Day: April 15, 2021

Background Briefing: April 15, 2021


Pandemic Profiteers and Global Inequality in Vaccination

We begin with the call for a tax on pandemic profiteers from the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres who lamented the world’s failure to unite around defeating the Covid pandemic pointing out that the inequality in vaccination around the world is just one example of this failure. Joining us is Dean Baker, senior economist and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research who writes the popular economics blog, “Beat the Press” where his latest article is “Patents and the Pandemic: Can We Learn Anything?” We discuss how the $10 billion Operation Warp Speed out of which the Pfizer, Moderna and other vaccinations emerged was socialism with the costs of R&D socialized but the profits privatized since a dose costs between $2 and $5 to make but the taxpayer pays big Pharma $20 a dose and Pfizer was able to charge a poor country like Uganda $37 a dose. Since the virus does not recognize national or international boundaries, and more deadly mutations are cropping up around the world, a global pooling of research and manufacturing would have saved countless lives. 


Sanctions Aimed at “Deterring Russia’s Harmful Foreign Activities”

Then we examine the sanctions announced by the Biden administration today aimed at deterring “Russia’s harmful foreign activities” to punish Putin for the “Solarwinds” hack of U.S. government data and systems with 32 entities and officials targeted for trying to influence the 2020 election and “other acts of disinformation.” James Goldgeier, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Professor of International Relations at American University who served as Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasian Affairs on the National Security Council, joins us to discuss his article at Foreign Affairs, “U.S.-Russian Relations Will Only Get Worse: Even Good Diplomacy Can’t Smooth a Clash of Interests.”


Biden’s Critics Are Happy to Waste $2 Trillion in Afghanistan But Won’t Spend the Same on Infrastructure at Home

Then finally we look further into the likely fate of Afghanistan after the U.S. pulls out and the hypocrisy of Biden’s critics like Senator Lindsey Graham who is happy to waste $2 trillion in a quagmire but won’t support spending $2 trillion on infrastructure at home. Thomas Barfield, a Professor of Anthropology at Boston University who is the President of the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies, joins us to discuss the possibility of unfortunate optics appearing on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack of a split screen of Americans observing solemn ceremonies while the Taliban triumphantly takes over large swathes of Afghanistan.