Are the Trumps Engaged in Profiteering?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Trump Administration is buying up a lot of the medical supplies being produced in the U.S. right now, but it’s not clear where these supplies are going.

The Trump administration quietly invoked the Defense Production Act to force medical suppliers in Texas and Colorado to sell to it first — ahead of states, hospitals or foreign countries.

It took this action more than a week before it announced Thursday that it would use the little-known aspect of the law to force 3M to fill its contract to the U.S. first. Firms face fines or jail time if they don’t comply.

The Cold War-era law gives federal officials the power to edge out the competition and force contractors to provide supplies to them before filling orders for other customers.

While it’s unclear how many times the power has been used during the coronavirus pandemic, federal contracting records examined by Kaiser Health News show that federal authorities staked first rights to $137 million in medical supplies. The orders in late March flew under the radar, even as dog-eat-dog bidding wars raged among states and nations for desperately needed medical protective gear.

“It’s like ‘Lord of the Flies’ out there for states and hospitals as they bid against each other for critical medical supplies and equipment,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in a statement to KHN. “Plus, there’s no transparency about what the federal government is doing with the equipment that they purchase when they outbid states and hospitals.”

The article continues to describe a chaotic situation in which orders are being cancelled because the federal government is claiming first dibs on production, but it’s not clear where all this material is going. FEMA appears to be involved, but exactly what FEMA is doing isn’t clear, either.

There could be a perfectly good explanation for the federal supplies-grab, but this is the Trump Administration we’re talking about, so that’s unlikely. And it’s probably Jared Kushner we’re talking about, since he has inserted himself into this mess and has established a headquarters at FEMA. Kushner’s pronouncement that the federal stockpile of medical supplies is “our stockpile,” not the states’, raised the question of who “our” is. Perhaps he meant he and his team, or the Trump family business. Who knows?

But here’s another odd little story that has been mostly overlooked. On March 27 Politico reported that a prominent DC-based Republican fundraiser had just notified his clients that he would not be working to raise funds for them after April 1. And why not? Because he’s going into the medical supplies business.

The fundraiser, Mike Gula, didn’t specify his new line of work in the email. But in an interview, he said he’d started a new company selling medical equipment that’s been in short supply during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, Blue Flame Medical LLC, was formed Monday in Delaware, according to state records. Its website says it sells coronavirus testing kits, N95 respirator masks, “a wide selection” of personal protective equipment and other “hard to find medical supplies to beat the outbreak.”

Asked how he’d managed to procure such equipment when there are shortages in hospitals across the country, Gula said, “I have relationships with a lot of people.” …

“I don’t want to overstate, but we probably represent the largest global supply chain for Covid-19 supplies right now,” he said. “We are getting ready to fill 100 million-unit mask orders.”

Gula is a veteran fundraiser who’s raised money for more than two dozen lawmakers in this cycle alone, including Sens. Steve Daines of Montana, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Martha McSally of Arizona and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

Here’s more about Mike Gula from a New York Times article published March 28:

Neither Mr. Gula nor his partner in the business, a fellow Republican operative named John Thomas, had much experience in the medical supply field.

But Mr. Thomas said in an interview on Saturday that the connections they made through their work in politics helped them find suppliers and connect to customers, including large medical systems and law enforcement agencies around the world, including in the Middle East.

“In politics — especially if you’re at a high enough level — you are one phone call away from anybody in the world,” Mr. Thomas said, adding that his new company had partnered with firms to sell and distribute its products. “It’s not about the financial motivations,” he said of his new venture, which was revealed Friday by Politico. “We’re here to solve a need to help people.”

“Partnered with firms” is as specific as Gula gets about his suppliers. Basically, he jumped into the medical supplies biz because he knows a guy who knows a guy.

But there’s another angle to this. You may have seen the clip on television from a couple of days ago in which an admiral announces that by means of an airbridge of flights from abroad the U.S. had procured tons of masks, gowns, and other supplies. But under questioning by Weijia Jiang of CBS News, the admiral admits that the supplies are not going to the cities, or to hospitals, or even to FEMA.

Josh Marshall writes that it may make sense to use private sector supply chains to distribute the material. However …

But this doesn’t sound like it’s just distribution. The Admiral seems pretty clear that this is being distributed as private sector transactions. As then Admiral put it: “That’s normally how things work, right? I’m not here to disrupt a [commercial] supply chain.”

We’ve heard different governors complaining that it’s like bidding on eBay, with the different governors have to bid against each other to get access to these live saving products that are in desperately short supply. That only doesn’t distribute them according to need. It also makes the price for everyone higher.

Who is making money from this? If the U.S. gathering  these supplies, is it then selling the material to the private sector for resale (at a markup) to hospitals and others who need them? Nobody is saying exactly how this is working. And Josh Marshall also noted Mike Gula —

Possibly unrelated but maybe not, BW flagged this article from a couple days ago which describes a GOP fundraiser and political operative who abruptly shuttered his business and announced he was opening a new firm (Blue Flame) which is in the COVID medical supply business. “Over the last 14 days I have built another business outside politics and will be focusing my full attention there,” he told colleagues in an email.

There’s no evidence the fundraiser/operative Mike Gula is in the mix with these airbridge flights. But it at least hints at the kind of corruption and profiteering that is possible in such a crisis.

And if there is corruption and profiteering going on, does anyone think that the Trump family is not getting a cut?

In other news

President Trump intends to nominate White House lawyer Brian D. Miller to serve as the inspector general overseeing the Treasury Department’s implementation of the newly enacted $2 trillion coronavirus law, the White House said Friday night.

If confirmed by the Senate, Miller would become Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery for the Department of Treasury, a key post in preventing fraud and abuse in the enormous new program. Miller is a special assistant to Trump and senior associate counsel in the Office of White House Counsel. He played a role in the White House’s response to document requests during the recent impeachment probe.

Inspectors general are supposed to be apolitical and nonpartisan. The Senate will no doubt rubber stamp this appointment, however, because Senate Republicans can’t learn.

Y’all will remember Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) who appeared to trade stock based on information we was getting at Senate briefings about the pandemic. Loeffler is marred to Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. See Loeffler reports more stock sales, denies wrongdoing

During the same time period reflected on reports filed late Tuesday, the couple also sold shares in retail stores such as Lululemon and T.J. Maxx and invested in a company that makes COVID-19 protective garments.

— and Questions remain about who is handling Kelly Loeffler’s stock transactions

Loeffler says that financial consultants acting independently conduct all transactions on her behalf.

To this day, however, Loeffler has not provided details about how her portfolio is managed and who does that work. She won’t name her advisers or say what company they work for or disclose what kind of agreement she has with them.

— both in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Our Nation Was Utterly Unprepared for This

Greg Sargent discusses some of the same overlapping trends I wrote about yesterday. For example, yesterday I said that you look at the map of where people have been doing the least sheltering in place, it looks remarkably like the map of where Medicaid hasn’t been expanded.

Sargent writes,

What’s coming is a kind of perfect storm, according to experts I spoke with: Soaring unemployment risks pushing huge numbers of people into the ranks of the uninsured. Many of those people will probably seek Medicaid coverage, further straining state budgets.

Add into that combustible mix a coming wave of coronavirus cases, and you have what health economist Austin Frakt described to me as a “looming catastrophe.”

This may be felt with great intensity in the south. That’s because in that region, there is a developing situation that could prove very distressing in coming weeks. On one hand, there hasn’t been enough social distancing in these places. On the other, many of those states have not opted into the Medicaid expansion, which could make the health care crisis far more acute.

A great many people right now are losing their jobs and thereby their health insurance. Most probably qualify for COBRA, but the bite with COBRA is that it is grossly expensive, and if you don’t have other income coming in you may not be able to afford it. However, I understand that people who have recently lost jobs have a grace period with which to purchase insurance in the ACA marketplaces, possibly qualifying for subsidies.

But if you didn’t have insurance to begin with, the national ACA marketplace is closed to you. And Trump won’t open it. “Numerous Democratic-leaning states that run their own insurance markets have already reopened enrollment in recent weeks as the coronavirus threat grew,” it says in Politico. The Trump administration oversees enrollment for about two-thirds of states.

(According to this page, the states that completely run their own insurance markets are Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. A few states — Oregon, New Mexico, Maine, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New Jersey — may be transitioning to a state-based platform. Arkansas and Kentucky have state-based marketplaces on the federal platform which I suspect would stop them from opening the enrollment period now. Everyone else is completely at the mercy of Trump.)

Anyway, put together the soaring unemployment numbers, the huge percentage of the population without health insurance, and the strain on the medical care system, and you’ve got a catastrophe that won’t go away when the pandemic ends. It will be with us for quite a while. And it’s going to hit the south and big chunks of the midwest (see maps above) especially hard.

Back to Greg Sargent:

“What it means is a lot more hardship, health problems and death,” Frakt, the health economist, told me. Frakt noted that the virus is now likely to spread in those regions, which will dovetail in a terrible way with the failure to expand Medicaid.

“People who have lost their jobs and have nowhere else to turn,” if they can’t get on Medicaid, “they’ll have great difficulty affording the care they’ll need,” Frakt said.

Or, as Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation bluntly put it, “poor people in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid” will have “no help.” And those ranks will swell. …

…Ominously, in some of these states, cases are mounting. As of now, Florida has over 9,000 confirmed cases; Georgia has nearly 5,500; Texas has nearly 5,000; Tennessee has nearly 3,000; and North Carolina has nearly 2,000.

And then there is the economic hit the nation is taking. Paul Krugman discusses it here, basically saying that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a long-range economic disaster except that the Trump Administration is in charge. So it probably will be.

Other Stuff to Read

Michelle Goldberg, Putting Jared Kushner In Charge Is Utter Madness

Paul Waldman, Trump’s ignorant son-in-law is running the coronavirus response. That’s unacceptable.

Paul Waldman, How this crisis could help us get to health-care reform

Charles Pierce, Robert Kraft Did a Good Thing. Now What Happens to Other States Without an NFL Team?

DALLAS, TX – SEPTEMBER 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center on September 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. More than 20,000 tickets have been distributed for the event. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

A Disaster for the Ages

This crisis is going to get a lot worse before it gets better, I fear. And even as the effects of the pandemic fade in the rest of the world, they are going to be felt in the U.S. for a long, long time. And that’s because Donald Trump is president.

The Trump administration’s botched coronavirus response, explained by German Lopez at Vox does a good job walking us through all the ways the Trump Administration failed to respond to the pandemic when it would have made a difference.  We’re past that point now. Even if the Trumpers get everything else right going forward, there will be tremendous misery, and lots of people will die who didn’t have to die. And the economy will be thoroughly bleeped for a long, long time.

This will go down in history as profound failure of our national government,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said today. And the failure continues.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asked the federal government to put military logistics experts in charge of procuring and distributing medical supplies. Instead, right now pandemic response is being managed by Jared Kushner. I’m serious. Having already screwed up negotiating a bleeping contract with General Motors, Mr. Ivanka is now the nation’s ventilator czar.

What started two-and-a-half weeks ago as an effort to utilize the private sector to fix early testing failures has become an all-encompassing portfolio for Kushner, who, alongside a kitchen cabinet of outside experts including his former roommate and a suite of McKinsey consultants, has taken charge of the most important challenges facing the federal government: Expanding test access, ramping up industry production of needed medical supplies, and figuring out how to get those supplies to key locations.

Kushner has even obtained a new center of power at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the crisis-response organization that’s taken over coronavirus strategy and planning — and where Kushner and his deputies ride herd on the health agencies that had been criticized for their slow responses to the pandemic earlier this year.

So we’re screwed. Jonathan Chait writes,

As head of an ad hoc task force, Kushner is “working alongside government officials from FEMA, HHS, and USAID to solve a range of logistical and technical challenges” and “has stepped in to coordinate decision-making at agencies including the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” according to Politico. “I don’t know how our government operates anymore,” one Republican source complains.

For anybody familiar with Kushner’s boundless self-confidence in his ability to master even the thorniest of policy challenges, from modernizing government processes to solving the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, his disposition will come as no surprise. Gabriel Sherman reports that, in one meeting, the presidential son-in-law insisted that he had mastered the problem of ventilator disbursement. “I have all this data about ICU capacity. I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators,” Kushner announced, according to someone present.

A lot of people will die who didn’t have to die. See also an old Frank Bruni column from last November, Jared Kushner Fails Up Again.

And just when you might have through the derp couldn’t get any deeper, this happened today.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he wasn’t aware that asymptomatic people could transmit coronavirus as he announced he was preparing to issue a state-wide shelter-in-place order.

Let us take a moment for a mass facepalm.

It’s a good guess the pandemic is going to hit the southern states especially hard. See Where America Didn’t Stay Home Even as the Virus Spread. The concept of shelter in place was lost on the Deep South until maybe yesterday. See also The Coronavirus’s Unique Threat to the South in The Atlantic. For some reason, mortality rates from coronavirus among middle-aged and younger people are much higher in the South than elsewhere.

Although the majority of coronavirus-related deaths in Louisiana are still among victims over 70 years old, 43 percent of all reported deaths have been people under 70. In Georgia, people under 70 make up 49 percent of reported deaths. By comparison, people under 70 account for only 20 percent of deaths in Colorado. “Under 70” is a broad category, not really useful for understanding what’s going on. But digging deeper reveals more concerning numbers. In Louisiana, people from the ages of 40 to 59 account for 22 percent of all deaths. The same age range in Georgia accounts for 17 percent of all deaths. By comparison, the same age group accounts for only about 10 percent of all deaths in Colorado, and 6 percent of all deaths in Washington State. These statistics suggest that middle-aged and working-age adults in the two southern states are at much greater risk than their counterparts elsewhere; for some reason, they are more likely to die from COVID-19. … Case-fatality rates around the world are notoriously tricky because they are based in part on the extent of testing, but a recent study of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, found a case-fatality rate of 0.5 percent among adults from the ages of 30 to 59. The current estimate of fatality rates in the same age range in Louisiana is about four times that.

The article provides data showing that southerners are less healthy than the rest of us. They have higher rates of hypertension and heart disease at earlier ages.  “Southerners are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases than other Americans—even as Americans are more likely to suffer from chronic disease than citizens of other countries with comparable wealth,” the article says. And a lot of that is because of poverty. And there’s this — the gray states hadn’t expanded Medicaid as of 2019.

If you look at the New York Times map of where people have traveled the most over the past couple of months and then the Medicaid map, you see a close correlation. It’s not a perfect correlation, but close. That probably says something.

And then there’s the economic fallout. There’s an interview of Paul Krugman in Business Insider that’s useful. Among other things, he says that our government so far has produced the weakest economic response of all the G7 countries. And because the states are breaking their budgets to buy gray-market medical supplies now — not to mention losing tax revenue — there is likely to be a mass layoff of state employees next year, which will hurt the economy massively.

So this is not going to end soon, and it probably will haunt the country for a long time. And it didn’t have to be this bad.

Grifts in the Time of Pandemics

The Congresswoman is pissed.

Yes, Trump sent 17.8 tons of medical supplies to China early in 2020.

I foresee investigations to come. But with the Trumpers, it’s hard to know where the grift ends and sheer incompetence begins. This is from Politico, yesterday:

Last week, a Trump administration official working to secure much-needed protective gear for doctors and nurses in the United States had a startling encounter with counterparts in Thailand.

The official asked the Thais for help—only to be informed by the puzzled voices on the other side of the line that a U.S. shipment of the same supplies, the second of two so far, was already on its way to Bangkok.

The official then went to Mike Pence, who didn’t know about the assistance to Thailand, either. The shipments of supplies to other countries were initiated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an independent government agency with a budget of over $27 billion. It is part of our government’s foreign policy apparatus and is supposed to be overseen by the State Department. The USAID website brags about the assistance U.S. taxpayers are providing to help other countries fight the pandemic. And, really, we should be helping other countries fight the pandemic; this needs to be an internationally coordinated effort and not every country for itself.

But I’m not seeing any coordinating going on. It’s just chaos.

There’s currently a hold on USAID shipments as Trumpers try to figure out what’s going on. Back to Politico:

President Donald Trump seems attuned to the political hazards. During Monday’s task force briefing, he emphasized that the U.S. was sending only “things that we don’t need” to other countries. “We’re going to be sending approximately $100 million worth of things – of surgical and medical and hospital things to Italy,” he announced.

The Politico reporting suggests that the “medical things” really are things we need here, though.

“The problem is, there’s not one person who’s in charge of this, which is why we’re instituting a review process that is led by the White House coronavirus task force,” a person directly involved with the review said.

Officials close to USAID say the ongoing review is more akin to a hold, as the task force examines the aid agency’s procurement of supplies and asks aid officials to alert them if there are other such shipments in the works.

But then if you keep reading the Politico article, it turns out that the State Department knew all about it.

America’s diplomats are also grappling with China’s attempts to exploit the shortages by supplying aid to Western countries, keenly aware of Beijing’s interest in showing it is supplanting the United States as a global leader.

Just days before a load of medical supplies from China arrived in the U.S. for distribution in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the State Department boasted in a press release that the United States was “Leading the Humanitarian and Health Assistance Response to COVID-19.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted the aid in a press conference on Tuesday, noting, “We’ve now made available a total of $274 million in funding to as many as 64 countries,” money he said “would go to some of the world’s most at-risk peoples.”

In the last two months, at least five U.S. embassies, including in MyanmarTajikistanUzbekistanKyrgyzstan and Laos, all announced in press releases that the U.S. government had given protective gear to their host countries, sometimes including pictures of boxes of the donations.

So at least some Trumpers did know that these much-needed resources were going overseas, and mostly this was being done so that China couldn’t make us look bad.

It’s crazy out there. There are reports a company in Texas is sitting on 2 million N95 masks and is ready to sell them — at six times the normal price. Meanwhile, medical personnel around the country are reporting that they are risking their lives caring for coronavirus patients without enough personal protection equipment. Hospitals are threatening to fire these same people if they keep talking to reporters. Vox reports that a huge gray market in medical supplies has emerged as all sorts of random people — some hoping to do good, some hoping to make a quick buck — jump into the medical supplies business.

Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a single entity coordinating all this stuff? Like, you know, a government?

And this takes us to Charles Pierce and his must-read All the President*’s Excuses for Not Using the Defense Production Act Were Absolute Moonshine. Pierce begins by pointing to a New York Times report saying that the dreaded Defense Production Act is used all the time.

Chemicals used to construct military missiles. Materials needed to build drones. Body armor for agents patrolling the southwest border. Equipment for natural disaster response.

A Korean War-era law called the Defense Production Act has been used to place hundreds of thousands of orders by President Trump and his administration to ensure the procurement of vital equipment, according to reports submitted to Congress and interviews with former government officials.

Yet as governors and members of Congress plead with the president to use the law to force the production of ventilators and other medical equipment to combat the coronavirus pandemic, he has for weeks treated it like a “break the glass” last resort, to be invoked only when all else fails.

“You know, we’re a country not based on nationalizing our business,” Mr. Trump said earlier this month. “Call a person over in Venezuela, ask them how did nationalization of their businesses work out? Not too well.”

To which Charles Pierce responds,

Therefore, all the excuses that the president* has used for not using the DPA more widely in response to this pandemic, and in response to desperate pleas from the country’s governors, are absolute moonshine. He prefers the way things are working now. He wants governors to compete against FEMA, lose, and then have to beg for ventilators and PPE, which he can dole out like pork-barrel projects to help his re-election campaign.

Yep, one suspects that’s exactly the scam he’s planning. Because Trump doesn’t know how to do anything else.

See also:

Desperate lawmakers hunt for medical supplies as Trump takes hands-off approach, posted today in Politico.

History’s verdict on Trump will be devastating by Michael D’Antonio at CNN.

Greg Sargent, A White House report blows up Trump’s latest coronavirus defense

The Excuses Begin

The main excuses shaping up to explain away Trump’s abysmal response to the pandemic are twofold.

First is the Condoleeze Rice defense — no one could have predicted this. This one has been underway for a while. Aaron Blake wrote on March 19:

As President Trump has come around to the severity of the coronavirus, he has increasingly fought back against criticism of his administration’s response by suggesting the crisis was basically inconceivable.

“I would view it as something that just surprised the whole world,” he said Thursday at his daily briefing, adding later that it was “uncharted territory” and saying, “Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion.”

“So there’s never been anything like this in history. There’s never been,” he said. “And nobody’s ever seen anything like this.”

He added Wednesday: “Nobody ever saw numbers like this even with regard to testing.”

“I just think this is something … that you can never really think is going to happen,” he said March 6.

“It’s an unforeseen problem,” he added the same day. “What a problem. Came out of nowhere.”

See also Greg Sargent, Kellyanne Conway’s ugly deceptions preview the Big Lie to come.

First, this pandemic is hardly unprecedented. There was a big, honking precedent in 1918-1920 that killed Trump’s grandfather. The so-called “Spanish flu” infected a third of the world’s population and is estimated to have killed 50 million people. That’s some precedent right there. More recently another coronavirus,  SARS-CoV-1 (our Covid 19 is officially  SARS-CoV-2), also was designated a pandemic in 2003, although it was far better contained through coordinated international effort. Our Center for Disease Control was a critical part of that effort. Obviously, that was before Trump gutted the agency and put some ass-kissing wingnut in charge of it.

And Trump was given plenty of warnings. I am grateful to John Haltiwanger and Sonam Sheth of Business Insider, who compiled all the warnings in Trump says ‘nobody’ could’ve predicted a pandemic like coronavirus. Here are all the times he was warned about it and refused to take action. This one’s a clip ‘n’ save, folks. Bookmark it and be prepared to trot it out whenver you encounter a wingnut claiming no one could have anticipated the pandemic.

The other excuse is that Trump was distracted by the Democrats’ impeachment effort. Trump was acquitted on February 5th, so what’s his excuse after that? But here he is on January 22, in Davos, a few hours after the first case in the U.S. had been diagnosed. (You only need to watch the first minute or so.)

He doesn’t seem that distracted to me. Just clueless. This video is the source of the quote:

Love that quote.

One other point Trump makes sometimes is that he inherited a “mess” and a “broken system” when he became POTUS. In other words, blame Obama. But the truth is that Trump inhereted a world-class pandemic fighting system from the Obama Administration — and dismantled it. See How America built the best pandemic response system in history – and threw it away by Will Dunn in New Statesman (h/t moonbat). From the article blurb: “The Trump administration destroyed an infrastructure, built over two decades, that may have been humanity’s most powerful weapon against new diseases.”

No country, least of all a vast land mass with 149 international airports, can ever be fully prepared for a pandemic – but in 2016, the US was, domestically and internationally, more prepared than it had ever been.

And then Trump became POTUS, and IMO it’s not going too far to say that he dismantled the entire pandemic-response infrastructure he inherited from Obama. What little was left of it was too gutted to be of much use. If the system is broken, it was Trump who broke it.

See also Paul Krugman, This Land of Denial and Death.

Update: See also Republicans say impeachment distracted Trump from coronavirus. But the president golfed and held rallies during his trial while downplaying the virus for weeks in Business Insider.

The Virus vs. Our Ruling Fatuous Asses

I’ve argued for a while that the U.S. is being run by a class of decadent, inbred aristocrats. I wrote back in 2007 about Bush policies in Iraq

But after all that’s happened (and gone wrong), the unflappable hubris of the Bush Administration continues to amaze me. They remind me of Old World aristocrats — the ones in movies, anyway — inbred, vain, spoiled, and privileged. Movie aristocrats are arrogant fops who get shown up by the plain spoken American hero, who (unlike the fops) is skilled and experienced and smart. Now I wonder how many Bush Administration officials it takes to screw in a light bulb. Oh, wait, they have maids for that. Never mind.

See also Our Decadent Aristocracy, written a year ago.

Now here is another exhibit for the “this must be how democracies end” file. Some colossally fatuous ass named Richard Epstein wrote an analysis for the Hoover Institution “think tank” that argued everybody is overreacting to the pandemic and should just stop being hysterical. Oh, and social distancing is silly.

Now, Epstein is not just any colossally fatuous ass. He’s made a lucrative career of it. This is from Wikipedia:

Epstein is currently the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law and director of the Classical Liberal Institute at New York University, the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law emeritus and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago. In March 2020, Epstein influenced the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic with his writings where he attacked measures to enforce social distancing, claimed the Coronavirus was not a “pandemic,” and predicted there would ultimately be 500 American deaths.[1][2][3]

Epstein’s writings have extensively influenced American legal thought. In 2000, a study published in The Journal of Legal Studies identified Epstein as the 12th-most cited legal scholar of the 20th century. In 2008, he was chosen in a poll taken by Legal Affairs as one of the most influential legal thinkers of modern times. A study of legal publications between 2009 and 2013 found Epstein to be the 3rd-most frequently cited American legal scholar during that period, behind only Cass Sunstein and Erwin Chemerinsky. He has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1985.

You may think I’m being hard on Epstein. But I give you this interview with Epstein, The Contrarian Coronavirus Theory That Informed the Trump Administration by Isaac Chotiner in the New Yorker, in which Chotiner brilliantly allowed Epstein to display his fatuous assholery in all his ghastly glory. I’m not going to quote it; you really have to read the whole thing. It is jaw-dropping. The man has no clue what he is talking about and is clearly too stupid to realize he has no clue what he is talking about. Calling him a mere fatuous ass is being kind. But there he is, a fatuous ass who somehow is considered smart and scholarly and is paid a lot of money for it.

The ever-brilliant Andrew O’Hehir nailed Epstein’s ass in Salon:

Let us note that Epstein has zero expertise in science or medicine, and also that he belongs to the lard-ass “conservative intellectual” caste for whom pronouncing something “contrarian” always carries a sort of erotic thrill and always means that one is boosting the cause of so-called free-market capitalism, and arguing that anything government could possibly do is destructive (except to poison itself and die).

One gets the impression that the cognitively challenged Epstein has made a lucrative career out of telling the worshippers of “free market” capitalism what they wanted to hear.

Corrections and math errors aside, Richard Epstein did his duty to the overlord class that employs him. For a hot minute there, he slapped a seemingly dispassionate intellectual gloss on the notion that all this was a giant overreaction, and some new bug that might carry off a few less-than-productive grandmas was no reason to shut down the malls and the office parks and the call centers.

It appears that Epstein’s work of contrarian genius circulated rapidly — one could almost say virally — among the captains of Big Capital. I think it’s fair to say they were (and are) collectively shit-scared by the plunging stock market, the spiking unemployment numbers and, most of all, by the hypothetical possibility of losing their financial and ideological hegemony over the vast, rigged shell game of the global economy.

The old, inbred, decadent aristocracies that held absolute power in feudal times needed courtiers who catered to their greed and egos, and today’s aristocrats are no different. The key to success in America today isn’t hard work, talent, smarts, or good grades. It’s money and connections. And if you weren’t born into the aristocracy, you can become a member in good standing by providing pseudo-intellectual / propaganda support services to help the privileged and inbred stay in power — in other words, by telling the ruling overlords what they want to hear. Thus Richard Epstein.

Note that Epstein also is the author of a book that argues health care should not be a universal right.  Here is the Amazon blurb:

Most Americans assume that universal access to health care is a desirable and humane political goal. Not so, says distinguished legal scholar Richard Epstein. In this seminal work, he explodes the unspoken assumption that a government-administered, universal health-care system would be a boon to America. Basing his argument in our common law traditions that limit the collective responsibility for an individual’s welfare, he provides a political and economic analysis which suggests that unregulated provision of health care will, in the long run, guarantee greater access to quality medical care for more people.

At this point it’s obvious to anyone living in the Real World that “unregulated provision of health care” in some completely free-market system will mean that only the very wealthy will have access to 21st-centiury medical care. The rest of us will make do with quacks and witch doctors.

Now that the coronavirus has so publicly pantsed Epstein, one would think his career would be over. But it won’t. In today’s America you can be such a completely fatuous ass that you can barely tie your own shoes and still get paid for your opinion. See, for example, Mark Penn.

Even so, history shows us that aristocracies tend to be self-limiting. Eventually, after generations of insulation and inbreeding, there are no candidates for the throne who aren’t hopelessly dimwitted and demented, and then comes the coup or the revolution and the cycle begins again. The frailties and insulations of our aristocracy — both parties — gave us the ultimate in dimwitted and demented rulers, Donald J. Trump. I question whether there will be a coup or revolution, however, because there is just too much damn money invested in the old order. Our situation may have to get even worse before the chains can be broken. And they need to be broken.

Jet Heer writes of Richard Epstein,

Although Epstein is a crackpot, he’s a crackpot who has a far-reaching influence thanks to the right-wing legal network that has nurtured his entire career. His absurd article on the coronavirus is not just a personal scandal or a blot on his record, but also evidence of wider social and political corruption.

Epstein has been allowed to flourish thanks to a host of institutions, including the Federalist Society, the University of Chicago, New York University, and the Hoover Institution. All of them are tarnished by his ridiculous coronavirus article.

The pandemic has made Epstein more famous, but his ideas have been circulating in elite legal and political circles for decades. As such, his influence on the current moment is deeper than just a few articles read in the Trump White House. As author Matt Stoller tweeted, “In case you’re wondering why we can’t handle the #coronavirus as a society it’s because Richard Epstein types have been designing our corporate and government bureaucracies for four decades.” In other words, Epstein’s delusional views on the coronavirus resonate in the Trump White House because Republicans have been acting on Epstein’s ideas for decades.

These are, of course, the same people who fight us on global climate change, health care, income inequality, and every other issue you can think of. IMO the nation can’t survive their influence much longer.

Update: See also Paul Campos, A Plague of Libertarians

 

It’s Everywhere, It’s Everywhere …

So far, the pandemic has hit big cities/blue states a lot harder than rural areas/red states. But that’s likely to change. Nate Silver wrote a couple of days ago,

Overall, although the number of detected cases is higher in blue states, the number is increasing at a more rapid rate in red states.1 Moreover, blue states have conducted more tests per capita than red states, so — given that the large majority of coronavirus cases remain undetected — the lower rate of cases in red states may partially be an artifact of less testing.

It already has changed, actually. New York City is being slammed, but if you remove New York, the distribution between red and blue states looks a lot more even.

About three-quarters of the confirmed cases in the United States are in states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. About half are in New York alone. …

… If we take New York out of the mix, the distribution of confirmed cases still indicates that blue states, which often are more heavily urban and populous, have the most cases. But this also reveals there are a number of states that preferred Trump in 2016 and now have a significant number of cases. …

… New York has more cases in part because it’s got more people. If we control for population, showing the number of confirmed cases per 100,000 residents in a state, other problem areas emerge. The District of Columbia, for example, has the fifth-most cases as a function of population. Louisiana has more cases as a function of population than any other red state, by a wide margin. …

… What’s important is that the number of cases has increased significantly across the board. In states that voted for Clinton in 2016, which make up three-quarters of known cases, the number of new confirmed cases from March 17 to March 24 increased by an average of 530 percent.

In red states, the average increase was 860 percent.

It’s now widely believed the rapid spread of the virus in Louisiana began with the big crowds in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, February 25.

And then there’s Florida, whose utterly worthless governor refused to close beaches for spring break and who still hasn’t issued shelter-in-place orders for his state. Instead, Gov. DeSantis has become obsessed with keeping New Yorkers and other “foreigners” out of Florida. It appears DeSantis was the one who put the idea of putting all of New York under quarantine into Trump’s head. Trump was talked out of it last night some time. See also Florida begins coronavirus checkpoints, threatens jail time for out-of-state travelers who don’t self-quarantine.

In truth, there’s no question that the virus is spreading freely within Florida and is past the point of containment. “The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida is doubling every three days,” it says here. It’s way too late to keep the virus out. In a couple of months, Floridians may be trying to escape to New York.

As the pandemic spreads into rural areas, another big weakness in our sorry-ass health care system will soon come into view — the shortage of rural hospitals. More than half the counties in America have no intensive care beds, it says here.

Even in heavily impacted blue states, though, there is a significant partisan difference in how people understand the crisis, with Democrats taking it more seriously than Republicans. “Republicans consistently report less concern about the virus and that they’re taking fewer actions meant to slow the virus’s spread,” writes Philip Bump at WaPo. We’ll see if that attitude persists when the pandemic gets personal. Right now, it’s still an abstraction.

At Rolling Stone, Sean Woods says that the coronavirus pandemic can be compared to a fast-motion climate crisis.

Warnings about the crisis went unheeded. Scientists were ignored and called doomsayers. The press accounts were labeled fake news and brushed aside. “The cure would be worse than the illness” went the argument. Government watchdogs saw their budgets gutted. Lawmakers misled the country and did more harm then good. We were told by leaders that “everything was under control” or that the worry was nothing more than “a hoax.” …

…The mishandling of the coronavirus has terrifying parallels to the climate crisis. It’s difficult to think about the other civilizational calamity on our doorstep. It’s much easier to be consumed by what’s happening right now, or better yet to hunker down and binge watch your favorite shows and hope the plague passes over. But we cannot. Both tests call for innovation and a collective response. During the pandemic, we have witnessed failures of leadership but also incredible bravery, resolve, sacrifice, and innovation. That is the blueprint for our future. …

… In the face of the coronavirus and the climate crisis, any ideology that worships profit above all else, that trumpets individualism above the common good every single time, is simply a roadmap to self-immolation. As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Rolling Stone’s Tessa Stuart, “It’s not just about the science — it’s about the systems that protect all of the power that goes into defying the science.”

I’m reading that in places like New York, the peak probably will hit about mid-April. In rural areas, it will be later. And it is possible — no one really knows — that the spread of the virus will slow as the weather warms up. But even if that’s so, it will be back in the fall. There won’t be any escaping it.

So Much for Oversight

When he signed the phase three relief bill yesterday, Trump added a signing statement saying that the oversight part of the bill wouldn’t be enforced, and he’s not too keen on some other parts, either.  Here is the signing statement, obviously written for Trump by some lawyers, if you want to read it.

Charlie Savage wrote in the New York Times,

In a signing statement released hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony in the Oval Office, the president suggested he had the power to decide what information a newly created inspector general intended to monitor the fund could share with Congress.

Under the law, the inspector general, when auditing loans and investments made through the fund, has the power to demand information from the Treasury Department and other executive branch agencies. The law requires reporting to Congress “without delay” if any agency balks and its refusal is unreasonable “in the judgment of the special inspector general.” …

… But in his statement, which the White House made public about two hours after the president signed the bill, Mr. Trump suggested that under his own understanding of his constitutional powers as president, he can gag the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, known by the acronym S.I.G.P.R., and keep information from Congress.

Of course, the only reason he would want to keep such information from Congress is that he’s funneling the money to his deep pocket political supporters and his own businesses. An honest president wouldn’t have any problem with the oversight.

In other news, now Trump is pushing to get his signature on the $1200 checks going out to individuals. Usually, a disbursing officer’s signature would be on such checks. Those of us who get tax refunds through direct deposit will avoid the dreaded signature, of course. But considering that the paper checks will be considerably slower than the direct deposits, possibly by months, this may not do Trump any good, politically. (Does anyone remember if George Dubya Bush’s “tax rebate” checks of 2001 had his signature on them?)

Among the weirder bits of news today — Trump announced he was “thinking about” putting a quarantine on New York, and maybe New Jersey and parts of Connecticut as well. It’s not clear to me whether “New York” refers to the city or the state. It’s also not clear to me what good that would do now. Andrew Cuomo was not consulted.

Must Reads

The Lost Month: How a Failure to Test Blinded the U.S. to Covid-19, the New York Times.

Executive summary: Everyone in an administrative capacity in the Trump Administration is grossly incompetent, with the exception of Dr. Fauci.

The missing six weeks: how Trump failed the biggest test of his life, the Guardian.

“The US response will be studied for generations as a textbook example of a disastrous, failed effort,” Ron Klain, who spearheaded the fight against Ebola in 2014, told a Georgetown university panel recently. “What’s happened in Washington has been a fiasco of incredible proportions.”

The Great Ventilator Flap

I’ve been struggling to write something about the failures of the Trump administration to address the pandemic, and it’s just too overwhelming. There have been other incompetent presidents, but I don’t believe we’ve ever faced a serious crisis with such a total failure of leadership. So I’m scrapping what I’ve been working on and starting over.

Today Trump tweeted this:

Mary B is GM CEO Mary Barra. “Invoke ‘P'” may refer to the Defense Production Act, which Trump likes to toss around as a kind of threat.

And then he tweeted this:

Because, you know, an automobile plant can be retooled to make medical ventilators at the drop of a hat. What are they waiting for (she said, sarcastically)? But Trump claimed a week ago that GM, Ford, and “many other companies” were already making ventilators, which turned out not to be true.

But here’s more to this ventilator story. Yesterday the New York Times reported on a potential deal with GM that was dropped by the White House.

The White House had been preparing to reveal on Wednesday a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators to respond to an escalating pandemic when word suddenly came down that the announcement was off.

The decision to cancel the announcement, government officials say, came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price tag was more than $1 billion, with several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made with Ventec’s technology.

I suspect it would take a boatload of money to retool a car parts plant to produce something entirely different. And capitalism says you’re supposed to make a profit.

Oh, and the New York Times article says that the FEMA effort to get more ventilators is being directed by Jared Kushner, which probably has a lot to do with why it’s not happening.

A General Motors spokesman said that “Project V,” as the ventilator program is known, was moving very fast, and a company official said “there’s no issue with retooling.” …

The only thing missing was clarity from the government about how many ventilators they needed — and who would be paid to build them.

Those are common questions in any manufacturing venture, I would think.

The initial projection, one senior administration official said, was that after three weeks of preparation it could produce an initial run of 20,000 ventilators, or about two-thirds of what Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York recently said his state alone needed to cover the influx of coronavirus patients expected in two weeks, if not sooner.

That number then shrank to 7,500 ventilators in the initial run, or maybe 5,000, an apparent recognition that auto transmissions and ventilators had very little in common. Those numbers are in flux and so are the Trump administration’s because the White House cannot decide how many ventilators it wants.

So the real fault here is that Mr. Ivanka is in way over his head and doesn’t really understand how any of this manufacturing and production stuff works. And his father in law is even more clueless. Anyway, Josh Marshall wrote,

While Americans die in escalating numbers and hospitals around the country announce plans to deny care to those already seriously ill the White House is negotiating with various businesses and joint ventures over producing ventilators. Today a deal with GM and Ventec was put on hold because the White House was unsure whether it was paying too much or whether they’d be purchasing too many and left with extra ventilators there was no need for. The White House point man on this critical life and death effort is Jared Kushner. They’re trying to cut the best deal while people die. It will make you furious and it may make you cry.

Indeed.

New York, especially New York City, is being slammed by the pandemic. This is from three days ago:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded his loudest alarm yet on New York’s coronavirus crisis Tuesday, warning the curve was showing no signs of flattening out and was in fact rising faster and more dangerously than projected. He said last week that peak infection was 45 days out; now, he says, the state may see it in two weeks.

It looks like the wave will be bigger, and crash harder, than expected. “We have exhausted every option available to us,” Cuomo said Tuesday, declaring with unprecedented urgency that New York needs help now — and far more than it has gotten to date.  …

… The federal government has sent supplies, including masks and gowns and another 400 ventilators that arrived in New York City this week. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city needs 15,000 — the state needs double that, on top of the 7,000 it already has procured. The governor’s frustration boiled over Tuesday.

“What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need 30,000? You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators,” Cuomo said.

And how did our president respond?

President Trump pointed the finger right back, saying Cuomo declined to order 15,000 ventilators in 2015. He quickly shifted tone, adding, “I’m not blaming him or anything else … but he shouldn’t be talking about us. He supposed to be buying his own ventilators … we’re going to help.”

I have not been able to find out why Cuomo was supposed to order 15,000 ventilators in 2015. Right now state governors are bidding against each other, and FEMA, for needed supplies. It’s a mess. But I’ll come back to that.

Last night, no doubt pissed at Cuomo and frustrated by not having some great deal to brag about, Trump went on Hannity’s show and declared New York doesn’t need that many ventilators, anyway.

“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being in said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be. I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump said. “You know, you go into major hospitals, sometimes they’ll have two ventilators, and now, all of the sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

Because, you know, Andy Cuomo just asked for all those ventilators to mess with Trump. He doesn’t really need them. Right? But today Trump is rage tweeting that GM had better crank out those 40,000 ventilators, fast.

Obviously, Trump is furious that the pandemic is messing with his glorious administration and making him look bad. And he’s flailing and shrieking, and by now the entire White House staff must be ready for straightjackets and a few hours in a rubber room.

Trump’s next move in the ventilator spat was to insist New York already had ventilators.

Cuomo responded that the ventilators he requested were in addition to what he already had. As it says above somewhere New York has a stockpile of 7,000 ventilators procured from various sources, plus it had received 400 from the federal government. They are not being distributed now because the peak hasn’t hit yet.

“We’re gathering them in the stockpile so that when we need them they will be there,” Mr. Cuomo said of the ventilators. “We don’t need them today because we’re not at capacity today.”

But that was enough for the Fox News and New York Post propagandists to declare that Cuomo can just distribute the ventilators he already has and doesn’t need any more. This is the plan for covering up Trump’s inability to actually get anything done, such as make a deal with GM to manufacture some ventilators.

Unfortunately, it’s not just New York. Hospitals all over the country are reporting shortages of all sorts of vital equipment, including ventilators. There have been myriad news stories about this over the past several days.

Please see Critical Supply Shortages — The Need for Ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment during the Covid-19 Pandemic in the New England Journal of Medicine. Executive summary: Hospitals all over the country don’t have enough equipment. They all need a lot more equipment. They will need a lot more equipment over the next few months. What they have now is not nearly enough. Without enough ventilators, people who could have been saved will die. Without enough personal protective equipment, medical personnel will die.

This is what has been happening in Italy and elsewhere, and it’s about to happen here. And instead of addressing the problem, Trump goes on Fox News to make excuses. See also Greg Sargent, Trump just raged at Michigan’s governor. Here’s what’s really behind it.

Right now there is breaking news that Trump has actually used the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to make the damn ventilators.

President Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act to make General Motors manufacture respirators to help fight the coronavirus outbreak. The announcement was made hours after Trump complained in tweets that GM and Ford were not doing enough to help produce the medical equipment during the pandemic.

“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course,” Trump said in a statement. “GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”

GM was not wasting time. Trump was wasting time. And this should have been done days, if not weeks, ago. I will post more details when I have any.

Why “Demexit” Is an Empty Threat

(Taking a brief break from focusing on the coronavirus to look at the upcoming election and funky shit going on about it in social media.)

Here in the middle of a historic national crisis, I’m still seeing people on social media say Joe Biden should not be the Democratic nominee. Maybe he shouldn’t, but here in Reality World, Biden is going to be the nominee as long as he makes it to the convention alive and breathing. There’s really no point arguing about “shoulds” any more. We’re past that point. Continuing to argue against Biden’s nomination is a bit like arguing that the Texas Rangers shouldn’t trade Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees. It’s done already.

By all means, go ahead and vote for another candidate in your primary if it hasn’t happened yet, and work to get out the vote for Sanders if you wish. And for those who don’t know me, I voted for Sanders in my state’s primary, which he lost to Biden, 35 percent to 60 percent. In 2016, it was Clinton 49.61 percent, Sanders 49.36 percent.

That’s the basic story of the 2020 primaries, in a nutshell. Sanders is not doing nearly as well as he did in 2016. That’s the hard reality.

Now, how much should Biden worry about younger lefty voters withholding their votes from him in November? Not too much, actually.

Biden needs some Sanders primary voters to support him in November, since Sanders has won about 31 percent of the national popular vote so far. But he doesn’t need every single one.

Note that Sanders received about 47 percent of primary votes in 2016, so he’s doing considerably worse overall now, possibly because younger voters are voting at lower rates this year and the union/working class votes he got in 2016 are now going to Biden.

Some Sanders-or-bust voters might stay home in November; that happens to some degree in every election.

But most Sanders voters don’t fit that description. According to a recent Morning Consult poll, 82 percent of Sanders supporters say they would vote for Biden in the general election, and just 7 percent said they would vote for Trump. And Quinnipiac University found that 86 percent of Sanders voters would vote for Biden, 3 percent would vote for Trump, 2 percent would vote for someone else, 4 percent wouldn’t vote, and 5 percent didn’t know who they’d vote for.

Of course, in a close election, every vote counts. So the Sanders voter factor is of some concern, but the Sanders camp doesn’t have nearly enough voting leverage to issue threats or make demands, sorry.

On the one hand, it’s possible that some of the anti-Hillary, conservative Democratic voters that Sanders won in places like Oklahoma and West Virginia are now Republicans who didn’t participate in the 2020 primary. But it’s also possible that a handful of those voters back Biden. For instance, he’s already been doing better than Sanders among white primary voters without a college degree, a group Sanders won handily in 2016.

So the tradeoff for Biden in 2020 may be that he loses youth turnout but gets more votes from suburban moderate types who are older. Given that older voters are more reliable voters, that might be an OK trade for Biden.

Basically, demographic groups who can’t be counted on to vote don’t get catered to by politicians.

Sanders’s argument before the primaries started was that he would do better with union and working-class and younger voters, as he did in the 2016 primaries. Younger voters in particular were anticipated to show up in record numbers. But the union/working-class vote has been going to Biden, and the youth vote turnout has been lower than in 2016. And Biden has been crushing Sanders with African-American and suburban voters, two groups considered most vital to beating Trump in November.

And no, there are no exit polls that show that Sanders should have won a lot of primaries that he lost but the evil DNC somehow changed the vote in spite of the fact that the DNC doesn’t run primaries; state election commissions run primaries. I keep seeing claims of these exit polls, but I have looked and looked and have yet to find solid evidence of one. I believe if such exit polls existed we’d be hearing about it from the Sanders campaign.

What about independent voters? I understand independents have preferred Sanders to Biden in several primaries, but that tells us nothing about how they are going to vote in November. And there are polls that show lefty-leaning independents preferring Biden to Sanders. Independents are not a monolithic group, but at the end of the day most independents lean toward one of the two parties and will vote for the nominee of the party they prefer, even if that nominee wasn’t their first choice. That’s the historic pattern.

The real determining factor in November is how badly independent voters will want to get rid of Trump. Few are going to think, “Gee, I hate Donald Trump with a white-hot passion, but I guess I won’t vote for Joe Biden because he wasn’t the best nominee.” No; they will vote for a bleeping gerbil to get rid of Trump.

On the other hand, if by November Trump doesn’t seem to be doing that badly, he could win a second term, and that would be true no matter who the Dem nominee is. In a close election, incumbents do have an advantage.

So, to those who haven’t yet adjusted to reality, please stop embarassing yourself with empty boasts about how millions of disaffected people will somehow do something that will teach the DNC a lesson. If it didn’t happen during the primaries, it’s not going to happen, period.

If you want to be useful, do whatever you can do to elect Democrats to the Senate and House. Because it’s really going to be Congress, not the president, who decides if the Green New Deal or Medicare for All becomes law. And, frankly, even if Sanders somehow sweeps the rest of the primaries and becomes POTUS, neither is likely to happen in a first term. Paul Krugman, last January:

What about Joe Biden? The Sanders campaign has claimed that Biden endorsed Paul Ryan’s plans for sharp cuts in Social Security and Medicare; that claim is false. What is true is that in the past Biden has often been a Very Serious Person going along with the Beltway consensus that we need “adjustments” — a euphemism for at least modest cuts — in Social Security. (Actually, if you go back a ways, Sanders turns out to have said similar things.)

But the Democratic Party as a whole has moved left on these issues, and Biden has moved with it. Even if he has a lingering desire to strike a Grand Bargain with Republicans — which I doubt — he would face such a huge intraparty backlash that he would be forced to back off.

So in terms of policy, here’s what I think would happen if Sanders wins: we’ll get a significant but not gigantic expansion of the social safety net, paid for by significant new taxes on the rich.

On the other hand, if Biden wins, we’ll get a significant but not gigantic expansion of the social safety net, paid for by significant new taxes on the rich.

One implication, if I’m right, is that electability should play a very important role in your current preferences. It matters hugely whether a Democrat wins, it matters much less which Democrat wins.

And if the GOP keeps control of the Senate, we’re screwed, no matter who is POTUS.

So, all of you people intoxicated with self-righteousness who are thumping your chests and proclaiming you will remain pure and principled and not vote for Biden and will lead millions of people out of the Democratic party and show the Democrats what’s what — please try to join the rest of us in Reality World. Oh, and take care against the Trump flu. Thanks much.