MiB: Bethany McLean on Pandemic Fails


This week, we speak with Bethany McLean, a writer for Vanity Fair and coauthor of The Smartest Guys in the Room. She was previously Editor-at-large of Fortune and spent three years working at Goldman Sachs. Her latest book, The Big Fail: What the Pandemic Revealed About Who America Protects and Who It Leaves Behind, was coauthored with Joe Nocera.

She explains how the general state of healthcare in the United States was one giant pre-existing condition; that was a major contributor to excess deaths in the country during Covid-19.

We discuss how bad an actor China was — they knew very early on that Covid was spread by human-to-human transmission, misleading the WHO and all other nations. A doctor in Wuhan noted in December 2019 that this was the spread but the authoritarian regime in Bejing suppressed that information. The pandemic outcome might have been very different had this information been revealed sooner.

McLean also explains how poorly America’s Covid testing strategy was, and why the CDC dropped the ball here. She also discusses the challenges of the private sector and the government not coordinating efforts on testing, PPE, and other areas.

Vaccines seem to be the only area where this was handled well. Operation WarpSpeed was arguably one of the largest successes of the Trump administration.

A list of her favorite books is here; A transcript of our conversation is available here Tuesday.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including any podcast extras, on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyYouTube, and Bloomberg. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

Be sure to check out our Masters in Business next week with Michael Carmen, who is the Co-Head of Private Markets at Wellington Management. He manages a diversified portfolio of late-stage growth equity in technology, consumer, health care, and financial services sectors. Wellington is one of the world’s top 20 asset managers, was founded in 1933, and runs $1.2 trillion in client assets.




Bethany McLean’s Authored Books

The Big Fail: What the Pandemic Revealed About Who America Protects and Who It Leaves Behind by Joe Nocera and Bethany McLean

Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

Saudi America: The Truth About Fracking and How It’s Changing the World by Bethany McLean

All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera

Shaky Ground: The Strange Saga of the U.S. Mortgage Giants by Bethany McLean



Bethany McLean’s Recent Reading

The Only Game in Town: Central Banks, Instability, and Recovering from Another Collapse by Mohamed A. El-Erian

The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World by Adrian Wooldridge

Tyranny of Merit by Michael J Sandel

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Renegades Series 3-book box set: Renegades, Archenemies, Supernova by Marissa Meyer

Foundation 3-Book Boxed Set: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov

J.R.R. Tolkien 4-Book Boxed Set: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

A Game of Thrones / A Clash of Kings / A Storm of Swords / A Feast of Crows / A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin

The Eye of the World: Book One of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

The Last Question by BH and VHM McKechnie

Dune by Frank Herbert



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