How profit kills

Have you ever wondered why “the arsenal of democracy” – which co-invented (along with Germany) the incredibly effective mRNA vaccines – can barely produce enough vaccines for its own people, while the variants viruses like omicron, with more chances to come, require vaccination the the whole world at “warp speed”? Have you ever wondered why the richest, most powerful nation on Earth can’t produce enough Covid tests for its people after nearly two years of pandemic?

Maybe a sports analogy can help us understand. Coaches often stress that the body follows the head. But what is the head of a whole nation? Is it a leader like one of the Joes, Manchin or Biden? Or is it our moral principles?

If the latter, we have a problem. One day at the end of the post-war period, our national moral compass got stuck on private profit. This has become our main national value. Today, our compass is still stuck there.

It is blocked despite the Provisional admission of the Business Roundtable– just before the pandemic strikes – that there may be more to life than profit. If you can identify any important practical consequence of this alleged moral epiphany, please let me know.

Of course, we never formally proclaimed profit as our moral shooting star. It just happened.

Those who did are hardly stupid. They are so smart they got rich. And they’ve dragged their lawyers, their lobbyists, their public relations officers and the politicians who support them, if not to the top of wealth, then well out of the middle class. They all knew and knew the exercise.

Openly worshiping Mammon would have contradicted almost all organized religions. It would certainly have undermined Christianity, which too many of us want to make our official religion now. It was therefore necessary to do it subtly, under the aegis of the economy.

But look what we really have To do as a nation, rather than what we say. Look at vaccines, for example. Do not look developmentlet alone all mRNA vaccines, which emerged from decades of government-funded genomic research.

Development is not where the really a lot of money is, whether in expenses or in profits. The big bucks are in deployment and supply, where gunshots go to guns, pills are distributed, and people’s health and lives are saved.

This is where profit rules and government gets stuck.

Don’t take my word for it. Read a recent in-depth study published by the New York Times. For thirty years, the report reveals, our government has made every effort to stimulate vaccine production. As the report states: “Three times in the past three decades, presidential administrations have explored plans for a vaccine overhaul like the one President Biden is now considering, to be thwarted by pharmaceutical lobbying, political maneuvering and cost issues.[.]”

Our government tried to produce vaccines when private companies were unwilling to step in for fear of uncertain markets. He tried to set up partnerships with private companies. He tried to found non-profit companies to work with private companies.

Either way, private companies have used their lobbying power, combined with dilatory but ultimately unsuccessful negotiations, to kill government initiatives. They killed government production plans directly, fearing the creation of a strong competitor. They would not work with government producers or even with nonprofits, fearing that they would be drawn into unprofitable businesses. As the report summarizes:

“[W]Although the government has tried to enlist large pharmaceutical companies, they have been largely reluctant to divert resources from commercial products. At the same time, they stood in the way when the government offered its own factory, fearing a competitor backed by taxpayers. “

The recent bottlenecks in the production of mRNA vaccines and even conventional Covid-19 vaccines were just the latest episodes in a grim story. Previous debacles involved vaccines against anthrax and botulinum toxins.

As our troops went to war in Gulf I, our intelligence suggested that the Iraqis had both toxins and would use them against our troops. But the government’s unsuccessful efforts to mass produce vaccines for our troops left us with only enough for “those troops considered most at risk.” Why? “The [pharmaceutical] companies had concerns about their legal liability and were unwilling to invest in the change of production line if the government could not promise big purchases after the crisis.

To draw these conclusions, the two journalists examined “thousands of pages of documents, including presidential and military archival files, previously undisclosed government reports, industry correspondence and business plans.” . They interviewed more than 30 executives from “five presidential administrations, business leaders and industry consultants.”

One of the two reporters was Sheryl Gay Stolberg, whom I once sharply criticized on my blog for passing off right-wing insults for journalism. Did she have a revelation? I do not know. Journalists are not supposed to have disclosures. They’re just supposed to report the news.

But even though Stolberg had one revelation, it apparently wasn’t total. The title of the report accuses the government of “30 years of.” . . Guilt, ”while the report itself details case after case in which private companies, in their steadfast pursuit of profit, thwarted reasonable government initiatives to produce vaccines in quantity and quickly. This kind of cognitive dissonance between a report’s title and its substance is worthy of Fox.

Yet what the report is substance watch is crystal clear. We don’t have enough vaccines to fend off the Covid-19 pandemic around the world because private companies didn’t want to do the job without the assurance of profit. And they didn’t want to help government by doing the job either, for fear of competition in the pursuit future profit opportunities.

In other words, Big Pharma played the classic Dog in the Manger, a Christmas-worthy metaphor! She did not want to manufacture the vaccines herself – although she possessed and had the greatest production expertise – because there was not enough profit, or because the profit was not enough. sure. But Big Pharma also didn’t want the government to do them for fear of losing unknown future profits to a strong competitor.

I hope that everyone who suffers from lack of vaccines, and the families of those who die, will remember who and what are responsible. Their suffering and death will surely be the wages of the sins of greed and selfishness, as conceived in Christianity and most other great religions. This is something worth considering this Christmas, while lamenting the end of the backlog of gift supplies.

When private companies do not act, for whatever reason, there is only one practical recourse: government power and purse. “People” are not able to produce sophisticated vaccines in backyard or basement laboratories. In his “Great Leap Forward,” Mao tried this with steelmaking, in improvised ovens in backyards and on farms. The result was catastrophic failure and widespread famine.

Once upon a time, when we had a more flexible moral compass, we did much better to make large public projects work when private industry was unwilling or unable to. When our enemy had a human (Nazi) face, we transformed the obscure theory of nuclear fission from mere demonstration to nuclear weapons in less than two years and eight months. Our government financed and directed the whole project, in the secrecy of the war, and private industry contributed what it could.

As a people, we are quite capable of doing something similar when fighting a changeling virus. But we can only be successful if we do not allow the relentless pursuit of private profit to be hindered. If we do, we will condemn the unvaccinated to suffering and death, at home and abroad, as surely as have the (mostly private) nursing homes that let in infected and unvaccinated visitors. vaccinated and healthcare providers with little or no constraints. And the virus, which has already changed shape several times, will not wait for our moral epiphany to change again.

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