The title quote comes from a Vanity Fair article which ran yesterday, and is attributed to Jared Kushner.
One attendee explained to Kushner that due to the finite supply of PPE, Americans were bidding against each other and driving prices up. To solve that, businesses eager to help were looking to the federal government for leadership and direction.
“Free markets will solve this,” Kushner said dismissively. “That is not the role of government.”
The same attendee explained that although he believed in open markets, he feared that the system was breaking. He pointed to a CNN report about New York governor Andrew Cuomo and his desperate call for supplies.
“That’s the CNN bullshit,” Kushner snapped. “They lie.”
According to another attendee, Kushner then began to rail against the governor: “Cuomo didn’t pound the phones hard enough to get PPE for his state… His people are going to suffer and that’s their problem.
“That’s when I was like, We’re screwed,” the shocked attendee told Vanity Fair.Vanity Fair
There are multiple problems here. They must be addressed.
“Free markets will solve this,”… except the markets aren’t free, far from it. From wide-ranging tariffs to product testing laws, our markets are not truly free. They’ve been growing less so over time. The Heritage Foundation – one of the groups that aggressively supported Trump through 2018 in exchange for getting some agenda items enacted – ranks world economies by freedom. The US is currently #17, with a ranking of 76.6% and dropping. The people at the meeting were asking for aid and guidance. That aid could have come from embracing the market… by clearing some of the bureaucratic hurdles facing suppliers and consumers; or it could have come from direct government control, with the government directing actions and coordinating plans. Kushner, and by extension the Trump administration, were telling the attendees that the market was expected to fix things… but they were going to continue to tie the hands of the market.
In practice what happened was the worst of both options. Makers of supplies were forced to approach the Trump administration, hat in hand, and seek individual tariff exemptions for things like hand sanitizer dispensers. This negated any need for the government to coordinate a response while maintaining their power, freeing the people in charge to focus on other issues or play golf, but it also created bottlenecks in supply chains and ensured there would be continued pain and death for citizens.
Then the federal government started seizing and diverting some of the protective material which was purchased by states, encouraging governors to secretly bypass expected shipping locations and dates in an effort to keep the items they’d purchased. The President’s team was angry because bottlenecks had been avoided and they’d been unable to exert direct control over the market.
“That is not the role of government” …is completely incorrect, 180 degrees from reality. The role of government is to determine what actions need to be taken by a cohesive society and to facilitate those actions. There are radically different philosophies as to what degree and form of influence is best, but if the government is not going to aid, it should not be involved.
This is at the core of the famous Reagan quote about “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” It was not suggesting that the government officials were rapacious grifters eager to feed upon weakened prey, but rather that true market-based solutions were more efficient because they bypassed resource-destroying layers of bureaucracy.
In Trumpworld, the government is instead framed as fundamentally evil, standing against the common man… unless that government agency supports Trump, at which point it becomes sainted. While this may be an effective political tool, viewing national emergencies through political eyes stands in direct contrast to the intended role of government.
“That’s the CNN bullshit. They lie.” …is only partially true, and partial truth is not enough. The fact is that CNN, MSNBC, and Fox all follow the same basic format, with “hard news” and opinion. Bias is in play for all of the channels and it is represented both on the opinion shows and in the choice of hard news stories which are covered. Setting aside the obvious issues with opinion shows, a common (and valid) complaint with CNN and MSNBC during the Obama administration was that they did not adequately cover many of the failures and scandals of the day, leaving Fox to reap that massive bounty of news and gain undue credibility as a result. The same is happening, in reverse, with Trump. When CNN presents a story that is critical to Trump, that is not necessarily a lie, it’s usually presenting a truth which the Trump administration doesn’t want to hear. That’s their problem; if they have an issue with the truth they should be more honest.
CNN has been caught in blatant errors and untruths, as have Fox and MSNBC and the network channels as well as newspapers and websites. It is a constant danger to any news organization. Sometimes it is the result of a carefully orchestrated hoax, such as the false reports of Arkady Babchenko’s death designed to catch a Russian assassin. But actual lies from any of those channels during their hard news segments – even MSNBC under Obama and Fox today – are few and far between. Falsely accusing the media of untruths is a dangerous action for any government official. Actually believing those false accusations is even more concerning.
“His people are going to suffer“… exemplifies the problem with an “us vs. them” mentality. The people who were going to suffer were American citizens, and Kushner was a representative of the American President. While they may have been citizens of New York State, they were also citizens of the United States of America. Kushner displayed no empathy for the people because, once they were affiliated with a different team, they were merely “the other.”
Even within that context, which has terrible implications for national leadership, he was wrong. New Yorkers are not monolithic; there were and are many who remain vocal, devoted Trump supporters. It is not that they don’t exist, but merely that they were outnumbered by those who differed from their opinions. Because of their presence in a state where they were not a majority – even though many of them were constantly attempting, with flags, stickers, hats and various other merchandise purchased directly from Trump incorporated, to promote Trump to their friends, family and neighbors – they were being discarded, judged unworthy of protection.
Also lacking is any awareness of how diseases spread. Even though the bulk of the cases were centralized to New York at the time, without a sufficient effort to curtail growth the disease would quickly break out into other areas of the country. This is exactly what happened. It wasn’t simply Cuomo’s people who were going to suffer, it was everybody.
“Free markets will solve this” … has another issue which must be considered. Beyond the practical analysis, there is also the political. By framing this as a free market issue, Kushner has handed fodder to everyone who ignorantly condemns free market economics. Due to his prominent position in an administration which claims support for free market economics and has had the backing of prominent pro-market organizations. Average citizens who are not well versed in economics are going to be encouraged to view this as a dramatic failure of the free market system – a view which will be actively promoted by those who favor socialist systems. Even people who are well versed in politics will be inclined to accept the flawed premise, because Trump’s failure is so obvious and dramatic.
By invoking the notion of free markets and not allowing them to operate, Kushner, and by extension the Trump administration, have dramatically undermined the institution they were expected to strengthen. This follows in the path of the Republican Party, the American military and Wall Street, and is one more example of why they should be firmly rejected at the ballot box in early November.