At FDA, a 4-Day Thanksgiving Break

December 9, 2020 at 8:47 am

Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, observes that Britain approved a Covid-19 vaccine faster than the U.S. did: "FDA insiders say the agency and its approximately 17,000 employees were dark for the four-day Thanksgiving holiday, including those working on the vaccine approval. It's time the FDA adopts a sense of urgency. We've had Operation Warp Speed in developing vaccines but Operation Turtle Speed in reviewing the results."

He also notes how the timing related to the election: "The FDA career staff also delayed the vaccine by adding an unprecedented requirement to slow down Phase III trials. Four weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election, the FDA increased the median follow-up period requirement for vaccine patients, ensuring that it would be impossible for the vaccine to be approved before the election. The move was a departure from a decades-old standard operating procedure at the agency and the process used to authorize convalescent plasma just months ago."

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Biden: "America First"

December 3, 2020 at 8:26 am

Joe Biden gives an interview to Tom Friedman and in the course of it utters this phrase: "I want to make sure we're going to fight like hell by investing in America first."

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Is Taking Credit Cards Online Racist?

December 1, 2020 at 8:23 am

From a New York Times news article reporting on the impending departure of Michael Capiraso, the chief executive of the New York Road Runners, which puts on the New York Marathon, "amid complaints from current and former employees who questioned the organization's commitment to diversity, social justice and gender equality":

Janet Cupo, 65, worked for 30 years registering people for races before leaving the Road Runners in 2015. She said Capiraso's move to automate registration online, where credit cards are required, served to exclude low-income runners, some of whom were minorities. When she suggested a change in the policy, she said, her ideas were rejected.

Wow. If you are a low-income or minority reader of FutureOfCapitalism who feels excluded by our acceptance of credit cards for payment, please know that we also accept Bitcoin, gold bars, specie, and even personal checks.

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Tesla Joining the S and P 500 Is an Immigrant Success Story

November 25, 2020 at 2:22 pm

The news that Tesla is joining the S&P 500 Index of large U.S. stocks points to the role that Elon Musk and other immigrants play in strengthening the American economy, I write in my column this week. Please check out the full column at Reason ("Tesla Making the S&P 500 Is Another Immigrant Success Story"), Newsmax ("Tesla in the S&P Tells Pro-Immigrant Story"), the New York Sun ("Biden's Job One: Join Congress To Fix Immigration"), and the New Boston Post ("Tesla in the S&P Tells a Pro-Immigrant Story.")

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On To Georgia

November 23, 2020 at 8:11 am

The Senate runoffs in Georgia and the recent presidential election were the topic of my most recent column. Please check out the full column at the New Boston Post ("Unsatisfying Election May End With Victory in Georgia"), New York Sun ("Unsatisfying Election Could Boomerang on Both Sides"), and Newsmax ("Unsatisfying Election May End With Victory in Georgia.")

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God Bless Bill Gates

November 23, 2020 at 8:06 am

Bill Gates, as punishment for spending tens of billions of dollars on fighting disease and improving health in the developing world, gets attacked from the left in a long front-page article in the New York Times. The positive side of that is that it gives Gates a platform to make an excellent point that is worth repeating:

"This capitalism thing — there actually are some domains that actually works in," Mr. Gates said. "North Korea doesn't have that many vaccines, as far as we can tell."

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Nevertheless He Persisted

November 17, 2020 at 8:48 am

Joe Biden's political obituary was being written as recently as February on the New York Times front page. His endurance is a character lesson that transcends politics, I write in a recent column. Please check out the full column at the New Boston Post ("Nevertheless He Persisted"), the New York Sun ("Biden's Great Secret: He Persisted"), and Newsmax ("Biden Ignored the Negative Press and Persisted.")

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Biden's Lobbyists

November 17, 2020 at 8:42 am

Joe Biden "named at least 40 current and former registered lobbyists to his transition team," the Wall Street Journal reports. Restore the soul of America, indeed. More like restore the soles of the loafers at Gucci gulch.

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A U.S.-EU Free Trade Agreement?

November 16, 2020 at 7:29 pm

NPR's Marketplace program has a story speculating about Biden's priorities, including the possibility that he would strike a U.S.-European Union free trade agreement, or one with the United Kingdom:

"I think it's very likely that a U.S.-EU agreement will precede a U.K.-U.S. agreement," said Allyson Stewart-Allen, CEO of International Marketing Partners and author of a new book, "Working With Americans."

Stewart-Allen argues that Biden wants to repair what he sees as the damage done to U.S.-EU relations over the past four years. And economically it makes far more sense to pursue a deal with the 27-nation bloc before one with Britain.

Well that sure is interesting. I was paying close attention to Biden during the presidential campaign and didn't hear a peep from him about a free trade deal with the E.U., though I did hear a lot from him about his plan to "buy American" and "Bring Back Critical Supply Chains to America so we aren't dependent on China or any other country for the production of critical goods in a crisis."

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Pfizer CEO Stock Selling

November 12, 2020 at 10:06 am

A postscript is needed to our post from the other day about the decision by Pfizer to change its previously filed plan about the analysis of data from its Covid-19 vaccine trial. It turns out that the Pfizer CEO, Albert Bourla, sold $5.6 million of company stock on November 9, the day the good vaccine news was announced. The sale took place under a plan adopted August 19.

An SEC Form 4 shows Bourla sold 132,508 shares at a price of $41.94 on November 9, 2020. That's $5,557,385.52. The same form shows that after the transaction, he directly or indirectly still owned 81,812 shares, or about $3.1 million at current prices.

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The New York Times and Voter Fraud

November 11, 2020 at 3:55 pm

Here is a headline over a news article on the New York Times website: "The Times Called Officials in Every State: No Evidence of Voter Fraud." Here is the subheadline: "The president and his allies have baselessly claimed that rampant voter fraud stole victory from him. Officials contacted by The Times said that there were no irregularities that affected the outcome."

The article goes on: "top election officials across the country said in interviews and statements that the process had been a remarkable success."

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Pfizer Vaccine Timeline

November 10, 2020 at 8:25 am

Stat News, a medical-business-technology website, has an important report laying out in detail how Pfizer adjusted its vaccine Phase III trial plan midstream, effectively delaying it until after the election by "leaving samples in storage" until the day after the election:

The first analysis was to occur after 32 volunteers — both those who received the vaccine and those on placebo — had contracted Covid-19. If fewer than six volunteers in the group who received the vaccine had developed Covid-19, the companies would make an announcement that the vaccine appeared to be effective. The study would continue until at least 164 cases of Covid-19 — individuals with at least one symptom and a positive test result — had been reported.

That study design, as well as those of other drug makers, came under fire from experts who worried that, even if it was statistically valid, these interim analyses would not provide enough data when a vaccine could be given to billions of people.

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SALT in the Electoral Votes

November 8, 2020 at 4:48 pm

In looking at how President Trump managed to win in Texas and Florida but apparently not in some of the other swing states, it's worth thinking about the decision, as part of the Trump tax cuts, to cap the deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000 a filing. Neither Texas nor Florida have a state income tax, and property values and taxes are low enough that relatively few people experienced the capping of the state and local tax deduction as a painful tax increase. In other states where there are state income taxes, relatively prosperous people felt like Trump was raising their taxes, or at least taking away one of their favorite deductions. I totally get the incentives and simplification and even progressivity case ("The SALT tax deduction is a handout for the rich. It should be eliminated not expanded," a Brookings analysis insists) for limiting this deduction, and I also realize the revenue it generated helped make possible other tax moves, such as raising the standard deduction or cutting corporate rates. But as a political matter, in places such as the high-property tax suburbs of Philadelphia, suburban Atlanta, Arizona—Biden's promise to un-cap this deduction against Trump's imposition of the cap may have helped reduce what is usually a Republican advantage on the tax issue. In retrospect, perhaps Trump and congressional Republicans loaded too much of their tax cuts onto the corporate rate side of things and not enough on the individual side of things. The corporate lobbyists are good at getting in there when the Finance Committee or Ways and Means are marking up or negotiating these bills. But the corporations don't vote. I understand the corporate tax cuts flow through to individual shareholders. But for Republicans, there are political risks in any tax increase, even limiting a deduction as part of an overall tax-cutting reform.

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The Electoral Clause, The Two-White-Male Ticket, and Other Thoughts

November 8, 2020 at 12:24 pm

This election will take a while to process, and it may not even be until after we get the results of Georgia Senate runoff elections before we understand the full story of what the voters are saying. A few more thoughts are worth passing along, though:

•The Constitution, in Article II, dictates the method of choosing a president: "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress." In other words, it's not up to the Associated Press, or to President Trump, or to Nate Silver, or the Fox News Channel decision desk, or the one at ABC News, or even the courts, to name the president. It's up to the states, and up to the electors they choose by the manners directed by their legislatures themselves. The Constitution goes on to say that "The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States."

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Understanding President Biden

November 8, 2020 at 12:02 pm

A few highlights from our archives may provide useful context:

The Anti-Obama and the Anti-Hillary (August 5, 2015)

Biden the Constitutionalist (September 3, 2020)

Biden Sounds Trump-Like (June 3, 2020)

Trump Risks "Exit Stage Left" (September 14, 2020)

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