COVID, Inc.

Federal, state, and local governments have plenty of power over private sector operations that they can wield during a crisis.
COVID, Inc.
A police officer crosses the street in a nearly empty Times Square in New York on March 12, 2020. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)
Thomas McArdle
Updated:
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Commentary
It was Democrat hit man Rahm Emanuel who infamously advised (in the less-quoted follow-up version) that you should “never allow a good crisis to go to waste when it’s an opportunity to do things that you had never considered, or that you didn’t think were possible.” And, although Mr. Emanuel’s only apparent foray into business was somehow making more than $16 million in 2 1/2 years working at the Chicago office of an investment bank specializing in mergers and acquisitions, CEOs have profited from following his ruthless maxim.
COVID-19 has killed millions of people around the world, but the excessive lockdowns that government imposed to combat it decimated many thousands of businesses, bringing some familiar brands to or near extinction, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Hertz, and JCPenney. On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies made many billions of dollars as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Peloton sold internet-connected stationary bicycles like hotcakes to new at-home employees fearful of turning into couch potatoes.
Some companies that had nothing to do with vaccines or lifestyle changes, firms that one would have expected to suffer greatly from COVID-19, also didn’t let the global health crisis go to waste. Investment tycoon Warren Buffett, who recently turned 93 and whose $100 billion-plus fortune doesn’t keep him from unhelpfully providing some stamp of approval to the Bernie Sanders socialist left, often at the worst possible times, remarked a year and a half into the pandemic that while millions of smaller businesses suffered “terrible” damage, “most of the big companies have overwhelmingly done fine.”
Mr. Buffett backed American Express (AmEx), in which through Berkshire Hathaway he holds a 20 percent stake, on a COVID-19 response strategy of spending a billion dollars buttering up its more than 120 million customers, paired with internal corporate austerity, resulting in a significant stock price hit in the short term. The lockdowns were devastating to credit card sales. But today, American Express’s strategy is paying off, with growth targets twice what they were pre-pandemic, and AmEx has tapped into a new world of younger consumers.
Disgraced ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently conceded that compliance with government lockdowns in a future pandemic “would be much, much lower than it was in the beginning of COVID because people do not trust the government—especially on this issue”—obviously the consequence of government overkill and arrogance in fighting the virus. Resistance from “people who just don’t listen,” he said, would constitute a “complicating factor” in future enforcement of restrictions.
Mr. Cuomo also claimed, oddly, that while in office if he had issued an order to New Yorkers to close their private businesses and they responded that they wouldn’t, there was nothing he could do about it. In fact, the “New York State on PAUSE” executive order he signed on Friday, March 20, 2020, included a directive that all businesses in the state deemed nonessential by the government must cease employee activities within their offices before the following Monday. That December, an army of police sheriffs shut down a popular bar and restaurant on Staten Island that responded “I won’t” and arrested its general manager for defying COVID-19 restrictions by remaining open for indoor business, in just one example of enforcement of lockdowns in the state.
So federal, state, and local governments have plenty of power over private sector operations that they can wield during a crisis, despite this latest untruth from a New York governor whose mismanagement allegedly killed thousands of elderly people in nursing homes. There is, however, a countermanding factor to popular distrust of government. And that’s in line with the novel “stakeholder” ideology seducing some CEOs of public companies.
Marc Benioff, the left-friendly billionaire CEO of the $150 billion sales/customer service software company Salesforce, for instance, who has been described as “a digital disrupter intent on turning business into the driver for social change,” viewed the COVID-19 lockdowns as a public relations bonanza for prominent companies and their “hero” executives.

“In the pandemic, it was CEOs in many, many cases all over the world who were the heroes,” Mr. Benioff declared during the virtual World Economic Forum in 2021. “They’re the ones who stepped forward with their financial resources, their corporate resources, their employees, their factories, and pivoted rapidly—not for profit, but to save the world.”

He was participating in the Forum’s online panel on “stakeholder capitalism,” a concept that insists that those who buy stock in and, therefore, own a company aren’t the executives’ bosses; rather, the greater community and various “woke” causes should guide how they run the firm. Mr. Benioff’s much-hyped contribution during COVID-19 was getting his sources in mainland China to deliver cheaply manufactured protective gear to U.S. hospitals.

The establishment media and colleges in the United States are now using a new mild variant of COVID-19 as the excuse to rekindle mask mania. If federal and state governments see the new milder form of the virus as an excuse for Lockdown Power Grab 2.0 and once again dictating businesses to shut down, will CEOs fight back? Or will they make like Mr. Benioff, not let a new COVID “crisis” go to waste, and pretend that being against freedom is saving the world?
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Thomas McArdle was a White House speechwriter for President George W. Bush and writes for IssuesInsights.com
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