Your Money Or Your Life

All this time, Trump has been planning on a great recovery to spur his re-election. He’s still picking winners and losers.

Call me cynical if you want to. But whenever I see Trump gloating about how he built the greatest economy in history, I see him scheming for a recovery that will win his re-election. I see the implicit trade-off that he wants us to make, too. The message I get from Trump is like this, “Look, you’ll be fine. Get back to work. My rich friends in high places want you working so that you’re not out protesting in the streets about your flat wages and poor prospects.”

When I see Trump talking about how great the recovery will be, the following sentence runs through my mind, “Oh yeah? What were you doing for 6 weeks in January while South Korea was getting ahead of this thing?” Sure, Trump was dealing with impeachment and he was impeached. He should have been impeached. The Republicans in the Senate, worthless as they were, should have convicted him, but not for that perfect conversation. Why?

Trump knew full well how bad this pandemic would be. We have some of the best intelligence in the world, feeding him the best information he could use. Instead of acting on good intelligence that showed the appearance of a very deadly virus around December 31st, 2019 (some sources say even earlier than that), he was calling it a hoax. He could have used the virus to completely sideline the impeachment process to respond to an impending national health crisis and then mobilized the country to get ready for it.

Instead, Trump played the victim card. “So unfair! I had a perfect economy. The Democrats wanted to investigate, investigate, investigate! If they would just let me do my job, we’d be fine! I’d have united the country behind an effort to deal with the pandemic! Don’t blame me, folks. This November, I want you thinking about how the Democrats delayed my response to the virus with their impeachment!” That is the message I heard from Trump.

By all appearances, it seems that Trump values the economy over all else. Everything is secondary to the economy. He points to the stock market. He points to real estate prices. He points to the trade numbers. He points to unemployment figures. He points to rising minority incomes. All economy, all the time.

But what he doesn’t point to is that even during a pandemic, the wealthy are making money hand over fist. They are profiting from the panic. When many people are facing destitution, and many are worried about their jobs, the top 1% are still making plenty of money.

What Trump seems unable to fathom is this: the economy is structured to distribute income upwards. He doesn’t see that the stock market is not the economy. The bond market is not the economy. Normal people have to work for a living. They don’t see their fortunes rising on a stock market that always goes up over the long term. They don’t hold government bonds that are paying interest that supports their standard of living.

Most people can’t rely upon savings built from running a business. Not everyone wants to run a business. not everyone has the capacity to run a business. There are only a few people who are willing to sacrifice everything else, family, friends, free time, just to get a business started. Most of us didn’t go to an elite business school like Trump. Trump is all business, all the time.

His kids have businesses. Ivanka is earning money in several lines of business, and she’s securing trademarks in China for her businesses. Eric and Donald, Jr. are media personalities and they write books that I doubt few people would read were it not for their father. They’re doing fine in this economy. They have nothing to worry about this economy. They have very little skin in this game. If they fail, someone will be there to help them.

Trump says we’re working on a vaccine. Sure there are teams all over the world, working night and day on a cure, on a vaccine, on a sure-fire way to put the virus down so that people can get back to work. But Trump wants a hero out of that effort. He wants someone to win a patent for their vaccine and cure so that then he can tell us how virtuous capitalism is.

But most medical research is paid for with government money, and that includes a search for a coronavirus cure and vaccine. The government will eventually award a patent to the inventor, a corporation, for medications that cure the virus and prevent it. Whoever comes up with a vaccine will make billions. Whoever comes up with a cure for the coronavirus will make billions on patents and first-mover advantage, all resulting from government-funded research.

We don’t need a hero, we need to open source all of the coronavirus research. If the research is open, then the research is shared. Shared research over the entire world means we will find a vaccine and a cure much faster. If the research is kept secret amongst the researchers, there will be much duplication of effort, and significant delays in the development of the medications needed to eradicate the virus and to save lives. Your money or your life, right?

If Trump really wants a cure faster, he should prohibit patents on government-funded research for coronavirus medicine. He should require that all taxpayer-funded research be published for free so that the work is shared so that more eyes are on the prize. He must call for an open-source effort to find a vaccine and cure for the coronavirus.

How do we know this will work? We only need to look at the most successful piece of software in the world to know this: the Linux kernel. Linux is everywhere and it runs on more devices than any other operating system in the world. Your phones, your TVs, your tablets, and many devices in the Internet of Things, run Linux. Tesla uses Linux in its space program and in their cars. Linux is open-source software that runs the world.

There are no patents on Linux. There is copyright, but it’s called copyleft. The Linux development model is designed to accumulate programming knowledge by sharing it. Government-funded health research should work this way, too. No patents, no secrets. Every study, every result, should be shared. With shared knowledge comes medication that is sold for the marginal cost of production plus profit. Without patents, there would be real competition among manufacturers to keep the costs down.

So far, I have not heard a peep from Trump about opening the coronavirus research. If Trump wants to be a hero, he could start by opening up the research so that it’s shared. He could mobilize a World War II styled effort to find a cure for the coronavirus. With open research, we’ll see a cure and a vaccine much faster than if all the researchers hold their cards to their chests, hoping to be the big winner in a lottery.

I suspect that Trump is mum on the topic of awarding patents for government-funded research because he doesn’t want to alert the masses to a very low-risk way for his friends in high places to hustle money from the government.

Trump is a product of this system. A system that guarantees success if you know the right people at the right time. Trump loves to pick winners and losers. I guess that’s why he spent 10 years hosting The Apprentice.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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