Reading the news this morning I was reminded yet again how out of step I am with the rest of America. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t read multiple stories that anger me and make me want to stand up at my local Peet’s Coffee and shout, “Don’t you people care about the injustice in America,” but I don’t want to divert attention from the various homeless persons parading through the store calling attention to the messages they deem important. The American public can only handle so much outrage.
Among the stories that triggered me this morning was news that Boeing is cutting 2,000 HR and finance jobs and outsourcing some of these positions to India. Boeing is America’s No. 1 corporate moocher, sponging $15.5 billion from U.S. and state taxpayers in the past two decades. Critics believe that Boeing’s previous efforts to offshore $9-an-hour engineering jobs to India and elsewhere contributed to the company’s 737 Max crisis, which resulted in two plane crashes and hundreds of deaths.
In my mind, Boeing CEO David Calhoun, a former private equity guy who reportedly drove much of the company’s cost cutting, should be rotting in jail right now. Instead, he’s sitting pretty in a corner office, pigging out on $21 million in compensation that he was paid in 2021 alone. Admittedly, that’s less than the $29 million GM CEO Mary Barra took home in 2021; GM is America’s No. 2 corporate moocher and paid virtually no taxes in 2021, the year Barra announced she would spend $1 billion expanding GM’s manufacturing capabilities in Mexico.
Reading the Boeing offshoring story prompted me to make a mental list of other things that outraged me. The unsung heroism of Marion Gruber immediately came to mind, particularly as evidence is mounting that validates her concerns about vaccine boosters that cost Gruber her job. Gruber was the FDA’s former director of the agency’s Office of Vaccines Research & Review and she and her deputy, Phil Krause, chose to resign rather than rubber stamp vaccine boosters at the behest of the Biden Administration.
Gruber and Krause are are widely regarded as two of the most respected, knowledgeable, and responsible vaccine experts in the world. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what FDA’s former acting chief scientist Luciana Borio posted on Twitter when Gruber and Krause resigned in August 2021:
Here’s what Rick Bright, former director of Biomedical Advanced Research Authority and no slouch himself, had to say about Gruber and Krause when news of their resignations were announced, as reported by the trade publication Endpoints News.
(Gruber and Krause) are the leaders for Biologic (vaccine) review in the US. They have a great team, but these two are the true leaders of CBER. A huge global loss if they both leave.
Dr. Gruber is much more than the Director. She is a global leader. Visionary mastermind behind global clinical regulatory science for flu, Ebola, Mers, Zika, Sars-cov-2, many others.
Gruber and Krause, who respectively worked at the FDA 34 and 11 years, didn’t suddenly quit their critical positions to take lucrative sweetheart jobs at Big Pharma, like legions of others who previously worked at the agency. It was widely reported that Gruber and Krause quit because they refused to let Biden Administration officials bulldoze them into approving vaccine boosters because they felt there wasn’t sufficient data to make that determination.
I’m not peddling “right wing” conspiracy theories – even the New York Times reported that Gruber and Krause quit rather than succumb to political pressure to approve boosters. Gruber and Krause knew better than look to the entrenched and pro-Biden media to articulate their concerns, so they published them in The Lancet, an internationally recognized medical journal.
Thinking about Gruber after reading the Boeing offshoring story I wondered if perhaps she had landed somewhere, and I missed the announcement. Turns out, while I was feasting on great steaks in Israel, an organization called IAVI proudly made this announcement:
IAVI is a nonprofit scientific research organization focused on developing vaccines and antibodies for HIV, tuberculosis, emerging infectious diseases (including COVID-19), and neglected diseases. The organization says its mission is to “translate scientific discoveries into affordable, globally accessible public health solutions.” IAVI is headquartered in New York City, and has regional offices in The Netherlands, Kenya, South Africa, and India.
As a nonprofit looking to develop affordable vaccines, it seems safe to assume IAVI lacks the greed of Pfizer, which after pocketing $75 billion in revenues on its Covid vaccine these past two years, raised the price “to ensure the cost is consistent with the value delivered.” It’s impossible to overstate the moral depravity of this argument, as L.A. Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik astutely noted. (Never mind the U.S. government and entrenched media handled Pfizer’s sales and marketing.)
Krause, who has an MD degree from Yale, an MBA from Florida State, and an MS in computer science from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, also appears to be using his talents to better serve the public good. He joined the board of an Australian biotech company last year and his LinkedIn profile says he’s doing other independent consulting work. Here’s to hoping that Krause is receiving some stock options that ultimately become very lucrative.
Gruber and Krause aren’t the first FDA officials to face undue outside pressure to approve products despite serious concerns. In 1960, a Canadian-born FDA examiner named Francis Kelsey withstood considerable pressure to approve the anti-nausea drug Thalidomide because she determined there was sufficient data linking the product to birth defects. Kelsey was ridiculed as a “bureaucratic nitpicker,” but she wouldn’t back down and was ultimately proved correct. Kelsey’s stubbornness averted a national U.S. tragedy, but the drug was marketed and sold in Canada, Europe, Japan, and elsewhere. It is estimated that 100,000 babies worldwide were born with defects because of the drug. More than 7,000 died.
In Kelsey’s day, presidential administrations didn’t interfere with the FDA and respected the expertise of the agency’s scientists. The Biden Administration showed no such respect. Although he insisted that wasn’t the case, it seems quite probable that former Biden Covid czar Jeffrey Zients was among those responsible for pressuring Gruber and Krause.
Zients is reportedly returning to the White House to serve as Biden’s chief of staff. I posted a critical commentary about Zients a year ago last August, which I’m embarrassed to admit was a puff piece compared to what American Prospect recently published about the guy, dismissing him as a “corporate stooge.”
Zients became a multimillionaire before he was 40 investing and managing healthcare companies. Here’s some insight from an article American Prospect published about Zients last April:
Over the span of two decades, the health care companies that Zients controlled, invested in, and helped oversee were forced to pay tens of millions of dollars to settle allegations of Medicare and Medicaid fraud. They have also been accused of surprise-billing practices and even medical malpractice. Taken together, an examination of the companies that made Zients rich paints a picture of a man who seized on medical providers as a way to capitalize on the suffering of sick Americans. In the end, it seems to have all paid off.
With Zients as Biden’s chief of staff, the Democrats have no credibility claiming any interest or desire to reform healthcare in America.
American Prospect also shares my anger and disdain for private equity. I’d love to meet some of the publication’s staffers one morning for a coffee at Peet’s so I wouldn’t feel so alone in the world.