War Profiteering and Covid-19

Since President Donald Trump insists that we are at war, we must ask, is anybody engaging in war profiteering? This is not an idle question since every American war has seen a version of it. Worst, are some in the Federal Government helping companies enrich themselves? There is evidence that this is the case.

Image for post
Image for post

First, there are a few things that the president has done which should trouble every American. If we are the United States, the strategic reserve is not for the use of the federal government. It is for the use of states when they need it, which happens to be now. They also changed the meaning of the site on the website, thinking we could not find out.

There are also suspicions that the president is playing red states against blue states. This is ideological since red states are pure and godly and follow him. Blue states are diverse, dirty, and sick. This is hardly accidental. However, while the president tells them, it's your responsibility to source your goods, there is evidence these are confiscated at both ports and airports.

According to Politico:

“Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work, and they are doing a lot of this work,” Trump said. “The Federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.”

The president’s remarks amounted to a rebuke of governors’ recent pleas for more robust federal intervention amid the rapidly spreading outbreak, which they warn will soon overwhelm local health care systems if hospital beds, face masks and other necessities are not soon furnished in significantly greater numbers.

So Governors and local officials are doing the best they can. Yet this is what is happening? According to the Franklin Reporter and Advocate:

Freeholder Director Shanel Robinson also said that a joint Somerset-Hunterdon county drive-through testing site could be operational soon and that Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg is “at the top of the list” of locations.

Robinson said that the county had contracted to purchase 35,000 N-95 respirator masks — used by health care professionals to protect them from being contaminated by the virus if treating victims — and regular surgical face masks.

The masks were to be distributed to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital — Somerset in Somerville and various municipalities’ first responders, as well as staff at the Somerset County Jail in Somerville, Robinson said.

As of early in the afternoon of April 3, Robinson said that the county was told the surgical face masks would be delivered that day, but that the federal government had taken the N-95 masks.

This is hardly limited to New Jersey; we are seeing a clear pattern. While the president blames the governors, his administration is confiscating equipment already paid for by the states.

I suppose that if this was the beginnings of a nationalized response, that might be somewhat explained. But it is not. The feds are confiscating this material to distribute as they will. And this is where dark questions have to be asked.

Is the president about to favor red states over blue states for the supplies that are needed? If so, why? And what will this do to the nation? So far we know Florida has received everything they have requested. We know this via The Washington Post:

Anecdotally, there are wide differences, and they do not appear to follow discernible political or geographic lines. Democratic-leaning Massachusetts, which has had a serious outbreak in Boston, has received 17 percent of the protective gear it requested, according to state leaders. Maine requested a half-million N95 specialized protective masks and received 25,558 — about 5 percent of what it sought. The shipment delivered to Colorado — 49,000 N95 masks, 115,000 surgical masks and other supplies — would be “enough for only one full day of statewide operations,” Rep. Scott R. Tipton (R-Colo.) told the White House in a letter several days ago.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency inherited control of the stockpile barely a week ago from HHS. Lizzie Litzow, a FEMA spokeswoman, acknowledged the agency maintains a spreadsheet tracking each state’s request and shipments. Litzow declined repeated requests to release the details, saying the numbers are in flux.

Florida has been an exception in its dealings with the stockpile: The state submitted a request on March 11 for 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators, 82,000 face shields and 238,000 gloves, among other supplies — and received a shipment with everything three days later, according to figures from the state’s Division of Emergency Management. It received an identical shipment on March 23, according to the division, and is awaiting a third.

There is also another factor. The president demands people to kiss his ring, but he is also trying to protect states he needs to win reelection. He is playing into a way of thinking in right-wing land. This goes something like this. Real Americans do not live in diverse, cosmopolitans urban centers, on the coasts. They live in the heartland of the country. They are white and they are god-fearing. They need protection. They are blessed, and they will be somehow favored by god.

It is no coincidence that red states have said churches are essential services. Nor is it strange that these same churches held services on Palm Sunday. Yes, this is a critical date in the Christian calendar, but this will lead to more spread of Covid-19. But we also go back to the question of profiteering.

If the Feds are confiscating shipments, what happens to them? Well, they go back to the private distributors who sell them back to the states. This is not done to benefit the states. In effect, a sixty cent mask is selling for orders of magnitude more money than they should.

And then we go into the malaria drug the president keeps promoting. For the record, there are no clinical trials that have shown any true benefit. However, Novartis, the maker of a really cheap drug, got the ear of the president over a year ago though Michael Cohen. And it seems Rudy Giuliani may have an interest in Novartis. One has to wonder how many more in the Trump orbit do? This is the classic definition of profiteering. People went to prison for this during World War One and the Civil War. This is why the Truman commission was formed at the beginning of World War Two, to mostly prevent this from happening again.

According to the New York Times:

Bolstered by his trade adviser, a television doctor, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former New York mayor, Mr. Trump has seized on the drug as a miracle cure for the virus that has killed thousands and paralyzed American life. Along the way, he has prompted an international debate about a drug that many doctors in New York and elsewhere have been trying in desperation even without conclusive scientific studies.

If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Mr. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.

The science behind this is not clear at all. It is now in clinical trials, but the president telling the country what do you have to lose is irresponsible. The drug has some significant side effects and should not be taken by people with heart conditions. We also have evidence that the FDA is emergency approving it in off label use. However, responsible doctors are not just going to prescribe this just because.

We have evidence of profiteering and this should trouble anybody. The last action from the president was to remove the Inspector General that was put in place to supervise a two trillion fund. This is not a coincidence and should trouble all.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store