Tuesday, March 31, 2020


If you're a family of unethical grifters who want to use the presidency to turn a profit, you should at least turn a profit.
On March 13, President Donald Trump promised Americans they would soon be able to access a new website that would ask them about their symptoms and direct them to nearby coronavirus testing sites. He said Google was helping.

That wasn’t true. But in the following days, Oscar Health—a health-insurance company closely connected to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner—developed a government website with the features the president had described. A team of Oscar engineers, project managers, and executives spent about five days building a stand-alone website at the government’s request, an Oscar spokesperson told The Atlantic. The company even dispatched two employees from New York to meet in person with federal officials in Washington, D.C., the spokesperson said.
There's the grift. But...
Then the website was suddenly and mysteriously scrapped.
What's wrong with these people? Their instinct is to take advantage of power for personal enrichment, but that's all it is -- an instinct. They can't follow through. Jared dresses like a preppy, but he's really Ralph Kramden or Fred Sanford, or some other sitcom character who's full of schemes that always fall flat.

Oscar claims that this site wasn't even intended to make money.
The site resembled a version of a tool Oscar had already built for its customers in response to the crisis, but it was “adjusted to meet the specifications and requirements set by the federal government,” Jackie Kahn, the Oscar spokesperson, said in an emailed statement. That Oscar had already been working on a coronavirus-testing website when HHS called to ask for help was a coincidence that had nothing to do with Kushner, Kahn suggested. She declined to say whether Oscar had discussed that site with Joshua Kushner [Jared's brother, who co-founded Oscar and is a major investor] or any board members or investors before Trump’s March 13 press conference.

Oscar donated its work freely and never expected to be paid for the project, Kahn said. The company is “not, nor has ever been,” a contractor or subcontractor for the government, she said, which would make it harder for the government to pay Oscar for its work. The work was “all at the direction of HHS,” she said. “The website never saw the light of day,” she added in an interview today.
No, no, no -- you're supposed to build a fifth-rate site, use your pull to turn it into an official government site, and get paid massive amounts of money from the government while signaling to the world that your company has the president's favor, which should attract even more cash. You're not supposed to get only bad publicity and then abandon your grift because you can't grift correctly.

If this was a scam, it was a low-rent scam. It helps explain why the president believes hospital employees in New York are asking for extra masks and then slipping them "out the back door" and reselling them. Members of the Trump family think like criminals, but the scams they conceive are small-time. Reselling masks is at the level of something they'd do.

By contrast, Donald Trump's ideal man, Vladimir Putin, might be the richest person in the world, with wealth estimated at up to $200 billion. It's easy to imagine Putin trying to cash in on the coronavirus, but he wouldn't do it by trying and failing to build some damn website. He'd have a cut of everything related to the crisis that's potentially profitable.

But that's because he's a committed, extremely capable kleptocrat, not a small-minded, petty hoodlum.

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