“Why America doesn’t trust the CDC.”
That was the headline on this June 10 commentary written by Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and among the most trusted and admired commentators on healthcare in America. Makary questioned CDC’s move to vigorously approve Covid vaccine boosters for children between 5 and 11 despite scant scientific evidence supporting the decision. Makary was critical of the panel of supposedly independent scientific advisors the CDC relies on, which Makary referred to as a “kangaroo court.”
Makary wasn’t exaggerating about the public’s loss of trust in the CDC and other health agencies whose expertise and guidance is critical, particularly during a pandemic. A recent poll by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health revealed that only 52 percent of Americans have a great deal of trust in CDC. Other health agencies scored lower; only 37 percent said they had a lot of trust in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the Food and Drug Administration.
Without the public’s trust, CDC, FDA, and NIH can’t function. That’s not my opinion but rather that of Dr. Martin Cetron, a veteran CDC official who well before Covid warned that if the CDC ever lost the public’s trust, the agency’s ability to combat a pandemic would be undermined by an epidemic of conspiracy theories challenging the agency’s positions.
From an October 15, 2020 story posted by ProPublica headlined, “Inside the Fall of the CDC.”
Dr. Martin Cetron, the agency’s veteran director of global migration and quarantine, coined a phrase years ago for what can happen when people lose confidence in the government and denial and falsehoods spread faster than disease. He called it the “bankruptcy of trust.” He’d seen it during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia in 2014, when soldiers cordoned off the frightened and angry residents of the West Point neighborhood in Monrovia, the capital. Control of a pandemic depended not just on technical expertise, he told colleagues then, but on faith in public institutions.
Today, some CDC veterans worry that it could take a generation or longer to regain that trust.
“Most of us who saw this could be retired or dead by the time that’s fully fixed,” one CDC official said.
The authors of the ProPublica story predicted that “when the next history of the CDC is written, 2020 will emerge as perhaps the darkest chapter in its 74 years.” Predicting that 2020 would be CDC’s “darkest chapter” was the only error in their otherwise Pulitzer Prize-worthy investigative story about how the Trump administration hobbled the agency.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, a Biden appointee, drove the final nail into CDC’s coffin; Makary isn’t alone in his criticism of Walensky’s leadership and her failure to repair CDC damaged caused by the Trump administration.
Covid czar Jeffrey Zients
Jeffrey Zients, Biden’s Covid czar throughout the height of the pandemic, bears much responsibility to the reputational destruction of the FDA and CDC. Unlike other western countries like Sweden and Israel whose pandemic responses were managed by medical and infectious diseases experts, Biden tapped Zients, a former Obama aide who’s only educational qualification was an undergraduate degree in political science. As Zients was co-head of Biden’s transition team, he presumably played an influential role in Walensky’s appointment.
Zients, who in 2002 was ranked 25 on Fortune’s list of 40 richest Americans under age 40, knew healthcare from the profit squeezing side. Zients achieved his wealth running various healthcare consulting firms and taking two companies public. After leaving the Obama Administration, Zients found his way to a UK-based company where as CEO he acquired a controversial anesthesia outsourcing firm whose original business model was predicated on exploitive surprise billing. I published this profile on Zients last August.
Under Zients’ watch, the FDA lost Drs. Marion Gruber and Phil Krause, widely regarded as two of the world’s leading vaccine experts. Gruber and Krause resigned last September reportedly because of undue political pressure from the Biden Administration and Dr. Fauci to approve Pfizer vaccine boosters for all Americans 16 and over. The FDA’s advisory panel also voted not to approve the boosters, but the Biden Administration was undaunted and moved ahead regardless. Here’s a link to my profiles on Gruber and Krause.
The cratering FTC
Another agency suffering possibly suffering irreparable damage is the FTC, which is overseen by an arrogant and inexperienced thirty-three-year-old Ivy League academic named Lina Khan. The FTC long enjoyed a reputation as one of the best government agencies to work but Khan has singlehandedly destroyed that reputation in her tumultuous first year in office. A “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” list released this morning ranked the FTC No. 22.
As reported by the New York Post, veteran FTC staffers have bolted the agency since Khan took over, including Office of International Affairs director Randy Tritell, who worked at the agency for more than two decades. The Post said Tritell had taken issue with Khan’s management style; the publication said FTC insiders view Khan as a “tyrant” and her management style “abusive.”
Other high-profile figures who have left the FTC since Khan joined include the agency’s former top economist Marta Wosinska, ex-privacy and identity protection chief Maneesha Mithal, and former Bureau of Consumer Protection deputy director Daniel Kaufman.
“People with 15, 25 years of seniority are leaving,” Kaufman, who left in October after 23 years at the agency, told The Post. “That’s fairly unprecedented in the kind of number that I’m seeing.”
An internal survey showed that the percentage of staffers across the entire agency who have a “high level of respect” for the agency’s senior leaders nosedived to 49% in 2021 from 83% in 2020.
The FTC under Khan has so far failed to block any major healthcare mergers, despite a Biden mandate to do so.
Biden’s FCC Nominee
Fox News’ Charlie Gasparino recently highlighted the “slow moving train wreck” that has been Gigi Sohn’s nomination to the FCC. The far-left Georgetown professor has some pretty radical views, including that FOX News is “dangerous to our Democracy.” Say what you want about FOX News, the network’s criticisms of the legacy media and its willingness to call out errors and bias provides a valuable function.
Gasparino also reported that Sohn was a board member of an alleged nonprofit called Locast, which created local programming for people who can’t afford cable. It did this by siphoning and streaming broadcast signals from the big media companies. A federal judge ruled Locast wasn’t a nonprofit because it took in money improperly labeled as “donations.” Locast settled with the broadcasters and agreed to shut down.
It’s hardly a surprise that Sohn’s FCC nomination has been stalled, possibly forever.
Meanwhile, Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, a noted Trump critic, quietly left the Justice Department in wake of a disclosure that she was earning nearly $1 million a year from the university while serving as principal deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights.
Finally, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration remains grossly underfunded in wake of declining safety standards by the major automakers. The tech consumer site Komando has calculated that in recent weeks almost a half a million vehicles have been found to have severe defects, putting drivers and others at risk. The problems range from Ford F-150 vehicles catching fire for no apparent reason to GM SUVs whose windshield wipers don’t work. Komando’s list is by no means complete; among its omissions is Toyota’s recall of its newly launched electric vehicle because the wheels might fall off.
In China, the Communist government won’t tolerate shoddy automotive manufacturing. Tesla was forced to publicly apologize and improve its customer service because of quality control problems that also are plaguing the company in the U.S. The NHTSA doesn’t have the staff or the resolve to take on Tesla or any other automotive manufacturer.
The New York Times and other legacy media publications have turned on Biden, stressing the importance of him declaring he won’t seek a second term. Regardless, the regulatory damage Biden has caused in just 19 months of office will harm America for many years to come.
Imagine the regulatory state of America if Biden remains in office for a full term.