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Healthcare Industry Sees “Potential Bonanza” of Profits


Source: Democracy Now!

As the top infectious disease expert testifies to the Senate that needless death and suffering could result from reopening too quickly, author and journalist Naomi Klein says a “pandemic shock doctrine” is beginning to emerge. “The fact that a large sector of the economy, the healthcare industry, sees a potential bonanza here … that’s a win for them.”

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman in New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic, joined by Juan González, who is broadcasting from his home in New Brunswick, New Jersey, number two in the country for COVID-19 infections. Hi, Juan.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Hi, Amy. And welcome to all of our listeners and viewers across the country and around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to start today in Washington, D.C. As President Trump claims the U.S. is prepared to “transition to greatness” and the COVID-19 death toll surpasses 81,000, two of the nation’s top scientists told a Senate committee Tuesday that needless death would result if states reopen too soon.

The stark warning from the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came just a day after NBC News published an unreleased White House report showing a surge of coronavirus cases in heartland U.S. communities, including Nashville, Tennessee, and Des Moines, Iowa. Central City, Kentucky, topped the list. The report, based on a May 7th internal memo, directly contradicts Trump’s claim Monday that the number of COVID-19 cases is rapidly declining around the country.

In a surreal scene, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield and Food and Drugs Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn all joined the Senate Health Committee remotely while they quarantine after being exposed to the virus or to a staffer at the White House who tested positive. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee was also in quarantine after his staffer tested positive. He presided over the hearing from his home. Of the senators who joined the hearing in person, most Democrats wore masks or balaclavas; most Republicans did not wear masks. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine began the hearing without a mask but put one on during. Republican Senator Dr. Rand Paul of Kentucky — the first senator known to test positive for the virus — did not wear a mask.

This is part of what Dr. Fauci had to say.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: My concern is that if states or cities or regions, in their attempt — understandable — to get back to some form of normality, disregard, to a greater or lesser degree, the checkpoints that we put in our guidelines about when it is safe to proceed in pulling back on mitigation, because I feel if that occurs, there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control, which, in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery, because it would almost turn the clock back rather than going forward. That is my major concern.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Fauci said it’s, quote, “more likely than not” that a vaccine will be available in a year or two.

Well, for more, we go to New Brunswick, New Jersey, where we’re also joined by Naomi Klein, senior correspondent at The Intercept, author and professor at Rutgers University. Her new piece for The Intercept, “Screen New Deal,” looks at how Big Tech plans to profit from the pandemic.

Naomi, we’re going to talk about that in a moment, but I wanted to start with the Senate hearing. There we just heard Dr. Fauci. This was an absolutely surreal scene. The room in the Senate hearing was sort of divided in half. The way you could tell who is Democrat and who is Republican — you know, one party is on one side of the room, and one party is on the other, socially distanced — is that the Democrats were all wearing actually balaclavas, as opposed to sort of medical masks, mainly; the photographers were wearing masks; and the Republican side of the room was maskless, including, of course, Dr. Rand Paul, who is the only senator known to have tested positive for COVID-19. Yet the man who was leading it, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, was leading it from home because his staffer tested positive for COVID-19. And as he said in his opening remarks, “We must open this country. We cannot just work from home,” he said in front of his fireplace.

I wanted to get your comments not only on this, but also on the interactions, that were very interesting. This was between independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, questioning Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir about the affordability and accessibility of any future vaccine.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Mr. Giroir, do you think we should make that vaccine, when hopefully it is created, available to all regardless of income? Or do you think that poor people and working people should be last in line?

ADM. BRETT GIROIR: My office is one of the offices committed to serving the underserved. And we need to be absolutely certain that if a vaccine or an effective therapeutic or preventive is available, that it reaches all segments of society, regardless of their ability to pay or any other social determinants of health that there may be.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Good. So, what you’re telling the American people today, that regardless of income, every American will be able to gain access to that vaccine when it comes.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR: They should gain access to it. I don’t control — you know, I think that congressional —

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, you represent — you represent an administration that makes that decision.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR: I will certainly advocate that everyone is able to receive the vaccine regardless of income or any other circumstance.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Admiral Giroir being questioned by Bernie Sanders, who was at that Senate hearing remotely. Interestingly, Admiral Giroir was the most fuzzy in his remote location, which was in his office with many flags behind him.

But, Naomi, could you comment on the content of what both Bernie Sanders asked and the context of what we’re seeing today, what it means about once again exposing the fissures in our society that occurred — that, of course, were there even before this pandemic?

NAOMI KLEIN: Absolutely. And it’s great to be with you, Amy and Juan.

Yeah, I think what Senator Sanders is doing there is highlighting the moral and pragmatic absurdities of for-profit medicine, as he has always done so well. Of course, the question around the vaccine is notional at this point, because there isn’t a vaccine. And best-case scenario, we’re a couple of years out from that moment when we would be talking about universal rollout.

When that happens, I think we should all remember Jonas Salk’s famous answer to the question about whether, after he invented the polio vaccine, whether — he was asked whether it would be patented. And he said, “Would you patent the sun?” So I think that that should absolutely be the approach that we take.

But within the system of for-profit medicine, at every stage, whether it is the production of essential medical equipment or whether it is the delivery of services, that is responsible for a huge number of deaths within the U.S. response.

We’re hearing — we heard Dr. Fauci, just now, talk about needless mass death if the economy opens up too soon. And it is already opening up too soon in many states. But the truth of the matter is, because of a refusal to listen to earlier warnings from experts like him, there has already been needless mass deaths, you know, by some estimates an excess death of 50,000 people as of today in the United States, because the U.S. government did not listen to warnings, was not looking at what was happening in the rest of the world, completely blew the head start it had in tackling this virus.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Naomi, I wanted to ask you, this whole issue, as you’re raising, of a for-profit health system. We’re dealing with this coronavirus with actually three major initiatives that are occurring: One is on testing, the other is on treatment, and the third is on vaccines. And, for instance, Rutgers University developed recently a saliva test, which they are charging — the government approved — $100 per test. If you multiply that, the enormous amounts of money that is there to be made by medical entrepreneurs now in either one of these three areas —

NAOMI KLEIN: Right.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — and yet you have the U.S. government refusing to participate with the European Union in some sort of governmental efforts to attack the needs, either whether it’s testing, vaccine or cure.

NAOMI KLEIN: Sure.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This whole issue of the money to be made off the virus, your response to that?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, look. The healthcare industry, which in many countries that have universal public healthcare is kind of an oxymoron, is seeing this as a potential bonanza. And I think when you have an administration, like the Trump administration, that is just looking at kind of raw economic indicators, like whether stocks are going up, and looking to be able to claim that as some kind of victory in an election campaign, well, the fact that a large sector of the economy, the healthcare industry, sees a potential bonanza here — and the bonanza is not just in the rollout of these tests, but also in the fact that people are not using their for-profit, private health insurance right now because they’re too afraid to go to the doctor, or doctors aren’t even offering in-person services in lots of cases — that’s a win for them. And we’re seeing big profits registered here. And so I think they’re really loath, frankly, to interfere with one of the only profitable industries in the country right now, because they want to claim that as some kind of a victory.

And within the testing, I just want to underline, there are the tests, the tests to find out whether you have the virus, but then there’s also the antibody tests, which are going to be a whole other for-profit bonanza. And we saw something absolutely absurd happen within the Trump administration, where they decided that in order to expedite the rollout of antibody tests, they would not regulate it at all, just create a kind of a free-for-all, so you didn’t have to go to the — you didn’t have to have FDA approval. You could just kind of — if you were just sort of a couple of app jocks with no real medical experience, you could roll out your antibody tests. And so, the market was flooded with garbage antibody tests. Lo and behold, testing actually matters. Approval actually matters. Regulation of healthcare actually matters. And so, now people don’t know whether they can trust these tests at all, and we’re once again losing valuable time, because for-profit medicine doesn’t make any kind of sense.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I also wanted to ask you —

NAOMI KLEIN: Unless you’re a for-profit medical company. Sorry.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, Naomi, I also wanted to ask you about the political repercussions of the pandemic. Obviously, there is still a presidential election in the United States this year. And there was a startling remark by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to Time magazine this week. He was asked if he thought the election would be held in November. And he said, quote, “It’s not my decision to make, so I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other. But right now that’s the plan,” sounding as if there was, he saw, the possibility of the election being postponed.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, I mean, that’s a very worrying sign. We are seeing power grabs, anti-democratic power moves around the world, including by governments that are very close to the Trumps and the Kushners, like Netanyahu, who has used the cover of the pandemic to resolve the fact that he hasn’t managed to win any of the elections he has run in. Now he has a coalition government. And we’re seeing the Israeli state pass all kinds of draconian measures to secure that hold on power. We’re seeing Viktor Orbán in Hungary is now ruling by decree indefinitely. And so, yeah, it’s definitely worrying.

It’s also worrying in the context of the fact that voting by mail is one of the only ways that you can have an election under these circumstances, and this government is waging war on the Postal Service. So, lots of worrying signs.

You know, we’ve also seen attacks on democratic rights in New York state by a Democratic governor, by Andrew Cuomo, with the back-and-forth about whether to take Bernie Sanders off the ballot. And, you know, I don’t think that this would be happening in a context where you can kind of count on the public to have minimal bandwidth to engage in protecting their democratic rights. I mean, this is what this is all about. During a moment of shock, during a true emergency, when people are worried about whether or not they’re going have a job, whether or not they are going to be able to feed their kids, there is limited excess capacity to protect your democratic rights. And that’s why we see these kinds of power grabs in these moments of shock.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi, we wanted to turn right now to your major piece in The Intercept. You talk about the “pandemic shock doctrine” beginning to emerge, as we turn to your new report that looks at how this crisis is more high-tech than previous disasters and how the future we’re being rushed into could transform our lives into a, quote, “living laboratory for a permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future.”

This future was on display a week ago during New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily coronavirus briefing, when he welcomed a video visit from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and announced Schmidt will be heading up a blue-ribbon commission to reimagine New York state’s post-COVID reality.

ERIC SCHMIDT: The public-private partnerships that are possible with the intelligence of the New Yorkers is extraordinary. It needs to be unleashed.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO: Well, great. You are the person to help us do that. We are all ready. We’re all in. We are New Yorkers, so we’re aggressive about it and we’re ambitious about it. And I think we get it, Eric. You know, we went through this period, and we realize that change is not only imminent, but it can actually be a friend, if done the right way.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as Eric Schmidt has also been selling his services to the military-industrial complex. The New York Times reported on Schmidt’s, quote, “Pentagon offensive.”

Well, Naomi Klein, I want to ask if you can comment on all of this, and particularly lay out your piece in The Intercept, called “Screen New Deal: Under Cover of Mass Death, Andrew Cuomo Calls in the Billionaires to Build a High-Tech Dystopia.” Lay out your thesis.

NAOMI KLEIN: Sure. Well, the billionaires I was referring to is, he didn’t just announce that partnership with Eric Schmidt, who will be chairing this blue-ribbon commission to, quote-unquote, “reopen” New York state with an emphasis on telehealth, remote learning, working from home, increased broadband. That’s what they announced during that briefing. He also announced that he would be kind of outsourcing the tracing of the virus to Michael Bloomberg, another megabillionaire. And the day before, at the briefing, Cuomo announced a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to, quote-unquote, “reimagine” education.

And during all of these announcements, there’s just been sort of effusive praise heaped on these billionaires. They’re called “visionaries” over and over again. And the governor talks about how this is an unprecedented opportunity to put their preexisting ideas into action. And this is what I’ve described as the shock doctrine previously.

And we have talked on the show during the pandemic about what I would describe as kind of lower-tech shock doctrines of the kind we’ve seen before — immediately going after Social Security, immediately bailing out fossil fuel companies. And I want to stress that all of this is still happening, right? The suspending of EPA regulations. So, there’s still this kind of lower-tech shock doctrine underway with the bailout of these industries, the suspending of regulations they didn’t want anyway.

But there is something else going on, that Eric Schmidt really epitomizes. And this is this, what I’m calling a “Screen New Deal.” And this is an idea that treats our months in isolation, those of us who are privileged enough to be self-isolating — and that, in and of itself, is an enormous privilege, because we have seen this sharpening and widening of a class dichotomy. And this relates to the calls to open up the economy, right? The people who are making these calls are not the people who are going to be most at risk. They’re calling for other people to be putting themselves at great risk, and there is a feeling of being immune to the worst impacts of the virus. But that’s another issue.

What this, what I’m calling a “Screen New Deal,” really does is treat this period of isolation not as what we have needed to do in order to save lives — this is what we thought we were doing, right? — flattening the curve, but rather — and Eric Schmidt has said this elsewhere. He said it in April in a video call with the Economic Club of New York. He described what was happening now as a “grand experiment in remote learning.” So, all the parents out there who are listening or watching, you’ve been struggling with supporting your kids on Google Classroom and Zoom calls, and you thought you were just trying to get through the day. Well, according to Google, you’ve been engaged in a “grand experiment in remote learning,” where they are getting a great deal of data and figuring out how to do this permanently, because they actually believe this is a better way of educating kids, or at least, and coming back to our earlier conversation, a more profitable way.

Eric Schmidt talked, in that clip that you just played there, Amy, about all of the opportunities for public-private partnerships. And what he is really talking about is public money going to tech firms, like Google, like Amazon, to perform public functions. So, once again, a bonanza for the tech companies — who, by the way, have been doing very well during the pandemic already — where they see huge opportunities in telehealth, in the educational market in public schools, in supporting us working from home and learning from home.

And they’re not looking for a kind of a traditional reopening, but, rather, a new paradigm, where the privileged classes, who are able to isolate themselves, basically get everything that we need either delivered through digital streaming or by drone, by driverless vehicle.

And we’re seeing a massive rebranding effort going on in Silicon Valley, where all of these technologies that were very, very controversial, and where there was a lot of pushback way back in February — whether it’s driverless vehicles, because there have been all kinds of accidents, or drones delivering packages, or telehealth, because of concerns about security for patients’ sensitive information, or the benefit of having our kids in front of screens all day. I mean, I could go on and on. There was a lot of pushback.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Naomi — Naomi, if I can —

NAOMI KLEIN: Sorry.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to raise something here, both in terms of remote learning and in terms of telehealth services. My students at Rutgers did a survey of their fellow students on this issue of remote learning. And they found — they did a survey of several hundred students. Eighty-five percent of them said that their ability to concentrate on subject matter had been seriously reduced since the move to remote learning, and 65% of them said that their homes were not conducive to remote learning. So, no one is taking into account the impact on the actual quality of the kind of education that students are receiving.

The other aspect of this, I think, also is that, whether it’s in telehealth services or in remote learning, all of the material is then saved by the providers, so that —

NAOMI KLEIN: Right.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — whether it’s a professor’s lecture or whether it’s the interview between a doctor and a patient, that is no longer a private situation. It’s now recorded and saved, to possible detriment of both the professor’s right as a teacher or the patient’s right in their private discussions with their doctors.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, these are huge concerns. And what is, I think, a truly toxic combination is the preexisting for-profit model that Silicon Valley has been looking at and pushing when it comes to telehealth and remote learning, and the economic crisis that is being offloaded onto the states and onto municipalities by Washington. Right? So, we’ve had a series of bailouts, and again and again, the states and cities have been shortchanged, right? So the national economic crisis becomes a local austerity crisis, where you no longer have funds to pay for public health and public education. Right?

And that’s where these so-called solutions, that do allow you to archive information and engage in what they call predictive medicine, which requires fewer healthcare professionals, supposedly, or remote learning, where you can archive the videos put online by teachers. And they don’t have to do it again; you just replay them the next year. Right, Juan? So there’s two forces here, right? There is the desire to cut back the actual human beings who are employed on an ongoing basis, in favor of these kind of one-off, big-ticket payments for Silicon Valley.

And, you know, what you were talking about before, Juan, about these huge inequalities in who is able to work comfortably from home — and I personally don’t think it’s a — you know, I think most students are not enjoying this experience. There are huge inequities in who has access to broadband, who has access to laptop computers and tablets, but also who is able to learn well on screens. You know, there are kids with developmental disabilities who have much more trouble just sitting in front of a screen for long periods of time.

The tech companies are very quick to say, “We can solve the technological gaps. We can buy tablets for every kid.” Right? Because that’s another bonanza for them. That’s public dollars that are going to go to paying for tech.

Schmidt, in his capacity as chair of the Defense Innovation Board and the National Security Commission on AI, which is — Amy, you talked about that New York Times piece — where he has been engaged in this long — well, long, a couple of years — push to increase federal spending on all of these technologies, and saying, you know, “We’re losing the AI arms race to China, because they’re investing much more in surveillance tech and also on 5G infrastructure.” So, all of these tech companies benefit massively if there are big public investments in broadband. So those are things that they’re saying they can solve.

But what they can’t solve is whether kids are in a home environment that doesn’t have a private space for them to work, that is very loud, that is abusive. These are not things that Eric Schmidt and Google can solve. And they can’t solve for developmental disabilities that just mean that kids need to move around, as most kids do, right?

So, I think we’re going to see very incomplete so-called solutions, and solutions obviously that massively benefit private tech interests. And we’re not having a discussion about, “Well, look, if it is true that we are going to need to be spending more time in our homes, and if it is true that access to technology is a lifeline, then should we be treating the internet as a commons, as a public utility, that we govern, that is governed by our regulations and by democracy?” As soon as you outsource the solutions to Eric Schmidt, who still has $5.3 billion in Alphabet shares, which is the company that owns Google, and who has holdings in all kinds of these tech companies, they are not going to put those public interest questions on the table.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to our discussion with Naomi Klein. She has a new piece out at The Intercept, “Screen New Deal: Under Cover of Mass Death, Andrew Cuomo Calls in the Billionaires to Build a High-Tech Dystopia.” We’ll be back with her in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “The Damnedest Thing” by Beauty Pill. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic. Juan González is in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as is our guest today, because both Juan González and Naomi Klein are professors at Rutgers University. Naomi has now just written a “piece”:piece for The Intercept, “Screen New Deal: Under Cover of Mass Death, Andrew Cuomo Calls in the Billionaires to Build a High-Tech Dystopia.”

I wanted to go back to Tuesday’s surreal Senate Health Committee hearing, where the chair was there remotely because his staffer had tested positive for COVID. Those who were testifying were all remote, in various levels of quarantine. But we’re going to go right now to North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr, who was criticizing the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, for being too slow to develop and implement surveillance tracking. This is Burr talking to the Centers for Disease Control director, Dr. Robert Redfield. We also hear some off-screen barking.

SEN. RICHARD BURR: We’ve seen the private sector go out and use data available to track the progress and spread of coronavirus around the world. Why has CDC not contracted with private sector technology companies to try to use their tools for biosurveillance?

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD: This is under critical review now. We do have contracts with some of the private sector groups now to try to make the type of availability of data that we’ve seen with Florida available in all of our jurisdictions across the country, and in the process of making that happen.

SEN. RICHARD BURR: I’m hopeful that we won’t just talk about surveillance, we’ll actually execute it, and we’ll focus the unbelievable amounts of money that we’ve provided for you, that they will show some — some benefit to the American people.

AMY GOODMAN: So, there you have Redfield being questioned by Burr. Naomi Klein is our guest for the hour, senior correspondent at The Intercept. If you can talk about what he’s asking about surveillance? Also, just as we came to the show today, BBC did a piece on Israel turning surveillance tools on itself, that they developed for Palestinians, and then turning it on themselves to track people during the pandemic. Your thoughts, Naomi?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think it’s — we talked about that a little bit earlier. Israel has been doing this from the beginning, and there’s been lawsuits about it, about their use of tracking apps. But it goes well beyond that. And I think one of the things that’s important to understand about Israel is that the technology that they use in their surveillance state — and for the most part, it is Palestinians who are under this constant state of surveillance, but, as you say, that BBC story is talking about a kind of a migration of those surveillance technologies into being used against Israelis — these are all technologies that Israel looks to export. There is a huge amount of cross-pollination between police forces, military forces, intelligence services, you know, going to Israel, communicating with Israeli intelligence, where all of these technologies often migrate to the rest of the world, are sold by Israeli companies as the solution. We saw it after September 11th.

And I think a lot of what we’re seeing, frankly, follows a pattern that Shoshana Zuboff, the Harvard professor who wrote The Age of Surveillance Capitalism — she talks about how before the September 11th attacks, there had been an aggressive move to protect consumer privacy against increased surveillance by tech companies, and that immediately after those attacks, there was, rather, a very aggressive push by government to collaborate with tech companies to get at the access — to get access to the same data that they were worried about the tech companies mining before the attacks. And so, now we’re in a moment where there was a huge amount of concern about what Zuboff calls surveillance capitalism, and now many people who had been raising those alarms are going, “Well, maybe it’s OK if we let our governments collaborate with tech companies to store this very, very sensitive data about us.”

Now, I want to be clear. I think there is absolutely a role, an important role, for technology in figuring out how we are going to live under these extraordinary circumstances. But the question is whether tech companies and government get the kind of carte blanche that they got in 2001 to massively invade our privacy. What is going to — where is this data going to be stored? Who is going to have access to it? Australia has rolled out one of these apps very quickly, and it turns out that Amazon is controlling the data. So, you know, that clip, I think, is a very worrying one.

The other thing that I think we need to be really acutely aware of is, a lot of the narratives that we’ve heard early on about countries that successfully controlled the virus, or at least much more successfully than the United States, a lot of it was attributed to these kinds of apps, to this kind of surveillance. And that narrative is a very convenient one for these tech companies. And in many cases, it erases the role of a functioning public healthcare system, of the fact that it was not merely an app that was placed voluntarily on people’s phones, but, much more importantly, a well-staffed public health system that allowed human tracing and tracking of the virus, which means a human being. Not an alert on your phone, but a human being calls you — best of all, a human being in your community, somebody who you might trust, who speaks your language — and says, “OK, you may have come in contact with this virus. What would you need to be able to self-quarantine? Can we get you a hotel room? Can we help you to make sure that your kids are cared for?”

This is the kind of human work and job creation that it actually takes. And what we’re being sold now, whether with the idea that everything is going to be solved with more surveillance and an app or remote learning and telehealth, is really taking the humans out of the equation. Right? It is humans who are setting up these systems. It is humans, like whether it is the teachers in their homes or the parents in their homes, who are helping students learn right now. It isn’t just Google Classroom that is doing it. But humans are being erased from this story. And we aren’t hearing the kinds of human solutions that, with proper control over good technology, we could actually come up with some viable models here.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Naomi, I wanted to ask you — in your article in The Intercept, you talk about this new form of yellow peril that Eric Schmidt is peddling, that now it’s China that is the threat when it comes to artificial intelligence. The United States is falling behind. It dovetails with Trump’s blaming China for the trade gap of the United States. What about this issue of artificial intelligence and whether we are in a new space race with China over it?

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, absolutely. So, in my article, I quote some documents that were FOIA’d by EPIC, which is Electronic Privacy Information Center. They got a trove of documents out of the National Security Commission on AI, NSCAI, which is the commission that — one of the two commissions that Schmidt chairs. And it advises Congress on ways that it can increase its uses of technology, particularly AI, but not exclusively AI.

And it’s all framed in this yellow peril language of China is on the verge of beating Silicon Valley in the technology race that began in Silicon Valley. So, basically, the narrative is, you know, American innovation is responsible for these technologies — of course, Silicon Valley takes much of the credit, but, as we know, a lot of it comes from public research, and a lot of it comes from military research — but because China does not have the same privacy concerns — indeed, you have a government that is erecting a high-tech surveillance state — and because China has leapfrogged over a lot of what this report calls sort of legacy structures — so, they go directly to cashless, digital payments; they are going directly to telehealth because there’s a big shortage of doctors — they —

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi, we have 20 seconds.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. So, basically, the idea is China is leaping ahead of the United States, and the only way to fight back is to have a China-style surveillance state here in the United States. And that’s the message that Schmidt has been peddling for a long time now.

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