Transcript: Bethany McLean on Pandemic Fails


The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Bethany McLean on Pandemic Fails, is below.

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Barry Ritholtz: 00: 00:07 This week on the podcast, returning for her third time Bethany McLean, author of such amazing books as the smartest guys in the room about the incredible saga of Enron and how it became one of the most respected companies in the world, and then blew up her new book, the Big Fail, what the Pandemic Revealed About Who America Protects and Who It leads Behind with her co-author, Jon Serra. First of all, I know Bethany for a long time, and I felt very comfortable really pushing back on some of the things she says in the book. But you know, to be honest, I couldn’t really damage her thesis very much. The book is deeply researched and relies to a large degree on some nuance and, and a lot of science and a lot of the tropes that we all think about. The pandemic she’s and Joe have thought deeply about, and their approach is, Hey, this is not black and white. This is very complex. There were mistakes made at every level from the White House to the C D C, and a lot of what went wrong during the pandemic predated covid by decades. So a lot of nuance, a lot of subtlety. Really very fascinating. She takes me to school time and again, I found our conversation about the book fascinating, and I think you will do as well. With no further ado, my discussion on Covid 19 with Bethany McLean.

Bethany McLean: 00:01:40 Thank you for having me on, Barry.

Barry Ritholtz: 00:01:42 [Speaker Changed] My pleasure. So those books, they’re all about, I guess, giant mistakes. Blunders seems to be your stock and trade, and Ron, F G f C, Fannie and Freddie, and now c Ovid 19. Where does this passion for disasters come from?

Bethany McLean: 00:01:57 [Speaker Changed] Disaster porn. Right, right. I don’t know. I swear I’m a happy person. Maybe this is my way of unleashing my inner demons. No, seriously. I always think when something goes wrong, there’s always a story about how and why it went wrong. And it’s a story that is so much more than numbers. It’s people, it’s it’s history, it’s predilections, it’s, it’s all these things. And I think trying to figure out what that mix is and what has happened is just a fascinating puzzle.

Barry Ritholtz: 00:02:25 [Speaker Changed] Let’s talk about the Covid 19 puzzle. I found the book infuriating, just one unforced error after another. When you first sat down to write this, did you have any idea what you and Joe wanted to say, or did it kind of develop a as you progressed, we

Bethany McLean: 00:02:43 [Speaker Changed] Had some loose ideas that ended up becoming part of the book, but I’d be lying if I said that. It all hung together from moment one. I mean, I was passionately interested in the spring of 2020 in the healthcare system and the effect of private equity in healthcare. I was interested in the Federal Reserve and how we thought about the, the, the Fed’s response, and we were both interested in globalization and supply chains and what that had done to p p E. So we had these loose ideas, but how as to how they were going to come together into a coherent book, which, which I hope we’ve produced. No. Oh no,

Barry Ritholtz: 00:03:20 [Speaker Changed] It’s coherent. It it, it’s too coherent. And, and the coherence is pretty much everybody is grossly incompetent in an emergency. Kind of makes you nervous if like what goes down when there’s a really terrible earthquake or other disaster. Lots of people seem to not have their act together.

Bethany McLean: 00:03:38 [Speaker Changed] Yes and no. I think the book probably does convey that, but then I think there are people that very much have their act together. I happen to think in the book, I think expresses that operation warp speed is a tremendous success and a tremendous act of competence. So

Barry Ritholtz:  00:03:53 [Speaker Changed] Let me rephrase my criticism. Lots of people rose to the occasion. Yes. But it seemed like lots of institutions failed.

Bethany McLean: 00:04:02 [Speaker Changed] I think lots of institutions did fail, and I think there are multiple reasons for that. I think one part of it is that pandemics had largely bypassed the US in the past, and we just simply weren’t thinking that way. But I think a lot of our structures were also breaking even before the pandemic hit, such as our healthcare system, such as the way inequality has taken a toll on people’s health and left people with, with preexisting conditions that made them more vulnerable and then made us all more, more vulnerable. And I think before the pandemic you could say that’s them, and this is us. And the pandemic made you realize there’s this great, great quote from Lyndon Johnson when he enacted Medicare and Medicaid, and it was basically the health of our country is everything. Because without a healthy population, what can we hope to achieve? And I’m butchering it a a little bit, but that’s the idea that if we aren’t all healthy, we don’t all have access to health, then what can we hope to achieve as a country?

Barry Ritholtz: 00:04:59 [Speaker Changed] You spend a bit of time talking about our two-tiered healthcare system. We’ll get to that in a bit. Let’s sort of flash back to the pre pandemic period. And you, you talk about previous pandemics where we did pretty well, but it raises the question, why were we so unprepared and and why does it seem like nobody but Bill Gates really saw this coming?

Bethany McLean:  00:05:23 [Speaker Changed] I think because it, it it is the, it is beyond the human capacity to imagine that these things could actually happen. And I, I was thinking about this because I’ve said in the context of business disasters in the past that, that the old lesson from kindergarten use your imagination is one of the most important lessons you can possibly learn. Because if anybody ever says to you, oh, that can’t happen, well actually it, it can. And just look at the last couple of decades for instruction into this idea that yeah, it can, it, it can happen. And so I think we all have a failure to use, to use our imagination. And I think we’re, we’re not good in this country at any kind of long term anything. And so we,

Barry Ritholtz:  00:06:04 [Speaker Changed] We used to be,

Bethany McLean: 00:06:05 [Speaker Changed] We used to be, and we exist from day to day driven by politics and polarization. And it makes it very difficult to have anything that, that involves the long term. And I think that’s broadly true, not just about pandemics, but we saw that come home to roost in the pandemic.

Barry Ritholtz:  00:06:21 [Speaker Changed] So you mentioned operation warp speed, arguably the greatest success of the Trump administration. It seems like he was almost embarrassed to be associated with a giant medical win.

Bethany McLean:  00:06:36 [Speaker Changed] Well, I think it’s, I think it’s, it’s more nuanced than that. I think Trump did support warp speed, but, but somebody who was close to it said to me that warp speed could never have succeeded in any administration, but under Trump, precisely because Trump was so hands off and he just left it to run itself. And warp speed wasn’t really, I mean, it was the Trump administration, but it was run by people who had either been marginalized in the Trump administration or really were not Trump supporters in any way, shape or form. So to see this as somehow a pro a Trumpian product, it wasn’t, although it might have been enabled by some of the things that made Trump such a problematic president during, during the pandemic, which I think is a fascinating, a fascinating thing. You also have to remember though, Trump was supportive of the vaccines when they first came out. He was, it was as he started to realize that his constituents had become not supportive of the vaccines. That was when he flipped, even Trump got booed at a rally where he talked up the vaccines and after that he never talked them up again. Really? Yeah. That’s that’s amazing. So he, he followed the polarization in the country around the vaccines rather than necessarily driving it leadership.

Barry Ritholtz: 00:07:43 [Speaker Changed] Leadership.

Bethany McLean: 00:07:43 [Speaker Changed] Right.

Barry Ritholtz: 00:07:44 [Speaker Changed] You know, it’s funny you said, I can’t picture another administration doing it. Think about what Kennedy did with landing on the moon and, setting up NASA and promoting it on a relentless and ongoing basis. I can imagine a president of a different character and I don’t know, I dunno what the right word is. More serious More institutional?

Bethany McLean:  00:08:08 [Speaker Changed] Maybe,  I think. I think that the only counterpoint, and it’s so difficult, you can’t go back and hit, rewind and see how things could play out differently. The only counterpoint to that is that a different president might have been all over warp speed from the beginning and might have made it very difficult for warp speed to function because politics might have been injected in it. And Trump, because he was so hands off, actually allowed warp speed to be run by Monsef Laui and General Perna and that it worked. And so it, there, there, oh,

Barry Ritholtz:  00:08:38 [Speaker Changed] You don’t see, you don’t see either George Bush or Obama handing it off and saying, do you, they were both pretty good delegators. They . . .  Respectful of the institution of government, at least outside of

Bethany McLean:    00:08:45 [Speaker Changed] They might have That’s fair and fairly

Barry Ritholtz: 00:08:54 [Speaker Changed] It just looks like a, I mentioned unforced errors. Hey, the US had all these excess deaths and when you look at us on a per capita basis against comparable economies, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, France, I mean, they all did much better than us. Obviously there were countries like Italy that did poorly and China didn’t do so great. We’ll talk more about China later, but it seems like we were at the bottom of the western industrialized democracies on a per capita death basis. We,

Bethany McLean:    00:09:26 [Speaker Changed] We, we were, the economist has done a very good log of, of keeping track of excess deaths. And I think a couple of things account for that. I think our two-tiered healthcare system, and I think some of what happened in Covid was that coming home to roost in the sense that covid preyed upon people with preexisting health conditions and preexisting health conditions are in some ways a byproduct of a healthcare system that doesn’t take care of a lot of people. You mentioned

Barry Ritholtz:   00:09:53 [Speaker Changed] Diabetes and high blood pressure in particular. Yeah. And you know, a bad diet tends to be associated with lower economic strata. Yeah. And if you don’t have good healthcare and you have diabetes and you get covid i d Yeah. Not great outcome. Yeah.

Bethany McLean:   00:10:07 [Speaker Changed] It’s also excess death captures things other than deaths from Covid too. And the deaths of despair in this country and the deaths from opioid overdoses and lack of access to healthcare for other conditions, not covid, are, are some portion of that too. We are, we are a sicker country.

Barry Ritholtz:   00:10:24 [Speaker Changed] So one of the more fascinating little tidbits you drop in the book, most California cities end up pretty much in line in terms of per capita deaths with the rest of other large urban areas, the exception being San Francisco. And you point to all the infrastructure put in place during the AIDS crisis that led San Francisco to a much better outcome. Tell us a little bit about that.

Bethany McLean:   00:10:49 [Speaker Changed] Yeah, it was fascinating, and this was highlighted or first written about in a really good New Yorker piece about what San Francisco was doing and why its numbers were so low. And the idea was you can’t just lock down and leave the most defenseless parts of our population defend for themselves under a lockdown. Meaning essential workers who still have to go out and do their jobs and then potentially bring the illness home to their communities. And because San Francisco had this infrastructure that was put in place, they knew how to reach all these marginalized populations. And because they knew how to reach them all, they were able to to keep them healthier. And, and I think what that pointed at to us was you lockdowns were in many ways, both an example of inequality and of furtherance of it, and that the very people who could lock down were, were the well off.

Barry Ritholtz: Bethany McLean:   

00:11:38 [Speaker Changed] So you throw pretty much everybody under the bus, Trump, Cuomo, DeSantis de Blassio, Cushner, Pence, even Fauci, and lots of others will get into personalities later. But who came out of the pandemic with their reputation intact?

00:11:57 [Speaker Changed] Well, I, I don’t think anybody intended to do, to do a bad job. And people were placed into a, a, a difficult situation. It was hard. When you look back at the terrible beginning of this in January and February of 2020, if anybody had told you up until it happened that this was gonna be a global pandemic and we would be living with this for years, you would’ve said, no, no, no, that can’t happen. That can’t possibly be true. We’ll figure out a way around this. The United States always figures out a way around this. I think a lot of unheralded people came through this with, with their reputations intact. A lot of doctors and nurses who made things so much better than

00:12:33 [Speaker Changed] Private citizens doing their jobs,

00:12:35 [Speaker Changed] Private pri private citizens doing their jobs.

00:12:37 [Speaker Changed] But that whole list are all

00:12:38 [Speaker Changed] Public officials. But that, but that whole list is all public officials. And I think some part of it is just a failure of leadership, a failure of anybody to really wanna be accountable and to say, the buck stops here in the way that General Perna actually did during Operation Warp speed. And it’s why I love the story of Operation Warp speed so much because I think it, it, it stands as a contrast to so much that happened elsewhere. It’s an example of competence. It’s an example of people saying, the buck stops here. This is it. This is me. I’m the one responsible for this and I’m going to make it happen. And when you look at so many other people, it, it wasn’t that it was, it was deferral of responsibility, pushing things off on other people or a failure to putting out there of rules and then a failure to live by them yourself.

00:13:24 [Speaker Changed] Let’s talk about another giant fail China, not exactly the world’s most responsible member of the global community. Tell us about some of the things China did that range from merely irresponsible to utterly reckless.

00:13:41 [Speaker Changed] Well, I think China, I, I don’t think there’s much question now that China understood what was happening and did not wanna let the rest of the world know. And, and it, it, it, it’s, it’s really frightening because the whole system relies on countries being honest when they’ve discovered something so that the rest of the world has a chance of protecting itself. But particularly I think the part that was the most devastating to me was the idea that China had a pretty good idea from the beginning that there was human to human transmission taking place. And even the W H O because China told them that it wasn’t happening or there wasn’t evidence. And so it took us a re much longer than it, than was necessary to understand that human to human transmission was happening.

00:14:24 [Speaker Changed] We, we figured out pretty quickly when someone came home from abroad and then their husband who hadn’t traveled. Got it. It’s like, oh, obviously it’s human to human. Yeah. Why the delay? It seems like the whole US National Institute of Health is designed for this information to bubble up to the top for a little command and control and communication. That didn’t seem to happen.

00:14:45 [Speaker Changed] No. And the doctor in Wuhan who, who was on the front lines of this, alerted her superiors in I think late December that she thought human to human transmission was, was happening. And so you think about that and how the whole course of the pandemic would’ve been different if that knowledge had been out there from, from from the very beginning. Huh.

00:15:03 [Speaker Changed] So, so let’s talk about some of the broad policies that could have been in place on a timely basis, but seemed to be mishandled testing, lockdowns vaccines, personal protection equipment, p p e masking, social distancing, what in that list wasn’t mishandled? It seems like across the board nothing was done. Right. Anywhere.

00:15:27 [Speaker Changed] So I think testing is a top the list. Huge, right. Of, of the things that were mishandled. And there was the C D C took control of the test and could not design a test that worked. You,

00:15:38 [Speaker Changed] You write in the book that they tried to manufacture this themselves, they have zero manufacturing expertise. What the hell were they thinking?

00:15:47 [Speaker Changed] I think the c d C has a culture that is arrogant and perfectionist and believes that they should be in charge. But even more broadly than that, even if the C d C test had worked, that should never have been the sun and moon and stars upon which America’s testing strategy hung, because we needed tests to be broadly available everywhere. And I think there’s, there’s an intersection of interesting things there that we, we turn to the private market in a situation like this. And so part of, one of the deeper themes of the book to me is when the private market works and when it doesn’t, and we turn to the private market in a situation like this and say, well, aren’t companies gonna manufacture tests? Because they can sell them without any awareness of a couple of factors, which are the times in the past where companies have rushed to manufacture tests only to have demand, not materialize.

00:16:33 And then they have to explain to their shareholders, oh, we invested all this money in this and it didn’t actually happen. And then in modern day capitalism, the ongoing need for sustainable earnings such that if you do rush to develop tests and you sell them, but then demand goes away in two years, you don’t get rewarded for that. Right. And so I think a lot about where I thought a lot in the process of writing this book about where capitalism works and, and where it doesn’t work. I’m a little more nuanced than maybe the book conveys about whether lockdowns could have been done any more swiftly or the extent to which they should have been done. And I think the book conveys that second point very, very well. I’m not sure I’m, if you had told Americans in February, in January, we need to stay at home, nobody would’ve listened to you.

00:17:19 Nobody even march, nobody would’ve believed you. Lockdowns can only be effective if you lock down before the virus is widely seated. Right. That’s the only way it works. And, but yet locking down before no people know that the virus is how, how do you possibly pull that off? Right. Especially in a country like the United States. And so while that may seem like a, a, a failure, I’m, I’m not really sure it could, that could have been done any differently. I think the bigger problem was the ongoing use of lockdowns, even without a clearly defined endpoint and without a clearly defined, what are we doing this for. Sure.

00:17:51 [Speaker Changed] So I’m gonna come back to Lockdowns in a minute. Let’s stick with testing and masking, which I thought was kind of fascinating. We hadn’t even rolled out tests. And you mentioned South Korea was doing some ungodly number of tests a day, a hundred thousand tests a day. They very quickly were able to figure out who to quarantine and who not to. Right. And had a much better outcome than we did. Various state institutions had the ability to create a test and have it outsourced and manufactured, but the C D C would not allow it. It seems like they were just the dumbest turf battles going on while the pandemic ramped up exponentially.

00:18:34 [Speaker Changed] I think that’s a very good way of putting it. And I think there was also a failure to realize that things that we had put in place then made it difficult to roll out testing. So once an emergency was declared, then the F D A has to approve tests and it is put in place so that you don’t have shoddy test manufacturers running around selling tests that don’t actually work. But when you need to get tests out the door quickly, these things that are put in place to protect people can backfire.

00:19:00 [Speaker Changed] So, so let’s talk about p p E and masks. Speaking of shoddy, the government could have used the one of the defense acts Act right. To to to ramp that up instead, the White House let the states all compete with each other. Yeah. Absolute disaster. Profiteering fraud. It, it was just, I I, again, I I’m reading this and just getting infuriated because all you needed was some leadership at the top to say, okay, we’re gonna make sure that there’s personal protection equipment for every doctor, every nurse and every patient to help slow the spread of this. That never happened. It was a free for all.

00:19:41 [Speaker Changed] Yes. And to be clear, I’m not sure. So part of the theme of the book is that a lot of the problems were put in place before the pandemic even hit, even if you had had that incredibly coordinated, sophisticated, competent response, we had outsourced so much of the manufacturing of these critical things to China and elsewhere that we, we, we were left defenseless. And so I think the pandemic, as it has in many aspects from semiconductors to P p E, it has to raise a question about what competence needs to remain in in America and how much globalization, what the limits of globalization really should be. Because it turns out when a global supply chain is stressed, it breaks down really, really quickly as we all know. Now that said, yes, the stories about doctors and hospitals individually and, and states just scrambling to try to get p p e and the number of frauds that so quickly sprung up and these people trying to desperately to get their hands on p p e and finding that, you know, paying this money and finding a box of dirty gloves would arrive. And that was it. It just, the, the, the profiteering really was utterly insane. Right.

00:20:49 [Speaker Changed] Life, life and death at stake in people. Like I can make a buck on this. Yes. Interesting story within the book about a small mask company that tried to set up in the United States and in the past had, every time there’s a potential pandemic by American, even though it’s a little more expensive, it doesn’t go anywhere and then starts ramping up 50, a hundred, 150 million masks. But if you bought from this company, you had to sign a seven year contract, you figured out you, you know, the company I’m, I’m referring to. And so now we actually have capacity to make masks in the United States, which really we didn’t have pre pandemic.

00:21:29 [Speaker Changed] Right. And you just hope that there’s a lesson taken from that. And again, it’s something that we just don’t do well because I think we have this blind belief in the market and that the market forces are gonna take care of issues like this without the recognition that there are a couple things that can go wrong in modern day capitalism. That the focus on profits, on pleasing shareholders and on profits that can be sustainable means that, that, that the response in a pandemic isn’t going to be what you think. And then because of this need to minimize costs in order to boost profits, this ongoing pressure for outsourcing of all sorts of critical infrastructure, that then makes it really difficult when, when you actually need something, when the rest of the world needs it too.

00:22:10 [Speaker Changed] Last question on masks. I don’t wanna just spend the whole two hours talking about this. Seems like there was a lot of confusion on masking early on when it should have been the easiest thing to get right. You know, you go in for surgery, everybody in the operating theater wears a mask. It’s pretty obvious it slows, if not stops the spread of anything that’s respiratory based. How did we screw that up?

00:22:34 [Speaker Changed] Well, I think there was a lack of recognition early on, a lack of knowledge. I won’t call it recognition ’cause I don’t think it was there to be known about how the virus actually spread. So I think that’s part of it. I think Fauci has explained his initial comment about against masking as an attempt to preserve p p e that for, for, for, for doctors and nurses. But I do also think even as the pandemic wore on, the communication about masking was not great. There was this, for a long time, we all believed that those terrible little paper and cloth masks that people wore protected us. And they don’t, not really, A better mask protects you more. And it wasn’t until a long time into the pandemic that everybody was finally clear. Yeah. If you really wanna protect yourself, wear a kn n 95. Right.

00:23:23 And if you really, really need to protect yourself, wear an N 95, these little paper masks that we wear and we take them on and off and we don’t do what people in hospitals do, doctors and nurses where you take them off with clean hands in a clean room and put them on. That’s why I brought this. That’s, that’s, that’s why they protect people in hospitals. They’re not taking them on and off and using dirty hands and, and removing them to take a bite of something. And so to extrapolate from, to extrapolate from whether or not masks work in a hospital setting to whether or not they work in a population at large, you can’t, it’s two different things.

00:23:54 [Speaker Changed] So, so let me ask you the obvious question. How did this get so hopelessly politicized so quickly?

00:24:02 [Speaker Changed] Yeah, it’s fascinating, right? Because there is no way that in any kind of logical world, your beliefs about how you respond to a pandemic should have nothing to do with your political beliefs. In other words, it should be possible to be anti lockdowns. It could even be possible to be anti masking and to be a strident democrat. And yet we conflated everything. And it became that if you were a good Democrat, then you believed in masking and lockdowns. And if you were a good Republican, then you did not believe in, in any of this. And it’s an insane example of how we’re searching for polarization and we’re searching for ways to turn against each other instead of ways to learn from each other and respect each other.

00:24:44 [Speaker Changed] The crazy thing about vaccines, and I’ve, I’ve had this conversation with other people, the anti-vax movement really was kind of a, you know, California granola and nuts sort of left wing. Oh, I don’t trust the government to, to give me a vaccine that this is a giant experiment on the left to operation warp speed. The M R N A vaccines became Bill Gates is putting a chip in me on the right. And there’s nothing that anybody can do to get the furthest outliers to recognize just some basic science. But what was shocking was how it went from the extremes of both parties and sort of moved to like center right and center left. It was genuinely shocking.

00:25:40 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. It it, one of the things we chronicle in the book that is, that I found interesting is that the anti-vax sentiment did start under Democrats when they were, when they were the Trump vaccines. And so you had Democrats like Cuomo saying, I don’t know about these things. They’re being rushed by Trump. And you had a lot of skepticism about the vaccines being generated by Democrats before the vaccines were even produced. And then once they were produced and once the Biden administration started pushing them, it’s as if as soon as Biden said that these vaccines are good, the anti-vax sentiment shifted to the right because it flipped. Heaven forbid that Biden was saying, and Democrats were saying something was good, then it had to be bad. And it just, it really is just profoundly depressing and upsetting

00:26:27 [Speaker Changed] You, you know, if you wanna say the first 500 million vaccines, alright, this is a new vaccine, let’s see what comes out of it. I don’t agree with that, but I can follow the logic there. But when we’re at the eight, 10, 12 billion shots with really very little side effects at that point, that that argument seems to go away.

00:26:49 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. I think though the government has shot itself in the foot once again, and one of the other themes in our book is this loss of trust, broadly speaking, that had been taking place before the pandemic happened, of course. But the pandemic really exacerbated it. And I think the government, public health officials did not do themselves any favors by overselling the vaccines, the original vaccines miracle. Basically a miracle of science. Right, right.

00:27:14 [Speaker Changed] And like a decade, this wasn’t done overnight. This was a decade

00:27:17 [Speaker Changed] In the works. It was more than a decade in the works, but the clinical trials that prove the efficacy of the original vaccines did not measure whether or not they affected transmission. And so when public health officials went out there and said, if you take this vaccine, you can’t pass this, this on, you won’t transmit, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. It was wrong. And so when you oversell to people based on something you don’t know that you just hope is true, and then it turns out that’s not true. You, you cause a lack of trust that then broadly undermines everything else you’re saying. So again, another unforced error on the part of the government. Yeah. They could have sold the vaccines as doing what they did miraculously. Well, they protect you against severe outcomes. They protect most of us against hospitalization and death. Isn’t that phenomenal? Right. Instead of saying, you won’t get this if you take this vaccine. Yeah.

00:28:06 [Speaker Changed] That was kind of a, a, a big snafu. And to be honest, so I’m fully vaxxed, I’m fully boosted. If the government said to me, well, we don’t know if this will stop you from getting it, but it means that you’re not gonna die. Okay, where do I sign up? Exactly.

00:28:21 [Speaker Changed] I’m down

00:28:22 [Speaker Changed] For that. Didn’t, you didn’t, you didn’t have to oversell it, but there was this belief that we wanted to get to herd immunity, so you had to encourage everybody to take the vaccine. And so overselling it and say you wouldn’t saying people wouldn’t get it. It was wishful thinking in the, in the most generous of interpretations. It was wishful thinking. But I I think it did damage.

00:28:39 [Speaker Changed] I think you’re right. And, and in fact, one of the, the groups that came up for criticism in the book is the Red Dawn team highlighted in Michael Lewis’s book, the Premonition. You guys seem to be a little critical on some of their emphasis on, Hey, this means the result in Italy means we could do lockdowns here. Yeah.

00:29:02 [Speaker Changed] I think critical is too strong a word. I think the idea that the influenza playbook would work with C O V I D is it, it was flawed and I think it did a lot of damage when it came.

00:29:13 [Speaker Changed] Explain why, why, why is a coronavirus so different from an influenza infection?

00:29:18 [Speaker Changed] The the biggest reason, and this is not a scientific answer, it’s a practical answer. The biggest difference is that influenza schools are super spreading zones. Right. With the, with the coronavirus. They are not, in fact, really it’s been, it’s been documented over and over again that the sc spread in schools is lower than that in the community. And so that playbook became, I think, think part of the excuse for keeping schools closed in the United States in a way that did not happen in other countries. You point

00:29:45 [Speaker Changed] Out in the book, and I thought this was a fascinating detail, in the pandemic of 1918 thousands and thousands of young people died. Yeah. In, in the c ovid 19 pandemic. Young people seem to do fairly okay with this.

00:30:00 [Speaker Changed] They, they did. Young people with pre-existing conditions did terribly, but,

00:30:04 [Speaker Changed] But everybody with pre-existing

00:30:06 [Speaker Changed] Conditions, but everybody did. But very, very few, a vanishingly small number of healthy young people got sick from covid. And as I said, the spread in schools was lower than in the, than in the communities. That’s why other places in Europe, for example, open their schools. And I think the fact that we kept our schools closed has probably done more damage than just about anything in the pandemic. Because you’ve lost a generation of young people who have lost their hopes for life. And I think that’s really,

00:30:31 [Speaker Changed] You think it’s that severe. You have thinks kids that are school age

00:30:34 [Speaker Changed] Don’t, I think that’s severe.

00:30:36 [Speaker Changed] I don’t listen, I I know lots of kids that miss proms, they miss graduations, they miss bar and bat mitzvahs and sweet sixteens and confirmations. So it was a rough year or two. Obviously nothing like World War ii, but it, it that those are formative years. Tell us a little bit about the

00:30:54 [Speaker Changed] Impact of this, but these are, but these, but these are the privileged kids you’re talking about? Yes. The ones with parents who could homeschool them or who had a parent at home so that they could at least have supervision while they, with

00:31:03 [Speaker Changed] Computers and high speeded

00:31:04 [Speaker Changed] Internet while they did zoom schooling. It’s the least privileged kids in our society, the very ones that were supposed to protect, who got the most screwed by this, the ones whose parents were essential workers and had to go to school and had to leave the kids at, at home to try to manage on Zoom the many inner city kids without access to high-speed internet and without a computer to do Zoom schools. I mean, the numbers are shocking in school districts like New York and Chicago and la the percentage of absenteeism, the kids who just dropped out the test scores showing how far behind kids are it, you can argue kids are gonna catch up. They’re resilient. Really. Maybe. Really, that’s a tough, it, it’s, that’s a very tough proposition

00:31:41 [Speaker Changed] To, to put on a 12 year old, Hey, make up two years of missed

00:31:43 [Speaker Changed] School and make up make, or, or, or, or the kids who dropped out now somehow come back and the kids who lost their path in life. And I think it’s just devastating.

00:31:52 [Speaker Changed] Really very sad. And I, I learned a lot going through the book about the impact on that. The red doden team talked about how close the desks are on school, how close this, the seats are on a bus. They’re like, there’s no social distancing in, in grammar schools. If this was a vector for transmission, you would think there’d be a lot more kids that were infected. How did the numbers shake out for the under 20 cohort versus the 20 to 50 cohort?

00:32:26 [Speaker Changed] I think it’s hard to know what the numbers were on infections, because so many kids who got covid were asymptomatic. I think you can look at the deaths, which are vanishingly small for people under 20. And so that’s the key measure that it, this was not influenza. Which again, back to your point about, about unforced errors, it’s, it is very hard to be prepared for a pandemic because every pandemic is different. Right. And so if you followed an influenza playbook, you would’ve done things that that didn’t make sense in, in C O V I D. So it’s, it’s just, it’s really hard. You have to maintain a, a degree of flexibility and a degree to see what’s happening and react to what’s actually happening. I happen to believe the, the Red Dawn group’s emphasis on lockdowns that if only we had locked down sooner there, there’s some truth to that.

00:33:10 If we had locked down before the virus got here, maybe we could have prevented it from come coming. But there’s no will to, but honestly, but if there was no will and if the rest of the world didn’t lock down, then at some point, what are you gonna do? Right? I mean, once this virus was broadly seeded, it was trans, it was broad. It, it’s a highly infectious respiratory disease. And so what has always irritated me about the, the lockdown mantra is what’s the end game? Is the end game minimizing the strain on hospitals? Okay, then let’s do that until hospitals aren’t strained. Is the end game getting eradicating covid? Not gonna happen. Not gonna happen. And guess what? As soon as you lift the lockdown, covid comes back, look at what happened in China. And so I think,

00:33:49 [Speaker Changed] Look, we’re seeing the surge right now around

00:33:51 [Speaker Changed] The country, right? And so that’s another example of, to me, a failure of leadership and a failure of government to articulate why exactly are we doing this and what’s the end game. And if you had done that, I don’t think there would’ve been the same resistance to lockdowns that there was, if it had been articulated what the end game was.

00:34:09 [Speaker Changed] And, and, and to be fair to Red Dawn, but ’cause I’m throwing ’em under the bus a little bit, they predicted 81% of the US population would eventually be affected and as many as 2 million in the US would die. Those numbers turned out to be pretty dead on. Right? Yeah. So we’re talking about catching this early. The one person in the Trump White House that was jumping up and down about this early on was Peter Navarro, who was widely yelling, this is a giant pandemic threat, but he was also ignored. Yeah. Why, why was that? Well, so

00:34:46 [Speaker Changed] There’s this great quote in the, in, in the book that the battle in the Trump administration was be between those who wanted to do everything and those who wanted to do nothing. And unfortunately, in Navarro is the best example of this. Sometimes those who wanted to do everything had lost credibility for, for other reasons. And so Navarro had become known as kind of a, it’s kind

00:35:06 [Speaker Changed] Of a wind knot,

00:35:07 [Speaker Changed] Kind of a loony. Yeah. And so he wasn’t taken seriously on the thing that he should have been taken seriously on. It’s a little bit, it’s a version of the boy who cried wolf. And so you had that, you had that broadly speaking throughout the administration where you had Bob Kadlec, for instance, right, coming up with his plan to distribute masks to every American household. But he too had lost credibility within the administration. So his plan to distribute masks went nowhere. The Trump administration was very atomized. And so you had these loyalties that existed and that dictated what could get done and who would be listened to in a way that is far more extreme than a normal administration and a lot of undermining of political rivals and leaking in an attempt to establish one’s superiority over one’s rivals. And because Trump was known as a president, who what was said in the press made it true, if you could get a story that was that about a rival that was leaked to the press and the press went with it, then that became defacto truth. And so it was such a, that that’s why you saw a volume of leaks in the Trump administration. That man, isn’t it striking to you to look at the contrast between the Obama administration and now the Biden administration on the number of leaks? Very, very few. And the ones that come outta the Biden administration are clearly orchestrated. So,

00:36:23 [Speaker Changed] So let me invite a little maga hate mail, and I don’t think I’m going on a limb when I say the Trump White House appointed a lot of people that just weren’t perceived as serious players in the various institutions. But you can’t help but look at the Trump White House and say, Hey, if they were a little more serious and if they had put together a better team, this might might’ve gone better.

00:36:50 [Speaker Changed] So I’m gonna protest that a little bit. I think for one thing that a lot of very competent people did start off in the Trump administration. They just didn’t and

00:36:59 [Speaker Changed] Quickly cycled through

00:37:00 [Speaker Changed] Just, they just didn’t last. But, but they did start, start. And whose fault is that? I th Right. I think there were competent people in the Trump administration, even when the pandemic hit Don, don’t get me wrong, like, like Alex Azar. Tons, tons. I think they just, they were fighting so many battles on so many fronts, and there was so much interesing warfare that it made it difficult for competence to, to rise to the top. And I

00:37:20 [Speaker Changed] Think it’s fair to hold the president accountable for how his White House operates and who gets appointed to key roles.

00:37:27 [Speaker Changed] I do, but this is gonna make you mad. Go ahead. But I think a point that’s in the introduction that I think is important is that I think it’s magical thinking to believe that the course of the pandemic would’ve been radically different had we had a different president in the White House. And all you need to do to see that is to see that more people died in the first year of the Biden administration than they did in under Trump. So that I don’t, so I don’t, I I I don’t think it was, it was, it would’ve been that easy for any president. And I think a lot of that is, are these pre-existing conditions that we’re talking about. Not just that the virus hit pre people with pre-existing conditions particularly hard, but it hit a country, the United States, right. With preexisting weaknesses, very hard in a way that would’ve been difficult for any president to snap his or her fingers and fix those.

00:38:12 [Speaker Changed] I totally agree with you why the White House just didn’t take control of, first it was Kushner, then it was Pence, and nobody could get that under control. The, you could have gone to the guy who ran operation warp speed and said, Hey, who should we put in charge of P p E? Do you have bandwidth for that? Or find us a guy in the military to do this. And that would’ve had a big difference. It it, it just seemed, you know, so silly. And then the pol the opportunism, that’s the other thing in the book that was so infuriating. Political opportunism does not care about anything. Life, death, money. It, it will rise to the occasion every time.

00:38:53 [Speaker Changed] So I’m not, to be clear, I’m not defending Trump. I think hi, his failure of leadership was massive. And even if you are a Trump supporter and you hate fauci, then you have to look at that and say, well then why did Trump allow Fauci to attain the preeminence He did, because Trump didn’t wanna take responsibility. He got good ratings. He’s terrible across the board. So I’m not, but at the very same time, it’s possible to both believe that and to also believe what I do strongly, which is that it’s magical thinking to say, oh, if only we had had a different president, everything would’ve been great. You don’t think,

00:39:26 [Speaker Changed] Don’t think a more competent president could have reduced those 1.3 million next

00:39:30 [Speaker Changed] Excess deaths. Perhaps could’ve, could’ve made it better. I still think the United States outcomes would’ve been terrible. And I think we need to look at these underlying conditions in order to doubt, doubt, in order to have a chance of making it better the next time around. And so I think it’s not only magical thinking, it’s dangerous thinking to just say, oh, it’s just all about Trump. No. Well that’s ’cause that then, because then you miss you, you miss the real problems. Right.

00:39:52 [Speaker Changed] To me, the most interesting part of the book was the hands that we were dealt coming into. And when I, not to make this about me, but when I was working on Bailout Nation, as much as I wanted to blame George Bush, when you look at everything that took place before Bush took office, he was one of many, many players that led to, to that disaster. And, and all the people who said, this is Bush’s fault. It’s like, what are you gonna ignore 20 years of, of deregulation and, and radical low rates at the Fed? And so I got very much got the same sense here. Yeah. The parallels to the financial crisis was, Hey, this wasn’t any one mistake. This was decades in the making. Although, truth be told, it seems like there was just one bad decision after another. I, I don’t know if Obama would’ve done better or George Bush would’ve done better, but I could tell you this much, they couldn’t have done worse.

00:40:51 [Speaker Changed] That is probably true.

00:40:52 [Speaker Changed] Right. So let’s talk a little bit about our broken system. And I mentioned earlier you throw everybody under the bus, Trump Cuomo, DeSantis de Blassio. You kind of focus on Cuomo and DeSantis throughout the books as two governors, or a northern Democrat, a southern Republican. What made you choose these two governors to focus on?

00:41:18 [Speaker Changed] Well, because their policies were so different in the pandemic, although they actually, personality wise, they might be more alike than they are. Different loud

00:41:26 [Speaker Changed] Bullies who both dropped the ball,

00:41:28 [Speaker Changed] Right? But DeSantis obviously was the most prominent person who came out against Lockdowns. And Cuomo was very pro locking down. And so we thought it would set an interesting contrast. When we started the book, we didn’t know what the answer would be and whose answer would turn out to be right. And as it turns out, it’s pretty murky actually, who was right. But there’s also, there’s a, a progression during the course of the book too, because I actually admire DeSantis for his stance early on in the pandemic. He, I think he did follow the science, and I think he did do the work himself. And I think it was not political. And then as he began to mount his presidential run, he became increasingly political. And increasingly what I think, I like to believe he once would’ve not liked these things done solely for the purpose of politics rather than things done for, because they’re right. And he pushed the vaccines early on and that, and then flip flop, and then he became the governor who wants to sue the vaccine manufacturers. And it just, it, it’s a disgusting example of how the desire to win at politics can, can take on a life of its own and overcome common sense. Alright,

00:42:35 [Speaker Changed] So I have a ton of criticisms on Cuomo, but before we get to my former governor, let’s talk a little bit about DeSantis. Starting with Spring Break 2020. There was a move to close that down that became a super spreader event. You sent Covid back to 50 to other states from there. He said, we don’t wanna shut it down. ’cause this is a big boom for our local business. How do you excuse putting a hundred thousand college students together, 20 something college students together. How is that not gonna send Covid back home?

00:43:11 [Speaker Changed] Well, I’m not sure the extent to which that was a super spreader event. I also think that some of what DeSantis insisted on early in the pandemic, which was that the evidence shows that it’s safer outside a hundred percent and that it’s safe to have the beaches open. He was right. And the people criticizing him were wrong,

00:43:28 [Speaker Changed] Safer. Not not safe, but safer.

00:43:31 [Speaker Changed] But safer. And by the way, some of the terrible things that happened in the pandemic came from keeping people cooped up in their houses, elderly people who didn’t get out for years, whose dementia exacerbated, right? So you have to weigh, if you’re a leader, you have to weigh some of these things against each other. Safer to be outside Yes. Worth it to get people outdoors, exercising, being able to see other human beings. Yeah, maybe So I’m, I’m, I’m a little less opposed to that aspect of DeSantis than, than you are, I think.

00:43:59 [Speaker Changed] All right, so, so let’s talk about some of the other things Ron did, governor Ron did, he stopped reporting Covid data. Now I’ve heard the excuse, we didn’t wanna focus on this, we didn’t want to panic people, but let’s be honest, their numbers were terrible and he just didn’t want to see it represent him.

00:44:19 [Speaker Changed] Ah,

00:44:20 [Speaker Changed] Come on, push back on that. I

00:44:21 [Speaker Changed] I, I’m, I’m not sure that’s, that’s true. I mean, some of the stuff

00:44:25 [Speaker Changed] Florida did terrible on a per capita basis.

00:44:28 [Speaker Changed] Your own Justin Fox did an analysis of the death coming out of Florida and California. And when you adjust it for age, which you have to, because Covid kills the elderly, the numbers aren’t that different.

00:44:38 [Speaker Changed] So let me, let me push back on this. And that’s an email I sent to Justin, said differently, Hey, we have a lot of elderly people in our state and we did a terrible job protecting them.

00:44:50 [Speaker Changed] I’m not sure that’s fair. So I think that the risk of dying from Covid goes up so dramatically over 65 when, when you, when you were over 65

00:44:58 [Speaker Changed] And over 80. What

00:44:59 [Speaker Changed] Does tremendous, what does, what does, what does taking care of your elderly mean? DeSantis moved aggressively to try to protect people in nursing homes in a way that, by the way, New York did Cuomo the, that by the way, by the way, New York did not. Totally. I think it remains an open question about covid and protecting the elderly, what you can actually do. Because look, we all know people who locked down, who stayed home, who didn’t do anything, who didn’t, who still got it, right? So if you’re elderly and you’re gonna get it, and then you’re probably gonna die from it because you’re elderly, to then blame the governor of a state with a lot of elderly for not being able to save. I, I, I’m not sure about that. Alright, so let me, I blame, I blame DeSantis for a lot and for how crazy he’s become. I I I’m probably more pro his original strategy than you are.

00:45:42 [Speaker Changed] So let me blame him for a things

00:45:44 [Speaker Changed] Or lemme take that back. I’m not probably more pro his original strategy. I’m definitely more pro his

00:45:48 [Speaker Changed] Personal strategy. So let, lemme blame him for things that are unambiguous. Okay? He stops reporting the data, he fires his director of, of Health and Human Services. He appoints a surgeon general for the state who doesn’t believe in vaccines and is a wacky

00:46:03 [Speaker Changed] Wing up. But that comes later. That comes later.

00:46:06 [Speaker Changed] I’m looking at the continuum of him starting out with spring break, which there is, there’s a decent amount of evidence that suggests lots of people either got covid there, a lot of hookups, you’re not always outside at spring break. And then went back to their state and, and managed to, to spread it there to the, the live stream of the health and human services director having her door kicked down by a SWAT team that was kind of, yeah,

00:46:34 [Speaker Changed] That’s, but she turns out to be. And so if you read a little wacky

00:46:37 [Speaker Changed] Also

00:46:37 [Speaker Changed] Not, not only a little wacky, the whole thing turns out to be made up. And by the way, the, the, the press was all over that celebrating her glowing articles everywhere, right? Without ever, and this is when you, without ever looking at some of the facts underneath that and being like, should we really be celebrating this person? And so there was such an effort to get DeSantis early, early on. Right?

00:46:57 [Speaker Changed] What about his surgeon general? Let’s then

00:46:58 [Speaker Changed] That then that contributes to some of his, to some of some of the crazy. But she,

00:47:02 [Speaker Changed] She, she was not the person to, to she, she’s not put on a a

00:47:06 [Speaker Changed] Pedestals if, if you wanna hold somebody up as being ill treated by DeSantis, Rebecca Jones is not the person.

00:47:12 [Speaker Changed] So, so let’s talk about his surgeon general, who doesn’t really think of that. Like the C D C was regularly correcting some of his misstatements. So,

00:47:22 [Speaker Changed] So, so, right. And let’s, let’s, I know you don’t wanna put things on a continuum. I’m gonna put things, things on a continuum. Go ahead. That came later. Right? And I am, there is, there’s nothing about DeSantis current stance on the vaccines that I think is defendable. I think it’s morally reprehensible. So let’s be

00:47:37 [Speaker Changed] Clear. Alright, so we’re on the same page. Yeah. Okay. We’re on the same page now. Let’s throw Cuomo into the bus a little bit. And similarly started out thinking, oh, okay, he, here’s the guy on, on the ball and then goes off the rails. He begins with these press conferences that kind of reminded me of Giuliani during nine 11 where there’s this leadership void and somebody, not the president steps up to fill the void. Yes. The, were those conferences required viewing? What did you

00:48:06 [Speaker Changed] Think of those? They were ab they were absolutely required viewing. And I think that points to two things. I think it points to the earlier part of our discussion where we talked about Trump’s failure of leadership. Had Trump been providing that leadership, there wouldn’t have been a void that Cuomo needed to fill. Right? Or that Cuomo could fill. But I think it also points to something else, which is the appearance of leadership versus actual leadership.

00:48:26 [Speaker Changed] So let’s get into that cau because he really, so what he started out looking like, oh my God, this guy is gonna be president one day. Then let’s talk a little bit about his feud with Mayor de Blassio in New York City, which was very much a, a hotspot in the beginning of the pandemic. What were the impacts of this childish feud on, on the healthcare of, of New Yorkers?

00:48:50 [Speaker Changed] So that even after the New York Department of Health, which is in the city’s department, which are really well respected institutions, we’re saying, we’re seeing these upticks in all these measures that are alarming. This feud between Cuomo and De Blassio kept either from doing anything for way too long. And so, and then, and then of course on top of it, Cuomo’s policy of sending sick people back to nursing homes.

00:49:13 [Speaker Changed] So that’s, that’s my next, which he,

00:49:14 [Speaker Changed] Which he blamed on the federal government. But look, look, if this were a federal, if this were the, a federal government requirement, then it would’ve happened in every state. Every state.

00:49:21 [Speaker Changed] So, so let’s clarify exactly what you’re talking about. ’cause it’s literally my next question. There are elderly people who get sent from nursing homes to hospitals where they are identified as having C O V I D and Cuomo’s policy was to take them out of the hospital and send them back to the nursing homes. Yep. Where I, I have no idea what the thinking was. Maybe you could lock them in their rooms and not have the people who serve meals and go from room to room, not spread ’em around. It, it seems utterly reckless and irresponsible. It,

00:49:53 [Speaker Changed] There is one possible reason for it, which is that they were really worried about hospital space, right? So there’s this thinking, we’ll free up hospital beds, put

00:50:02 [Speaker Changed] ’em on an ice flow, send them out

00:50:04 [Speaker Changed] To see, but then two things have to happen. One, you have to be able to protect those people and protect the people around them when they get back to, to the nursing home. And secondly, you don’t lie about it. Right. And so those were the two, the two big problems. And, and that’s that old adage, right? The coverup is worse than the crime. Yep. If Cuomo had just told the truth, right? I don’t, I mean, he still would be where he is would’ve because of the, the, the other

00:50:25 [Speaker Changed] Set of to the sexual harassment. But

00:50:26 [Speaker Changed] The other set of accusations talk, talk

00:50:28 [Speaker Changed] About rolling downhill, he, he just, right. Started out good, went off the rails and just man was, it was like a, a Wiley coyote hitting the bottom of the ravine. Let’s talk about a few other people who, who may or may not have distinguished themselves. Anthony Fauci. How well did he perform?

00:50:48 [Speaker Changed] So my co-author, and I might have a little bit of a split on this, I’m probably more sympathetic to Fauci than Joe might be. I view any criticism of Fauci as misplaced because it was the job of the president not to have Fauci in that role if he didn’t want him in that role.

00:51:04 [Speaker Changed] But he had great, he got great media reviews,

00:51:07 [Speaker Changed] But, but he got great media reviews. Trump loves and as if you’re putting someone out there whose views you don’t agree with, and then, and then sort of ducking and saying, oh, look at what that guy’s saying. I mean, the, it’s just, it’s, it’s terrible. Be accountable, say, then I’m gonna be the person speaking to the American public. It, it makes me, it makes me angry because putting someone in a role that maybe they shouldn’t be in, and then criticizing that person for being in that role seems to me to be one of the most hypocritical things you can do. I,

00:51:34 [Speaker Changed] I mean, but Trump seems to do that with every single person he appointed. And nobody ever says to him, why are you criticizing this person? Why don’t you criticize the person who hired them? Oh wait, that’s you. And at, at, at least with Fauci, we got the curb, your enthusiasm, memes.

00:51:50 [Speaker Changed] We did

00:51:50 [Speaker Changed] When and which was to me the highlight of the pandemic. I

00:51:53 [Speaker Changed] Think you sent me one of those early on and it was, I think it might have been the highlight of the pandemic.

00:51:57 [Speaker Changed] It really just like ’cause you just see him drop his head into his hand when, when Trump was talking about, I don’t remember if it was bleach or light or something, and the music just, it, it, it was Chef’s Kiss. What about Jared Kushner? How did that pass for?

00:52:13 [Speaker Changed] But, but back to Fauci. Let me, I think there, there are a couple of things that I don’t understand why, why Fauci did, did them either the mask thing,

00:52:21 [Speaker Changed] Just to say the least,

00:52:23 [Speaker Changed] The mask thing, the shutting down of any inquiry about the origins of the pandemic, which I, in a way, I don’t really care where this thing came from, but the fact that we weren’t allowed to discuss where it came from, it reflects well on nobody. The idea that you couldn’t say that it might’ve been from inside a lab without being accused of being racist. And fauci was part of shutting down that line of questioning. I don’t, well, whether

00:52:44 [Speaker Changed] It came from a lab or a Chinese wet market, I mean, who, it’s still China, who cares?

00:52:48 [Speaker Changed] But we should know. And I, I, and because

00:52:50 [Speaker Changed] Is there any doubt, and we, so let me ask you that question, since you referenced since, where do we think the virus came from?

00:52:58 [Speaker Changed] I don’t have a clue really. But what I, what I do know is that because the lines of inquiry were shut down early on, we probably never will know for sure. And I think that that’s not a great outcome. And I think shutting down lines of inquiry or shutting down people with different opinions is just, there’s a line between that and quote misinformation. Right. And I’m not really sure in a free society what we wanna label misinformation. I I detest that word. I think the other thing Fauci tried to shut down were the scientists behind the Great Barrington Declaration. And again, I happened to be a believer in most forms of free speech. And I,

00:53:32 [Speaker Changed] They, they walked that way back though. The, the meta study. There were, there were subsequent articles that said, well, this isn’t exactly what we’re saying. The whole mask thing. I I, I think if you’re going into an operating theater, don’t you check that box. Yes. I want everybody wearing surgical masks in there. I mean, well,

00:53:52 [Speaker Changed] I don’t think the Great Barrington Declaration said much about masking. Was that the comment? It was about, it was about the Great Barrington Declaration was about focus protection for the elderly. It was against lockdowns. Oh, I’m thinking

00:54:03 [Speaker Changed] The the

00:54:03 [Speaker Changed] Other stuff. My, and I think, and I think in a free society where polarization doesn’t dictate what one is allowed to say, and one is not allowed to say, there should have been a debate about that. And the scientists behind the Great Barrington Declaration were not fringe scientists, epidemiologists. Right. Harvard epidemiologists at Stanford, epidemiologists at Oxford, highly respected people. Why is it so offensive to listen to them and to listen to what their plan is? It shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be. And so I don’t love that Fauci was part of shutting that down and trying to discredit that. So,

00:54:32 [Speaker Changed] So let’s talk a little bit about misinformation, because that, that leads to a couple of questions. Hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, bleach, herd immunity. It seems like there was some really crazy nonsense coming from, to some degree from social media also spread by social media, Facebook, Twitter, et cetera. Not so much LinkedIn as far as I could tell. And, and far more on the right wing than the left wing, other than the anti-vax stuff, which eventually morphed over. How do we judge our ability to deal with misinformation and how do we judge the performance of the US media?

00:55:18 [Speaker Changed] I think it’s really difficult because the line between misinformation and information that we don’t wanna hear is, can be a very fine line sometimes. Okay. And sometimes things that we label misinformation in a moment come back to perhaps maybe be something that we, we should have listened to. I guess my view on free speech is that if we believe in free speech, we should believe in free speech. Hate speech is a different matter. So I’m gonna put that aside. Right. Okay. Because I think all you need to do is look at the run up to World War II to see that, that old adage that that sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me. It’s words that create the sticks and stones. Right. But that’s, besides this conversation, what

00:55:55 [Speaker Changed] About yelling, fire in a crowded theater, but what, at what point is don’t get vaccinated, it, it’s a chip that will track you. How close is that to yelling fire, fire in a theater? I think

00:56:07 [Speaker Changed] It’s a, there’s a spectrum. I think it’s a long way away. And I think that when there is so much information out there to the counter about that you actually do more damage by shutting people down and saying, you can’t say that than you do by saying, go ahead and say it sound crazy. People, people

00:56:23 [Speaker Changed] Can literally, Barbara Streis in effect is what

00:56:25 [Speaker Changed] It’s called. People people, people can figure out their own, their own information. There’s enough out there running counter to that. So I, I don’t, I think it’s a really tricky issue, but I think the pandemic, if anything, made me feel that we are very, very quick to label things, misinformation. We just don’t like it

00:56:41 [Speaker Changed] If we just disagree with it. All right. So we, we did fauci. Let’s talk about Jared Kushner and, and Mike Pence who each took turns heading a task force on P P E. How’d those guys do?

00:56:52 [Speaker Changed] I think Kushner, I don’t think the task force that he set up to get p p e did that much. However, it, it’s worth noting that some of the people running warp speed came away. He who were, who were utterly opposed to Trump and to Trump’s administration came away supportive of Kushner because they really, they thought that it was, it was Kushner’s support that guaranteed warp speed’s success. And it was Kushner who ultimately protected warp speed and both SF Laui, who is about as far from a Trumpian Republican Yeah. As one could possibly be actually said that he came away from this with a lot of respect for Kushner. So I think that it’s possible to look at him as a mixed bag. So

00:57:33 [Speaker Changed] Chalk went up for Jared Kushner. What about Mike Pence? Kind of, that just went nowhere, didn’t it?

00:57:40 [Speaker Changed] I mean, when Mike Pence, when Alex Cezar was kicked off basically running the task force and Mike Pence was put in charge, it’s hard to think of anything that happened at the Coronavirus Task force after that, other than Mike Pence’s op-ed in the spring of 2020 saying there won’t be a second wave

00:57:54 [Speaker Changed] No more. So.

00:57:54 [Speaker Changed] Right. I think most people see him as the ultimate politician in that he was more focused on his own chances for a presidential run than he was on actually doing anything about, about the pandemic. That said, you have to have a little bit of admiration for Mike Pence post January,

00:58:09 [Speaker Changed] Post January, post January 6th. Tell us about Azar. I think a lot of people have no idea who he is or was in during this era.

00:58:17 [Speaker Changed] So Azar was a Secretary of Health and Human Services and not a well-liked figure within the Trump administration for reasons both good and bad. He developed a reputation for being hierarchical, being thin-skinned, being a politician. But he was also, he was an old school Republican in a, in a administration where that was a very bad thing to be. I think it is impossible to look at Alex Azar and not see a highly principled person who wanted to do the right thing. And I warp speed is we have a azar in part to thank, thank for warp speed. And if it hadn’t been for Azar getting behind warp speed and pushing it again there, warp speed, had several, had several fathers, but, but Azar was definitely one of them. And so I think if you look at people’s performance and you give them some dings, but some positives, I think ultimately I came out positive on Azar. So

00:59:09 [Speaker Changed] Let’s stick with warp speed for a second. ’cause the economy began to recover pretty quickly. He could have stepped up and said, I did this. I saved America. Vote for me. I think he could’ve won if he had made better decisions about the pandemic.

00:59:25 [Speaker Changed] Well, I think, I’m not sure that’s true because the vaccines weren’t approved. The data about the vaccines didn’t come out until after the election because Trump had started to make some noises about having the vaccine ready before the election. Right. And so the F d A pushed back and basically the leaders of the pharmaceutical companies said, this is not going to be political. And all of that was really important. And so to me, one of Trump’s biggest failings was starting to make the vaccines political such that then you had to, you had to have pushback so that people would, would, would try to trust them. I absolutely. Or would be able to trust them. I absolutely agree that if Trump had said these vaccines are marvelous, they’re lifesaving, that could have changed some of, some of the course.

01:00:06 [Speaker Changed] It would’ve been too late for his

01:00:08 [Speaker Changed] Election changed, but it would’ve been too late for his election. Fair enough. But that, that said, you have to ask the flip side of the question, given that you had Democrats including Cuomo and Kamala Harris coming out and saying, I’m not taking these Trump vaccines until they’ve been tested for safety,

01:00:22 [Speaker Changed] Not smart.

01:00:23 [Speaker Changed] If Trump had pushed them and called them the Trump vaccines, would you have had exactly the response from Democrats that we had said, got from Republicans, given how ridiculously polarized we we are, would you then have had Republicans taking the vaccines and celebrating them? And Democrats saying, I’m not taking a Trump vaccine. The mean the

01:00:39 [Speaker Changed] Counterfactual is amazing.

01:00:40 [Speaker Changed] It’s, it’s actually tragic that we even have to ask this question because why should a vaccine be a Trump vaccine or a Biden vaccine? It’s it’s insane. It’s insane. There

01:00:49 [Speaker Changed] Was a big piece not too long ago, I I I don’t remember if it was the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post that showed that if you looked at a break the country down by zip code, red zip codes had much worse outcome than blue zip codes. And you kind of wonder, you can’t help but wonder, this has to be partisan based. Whether you took the vaccine, got boosted, socially distanced, unless you’re gonna say the red districts are just so much worse on the pre-existing condition side or some combination of both.

01:24 [Speaker Changed] I think it’s some combination of both. And again, I don’t think anybody’s done the work, nor I think is it possible to actually do the work and break it down, what percent of the problem came from people in red states being less willing to get vaccinated? And what percentage of the problem came from the fact that preexisting health conditions that led one to terrible covid outcomes were worse in many of those states. It’s, it’s,

01:45 [Speaker Changed] Which brings us back to,

01:47 [Speaker Changed] And access and access to healthcare

01:48 [Speaker Changed] Is worse. Which, which brings us back to DeSantis. Yeah. Who has refused to embrace Medicaid and is leaving something like $150 million a year in healthcare aid to his state now work that out into those preexisting conditions. Lot, a lot more medical care that buys you a decent amount of money every year. He has not embraced it. A handful of red state governors have refused to embrace this. And I, I’m always shocked at how their population goes along with it. I I don’t, I don’t want healthcare. What do I need that for? Yeah, it it’s amazing. Yeah,

01:02:26 [Speaker Changed] It is.

01:02:27 [Speaker Changed] So last institutions I have to ask about how did the c d c, the National Institute of Health and W H O perform rank those three institutions who did most poorly, who did least poorly notice? I’m not saying any of them did, especially Well,

01:02:45 [Speaker Changed] I, I think that’s hard because they all did different things. I think the C d C was, was is at the bottom. I think it’s hard. C d C and even the C D C I think would say that Rochelle Wilensky, when she was running the C D C, came out with this report basically that said the c d C has has failed and lost, lost a lot of trust. The N I h

01:03:05 [Speaker Changed] Not terrible.

01:03:06 [Speaker Changed] No. And, and the, it’s the n I H that funded a lot of the development of mRNA that led us to have the vaccines. You know, again, the existence of the vaccines is a longstanding collaboration between government and industry. And so one of my key takeaways from from the book is capitalism can’t do everything. Markets can’t do everything. You need a functioning government and functioning markets, and you need the two to be intertwined. You can’t, to have a functioning society,

01:03:32 [Speaker Changed] You, you can’t get shareholders to say, I’m gonna put money into this company and maybe in 15 years, we’ll, we’ll have a product we

01:03:38 [Speaker Changed] Can sell and, and more, even more. So you can’t get shareholders to back to back vaccine development because too many times governments are the buyers of vaccines. The profits aren’t big enough and the vac the need for the vaccines comes and goes. And so shareholders don’t want anything to do with it because it’s not sustainable earnings growth. And so you have to be aware of where capitalism works and where it doesn’t work. And that’s one of the themes of the book. The W h o I think initially you would give them bad marks for going along with China’s view of the world and not being more independently minded. So, but it, it’s hard to say over the course of the pandemic, I think, I think the W h O has been able to acknowledge failing. So I’d give them, I’d give them in the n i h pretty decent remarks.

01:04:26 [Speaker Changed] Hmm. I’m kind of fascinated and I I was like raised an eyebrow when I come across the chapter in the book on the Federal Reserve. Let’s talk a little bit about what the Fed did and didn’t do, starting with their initial thinking was, Hey, interest rates don’t cure pandemics. Tell us a little bit about what’s going on at the Fed.

01:04:48 [Speaker Changed] Well, I think you can’t look at the pandemic without looking at the Federal Reserve and for all sorts of reasons. One is that if it hadn’t been for the Fed’s actions in the spring of 2020, the world literally might’ve, might’ve shut down. Markets are not incidental to life. They’re, they’re, they’re, they’re, they’re part of our life. That said, some of the problems that the Fed had to fix were of the Fed’s own making such as, such as what a couple of decades of very low interest rates had done to our markets, such as the ongoing fragility of the system due to the shadow banking system, an ongoing kind of inability to deal with instability in the treasury market. One of the scariest things that happened in the, in that spring of 2020 was that the treasury market almost stopped functioning. And that’s, people were aware even before the pandemic hit that there were these structural weaknesses within, within the treasury market. And then I think you have to look at the Fed because of where we are today with inflation. And that’s such a critical part of our economic lives now, and such a critical part of inequality in terms of who inflation affects the most. And that’s the Fed. And so you have to understand that as part of looking at the pandemic. So let’s

01:05:59 [Speaker Changed] Explore that a little bit more following the financial crisis. Fed takes the rates down to zero, keeps ’em there, can’t get inflation up to 2% a decade. Yeah. No inflation. We really haven’t talked about the CARES Act and what a massive fiscal stimulus that was that we didn’t see during the financial crisis. So let’s put some numbers on that. Cares Act one under President Trump, $2.2 trillion. Right. 10% of G D P. You describe it as the biggest fiscal stimulus in in US history. Yep. Cares Act two, almost another trillion dollars also under President Trump Cares Act three, another eight or $900 billion under President Biden, $4 trillion. This is a huge stimulus.

01:06:47 [Speaker Changed] It’s, it’s insane. And it has left our, it has helped leave our federal debt in a, in a frightening place,

01:06:55 [Speaker Changed] Plus the impact on, on

01:06:56 [Speaker Changed] Inflation. And, and there wasn’t a lot of thinking about the impact of fiscal stimulus and monetary stimulus. Right. Together and together. And so, you’re right, we didn’t have that in the financial crisis. And I think it was a mistake. We had a very limited amount of fiscal stimulus because the, the idea was, oh my god, the, the deficit and what are, what are, what are we doing? And so there was very quickly the Tea Party and the calls for austerity. And so we didn’t do that much fiscal stimulus. And so the Fed

01:07:22 [Speaker Changed] And had a mediocre recovery because of it.

01:07:23 [Speaker Changed] And so the fed for that decade between the financial crisis and the pandemic that decade plus felt per promote, the title of Muhammad del Ian’s great book. That they were the only game in town. Right. They were the only ones who could try to fix the economy. But that to me is a little bit analogous to Fauci, just like maybe Fauci shouldn’t have been in the position he was in. The Fed shouldn’t have been in the position it was in. That’s Congress’s job. Right. Again, it’s a failure of government. It’s a failure of Congress to to, to default to the Fed is the people who are supposed to fix the economy. It’s not just the Fed’s job. They’ve got one tool. They’ve got the most limited toolbox of any, anybody in Washington to try to fix the economy. And yet they were the only game in town. And because interest rates were so low for that decade, and there was so much bond buying, it left the Fed in a weaker position to counteract the effects of the pandemic than they would otherwise have have been in. And I think it’s important to understand that, again, these things have antecedents. They don’t come out of nowhere.

01:08:16 [Speaker Changed] Right. It’s always more complicated. One, one of the things that I think a lot of folks don’t realize is when you take rates to zero, everything priced in credit and dollars is gonna benefit from that. And that means stocks, bonds, real estate’s business. And who owns that? The wealthier people in America. They’re, so, the, the, the most fascinating takeaway from this massive fiscal stimulus, aside from the inflation is, hey, it, it did a pretty good job for the middle and lower class. They did. Okay. They still have some savings left over from 2020 and 21. So if you’re looking at fiscal or monetary stimulus, recognize who is the beneficiary of this.

01:09:00 [Speaker Changed] Yes, exactly. Whereas monetary stimulus made the rich richer. I mean, people said when the pa when the Fed began throwing everything it could at, at, at the wall basically in the spring of 2020, traders were like, this is the greatest trading opportunity the world has ever seen. And when you look at how staggeringly rich people with exposure to the markets got in the, in the year after, after the pandemic first hit, it’s really, I mean sort, it’s sort of disgusting. And so

01:09:27 [Speaker Changed] From the lows in March, 2020 till the end of the year, the s and p 500 up 68% the following year up, I don’t remember it was 29 or 31% everything, but huge, huge.

01:09:37 [Speaker Changed] Everything

01:09:37 [Speaker Changed] Was a explosive boom.

01:09:38 [Speaker Changed] Everything was a screaming buy. And that benefits the, the segment of the American population that has exposure to assets about 10%, not the bottom. And then the bottom is left to fend for itself when in not to fend for itself. But the bottom is left to pick up the pieces when inflation kicks in. Because guess who inflation hurts more the less well off.

01:09:55 [Speaker Changed] Oh, always, always. So let, let’s talk, you know, it’s funny, I’m gonna tell you a quick funny digression. I, at an event over the summer, camp Ko talk, and we’re talking about rising interest rates and, and someone asked the question, Hey, will the wealthy benefit from higher rates or not? And three of us in the room, myself included, raised their hand and said, of course they will. You know, history has told us that wealthy do just fine in, in all sorts of economies.

01:10:25 [Speaker Changed] Well, it, I agree. And it seems that everything we’ve done from the financial crisis through to the pandemic response has helped the wealthy at the expense. What a shocker at, at the expense of, of the poor. And that’s why I very much like the subtitle of of, of our, who gets left

01:10:40 [Speaker Changed] Behind

01:10:40 [Speaker Changed] Of our book, who’s getting left, who’s getting left behind. And that it’s true that fiscal stimulus has done miracles for people at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. So I don’t wanna discount that. It was really important.

01:10:53 [Speaker Changed] It reduced poverty for children. It, it had wild effects.

01:10:55 [Speaker Changed] It enor enormously effective. Nonetheless, a lot of the gains and wages have been eaten up by inflation. So once again, it’s the people at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum who are left to who, who face the most pain from just about any policy we can enact. So,

01:11:11 [Speaker Changed] So one of the things we really haven’t spoken about very much is the supply chain. I wanna focus on semiconductors. ’cause you specifically write about Taiwan semiconductor and the shortage and how it’s impacted everything from cars to computers. What drove that shortage and and how much are we still dealing with the after effects of that?

01:11:33 [Speaker Changed] So it was just, it was, it was the, the increased demand combined with the increased time to ship one c e o of a company told me it just, it was like lost in translation. You just couldn’t figure out where your gear, where your stuff was getting, getting shipped from China. And so again, it’s this idea that we could, and it’s obviously stressed by the geopolitical tensions over Taiwan, but this idea that we could just mindlessly outsource everything that was critical to a very far away country and not maintain any capacity to do it here in the United States. And that was all gonna be just peachy keen. It just, I think the pandemic showed us that it’s not that simple. And so now we’re trying to figure out how to, how to deal with that, especially with the geopolitical tensions over Taiwan when you realize we, the United States literally can’t break down if, if Taiwan Semiconductor goes away because we’ve outsourced all of the critical manufacturing of semiconductors.

01:12:26 [Speaker Changed] So there’s this ongoing political debate as to whether it’s a pipe dream that we can bring manufacturing or critical manufacturing back to the United States. Can we bring semiconductor or ev battery production or, or next generation technologies like that here? Is this, is this a pipe dream or is this a viable, Hey, we can’t leave it 5,000 miles away. It just doesn’t work for us.

01:12:52 [Speaker Changed] So I think the train has left the station on semiconductor manufacturing when you look even at the billions in the CHIPS act, but you compare it to Taiwan semiconductors annual CapEx budget. Right. It, it, it just, there there’s, there’s no catching up. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t have manufacturing of some critical chips here in the US as a just in case backup. Right. But I think the idea that we’re ever gonna become a manufacturing powerhouse of semiconductor chips ever again, I think we let that go. And again, I’d blame a monomaniacal focus on the bottom line. Hey, they can do it cheaper over there. Right. Let’s go do it cheaper over there without any thoughts about, about the long term. I also think though, it raises another question that to me is interesting, which is, do you remember the whole fur in the global financial crisis? Banks too big to fail. They’ve got taxpayer support. Well, what about hospitals? They’ve got taxpayer support. What about semiconductor manufacturing Now with the CHIPS Act, they’ve got, they’ve got taxpayer support. So this, this whole idea of capitalism in the market and it’s pure well, it isn’t. And so I I, that was one of my big takeaways from this is if, if all sorts of industries have to have taxpayer support when times turn tough, don’t we need to rethink the contract between companies and society?

01:14:05 [Speaker Changed] You, you might’ve thought, and and I admittedly this is all hindsight bias, that after nine 11, we would’ve said, Hey, we are now dealing with asymmetrical warfare. What do we need to do to make sure that our, just the Defense Department has access to what they need? That never seemed to happen, did it? I mean, it was chatter about it and then it just kind of faded the following quarter.

01:14:29 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. The Department of Defense has done this report, the industrial capabilities report every year. And it’s pointed out that due to shareholder pressure to generate earnings, that all these critical aspects of manufacturing have gone overseas. And so it’s easy to, to not pay any attention to that if you’re just focused on this quarter’s earnings or this year’s earnings. But if you’re actually focused on what the United States needs to do to be be strong, you need to have a different set of values at work.

01:14:59 [Speaker Changed] So Lennon was right. The capitalist will sell you the rope to, to hang you on with,

01:15:05 [Speaker Changed] Isn’t it, it it might be true. I mean, I’m still gonna defend capitalism as, as, as a version of Winston Churchill’s quote about democracy, the worst possible system with the possible exception of everything else out there. But I do think we, we need to have a discussion about where capitalism is appropriate and where it’s not, and what’s fears of life it should be contained to and what its limitations are.

01:15:25 [Speaker Changed] So, so I have another four hours worth of questions for you, but I know you have a lunch date. So let’s jump to our speed round and we’ll blow through these five questions as quickly as possible, starting with what have you been streaming these days? What’s been keeping you entertained?

01:15:40 [Speaker Changed] So this is gonna make you unhappy, but I grew up without a TV set and I still, so did I and I still, I did also. And there’s amazing, there. We might be the only two people in the world who can say that. No, we had a

01:15:51 [Speaker Changed] A tv I wasn’t allowed to watch it.

01:15:52 [Speaker Changed] Oh, we didn’t even have one. My parents still don’t have one. So I, I don’t, I don’t stream that much. I know it’s dead. What about audio? I have, I have some things that I’ve, that I’ve listened to that I love, but I default to a book when I’m, when I’m left alone audio, I have been loving Huber Man’s podcast on health and longevity. He has a great podcast that just came out on meditation that makes you think really differently about meditation Huberman. Yeah.

01:16:16 [Speaker Changed] I’m gonna check that out. Definitely. Yeah. Let, let’s talk about your mentors who helped shape your career as a writer.

01:16:22 [Speaker Changed] So Joe Serra, who’s my co-author on this book, and my co-author on all the Devils are here and edited the smartest guys in the room. He was my editor at Fortune for a lot of years and he taught me and still teaches me to this day a lot about writing and storytelling.

01:16:37 [Speaker Changed] Let, since we mentioned books, let’s talk about some of your favorites and what you’re reading right now.

01:16:41 [Speaker Changed] So I do a podcast with a guy named Luigi Zingales at the University of Chicago. And I think I have to read a ton for that as you do for this. It’s a lot of work, right? Yeah. But I think the, the, the books that I read for the podcast that have been most influential for me were two contradictory views on meritocracy. One by a professor at Harvard named Michael Sandel and the other by a professor at Oxford named Adrian Wooldridge. And one is kind of a defense of meritocracy and the other is skepticism about meritocracy. What, what are the names? So Adrian Ridge’s book is The Aristocracy of Talent, how Meritocracy Made the Modern World. And Michael Sandels book is called The Tyranny of Merit. Can we Find The Common Good? And I’d say Sandels perspective on meritocracy is quite skeptical. And Ridge’s book is more of a defense of meritocracy and they’re really interesting, interesting juxtaposition. And then Don’t laugh, I am a huge consumer of fantasy novels and so I am Go ahead. Also reading The Wheel of Time, which has

01:17:37 [Speaker Changed] Just, you know, it’s a Netflix series right?

01:17:39 [Speaker Changed] Which has just become a Netflix series. And I swear I’m gonna stream that as soon as I finish the book. Oh,

01:17:43 [Speaker Changed] I didn’t know you were a fantasy fan. Gimme some other authors you like.

01:17:47 [Speaker Changed] So,

01:17:48 [Speaker Changed] Because I go back to like Pi Anthony and early sci-fi.

01:17:51 [Speaker Changed] So Infinity, so do I back, back, back to Tolkien? Of course.

01:17:54 [Speaker Changed] Well that’s a gimme.

01:17:55 [Speaker Changed] Yes. That’s a gimme. Game of Thrones. Of course. George Double R Martin. I would

01:18:00 [Speaker Changed] Like to read that. I started watching it and said, I gotta read this.

01:18:04 [Speaker Changed] I know, I read, I read them all and, but the problem,

01:18:06 [Speaker Changed] And are they as great as everyone says,

01:18:08 [Speaker Changed] They’re as great as everybody says. The problem is now I can’t watch the show because it’s so stressful to read those books that you can’t relive some of the high moments of high stress. Right. You know, he

01:18:18 [Speaker Changed] Kills a lot of people.

01:18:19 [Speaker Changed] There’s, there’s another, my my, so I have a 14 year old daughter and a 12 year old daughter. So I consume an inordinate amount of fantasy novels and I, I can’t keep all the names straight because that’s what my daughter reads, but right now I’m in the process of reading some by a woman named Issa Meyer, which are rewrites of fairytales from a different perspective. And they are super interesting and the last

01:18:41 [Speaker Changed] Kind of like wicked, which is told from the witch perspective.

01:18:44 [Speaker Changed] Yes. Or yeah, or like Maleficent, which Yeah. But back to things that I kind,

01:18:48 [Speaker Changed] I loved Maleficent, by the

01:18:49 [Speaker Changed] Way. So do I, but back to things that I read as a child that I think are really interesting to reread. Now I’ve been rereading a lot of Isaac os of unbelievable, I think in this, in this era where we’re talking about AI to realize how incredibly prophetic Asamov was with his three laws of robots and his right, and his and his thoughts about the, the world. He’s a terrible writer and you have to struggle through his prose, but if you read it, he’s not terrible. Yes. He is terrible.

01:19:12 [Speaker Changed] He he’s a great storyteller. And his, some of his, some of his prose is not the most polished, his pro, but his ideas drove everything.

01:19:22 [Speaker Changed] That’s, well, that’s exactly his prose is his prose is clunky and his characters are one dimensional. But his ideas and the fact that he could see Yes, all of where we are today from when he was writing. I, I just think it’s, it’s fascinating.

01:19:37 [Speaker Changed] So Foundation Trilogy, Robert INE Foundation Tri Yes. CJ Shera, Larry Niven.

01:19:43 [Speaker Changed] The last question,

01:19:44 [Speaker Changed] Here’s Anthony. I mean, and to say nothing of Philip k Dick, which is just next level

01:19:49 [Speaker Changed] Yes. And, and the, and the greatest of All Dune. Right.

01:19:54 [Speaker Changed] You know, I I I’ve been plowing through the most recent and version. It’s like every time there’s a decade goes by someone Rett attempts to, to redo that, that story. And it’s just two grand unless you’re gonna do Lawrence of Arabia. Right, right. You just can’t do dune. And, and it seems every attempt has failed. What sort of advice would you give to a recent college grad interested in a career in either investing finance or journalism? Journalism

01:20:25 [Speaker Changed] And book writing a career in journalism? I might say find something else where you can make money and then write on the side. No, seriously, I would say to anybody interested in anything, just do something. You never know where your path in life is gonna take you. But if you don’t do anything, then you know where it’s gonna take you, which is nowhere. And so if you’re not sure what you wanna do, just go do things. Go do interesting things, go try to be around smart people doing interesting things. I began my career working at Goldman Sachs and I, I do something very different from that now, but I wouldn’t have the career now I have now if I hadn’t started working at working at Goldman. And so just do things and, and what you do will take, will open up other doors that will take you someplace else.

01:21:04 [Speaker Changed] And and our final question, what do you know about the world of investing finance, writing today? You wish you knew 20, 25 years ago when you were first getting started?

01:21:15 [Speaker Changed] I wish I had understood that it wasn’t just about numbers, that it’s about people. It’s about history. You have to understand psychology. You have to understand the past. That makes it so much more interesting and infinitely and just interesting. And I wish I had understood what we talked about earlier on the podcast, which is that that most important rule is a thing you used in kindergarten, which is use your imagination because anything can happen. And don’t ever look at the world and say, no, no, no, that can’t happen. Enron can’t be a fraud. It’s the most respected company in America. Or No, no, no. The big banks on Wall Street can’t go bankrupt. Look at their multi-billion dollar balance sheets and their gleaming headquarters. This can’t happen. Or a pandemic can’t shut down the United States for two or three years. God knows that can’t happen. Everything can happen. So just remember, use your imagination.

01:22:05 [Speaker Changed] William Goldman’s is Penns my favorite expression of all time. Nobody knows anything. Right.

01:22:12 [Speaker Changed] That is pretty fantastic. Bethany,

01:22:14 [Speaker Changed] Thank you for being so generous with your time. We have been speaking with Bethany McLean, co-author of The Big Fail. If you enjoy this conversation, be sure and check out any of the previous 500 plus discussions we’ve had over the past nine years. You can find those at YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Sign up for my daily reading Follow me on Twitter at Barry Ritholtz. Be sure and check out all of the Bloomberg family of podcasts at podcast. I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack team that helps these conversations get done each week. Anna Luke is my producer. Sarah Livesey is my audio engineer. Atika Val is our project manager. Sean Russo is my researcher. I’m Barry Ritholtz. You’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.




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