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Here is why Jared Kushner is the point man for private profiteering during the coronavirus response

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White House senior advisor Jared Kushner holding a jersey printed with his name. Photo via the Instagram account of his wife, Ivanka Trump.

Hot off of singlehandedly ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, America’s Son-In-Law-In-Chief has put himself in charge of handling half of the White House response to the coronavirus crisis.

Didn’t you know that? No? Oh, well, it seems the White House just decided that, ah, the people didn’t need to hear about this. Oh, and FYI, most of his team are from the private sector. That’s not a problem, Congressional Democrats, is it?

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Thanks to some thorough reporting by Politico, we now know that Jared Kushner is running a shadow COVID-19 response team alongside the official task force led by Mike Pence. Pence once characterized his group as an “all-of-government response,” but Kushner’s team is an “all-of-private-sector response” full of private equity executives and health care profiteers. That “all-of-private-sector” line isn’t me being snide: it’s how some of the anonymous White House officials in the report characterized their own colleagues.

Of course, in the Trump era, the difference between the government and the private sector is mostly semantic. As the Revolving Door Project has been pointing out since February, Trump’s health officials are all ex-Pharma and insurance profiteers. That’s a key reason the response has been so bad: the people in charge have perverse incentives and don’t believe in government. Nor are they all that different than whom one might expect under a Marco Rubio or Chris Christie administration: shoring up CEO’s wallets while leaving the poor and helpless to suffer is just how the Republican party works in 2020.

And there are other concerns. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has already sent a letter about the task force members using their private, personal email accounts for government business. That’s a violation of the Presidential Records Act and Federal Advisory Committee Act, as the President who ran on “but her emails” ought to know.

Indeed, word from inside the White House is troubling; insiders told Politico that “plenty of private companies have been trying to profiteer and fence their wares.” One even said, “I don’t know how our government operates anymore.” Now, there’s a long and petty history of Trump HHS appointees gossiping with Politico reporters about their colleagues. Before the coronavirus, it had gotten so bad that one official said (to Politico, of course) that the department was like “a fucking soap opera.” But without investigations and oversight, we won’t know if this is just jilted aides trampling the new dogs to claw back some power, or if Kushner’s clique really is something to worry about.

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If we only had an opposition party which could do its constitutional duty of overseeing the executive branch. If only that opposition party controlled half of the legislature, largely thanks to promises to stand up to the president. If only that opposition party hadn’t just given the house away on oversight of the largest bailout bill in the nation’s history.

If only, with stakes of literal life or death, the Democratic party could actually do as it did during World War II: conduct deep investigations into government waste and profiteering to hold the bureaucracy accountable. Pundits are right to compare the coronavirus to the Second World War in terms of the scale of government response needed; but not only has the response thus far lacked the required scale or any equitability, it hasn’t had any accountability measures sufficient for such a project. That’s bad enough, but it’s doubly so when the key reason we’ve lacked such accountability is that leaders in the party opposed to the most corrupt president in American history tell reporters they are afraid of looking too aggressive. Democrats, you are an opposition party. Being aggressive is your job.

Actually, as the founders of America envisioned Congress, the same adversarial posture is also demanded of Republicans. The Truman Commission in World War II was bipartisan.

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Put another way, there is absolutely no reason why we should be learning from Politico that the president’s son-in-law has brought in a bunch of private sector buddies to run the crisis response. We ought to be learning this from subpoenas, witness testimony, and consistent investigatory measures in Congress. The coronavirus has brought out the worst symptoms yet in the Democratic spinelessness epidemic—and we might not know the full cost till the graft is long since done.

This article was produced in partnership by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

 

 

 

 

 


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