The military has long been a way in which a government can ensure the cogs of the economy and international trade remain well oiled. I have written about this in “The Armed Forces and Their Remit, Corporations, and Morality“. This si definitely something that any government involved in the machinations of capitalism would want to seek to do, and I get this.
However, the introduction of Rear Admiral John Polowczyk to the US coronavirus press briefings has shed light on this practice and to the extent that the US government is using the military to buttress the profits and profiteering, the price gouging eBay-style, of supply chain companies and corporations. It’s pretty stark.
Let me analogise.
Imagine California, or your state, is on fire with the worst wildfires America has ever seen. There is a shortage of water and the fire service is unable to get hold of enough water to put the fires out and save the lives of countless thousands of people. The central government directs the military to source water from abroad. They quickly get hold of the huge volume fo water in tankers and whatever. However, instead of supplying that water directly to the fire service, they feed that water supply into the free market. At every point along that supply journey, from logistics to storage, from water company to whomever, the entity involved will take their cut and make their profit.
Okay, this is capitalism, so what? Capitalism works.
Only, these are not normal, everyday business conditions. Trump says he is a wartime president; well, either he is or he isn’t. If this is truly the scenario he claims it is, the military are here with the remit to save lives, not to perhaps save lives after enough people have made a profit.
Last night’s press briefing had Polowczyk list the resources that the military have procured on behalf of the US government, and therefore on behalf of the US people. After all, these are the people whom they represent and who vote them in, right?
But the Air Bridge has resourced the following impressive list:
This material will be “pushed out across the nation”. Each and every piece of this, it seems, will go straight to the people who need it, right away. Won’t it?
CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang had previously challenged Trump over Jared Kushner’s role in sorting out the supply chain, and what he meant by “our stockpile”. He had said:
“You have instances where in cities, they are running out but the state still has a stockpile. And the notion of the federal stockpile is it is supposed to be our stockpile. It is not supposed to be the state stockpile that they then use.”
Trump’s answer was typical:
“Why are you asking me? What’s that a gotcha? A gotcha? You use the word ‘our.’ Our — you know what our means? The United States of America,” he said. “That’s what it means. Our. Our. The United States of America. Then we take that our and we distribute it to the states.”
He added, “The federal government needs it too, not just the states. …As example, we have 10,000 ventilators and we are going to rock with those ventilators, and we are going to bring them to various areas of the country that need them. But when he says ‘our’ he’s talking about our country. He’s talking about the federal government. It’s such a basic simple question and you try and make it sound so bad. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. … Don’t make it sound bad. You just asked your question in a very nasty tone.”
She also tried to ask him why, in the wake of Kushner’s comment, the Strategic National Stockpile website was changed to more clearly mirror his comments. But Trump went on to another question.
It appears that each and every piece of this equipment will actually go straight into the private sector, into logistics companies’ hands so that the people who need it at the end, as NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has complained, will have to fight in a bidding war to get it. Those with the biggest pockets will win. Everyone else?You get the picture.
Sam Seder is stunned by the overt endorsement by the White House of such profiteering. Again, Jiang is holding the government to account:
Watch this video, it says much of what I would like to say here.
There is obviously a time and a place for free-market economics.
This is not it.
Capitalism, as I see it in a mixed economy, is the least worst system we have (or as Churchill said, the worst system, apart from all the others). It oils the wheels of the functioning of society as we know it.
However, this is capitalism gone horribly wrong. This is merely a sustaining of the price gouging that everyone is complaining about. Every one of those masks, it seems, is destined not for the hospitals as quickly and as efficiently as possible (i.e., for free), but to the private supply chain, for them to meander their way to the end-user at a highly inflated price. The end result? More people die than need to.
The US government has blood on its hands. The blood of its own people. But it can’t wash it off, because the water companies are charging too much money for basic sanitation services.
I am with Seder on this. This is criminal.
This is your leader, America. Wake up and smell the coffee (brought to you by the military, working with the private sector, in order to cost you far more than necessary in order to facilitate profit-making of everyone up that chain).
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