Remember Howard Dean, the progressive champion who campaigned on equitable health care and other desperately needed policies?
He's been replaced by Howard Dean, the not-a-lobbyist who won't tell anyone what he does for the giant lobbying firm Dentons.
The old Howard Dean supported single-payer healthcare. The new Dean opposes it.
But then, that new Dean works for Dentons, the largest law firm in the world, alongside Newt Gingrich, as a "senior advisor" to the firm's lobbying arm.
Dentons lobbies for pretty unsavory characters, including Big Health. Dentons owes its world-beating scale to a 2015 merger with the massive Chinese law-firm Dacheng, which gave it access to the vast fortunes spent by Chinese state-owned industries to lobby the US government.
Last month, the new Howard Dean published a remarkable op-ed in Barron's, opposing any measure to permit the world's poorest countries to manufacture generic versions of the covid vaccines they desperately need.
The arguments Dean fields for this are tired, racist, and manifestly untrue arguments, straight out of Big Pharma's playbook:
I. Poor countries can't make vaccines (reality: poor countries are already among the world's largest pharmaceutical manufacturers) and;
II. No one will invest in pharma if poor people don't have to pay extortionate royalties in exchange for their lives (reality: pharma doesn't invest in pharma! The pharmaceutical industry is entirely and totally dependent on public R&D spending).
As Lee Fang writes in The Intercept, there's an explanation for this surprising change of heart: "[Dean] reversed his positions on virtually every major progressive health policy issue since moving to work in the world of corporate influence peddling."
Dean insists he's not a lobbyist, but he sure acts like one, trading on his reputation as a "liberal lion" to sell policies to benefit pharma at the expense of the public - like his work with BIO to secure exclusivity for breast-cancer treatments.
This would all be appalling on its own terms - a medical doctor who convinced progressives (including me) to volunteer for his presidential bid, selling out to corporate health-care profiteers, but when it comes to vaccines, this goes beyond selling out. It's genocidal.
As things stand, 85 of the poorest countries will not have widespread vaccine access until 2023.
That's not just a death sentence for the Global South - it's also a chance for the new mutant strains to develop and endanger the whole human race.
The racist lie that brown people can't manufacture their own vaccines is being peddled to maximize profits for some of the cruellest, most profitable, most publicly subsidized companies on Earth - and it's not merely unfair, it's an existential threat to human civilization.
As Steven W Thrasher writes in Scientific American, the entire vaccine passport debate is a bullshit distraction from the real issue: getting vaccines to every person who can safely take them, in every country on Earth.
As Thrasher writes, today, borders are being used to decide who can get a vaccine. Tomorrow, vaccine passports would punish those unvaccinated people by denying them the right to cross borders. Vaccine equity is the only just vaccine passport.
"A vaccine passport conflates the notions of biology, nationalism and surveillance; it builds on and passively accepts the ethics of passport privilege in general."
Thrasher cites "Covid-19 vaccine passports will harm sustainable development," in The BMJ, adding, "The idea that one 'needs' to go on vacation or attend an academic conference abroad at this point in the pandemic is morally unjustifiable. This is especially true if you are traveling to or from a place where you know others do not have access to vaccines—and you want a special piece of paper proving that you do, which would allow you to cross the border."
This is the kind of thing you'd expect Dr Howard Dean, the progressive lion who championed single-payer and curbs on drug prices, to write. But he's not. Instead, he's peddling racism and profiteering to serve his corporate paymasters.
RIP, Dr Dean. You sold your legacy - and our future - for a mess of potage.
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