Day: May 19, 2020

Background Briefing: May 19, 2020


Trump’s New Vaccine Czar and Big Pharma’s Grip on Vaccines

We begin with the new vaccine czar Moncef Slaoui appointed by Trump to head up what the White House calls “Operation Warp Speed”, having to divest $10 million’s worth in stock options from Moderna the company whose board he sits on that has been awarded $483 million in funding from HHS. In a Rose Garden ceremony Slaoui joined in with Trump’s magical thinking promising his company’s vaccine would be ready by the end of the year causing Moderna’s stock to shoot up 20% on Monday having already tripled in value this year. Investigative journalist Alexander Zaitchik, the author of The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride Through Donald Trump’s America, joins us to discuss his article at The New Republic “No Vaccine in Sight: The U.S. was once at the cutting edge of pandemic prevention. Then Big Pharma took over.” We discuss the many examples of Big Pharma’s priority of protecting and extending patents, which are a license to print money, over public health. Since a number of countries, Germany, Israel, Costa Rica, Canada and Ecuador are proclaiming a right to override patents to facilitate research and produce affordable treatments, the need for the U.S. to return to the model set by the OSRD, the government Office of Scientific Research and Development during the 1940’s and 50’s is greater than ever. As well as the need to return to the public-spirited science exhibited by Dr. Jonas Salk whose vaccine ended the scourge of polio, but unlike today’s gouging by Big Pharma, Salk refused to patent it so that it could be widely available at low cost.


Profiteering as Trump Throws Money at the Disaster he Created

Then following testimony today before the U.S. Senate from Fed Chair Powell and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin at which a number of Democrats attacked the White House’s coronavirus response with Senator Tester telling Mnuchin he should be more forthcoming about where all the stimulus money is being spent, demanding “We need more transparency.” Then in response Mnuchin claimed there had been “unprecedented transparency” so far, but Tester wasn’t buying it so we will look further into how a few profiting from the pain of many as Trump’s bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic and his belated efforts to throw money at the disaster he created, has turned into an opportunity for profiteering. James Henry, a lawyer and investigative journalist and former chief economist at McKinsey & Co joins us to discuss his article at the American Interest, “The Distribution of Suffering, Relief, and Greed in the Pandemic.”


Assessing the Field of Female Vice Presidents Biden is Vetting

Then finally we assess the field of female candidates for Vice President who are being vetted by Joe Biden and his team and speak with an expert on the Vice Presidency, Joel Goldstein, Professor of Law Emeritus at Saint Louis University and author of The Modern American Vice Presidency: The Transformation of a Political Institution and The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden