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Is The American Work Ethic Dying?; Businesses, States Scramble To Evaluate New Mask Rules After CDC Guides That Fully Vaccinated Individuals No Longer Need To Wear Masks; Hackers Get Paid Ransom After Shutting Down Oil Pipeline; Should Colonial Pipeline Have Paid The Hackers?; Thanking Donald Trump? Aired 9-10a ET
Aired May 15, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Voice over): "A RADICAL REBELLION: THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE GOP," tomorrow at 8:00.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOVERBOY, WORKING FOR THE WEEKEND: Everybody's working for the weekend. Everybody wants a new romance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Is everybody still working for the weekend? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Here's a sign of aging. You start telling stories about all the menial jobs you held when you were a teenager. For me, those tales include working as an ice cream parlor dishwasher, McDonald's maintenance man, flower delivery person and painter of street address numbers on curbs and often such a list is followed by a derisive comment about today's youth and/or the country's work ethic.
Only now, this perennial right of griping has gained new resonance. Fierce debate has overtaken the country as to whether America's work ethic is dying. Daniel Henninger asked such a question in his Thursday column for "The Wall Street Journal." His inquiry came on the heels of a recent report that showed a gain of only 266,000 jobs last month and an uptick in the unemployment rate to 6.1 percent.
Here's another sign of the times. Near me, a Wawa advertising an $800 signing bonus for new hires who are vaccinated. Many small business owners, they claim they can't find employees and they point to competition they face from the government's offer of enhanced unemployment benefits, which had been $600 per week and are now $300 per week on top of normal state unemployment benefits which the Labor Department says average $318.
Henninger wrote, quiote, "It's now clear that Mr. Biden and the left expect these outlays effectively to raise the minimum wage by forcing employers to compete with Uncle Sam's money." Still, it's impossible not to be struck by how many employers say that former and prospective employees, after a year of forced unemployment, simply will not work. Several state governors agree. So far, 16 GOP-led states have announced plans to cut benefits. They include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming. Georgia just joined that list to end its participation in the federal government's COVID-19 unemployment insurance program effective June 26th.
That means that according to analysis done by "The Washington Post," 557,000 unemployed in these states will see their weekly benefits diminish by $300. A second group of 863,000 who just obtained aid for the first time under a second stimulus program will lose all of their benefits. A final group of about 513,000 workers who collect traditional unemployment benefits each week similarly may have their assistance reduced to zero.
Now, not everybody thinks the unemployment rate is attributable to employers who are struggling to hire because the government is paying people to stay home.
The President has said that the enhanced benefits have made no measurable impact on the worker shortage. This week, he reinforced that individuals receiving benefits who are offered a suitable job are obligated to take it and called upon the Department of Labor to reinstate requirements that were eased last year requiring recipients to search for work.
Thirty-five states have either already reinstated requirements or have announced a date to do so that requires anybody receiving unemployment benefits provide proof they're searching for work. Some see the recent jobs picture as an overdue reckoning for low wages, a real-world response to the failure of Congress to pass a $15 federal minimum wage.
This response from Twitter was one of many that I've received that made this point. "Work ethic isn't dying. People are wising up to the fact that corporate America would rather pay you so little that you have to be on food stamps rather than a living wage. If you make more per week with unemployment insurance and $300 supplemental, something's wrong."
Still others point to pandemic-related factors such as a lack of child care exacerbated by closed schools and concerns over safety in the workplace. So is the American work ethic dying or are the wages of work being reimagined?
Joining me now to discuss is Scott Galloway. He's a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business. He's a serial entrepreneur who founded nine companies and author of multiple books, the latest being "Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity." Professor Galloway, what's your answer? Is the American work ethic dying?
SCOTT GALLOWAY, PROFESSOR, NYU STERN/TECH ENTREPRENEUR: I don't believe so, Michael. I think Mr. Henninger's thesis that extending and expanding unemployment benefits would logically dampen the desire to go back to work, but the issue is there's no evidence that supports that.
[09:05:07] The study from the Chicago Fed actually reflected that people who were receiving unemployment benefits, that the intensity of their job search was greater than when their benefits ran out. I think that -- I mean, the real -- the interesting thing in the data here, Michael, is if you look at the quarter of the -- a quarter -- a quarter of a million jobs added, all those jobs were added for men.
There was actually net job loss for women and I think that what that tells us is that when 50 percent of our schools are closed down, that remote learning is Latin for mom is now responsible for teaching the kids.
And then on the other side of the equation, on the other side of this trade, imagine being a worker in one of these jobs for the last 12 months. You not only have to deal with your own mask, you have to deal with other people refusing to mask, you deal with a more dangerous workplace.
So in sum, since 2009, the Nasdaq has quadrupled, CEO pay has gone from 50 times the average worker's earnings to 300 and the minimum wage has exploded from $7.25 to $7.25. It's not that people aren't seeking work. It's that work no longer works for a lot of people, especially women.
SMERCONISH: So he also said something that I wanted to put up on the screen and run past you, Professor Galloway, because I consider you to be such a tech savvy guy. "Web-based tech companies have seen for years that the line between work and play is fading.
Guys sitting at home used Reddit and Robinhood to play the stock market over GameStop, first as a diversion, then as a substitute for work. On 'Saturday Night Live' last weekend, Elon Musk said Dogecoin, originally conceived as a joke, was a hustle. Investors are playing with it anyway."
More of this idea that the youth today are different. You teach them, they listen to your podcast. How do you respond?
GALLOWAY: I think there is a danger, especially among young men, that they're spending too much time day trading. Eighty to 95 percent of day traders lose money, but, again, I don't think -- I think that, at the end of the day, if you want more workers into the workforce, you got to pay them more and when you talk about technology, if you make over $100,00 a year, there's a 60 percent chance you can work from home. If you make less than $40,000 a year, only 10 percent are able to work from home.
So technology has been a great liberator, but it's not -- it's not the excuse here. You mentioned these governors cancelling unemployment insurance. That isn't going to result in more people returning to work. That's going to result in more people living in their cars, but to his point, I do think there is a danger with young people spending way too much time on their phones, not attaching to work, not attaching to relationships. I think that is a huge issue for us. SMERCONISH: Final question for you. The Wawa sign, the $800 signing bonus. When the enhanced unemployment benefits end, will those jobs necessarily be filled?
GALLOWAY: Well, the interesting data is going to be when schools -- when kids are back in school and there's less pressure at home. I think that'll be the real litmus test for whether or not we're in -- we're in fact seeing a dampening or a changing in the American work ethic, but, again, at the end of the day, you know, if you want more people to come to work, you got to raise wages and you got to make the trade better, you got to make work better for people.
We have -- corporate profits are at an all-time high and wages have been totally stagnant. In the tension between capital and labor, capital has been kicking the crap out of labor for the last 30 years. It is time -- if you want people to work, we need to restore more dignity to work.
SMERCONISH: Professor Galloway, thanks as always.
GALLOWAY: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Now I want to bring in former Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton, Director of the National Economic Council for the Obama administration, President Emeritus of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers. Professor Summers, to you, is the American work ethic dying?
LAWRENCE SUMMERS, FORMER U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY/PRESIDENT EMERITUS, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I don't think it -- I don't think the American work ethic's dying. I think the American people are prepared to compete anybody else. I think we are making a mistake in the generosity of the benefits that we're providing over this period that is creating needless labor shortages and contributing to inflation pressure.
Over time, we should be raising the minimum wage, we should be strengthening unions, we should be providing workers with stronger benefits, but, no, I think unemployment insurance that's designed so you get more being out of work than you did when you were in work, I think that's a pretty obvious unforced error. I think we're better off correcting it sooner rather than later. I think the administration should not be discouraging states that want to make that correction earlier.
This isn't some broad philosophical issue. This is a straightforward matter of doing things in sensible ways and paying people more after they get laid off then they were getting paid is just not a good idea. Buyer insurance is a terrific idea, but you shouldn't pay people more if their house burns down than they could have sold their house for and this is the equivalent of that. So no major philosophy, just a matter of being practical and sensible and Congress didn't quite do it this time. SMERCONISH: Professor Summers, you said this week that overheating, not excess slack, poses risk to the economy. Does that mean that the $1.9 trillion COVID relief was too much?
SUMMERS: Yes. In retrospect, it -- in retrospect, it surely was too much, Michael. We're looking at shortages, we're looking at price increases all over the place. Peoples' incomes were down by about $20 billion a month, perhaps $30 billion a month and we're giving them over a $100 billion a month. So with all that spending, it kind of figures that the bathtub would overflow and that we'd get excessive price pressure.
People hope that it'll prove to be temporary. They might be right. It wouldn't be my best guess. I think we've got a potentially building inflation problem. Look, for example, at what's happening in housing where house prices are up 15 percent from where they were a year ago, but nothing much is figuring into the price index. That will come.
People talk about special factors, but nobody remarks on the fact that medical care inflation was scored at zero last month and that's not something that's going to persist. So I think we've got a coming inflation problem and if policymakers were aware of it rather than focused on the last war, which was the kind of economic slack we had last year, I think we'd get to a better place over time.
SMERCONISH: OK. Final question then. If the $1.9 trillion was too much through the rearview mirror, what does that say about the $4 trillion contemplated for so-called infrastructure? Recognizing, by the way, that critics say it's a lot more than infrastructure.
SUMMERS: I think it says that we've got to invest in our country. You look at the quality of our roads in many cases, you look at the need for green investment, but it can't all be money that's spent in the next year or two. I think the administration recognizes that this is a long-run vision for growing the country. I think the administration recognizes that this is necessary investment and they've proposed to pay for it with tax increases.
I'm actually more worried that the opposition will stop all the tax increases that are necessary to pay for this and we'll either under invest or overheat. That's probably the thing that I'm most worried about. I mean, to take the most obvious of the things, we've cut the IRS in ways that have caused the richest people in our country to be audited at less than half the rate they were audited at a decade ago and that's led to much more tax avoidance, evasion and even tax cheating.
So yes, I would change the bill in many ways, but I think the broad impulse to invest in America and to pay for -- and to have the people who pay for it be the people who benefit most from it, be the people who pay the most for it and do that by enforcing the tax law we have, those are valid impulses that I support. So I hope we're going to get to a good place at the end of this legislation.
I wish we could move beyond all the ideology, the ideology of the left that says no matter how much money you give people, it's not going to affect their incentive to work, the ideology of the right that tries to protect every wealthy person from having to give up a share of their income and be in the best American tradition, which is pragmatic and practical.
SMERCONISH: Yes. Stuck in the middle with you. Thank you, Professor. I really appreciate it.
SUMMERS: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. I think from the world of Twitter, "Dying? It's dead. Too many government handouts and welfare have become a career choice," says Mr. Roscoe.
Mr. Roscoe, some believe that. You know the flip side is to say, hey, got to pay people more money and that if all of these retail establishments that have signs in the window were paying a fairer wage, they wouldn't have to put those signs in the window. I'll tell you when we'll find out. We'll find out when the enhanced unemployment benefits, close to Labor Day, end and whether all those jobs are then filled. Jury's out as to whether that takes place.
Up ahead, the CDC says it's OK for fully vaccinated people to remove their masks in most situations. Great news, right? If only it were so simple. I'll speak to "New York Times" columnist and author Andrew Ross Sorkin. He's here to discuss why the new guidance is so tricky for businesses and consumers.
Plus, America says it doesn't negotiate with terrorists, but in some cases, American businesses do pay ransom to hackers. It's behind the gas shortage that's gripping the Eastern Seaboard right now. Do these ransom payments just encourage more hacks?
And who exactly deserves the credit for the success of COVID-19 vaccines? One former president raising his hand. Maybe we should hear him out. I want to know what you think. Here is this week's survey question at Smerconish.com. It's a mouthful, but it's worthwhile. Will enabling the unverifiable unvaccinated to go maskless spread more COVID?
SMERCONISH: The CDC's surprise announcement that fully vaccinated people can ditch the mask in most situations was met with some relief, but it was also followed by confusion. The CDC's recommendation is just that, a recommendation, meaning that localities, states and businesses can do whatever they want.
At least 19 states lifted mask mandates for vaccinated people after the new CDC guidelines. Others, including New York, said they'll study the guidance before deciding whether to adopt it. It also puts businesses in a tricky spot.
As "New York Times" columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin outlined in "DealBook," Trader Joe's, Walmart, Costco and now Starbucks have said fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear a mask while shopping, but Home Depot, the Gap, Target, Walgreens, CVS and Macy's are among the chains that will continue to require masks in store as they review the guidance.
Unions representing grocery store workers and retail workers said that stores should continue requiring customers to wear masks because it might impact essential workers who face exposure to unvaccinated people who refuse to wear masks. Absent more CDC guidance, maybe some of these businesses could follow the lead of a famous band.
This is interesting. If you want to be in the general admission pit for the upcoming Dead & Company tour, you have to show proof of COVID- 19 vaccination. They know better than anyone what a long strange trip it has been.
Joining me now to make sense of all of this, Andrew Ross Sorkin. He's the co-anchor of "Squawk Box," "CNBC"'s signature morning program, the author of "Too Big to Fail: How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System-and Themselves." You may recall that the book was adapted as an "HBO" film which he co-produced and as if that's not enough, he is the co-creator of that fabulous drama series "Billions" on "Showtime."
Andrew, so great to have you back. Will more businesses ...
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It's great to be here.
SMERCONISH: ... go the way -- will more businesses go the way of the Grateful Dead or Dead & Company?
SORKIN: I think it's complicated. I think that what's taken place in the last 72 hours is both great news in so many ways, but also complicated news for businesses that now are being asked effectively to police their own employees and their own customers, all of whom are now listening to this guidance and wanting to make their own decisions and then the question is what is the right decision?
It's one thing to have fully vaccinated people in one place. It's another when you start to mix and it's quite another, and I think there's a possibility of this, where there are going to be people who've been unwilling to get vaccinated and unwilling to mask that may start going into some of these stores, being patrons of some of these establishments without the vaccination or the mask and then the question is what does that do?
And of course, we still have the issue of children which is yet to be resolved. So I think that this unfortunately makes it harder, not easier for a business and in many ways I think they would like to take their cues from the government, but now we have state governments on one side, municipalities on one side, the CDC perhaps on another.
And there's also the issue not just -- I would make this one point. There's a behavioral science issue in here beyond just the science itself which is one of the reasons, I think, that the CDC is moving the way they are is they're trying to create incentives, motivations for more people to get vaccinated, which makes a lot of sense, but the transition can be complicated.
SMERCONISH: OK. But there was a different way to go to provide that incentive. This is what -- I'll put it on the screen. This is what Dr. Leana Wen wrote for "The Washington Post," "The CDC has gone from one extreme to another, from over-caution to throwing caution to the wind. Its new guidance could have been exactly what we needed to encourage vaccination, but it skipped a key step.
It should be revised to say that fully vaccinated people should have no restrictions on their public activities if vaccination status can be verified. That means that stores ...
SMERCONISH: ... theaters and restaurants can be at full capacity without masks if they check vaccination status." In other words, the Dead & Company model, but I don't think any business ...
SMERCONISH: ... wants to be in the business of policing their customers.
SORKIN: I think there's two issues. One is no business wants to be in the policing business and the second issue is that we never really created a national effort to create vaccination cards, if you will, that are verifiable. So certain states have different electronic systems and others and how those integrate or not. By the way, now we're getting into issues around national identification and the like when you start to think about those things.
And so there are some people who would argue the civil liberties on one end, there's another group that will argue, you know, the health issues on the other and so we're sort of in this very, very sticky place, but I absolutely agree with you and the thing that I'd like to see and that I've been talking a lot about is why businesses, you know, if they want to get out of the middle, the easiest thing they can do is actually mandate the vaccine themselves for the purpose of their employees.
You know, all these businesses talk about how they're trying to make society better, their role in society. You've heard that over and over again over the past couple of years and it's still -- I can't get over it, why they haven't taken the next step to say, you know what, for our employees -- big companies, Walmart, Amazon. I mean, think about the benefit to society if all of those people were vaccinated. State governments could also do this and I know there's legal questions about this, but not necessarily.
I mean, regular -- my kids can't go to school without being vaccinated. Universities are ...
SORKIN: ... choosing this path.
SMERCONISH: Yes. And I think the answer is -- you would know better because your finger's on the pulse of business large and small. I think they're afraid that if they did what you just described ...
SMERCONISH: ... they'd have folks with Gadsden flags out in the parking lot protesting.
SORKIN: I think they're worried about two things. I think they're worried about the protests on one side and I think they're worried that there still will be liability, legal liability, if something goes wrong. If somebody takes the -- takes the vaccine because they've been mandated, is the company going to be held liable if there's any type of health problem?
And of course, on the whole, the, you know, the vaccine has been, you know, quite extraordinary, but of course there have been instances, tragic incidences it appears, but in a very tiny slice and so how does a business think about that? Because even if they don't have liability, they will be sued.
SMERCONISH: Andrew, thanks for coming back. I really appreciate it.
SORKIN: It's great to see you. Thank you for having me.
SMERCONISH: Thank you. Let's see what you're -- let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook, oh, and even YouTube pages. "CDC should have announced changes in a week to work out the details and address the questions."
Look, I like Dr. Wen's -- I've discussed it with her here. I like her solution to this. It could have been an added incentive. It just sounds so damn funny, if more businesses had taken a page from the Dead. You want to come into the pit, great. Where's your card?
Hey, you want me to set people's hair on fire with another suggestion that I just thought of while I was speaking to Andrew Ross Sorkin? Why don't we solve two problems at once? You know all the hullabaloo about voter identification? I've got an idea. Your voter ID, it's your vax card. Yes. Show up with your vax card and then you can vote.
I want to remind you to go to my website at Smerconish.com and answer this week's survey question. Will enabling the unverifiable unvaccinated to go maskless spread more COVID?
Up ahead, "Just a mention, please." That was former President Trump's response when President Biden announced the vaccinated can now take off their masks in many situations. Is he wrong to ask and might doing so save lives?
Plus, those along the East Coast are suffering from gas shortages thanks to the cyber hack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline. It was only fixed by paying a ransom to the criminals who'd asked for $5 million, but does paying them off only propagate the dark web's paralysis of America? Even small businesses, as described by this caller to my "SiriusXM" radio program.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN FROM AUSTIN, SHARED HIS HACKING EXPERIENCE AT HIS LAW FIRM: Oh, you have no idea, Michael. Small law firm, six partners, general practice, no PR, no nothing, just doing our normal real estate contract work. Three years ago, one of our lawyers clicked a link.
And $25,000 later, we got all our stuff back. You click on a link, you're dead. It's just, it's that easy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: We now know how the 5,500-mile Colonial gas pipeline ended the cyber hack that shut it down for six days by paying a ransom to the hackers who reportedly demanded a whopping $5 million. Doesn't that just encourage more such hacks to which our entire nation is all too vulnerable?
By the time the pipeline went back into service, there were gas lines and shortages all over the Eastern Seaboard. Among the hardest hit as of noon on Friday according to Web site Gas Buddy, 88 percent of stations in Washington, D.C. had no gas along with 65 percent in North Carolina, 48 percent in South Carolina, 47 percent in Georgia, 45 percent in Virginia.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told "NEW DAY" that such disruptions are not going away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, ENERGY SECRETARY: This is not the end of these ransomware attacks. Nobody is immune from it. My 86-year-old mother got a cyberattack two weeks ago. It is happening to everybody, whether it is government, whether it's infrastructure, whether it's the private sector.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So why do the payouts continue? Joining me now to discuss is Richard Clarke, former National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism under both Presidents Bush and Clinton. He co- authored with Rob Knake the recent "New York Daily News" piece "Stop paying hackers' ransomware: The Colonial Pipeline, DarkSide and the Biden administration." They also co-authored the book "The Fifth Domain Defending Our Country, Our Companies, and Ourselves in the Age of Cyber Threats."
I bet you feel conflicted insofar as you don't want to see this happen but, Mr. Clarke, I've been reading your books fiction and non for years and this is exactly what you said would happen.
RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER NATIONAL COORDINATOR FOR SECURITY AND COUNTER- TERRORISM: Well, Michael, I hate to be right when something like this occurs, but a lot of us have been warning that this would happen, and worst would happen if we continue to pay the ransoms. And we pay the ransoms for two reasons. One is faster and quicker to get your network back up. And two, our insurance companies kind of tell us to.
For the insurance companies it's also cheaper to pay the ransom than it is to reconstruct the network. So, the dirty little secret is the insurance industry is funding the ransomware.
SMERCONISH: But somebody is going to have to really take a hit until we sort of buck up, right, and let the bad guys know you'll no longer be paid.
CLARKE: Well, I think the Biden administration could take three steps right now. One, by executive order, they can make it illegal to pay the ransom. There is a way to do that under the International Economic Powers Act.
Two, create a task force to go in so that when a hospital is hit, something that has to come back up quickly, there is a public/private task force that moves in and helps them get back up quickly. And, number three, tell U.S. Cyber Command to find these guys and fry them, fry their computers, fry their networks.
All of that is easy to do. It takes one decision by the president.
SMERCONISH: OK. I'm surprised there is not a fourth step which is to get Putin on the phone and read him the Riot Act. Could he stop this if he wanted to?
CLARKE: Of course, he could. And I think something like that may have actually happened. The group that did this has disappeared from the Web. Other groups are beginning to disappear.
I think behind the scenes, the Biden administration really let the Russians know that either you take care of this or we will. Now, we will find out if that -- if I'm right, but I think I am. I think there was diplomatic activity and intelligence and law enforcement activity saying to the Russians, you got to clean this up. This is an overreach, knocking out a pipeline like this is a step too far.
SMERCONISH: One final issue. I think it's important for people to know. I deliberately played the Secretary Granholm audio -- video because of the reference to her 86-year-old mother. On my radio program when discussing this subject with Rob Knake, I was then overwhelmed with phone calls from people of all strata of life saying, me too, my business or me individually. In other words, it's not just the stuff of a 5,500-mile pipeline.
CLARKE: No. Michael, it's anybody who has an internet connection. And all you have to do is click on a link in an email or click on an attachment to an email. If you don't know who sent it to you, don't click on it, because within a minute your entire computer can be frozen.
So, if you're worrying about your small business, if you're worrying about your own personal computer, back up everything offline. Back it up to a hard drive that's not connected to anything. And do that on a regular basis. And you'll be safe.
Individuals really don't have a lot to fear from this. But our infrastructure and our major companies do have a lot to fear.
SMERCONISH: Richard Clarke, thank you, as always.
CLARKE: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, former President Trump is asking for more credit when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, saying he wants -- quote -- "just a mention." Is it a typical political complaint or a fair request?
Would this help get more Republicans who are on the fence vaccinated? I will give you my take and many of you won't like it.
I also want to remind you to answer this week's survey question at Smerconish.com. "Will enabling the unverifiable unvaccinated to go maskless spread more COVID?"
SMERCONISH: In a bombshell announcement that nobody really saw coming, the CDC, on Thursday, said fully vaccinated people can say good-bye to masks and social distancing. This prompted the president and vice president to walk out into the Rose Garden maskless where President Biden addressed the historic moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You've endured all of this. When your country asked you to get vaccinated, you did. The American people stepped up. You did what I consider to be your patriotic duty. That is how we have gotten to this day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: "That is how we have gotten to this day," so says President Biden. But one former president thinks it's not the only thing that got us here.
[09:45:02] In a statement released on his new blog, Donald Trump bemoans the fact that his administration isn't given credit for the swift production of COVID-19 vaccines. Quote -- "Just a mention please! The Biden Administration had zero to do with it. All they did was continue our plan of distribution, which was working well right from the beginning."
Since the end of his presidency reports have said that Trump was concerned about Biden getting all of the credit for the vaccine and while he has never been shy about claiming credit, former Trump aides tell "Politico" they are frustrated by his unwillingness to pitch his own vaccine hesitant voters on getting the shot. Saying it would help boost his legacy.
But regardless of his current approach, his aggressive pursuit of vaccine development shouldn't be dismissed. It's true that President Biden and his team moved with great speed to secure hundreds of millions of doses and get them into the arms of Americans. With more than 36 percent of Americans now fully vaccinated. But none of that would have been possible if the vaccines didn't already exist.
While vaccine development, testing and approval typically takes years, the goal of Trump's Operation Warp Speed was to break through those barriers. It funded vaccine development and manufacturing for vaccines from multiple private companies, one of them being Moderna which is, of course, one of the three vaccines that gained FDA emergency use authorization.
The government also struck separate deals with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, the other two vaccines that were given green lights. Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health and Security summed up the effort this way.
"It's unquestionable that Operation Warp Speed was instrumental in the vaccine development process. That whole process of pre-purchase agreements and creating a market for these vaccines even before they were shown to be safe or effective really is what is responsible for the fact that we have such a supply of vaccines."
Bottom line is this. From start-to-finish, the first COVID-19 vaccine was produced and market-ready in less than 12 months. A blink in vaccine years and it happened on Donald Trump's watch.
Now, to be clear, none of these excuses all of Trump's anti-science rhetoric, his downplaying of the virus, his policy missteps, but both of these things can be true at once. First, that Donald Trump bears responsibility for a long list of failures in responding to the pandemic. And second, that Donald Trump deserves credit for vaccines.
Since taking office, President Biden has never really acknowledged the latter. Maybe just a mention, as Trump requested, isn't too much to ask.
Let us check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have from the world of Twitter? Smerconish, I always knew you had a thing for Trump. Sad and difficult to comprehend. Juan, what is incorrect in what I just said? Many, many failures that we have talked about ad nauseam here. But when it comes to the vaccine development and the pace of it, you got to give the man his just due. And I wouldn't be an honest broker if I didn't acknowledge both things.
Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments, and the final results. Did I make this too complicated? It's really a simple thing I'm asking.
"Will enabling the unverifiable unvaccinated to go maskless spread more COVID?"
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question this week at Smerconish.com. "Will enabling the unverifiable unvaccinated to go maskless spread more COVID?"
Ninety-two percent come to the correct answer and say yes, of nearly 20,000 votes cast. Let me give a shout out to Aaron Blake because I was mimicking his words from the "Washington Post" today. And he was making the point that most prone to risky behavior are those who could have been vaccinated, still could, and are choosing not to.
And they're the ones who now we have to worry about going to Trader Joe's or Starbucks or Walmart and acting like they are vaccinated, when in fact they're not. Now, you might be saying to yourself, well, who gives a damn?
That's on them. The issue is, if you're fully vaccinated and they're not and they now continue to spread the virus, that's bad for all of us, not the least of whom are the people who cannot, for medical reasons, get a vaccine. Anyway, I'm glad we came to that conclusion together.
Catherine, what do you have? Wow! That will change the GOP's stance on voter I.D. Lizz, do you like my suggestion? Yes, I just thought of that kind of spitballing here while I was talking to Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Can you imagine if Democrats were to say to Republicans, you want voter I.D.? OK, we'll go with voter I.D. In fact, we've got a great idea for a voter I.D. It will be everybody's vax card. We'll just put your picture on it. I think it would completely change the dynamic.
One more if we've got time. I think we do. That would be like thanking the arsonist for turning the hose on after the house had burned down. I take it, Pastajoe, you're bummed about me for giving credit to Donald Trump for the vaccine.
Fair is fair. I mean, here put it in the context of a broken clock is right twice a day, if you must. I sat here for weeks on end, months on end, criticizing the failures with regard to the pandemic, the underplaying of the data and science, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
But when you look back on the fact that those of us who want to be vaccinated, because anybody who wants a vax can get one, the fact that we were able to get those shots in arms in under a year, yes, Operation Warp Speed deserves a shout-out. And I'm not afraid to say that.
I'll see you next week.