethal pandemic.

Pandemics that swept the world in recent years have had so little impact on the US that we scarcely noticed their existence. Apart from Ebola, which due to its horrifying symptoms and African origins touched a special nerve in the US, most Americans can’t name any of the world’s most recent pandemic outbreaks. Everyone knows how to manage these outbreaks. They become uncontrolled pandemics when a society fails. Disease is personal. Pandemic is political.

From a starting point on the same day in January, South Korea and the United States responded in dramatically different ways. Koreans followed the established blueprint, moving immediately to implement mass testing. On January 27, South Korea’s equivalent of our CDC organized a meeting with major pharmaceutical companies to press for test regime. A week later they approved the first application. Within days the country began deploying mobile test centers. By early March they were able to test more than 10,000 people a day, allowing them to track each virus transmission and focus new testing on those exposed to carriers.

Though large gatherings have been limited in South Korea, the country remains open. There is no need for a mass quarantine because their government responded quickly, using well-established best practices. We didn’t do this.

Starting from the same point of first-infection, by 16 March the US had performed only 74 tests per million inhabitants, compared with 5200 tests per million in South Korea. Establishing a broad testing capacity is the first priority in a disease outbreak. Imagine fighting a wildfire where fire is invisible and you can’t smell smoke. Testing is the keystone of pandemic response.

Once you set in place an effective testing program, it becomes much easier to trace new infections, something other countries have done with great success. When you can trace new infections, you can contain them with very localized quarantines. This step also enables earlier treatment, which limits mortality and lessens the impact on health care infrastructure. The blueprint works.

Here’s how the disease has progressed in tightly-packed South Korea:

Ruobing Su/Business Insider

Meanwhile, here’s how the US has responded:

Ruobing Su/Business Insider

Why didn’t the US, which helped to establish the pandemic blueprint, follow it? The Trump Administration isn’t answering these questions.

Here’s what we know so far about the US response to this threat. We know that Trump’s first pick to head the CDC, our most critical, front-line defense against pandemic, was Brenda Fitzgerald, an incompetent grifter who previously made a living in Georgia selling bogus anti-aging cures. She was bounced after her unethical investments in tobacco companies were disclosed. Trump’s next choice to head the CDC was a religious nut who led an abstinence-only campaign in response to the AIDS crisis. He once blamed that pandemic on the rise of “single-parent households.”

Trump fired the director of the country’s pandemic response team in 2018, appointing no replacement, effectively disbanding this crucial effort. He recently lied about the move, claiming to know nothing about it. However, just a few weeks ago, on February 26, he took credit for firing this team, explaining, “I’m a businessperson. I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them. Some of the people we’ve cut they haven’t been used for many, many years, and if we ever need them we can get them very quickly and rather than spending the money.”

Also in 2018, the Administration shut down most of the CDC’s global pandemic prevention effort, slashing its budget by 80%. One of the country’s where the CDC ended its engagement was China. No coherent explanation was given. As recently as two weeks ago, the Administration was still trying to slash the CDC’s budget, for reasons that remain utterly baffling and unexplained.

Our Department of Health and Human Services, which governs the CDC, is run by Alex Azar, former pharma lobbyist and President of Eli Lilly. The President’s “task force” for coordinating our COVID-19 response includes such elite scientific figures as Ken Cuccinelli, the prominent bigot and anti-immigration activist, Chris Liddell, a former CEO of a talent agency, Derek Kan, a former regional manager at Lyft, and Joseph Grogan, a lobbyist for pharma company Gilead Sciences.

In his great war against The Deep State, Trump has effectively incapacitated the federal government. We couldn’t run the standard, test, trace and treat playbook because Trump has wrecked our capacity to respond to almost any challenge. No one competent is in charge, and no relief is coming before the November Election.

While today Trump tries to blame China for our mess, a few weeks ago he was congratulating the Chinese for their handling of the pandemic. While the President bought time, lying to the public about the threat and even praising the Chinese, what was he trying to accomplish for himself, personally?

Burr and Loeffler gave us a peek at the Republican response to this national security nightmare. But Donald Trump has resisted any meaningful financial disclosures. We don’t know what he did about his personal finances when learned of this threat, but we know what he said. He lied, repeatedly, about the nature and details of the threat. He called it a Democratic hoax. Then when the lies became unsustainable, he lied about having lied. Why?

Who stood to benefit while the Administration slow-walked test kit approvals? Who would have lost money if the US decided to use one of the already available test regimens? Did the Trump family have any investments that might have benefited from a government contract? We have no way to know because Republicans have decided to protect the Trumps from disclosures.

Trump’s most visible business interest is a chain of hotels and golf courses. Hotel industry giants, Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton have each lost roughly half their value since February 21. What was Donald Trump doing to protect his interests between the first classified briefings about the virus in January and the stock market crash last month? While our President lied to the public about the seriousness of this crisis, what was he doing to liquidate assets and shore up his financing?

Though we know very little about the financial interests of the President’s family, we do know that Jared Kushner and his brother own an obscure health insurance entity called Oscar. The company is refusing to answer questions about its involvement in a potential COVID-19 testing scheme, including whether it is bidding on a government contract. This is the level of leadership ethics one expects in the kind of dysfunctional banana republic that gets overwhelmed by a simple, preventable disease.

An even more disturbing explanation for the President’s response to this crisis looms, one which can neither be proven nor dismissed under the veil of the President’s hidden finances. Trump has constantly harassed the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates even under a booming economy. A man who makes a living rolling from debt to debt has enormous interest rate exposure. What happens to Trump’s heavily leveraged portfolio when a national disaster pushes interest rates to zero?

Why are South Korea and Japan able to produce enough kits to follow the established, test, trace and treat model while we can’t even manufacture enough masks to protect emergency workers? Perhaps it’s because the people we selected to organize our response to such emergencies are Richard Burr, Kelly Loefler, Donald Trump, and a whole host of religious nuts and grifters, people who placed their personal interests over their duties. Perhaps it’s because the only force balancing this collection of outright crooks inside the GOP comes from people like Mike Pence, who prioritize a batshit ideology over science and evidence. We are locked in our houses because a powerful minority of mostly white Americans voted to put grifters, racists and religious nuts in charge of the country.

Someday, we may be able to attach a specific dollar amount of Trump family profit to each American life lost in this pandemic, but not until our rage boils over and we finally pierce the secrecy of the Trump family’s criminal enterprises. We won’t have an explanation for the disasters we experienced in this era, or the disasters likely to follow in its wake for years to come, until the Trump family finances are exposed to daylight.

38 Comments

  1. One of the true ironies of this regime’s laissez faire policy will be that the tyrant and his cult’s ultimate wish to cut themselves off from the rest of the world will come true.

    For good or for bad, the concept of “carry on as usual” (I have stated my opinions on that), is running directly opposite to the rest of the planet, save Brazil, and a few other ultra right-wing regimes.

    I am quite sure with the u.s now running with a worse curve than even Italy, the rest of the planet will be maintaining strict border control with the u.s.

    https://twitter.com/BaldwinRE/status/1243174169178710016/photo/1

    1. “CVI involves allowing people at low risk for severe complications to deliberately contract COVID-19 in a socially and medically responsible way so they become immune to the disease. People who are immune cannot pass on the disease to others.”

      Is there data on that immunity thing? Because everything I’ve read indicates it is currently unknown if one develops an immunity after COVID-19 infection.

    1. Record, screen cap, and download these sorts of messages later for when the same people claim to be pro-life. Use them to make political ads on Facebook and send them to your swayable friends.

      Then, remind these people that the most vulnerable population, the elderly, happens to disproportionately vote conservative. Ask them if they really want to go into November with 2million less votes than 2016.

      That’s literally the only engagement I would recommend, if any. The rest should be ignoring them while you set your mind towards supporting the needy in your community and building the local opposition.

      1. But no, I have rethought about this and in all seriousness:

        The best thing we could do right now is forward all the media of conservatives calling for the elderly to step aside and die to the elderly. Attach the message, “[Speaker] would rather you die than work to protect you,” and highlight the quotes.

        The elderly disproportionately vote conservative. This would depress their turnout or possibly even change a handful of minds. And the really stubborn ones who resist acknowledging it, well, their fate is in their own hands and you tried.

  2. With all due respect, I think you’re veering almost into Trump Derangement Syndrome territory. If Trump was so smart about economics he wouldn’t have declared bankruptcy so many times (running a Casino, of all things, something most people think of as a license to print money). I get what you’re saying that he probably does tip off his “blind trusts” and knows exactly what’s in them. And yes, you can explain his pushing for lower interest rates as helping his debt-fuelled empire. But how does that explain the massive $1T deficits he’s also running, in the midst of an economic expansion? He should know that (at least according to classic economic theory 🙂 ) that would raise interest rates.

    He also wouldn’t tank his re-election chances by willfully bungling the coronavirus response just to help his business empire, mainly because, if his business empire was a higher priority than his narcissism, he wouldn’t have run for President in the first place.

    I think there’s a far simpler answer: he wants to be re-elected at all costs, and he knows that juicing the economy and demonizing his enemies is the best way to do it. So he runs massive deficits without a care, lowers interest rates, and does just about everything he can do to increase growth, without any regard to long-term consequences (not just things like debt, but the massive misallocation of capital and moral hazards that have been created by the Fed’s and Treasury’s actions). And when a serious threat to his re-election comes about like this coronavirus, he first denies it (most strenuously, to himself), refusing to believe even when his own incompetent lackeys finally see reality, then he blames everyone else (only a narcissist thinks he’s so important that someone would unleash a global pandemic and kill thousands of people just to hurt his re-election chances), then he finally withdraws, abandoning the task force he appointed, the states, other government officials, to try to bail us out of this disaster while he goes back to eating cheeseburgers, watching Fox News from his bedroom, and tweeting his random thoughts while on his porcelain throne.

    A man who couldn’t foresee (or tried to deny the reality of) his own business implosion not once but multiple times, is a man who certainly couldn’t foresee the pandemic (or denied its reality) for long enough to let it get out of control. I really don’t think this is 10-dimensional chess he’s playing here…

    (Note, I say all this as a Democrat who used to warn his Democratic friends not to underestimate GWB. That guy was far more intelligent than his political foes took him for, and that his public persona portrayed. So I’d like to think I’m acutely aware of mistaking malice for incompetence. But here, the evidence for incompetence is just too much).

    1. This might make an interesting bet.

      Somewhere around the third week in January, when he started getting the first truly chilling intelligence warnings about this crisis, he had a few decisions to make. Any previous President would have started warning the public and preparing a federal response. It would have been in his clear best interest politically. We know that he didn’t. We don’t know why.

      The explanation you propose makes sense. Determined to deny and deflect in the hopes that this would all blow over, he did the same thing Republicans are doing on climate change, guns and other issues. But if he’s so concerned about reelection, concerned enough to take this matter seriously, why would he miss this opportunity? Everything he might have wanted to do in response to this threat would have fit with his prior political agenda. Demonize China and everything foreign. Shut the borders. Heighten suspicion of immigrants. Assume powerful central control over industry, immigration and movement. From a political perspective, this crisis was a gift, but he didn’t see it that way. Why?

      As I made clear, I’m betting his response to this crisis was entirely narcissistic, and that the only interests that ever mattered to him in pursuing the Presidency were material.
      First he moved to secure his assets, just like those Republican Senators. Securing those
      assets would require him to avoid a mobilization, avoid any steps that might signal a real threat, and downplay the situation publicly. And I’m betting that the timeline we saw, where his denials continued even after the stock market crashed – followed by a sudden pivot, weren’t influenced by any events other than the work he and the family were doing to get themselves ready to profit from this crisis and protect their assets at others’ expense.

      Assuming we ever learn anything truthful about Trump’s finances, I’d wager we’ll find some serious refinance activity and asset sales, just like what Loeffler and her husband were doing, aimed at securing enough liquidity to ride out a storm. Without the financial data, it’s impossible to prove. But given what we’ve seen, it is something Congress and investigators should be exploring. And of course, the President could demonstrate that this is all silly conspiratorial musing by opening up his assets to an honest accounting.

      1. What you say sounds plausible, but I would make a couple of extra points:

        1) It’s entirely possible the CDC/NIH/etc didn’t give him the full picture. Just like the military is limiting his briefings and carrying out policy themselves (shudder), I doubt Anthony Fauci has the patience to sit down with Trump and explain what a pandemic means. They probably told him it’s a Chinese virus and everything’s under control, and please leave them alone, which he’s only too happy to do.

        You can see this in that one of Trump’s first pronouncements *was* to close the Mexico border. But it took several weeks for his own administration officials to take him seriously. No one even bothered to respond to his request, until very recently. No part of the bureaucracy (what competent parts are left of it) looks to Trump for leadership on any issue. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they kept him in the dark.

        2) Trump’s assets are not liquid. It’s not stocks or bonds. They’re highly illiquid, with numerous shell company layers, tons of debt from multiple banks and shady financiers, etc. It takes a ton of time to unload properties like that. Shady financials and uncertain chain of title would drive away most legitimate buyers at the first stage of due diligence. Which means I doubt he’s able to make significant moves in his business within just a few weeks. Witness Jared Kushner trying to sell that one building that Anbang backed out of. I believe it’s still sitting on the market, since no one outside of Chinese-backed state owned enterprises looking to curry favor with the President wants to touch anything with Trump/Kushner hands on it.

        3) I interpret the change in his attitude differently. He simply broke down. This is not a man that deals with stressful situations well. After his fiery pronouncements, he almost has a deer-in-the-headlights look as he realizes this is one opponent that won’t lay down and roll over, and he’s never dealt with that in his life. The virus can’t be bullied. Indeed, perhaps he saw just how much money he lost in those first fews weeks and that might have broken him. Most people get paralyzed when faced with impending doom. Very few maintain their faculties enough to arrange complex financial transactions to get ahead of the situation.

        4) Maybe it’s not Trump. Maybe it’s kushner:
        https://www.thedailybeast.com/kushner-repeatedly-advised-trump-the-media-was-exaggerating-coronavirus-threat-says-report

        5) I’m most fascinated about the fact that Trump is now holding regular press conferences, something he hasn’t done at all. Why? Who’s making him do them? Why need keep tweeting / yelling / calling into Fox & Friends, and leave Pence to face reporters himself?

        Anyway, it would be a fun bet 🙂 Unfortunately, we probably won’t be able to settle it for 20-30 years until his finances and other records finally become publicly available and analyzed by historians 🙂

        P.S. I have to confess, I do get a chuckle whenever Trump refers to the virus as the Chinese virus. Of all the Trumpian leaders out there, the one with the thinnest skin has got to be Ji (he banned the Winnie the Pooh movie just because people were comparing his body shape to Pooh’s). I imagine he blows an aneurysm every time he sees ‘Chinese virus’ on Trump’s twitter feed 🙂

      2. 1) His assets aren’t liquid

        Sorta, but that misses the point. When you have to support a large portfolio of fixed assets through a difficult financial period, liquidity is life. Trump’s most visible assets, like his hotels, can’t simply be sold off in a week. And the primary mortgage can’t be quickly renegotiated or replaced. But when it’s time to retreat to safety, a few weeks of advance warning is absolutely golden, especially when you have inside information.

        Trump’s very limited financial disclosures show that he holds millions in stocks, bonds and mutual funds. It takes time to unwind those positions without depressing prices, but just like Loeffler you could get it done in a few weeks. Cash you free up through these transactions, at the expense of suckers who don’t have your tip-off, would be crucial to staying afloat. That kind of liquidity concern probably explains why Loeffler and Sprecher risked her Senate seat to get their hands on extra cash.

        With advance notice you could draw down lines of credit at advantageous rates, before those lines of credit were shut down after the crash. You can cancel contracts for service or supply delivery. You can cancel planned upgrades or renovations. Few of these things can be accomplished with a single phone call, and when you have a lot of it to do it can be very consuming, but you could do these things in a few days or weeks.

        You could hasten negotiations on pending items that will free up cash by compromising on price, knowing you could eventually buy back that same asset at a bargain. It goes on and on. By keeping a lid on this crisis and mumbling a lot of soothing garbage he kept the markets relatively calm. And all that energy he could have been investing into building a disaster response for the country goes into building a disaster response for the Trump family companies. I feel pretty confident about this.

        5) Press conferences.

        I’d have to go back and check, but I seem to recall that the press conferences started after he stopped holding rallies. The man craves attention and this is now his only outlet. It seems like he’s finding it a very unsatisfying substitute, but he can’t stop.

        And yes, that thing he’s doing with the ChinaVirus does seem to be riling Li. Not sure this is going to end the way he’s hoping. The Chinese are getting very nasty.

      1. Hey Chris.

        I actually live in Kirkland, two miles from Evergreen Hospital. Things feel weird, but it’s not like a ghost town. I went out (Gas, Rite Aid, Groceries) on Sunday and I’d say traffic was maybe half or a bit less than half normal. There’s definitely been a run on some grocery items (toilet paper, canned tomatoes, cleaners containing bleach …) but a person who hasn’t been stocking up would still be able to buy a weeks worth of most foods. Produce looked like a completely normal week, as did poultry.

        Any specific questions?

        Personally I’m pretty well prepared, but then yesterday I watched an animation of how this thing attacks the lungs and started freaking out about touching the gas pump. I totally washed my hands *at* the grocery store, and then again as soon as I got home … but it’s hard not to feel very anxious. I have an over-80 parent north of the border and someone important with a compromised immune system.

    1. They are relevant, mostly as a useful contrast to what Loeffler and her husband did.

      Feinstein and her husband did not meaningfully profit from any stock sales, at least as far as we can tell. Unlike these Republican grifters, Feinstein is a pro. Her finances are set up in the manner you’d expect from someone who knows what they are doing.

      First, take a look at Feinstein’s annual disclosure from last year.

      https://efdsearch.senate.gov/search/view/paper/df20ded0-e46b-4b4a-9768-dd656f923ca3/

      Then the two reports of asset sales since the earliest Congressional briefings on COVID-19.

      https://efdsearch.senate.gov/search/view/paper/4c78ce9f-d842-4f36-9102-48e43377166b/

      https://efdsearch.senate.gov/search/view/paper/680b4c2d-8eea-48c5-b79e-df2754e37ac4/

      Feinstein has all of her personal assets in a blind trust. As a result we, and presumably she, has no idea what she owns or what her trustee is buying or selling. All we know is a rough idea of her annual income from the trust. It’s not perfect, but its as solid as you can get. What would make it better is if her husband also used a blind trust. He doesn’t.

      Her husband, Richard Blum, still maintains and personally manages a small fortune of ambiguous origin. He receives income from an offshore entity based in the tax haven of Guernsey. His financial dealings are worthy of a lot more attention.

      However, he didn’t make any trades that profited from inside information. In fact, his trades appeared to be very poorly timed and unprofitable, strongly suggesting he wasn’t thinking about this pandemic at all.

      He sold a lot of shares of a company called Allogene Therapeutics. His first sale was at recent low on Jan 31, close to the price the company is hovering at right now. In fact, the company’s value surged after his two sales, before being dragged back down by the general market slump toward its 1/31 value. This is not the kind of trade you make to cash in on a pandemic. It looks like he (like a lot of people) was losing confidence in that company and trying to clear his position.

      Feinstein and her husband are the poster-children for the bipartisan corrupting influence of money in politics, but there are levels to this. What Loeffler and Burr did is just nauseatingly crude. It’s the kind of cheap, tawdry sociopathic profiteering you expect from nouveau riche hustlers. It’s trashy, like them.

      https://www.sanjoseinside.com/2015/07/16/sen-dianne-feinsteins-husband-richard-blum-grows-fortune-on-the-ruins-of-the-american-dream/

  3. Chris, you mentioned in one of your earlier posts that without real change barely ever happens.

    I was thinking about those words these days. May we see a universal basic income as a result to prevent the economy from not just crashing but dying? Will Americans be so mad that health care will finally be addressed?

    What are your thoughts? Is this pandemic “enough war”?

    1. If I might throw my two cents in on that; it depends on just how much carnage is unleashed, but there’s a real opportunity to flip the proverbial chessboard. Andrew Yang failed to gain any traction, but now Republicans from Mitt Romney to Josh Hawley to Tom freakin’ Cotton are talking about just giving Americans money now. That’s no small feat, corona virus or not.

      As for the *how*, we know what needs to be done. Biden needs to sweep into office with Dems carrying, roughly, at least 53 or 54 Senate seats (which means we’re winning in states like Montana, Iowa and Georgia), enough to destroy the filibuster.

      If we can do that, Democrats will have their best chance since FDR and the New Deal to fundamentally reshape American society far into the future. We shall see.

      1. I’m a Bernie supporter, and I don’t hate Biden or anything, but I think you have far too much faith in Biden to do anything but carry on Obama’s status quo. He’s from Delaware, home of credit card companies, and he’s been beholden to them his entire career. As Clinton famously said about GHWB: “We don’t need to read his lips. We can read his record”. Nowhere in his long record is there any inkling of a desire to take on powerful economic interests. I doubt that will stop if he becomes President.

        His whole “I’m a moderate” shtick points to continuing “moderate” policies like Clinton’s repeal of Glass-Steagall, Obama’s push to cut Medicare and Social Security, etc.

        If he wanted to be FDR, he had the chance to do so in 2008 during an even graver financial crisis when a wet-behind-the-ears President would have certainly listened to his council. I don’t know what he recommended to Obama, but I doubt it was a New Deal plan.

  4. I have been for awhile been trolled by some family and friends on facebook. They have deeply drank the Trump koolaid. I finally blocked them seeing any of my post. Like Paul Krugman says zombie ideas get resurrected even though they have many times been thoroughly debunked. Tired of the battle with zealots. Anyone still on the Trump train is unreachable unless something personal happens to them real bad. Better to motive a voter who shares you views to vote.

    I suspect like you do Mr. Ladd that the reason we do not have testing or other supplies is because Trump’s administration has awarded contracts to fellow grifters who simply do not have the chops to fill the orders. If enough people die from this crisis maybe we might get some reform.

    As we get closer to the election if this administration sees themselves losing power I expect desperation and a try further to do away with the rule of law. They might even try to suspend the election. It will be harder to do this if the infection is not still running high. Sadly plagues that run amok eventual run out of host susceptible and peter out. That is what I think is the most likely scenario for us this fall.

    If you wanted to know why socialism is gaining the minds of the young you just have to look at the greed you wrote about Mr. Ladd. I want myself reform of capitalism not it’s elimination. We need another FDR. Not one on the immediate horizon.

    1. If Warren is Biden’s VP pick, we could get that 2nd coming of FDR. This is likely the most consequential running mate choice in our history. Biden has said that he will pick a woman. I’ve heard Abrams and Harris and Klobuchar also mentioned, and there are solid political strategy reasons for each one. You can reach out to (besides women), the progressive wing, or the African American voting bloc, or the White MidWesterners. The trick will be to reach out to the 2 blocs not represented by the eventual VP pick and get them enthusiastically on board too. Tough choice here, and I can’t say that any one would be more wrong or more right than the others.

      There’s added weight to that choice because I see it as likely that Biden, if elected, doesn’t make it through a first term, because of health issues; I absolutely can’t see him making it through 2. I see a Biden administration with potential to be the pause before a competent authoritarian takes over (Chris’ worst case post Trump defeat scenario), but it could also be the start of the reform. It will depend on the people he chooses- that is the great service he has the chance to perform for this country.

      1. Now that Bernie is all but finished, I fervently hope Biden will pick Warren. She was my first choice in the primary, and in some ways being VP would be even better for Warren than being President. I get the sense she’s still a bit of a wonky, academic type, not fully suited to the bloodsport of politicking. She’s still very new to politics, after all. Being VP means she’s shielded from a lot of that stuff, while she can use her wonky knowledge to get into the details and really change policy. And if she learns as VP, she’d make a much better Presidential candidate in the future.

      2. Warren was my candidate as well and I agree she would make an excellent VP. However, what makes you think she would accept the invitation?

        I suspect Warren would drive a hard bargain. I would be disappointed if she didn’t. I admire Stacey Abrams but she lacks federal governing experience which will be critical given the mess that awaits the “winners” of the 2020 election. Warren brings suburban women and may offer Sanders supporters an excuse to vote.

        As for trump, it appears highly probable that his self absorption and lust for power knows no limits. Nor that of his sycophants. If,as it has been reported, Dr Fauci is next to go, we’ll be left with Governor Cuomo’s daily Covid 19 daily briefings for the only remaining accurate and honest reportIng.

        I simply cannot fathom how anyone can not see this man for what he is.

        I have to comment briefly on Mitch McConnell’s performance during the Senate stimulus process. I am proud that Democrats have been united and resolute in their demands.

        I’m

      3. Mary-
        Very few people would turn down a VP nod. Her only other option would be to go back to the Senate and likely never go beyond that. Very few people get a second chance after finishing 3rd/4th in a primary. After all Biden himself, someone with far more name recognition at the time in 2008 accepted a VP offer figuring by then the presidency itself was out of reach. I agree that she would (and should) drive a hard bargain. She knows she’s the only person who has a chance of bringing in Sanders supporters. I hope she pushes him to give her wide leeway on economic matters, maybe the right to name the treasury sec and/or Fed Chief and/or SEC Chief.

        Ever since Gore became VP, the office has changed. It’s no longer just sitting in your office waiting for the President to die. There’s real power there. I hope Warren sees that and realizes she can continue her fight far better as VP than as Senator.

  5. It’s safe to assume that the people who climbed on the trump train for the racism aren’t jumping off anytime soon. They’re very easy to spot, as they are constantly using terms like “Chinese virus” and “Wu-flu” with the sort of glee commonly seen in young children who have learned there first dirty word. But I’m curious about the people in East TX who Chris described as being quite happy to see the town next door get torched, just as long as their 401ks are healthy. I’m betting they weren’t among the cool kids who got a heads-up on this pandemic the way Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler did. So what’s their mood?

  6. By my reading of the Business Insider charts, it appears that we (as of March 16th) are in roughly the same spot South Korea was at the beginning of the month. It is unfortunate that the right side axis is scaled differently between the two graphs to make the US’s situation appear much worse.

    This isn’t to downplay the threat of the pandemic of course, I think we are all in agreement that the curve here won’t abate as quickly as SK’s. But there’s no need to stretch the data to match what we expect to happen. The facts will speak for themselves in the coming weeks.

  7. Well done, Chris.

    Yet, trump supporters are defending his handling of the coronavirus. Their self- inflicted myopia has not budged.

    I am more and more concerned about the 2020 Election. Will it be sabotaged by red ststes who refuse to hold primaries under tge guise of “public safety “? Are republicans depending upon the $4T stimulus to blur their responsibility for trump’s mismanagement of this pandemic?

    We are entering fathomable times. The fault for coverup is shared by trump and republicans. You accurately describe the stages of denial and chaotic management. The economic and health consequences are huge. I have read that a $2T stimulus reflects 10% of Americas GDP. How does our nation survive and absorb this much financial destruction? Sure, we can print money, but, can we ever overcome this debt?

    The first bad decision was refusal of the WHO Coronavirus test offered to the US and all countries in January. No one has accepted personal responsibility for this decision. It is pivotal to the cascading misteps that followed and presaged the testing dilemma we now face.

    I’m angry, very, very angry. I’m also scared – for my children and grandchildren. I am 76, fall into the most vulnerable age cohort but at least I have lived a long, good life. More than anything else, I resent the wilful negligence of those who have perpetrated and exacerbated America’s ability to manage this horrendous global health and economic issue, and continue to do so. I may pay with my life but my children and grandchildren will lose their futures.

    1. The US Government could pretty much helicopter drop $5T into the economy, last year, without it affecting anything.

      Where does about 99.9% of the money first go?

      Banks.

      Where does the next 75% of it go?

      Debt payments. To Banks.

      Banks always get money. A decent government lets the people touch it first.

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