Capitalism, done the American way, has a way of messing up with people when it comes to serious supply and demand situations. We have seen this unfold during the early days of the pandemic, when the government structured its messaging in such a way that people wouldn’t panic-buy masks and overwhelm the supply, which was very much needed by health workers. We have seen it in action more recently when Texas stores literally had their shelves emptied by weather-panicked citizens. These situations often put to question the American public’s very conception of the relationship between capitalism and government regulation – a discussion that often devolves into a fruitless tug-of-war in the capitalist-socialist dichotomy. How will this kind of dynamic play out during the current efforts at vaccine distribution? Bill Stierle and Tom see some parallels that are quite interesting to explore. Join them as they share their thoughts about it.
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The Truth about American Capitalism: How the System Fails the People in Supply and Demand Crises
What I want to start with, Bill, is there is so much in our culture and our news media and it affects every human being in the country and that is the Coronavirus and where we are with the vaccine rollout. There is such a massive communication conundrum here in our nation and to an extent, across the world with messaging on the virus, the vaccine rollout and to get the vaccine and to not. One thing to set the table here is I’ve seen three different real messages here in the United States within days. You have Joe Biden saying, “Things will be back to normal by Christmas.” I saw somebody else in our government or maybe it’s with one of the health organizations, CDC, or something that said, “We’re going to have herd immunity by April 2021.” I was like, “That’d be awesome,” but I’m not so sure about that. You have Dr. Anthony Fauci came out and said, “We may be wearing masks into 2022.” It’s a very confusing message that occurs to me are not very helpful and I’m concerned for us as a nation.
One of the challenges in communication is that there’s a difference between an opinion and a fact. An opinion gets to have a half-fact rationale element to it. It’s like, “I have an opinion. When I have an opinion, I have a form of certainty. I’m meeting my need for certainty, which is a form of truth. My opinion is my feet are on the ground. My opinion that this desk is solid.” The truth is that the desk is a bunch of molecules and there’s a lot of space in between each one of those electrons, neutrons and protons. There’s a lot of space between it. Which level of truth do we want to talk about? It’s solid. From the observable mind, my desk is solid. I’m looking around. It looks pretty solid to me, Tom. That is the truth, but at the molecular level, it isn’t.
The same thing happens with opinions. That person’s opinion that says herd immunity at April 2021 is like, “How does that work? How can that person have that opinion?” They’re basing their evidence on X, Y, Z. The same thing with Joe Biden, “It would be normal at Christmas.” He’s setting an intention and a vision. It may be true and it might not be true. The pessimistic Dr. Anthony Fauci is setting the masks into 2022. The truth is a little problematic in the messenger. The person that’s delivering it is mostly trying to meet their needs in a convincing and authentic way. They’re only operating from their version of truth or their version of certainty or what they’re setting the intention to do because they don’t fully know the future and what’s going to happen.
I agree, they certainly don’t know. I’m thinking back to some episodes we did maybe a year ago in the midst of all the Democrats campaigning and running for the Democratic nomination, where we talked about how a good leader sets the vision. I can see how Joe Biden is trying to set a vision that, “Things should be normal by Christmas.” He’s giving a positive message that shows some light at the end of the tunnel and trying to give people some confidence that this is not going to go on forever. Also not sugarcoating it and saying that it’s magically going to disappear come spring either.
I can also see Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s a scientist probably not focused on trying to set a vision. He’s more trying to give an accurate estimate based on his experience and his assessment of what’s happening. It’s interesting you have different thinking styles and presentation styles there. Dr. Anthony Fauci is like, “It’s science, it’s this or that it’s not halfway.” He’s careful to say, “We don’t have enough evidence to support that yet.” If somebody asks him a question, he doesn’t know the answer to, whereas Joe Biden, the President is saying, “We’re making progress. We’re getting the vaccine out there. As long as enough people get vaccinated, we’re going to be back to normal by Christmas this 2021. By the end of the year, this can be over effectively.”
You set that vision out there and whereas he’s coming across as humbly. He’s coming across as concerned. He’s doing a vigil for all the people that have died and take care of each other. “We’re Americans here. This is not political.” He’s trying to bring the shit down despite it’s like, “This is your fellow American. We’re losing a lot of people here,” and generally do in that way. That’s helpful, which is different than the optimistic marketing and branding message that Donald Trump would promote, “It’s going to go away. It’s not an issue. We’re ahead of this. We’re strong. We’re confident. We’re Americans.” That message is way on the other end of truth which is, “We are confident Americans. We can do this but wear your damn masks.”
At the same time, we are a nation that can come together. That’s the rat trap that he got himself caught in, which is that you can’t have a message of the division with a virus. A message of division works with a marginally legal thing or even an illegal thing. It could work in a courtroom that it’s like, “I could give you the benefit of the doubt and is it worth it to lock this person up? The answer is no. Yes. They did break the law, but somehow they got out with just a slap on the wrist.” That is problematic because you get the marketing and branding message, which is, it’s all going to go away in this one person. It’s one person for China. We have this under control. Meanwhile, there are no troops that are doing that. There’s nobody out there protecting it.
Now you’ve got the marketing message of the pure numbers that’s come out. We’ve reached a sobering milestone now, Bill, more than 500,000 Americans have died of this. I was shocked to learn that it is more people than died in World War I, World War II or Vietnam.
They haven’t put Korea in yet.
Why is that? Is it because there are too many people?
It’s because the numbers aren’t high enough yet. Korea has so many deaths. As soon as the next milestone is going to be World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and Korea, they’ll stick it on the end. I don’t know how many people died in Korea.
To me, that was shocking. My parents were Baby Boomers. My grandparents were the greatest generation and fought in World War II. Everyone did, that was a relative of mine of that age. While I knew a lot of the history of World War II, I thought somehow a lot more people like Americans would have died in that global conflict than did. I was surprised because to me to say, even more, people died in World War II and I guess more American soldiers. Let’s make it not worldwide here. That to me proportionalize this and made it seem much bigger than I realized it was.
You’ve got these kinds of messages coming out and this is what I’m saying. There’s a lot of confusing messages. There seems to be a reason to hope that the vaccine seems to be working. There have been some supply interruptions due to weather and transportation and that’s unfortunate, but it seems we’re going to overcome that quickly. I have no idea what I’m going to get the vaccine because I’m not essential enough or old enough. I’m decided I’m going to get the vaccine when it’s available to me, even though I’m quite certain I already had COVID-19. I still think I could get it again.
I was invited at CVS Pharmacy to schedule and even though I’m not the 65 that may be the guy thought I was, which is a whole another problem. He goes, “Are you going to take your vaccine because you certainly look like you need one.”
I would dispute that.
The messaging in regards to supply and demand, because you don’t want everyone to rush to the grocery store and take everything out of the grocery store, which is the experience that’s happening in Texas during the weather. There isn’t anything on the shelf because this could be a long run on this thing. It’s, “We need the food and we need to move everything out.” They’re cleaning out their stores. There is the biggest problem with the balance between a capitalist system and a supportive socialist system.The events in Texas showed us what happens when we don’t have government regulation to make sure people are treated fairly. Click To Tweet
A supportive socialist is not a proactive socialist system. This is where a good example of where if you start splitting the word up, socialism, into two different categories, a socialist system looks like this thing. What do we do to separate and develop two new words for socialism so that somebody uses it and pretends they know what the definition is because they don’t know what the definition is? It’s hard with our communication messaging to get a clear target on many things. We can do a whole show on what do you rename socialism so it works and you can think.
That’s a great idea. That’s a branding and marketing exercise to relabel socialism because I think that socialism in many circles is considered a dirty word. A lot of people consider it unAmerican, let me put it that way. Not everybody. Texans got a lesson in that shoved in their faces because many years ago, the State of Texas decides they’re going to separate themselves from the rest of the national grid, for the most part. There are very few county exceptions to this because they didn’t want Federal Regulation and that’s part of the whole anti-socialism narrative. When they’re in dire straits and they have no electricity and water and as you said, there’s a run on the stores for everything.
The other interesting thing I found is people that have this electric service that is tied to the market, the demands of the market supply and demand. There are people in Texas that literally have gotten electricity bills for $7,000, $9,000, even almost $17,000, which is absurd. When you don’t have government regulation to help make sure that people are treated fairly and they’re not abused in a serious supply and demand situation, which is supply and demand are what we’re seeing going on with this vaccine distribution. There are some parallels here. I know a lot of people in Texas are saying, “This isn’t fair.” Isn’t fairness sounding like everybody should be treated equally?
Yeah, that’s pretty much so. We have been taught as business guys, to pick a niche and grow rich. Stand for something and it’s okay if people don’t want the thing you stand for, but at least the people who know what you stand for and what you want are going to sign up. Stick with your message and be consistent with the product or service. Find the person that’s going to buy that product and service. Now, if you apply that to the capitalist and if you apply that to socialists, you’ll see how that gets all wonky quick because you’ve got to figure out how to meet multiple needs. How do you do fairness and how do you do a motivation?
How do you create an incentive when you’re trying to meet everybody’s needs? Meanwhile, you’re trying to keep this ambition inside a human being going, which is one of the things that capitalism does. It’s like, “I want to work hard, so I have a beach house. I want to work hard so I have a boat that I can go off and have a Donald Trump flag on it.” I want to work hard for that because I have mine. I got mine and I was able to get mine. He’s a person that represents somebody that gets mine. He’s not interested in getting everybody a piece of it. He wants mine to be mine and his to be his and I’m going to vote for that.
We can have a lot of understanding and compassion for people that vote both liberal and conservative. We can have a lot of compassion for why they’re on fire about the thing they’re in because what they’re focusing on is the thing that they see as most important. Somebody walking down the street and seeing plastic bottles laying all around, they are like, “We cannot keep treating the environment like this.” I was walking down the beach in California and it’s like, “Look at the layers of sand that has plastic in it. How do we clean this up? Somebody’s got to clean this up.” The word somebody it’s not me, it’s somebody else. It’s already implied that somebody it’s not me instead of me walking down and bringing a bag and cleaning shit. It’s hard because we’ve got to balance our needs and that is more of a socialism narrative. A capitalism narrative is, “How do I get my product and service in that might have an impact on somebody in the future, but I’m not worried about that.” This is it’s problematic.
Don’t some of these same feelings and needs that you’re talking about socialism, capitalism, taking action yourself and doing something for the good of all or leaving it to someone else and somebody has got to do it, not me? We see parallels of this with this whole coronavirus vaccine dynamic, don’t we?
We do. The biggest parallel I can see and if I want to give a moment of acknowledgment and just even feel compassion around this, is that, how difficult was it for the Donald Trump administration to be for the people that wanted to do something about it? Not so much the counter messages, but the people that wanted to do something about it that they could not fast walk masks. They couldn’t fast walk it. They could not tell the American Republic, “Everybody needs to get a mask and they need to get a mask now.” They could not give that message in February 2020 because if they give that message, there would not be a mask to be found for the doctors and the healthcare workers. There wasn’t any around. There was not time to ramp up.
Now, that costs the lives of not having a supply ready. Capitalism does not want to have a supply ready. They want somebody else to store it and produce it. They want to distribute and collect the check. They don’t want to produce it and they don’t want to store it. A part of government is to have something ready just in case a worst-case scenario takes place. Have the national stockpiles be at this thing but the problem with the concept of a national stockpile is you have to count it, store it and refresh it. That all costs money. If I’m a capitalist person, I’m going like, “I don’t want to spend money on that. Let somebody else store it.” That’s what wound up happening.
Americans and America as a whole rarely prepare for the rainy day, in all that way. We’re very much reactive.
I appreciate you saying rainy day. We are not rainy day people. We are not ready for it. We’ll complain about it when it shows up.
Isn’t it interesting? In some ways, we are though. Usually, it’s after the fact. We all know Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and how devastated New Orleans and Louisiana were. Now though in New Orleans, they’ve built stronger levies, they closed gates so the city won’t flood to a certain storm surge level and all this. They’re reactive though. It’s like, “This is so bad. We’re not doing that again.” Looking at it in one way, as long as I can remember probably my whole life, I don’t know if you know when it started, Bill, but in one way, America has prepared for the rainy day. It’s because of capitalism, more than anything, we have as a country, a strategic oil reserve. We didn’t do stockpile oil that can be turned into gasoline, a lot of it. That came out after World War II when there was such a high demand for oil for all the military operations. I remember hearing from my grandparents during the early 1940s, while we’re at war, we couldn’t go buy gas anytime we wanted at a local filling station. You had to have a card that you had a certain level of approval or it was rationed. You could only get so much.
I remember those days. The stockpile, having the strategic stockpile and the reason why no one’s poking at that form of socialism or that form of protection for the military is because they’re not to be surprised by this rise of the power of another nation. We don’t want to experience another Pearl Harbor. That was the shocking event and as 9/11 was the Pearl Harbor that causes to go to the Middle East, that is why those stockpiles to those safety things. With the pandemic, it’s hard to put a face on a virus. It’s hard to put a face on a disease. It’s this other thing. You can’t make it personal as much.
It’s an invisible enemy until it is on your doorstep or you have a family member that is in the hospital or you’ve lost maybe. Isn’t that part of the problem?
That’s right. America keeps thinking it can get away with isolationism. It can’t. It keeps thinking, “We don’t want those foreigners here.” We think we can get away with that. The answer is like, “We just can’t.” There’s a couple of different factors about why we can’t do that. Number one, our birth rate, I’ve got to look at our recent birth rate, but at one time it was not replacing itself. Italy has that huge problem too. Their birth rate was 1.3 per couple. The average was that low and Japan has the same problem with their birth rate too. People are not having children and therefore, when you don’t have children, then you don’t have people to run the next generation because you need people to grow up. The school systems, what happens when there is a drop-off of a population and that happened in the ‘80s when the Baby Boomers move through and all the schools went flat because there were no kids that were in there.Americans rarely prepare for the rainy day, but they love to complain about it when it shows up. Click To Tweet
There was this incredible growth in the ‘50s and ‘60s of schools because of all the Baby Boomers and after that, the generation peaked. There are a decline and economies are built on growth. They’re not built on flat lines.
They are not as like, “Where am I going to sell my product?” “You got to have a person to do that. Somebody is going to buy that thing.” This is where black and white thinking does not work. This is the problem with my thinking. From a communication standpoint, the supply and the demand narrative that is one that has to balance both fairness and growth at the same time have to look at opportunities as well as safety. It cannot be straight. You cannot necessarily go full out and burn out the environment and eat all the cabbage. You can’t do that because then you got no cabbage and all these people are starving.
It’s the same thing with the masks. You cannot say at the frontend of the Donald Trump disease thing where you cannot say this. They could have and Donald Trump could have said, “Let’s do the national thing. Let’s get the masks done. Let’s get everybody in a mask.” He would now be president and he would still be president if he would have handled those things. Let’s not pretend that he doesn’t have enough votes. He had enough votes and if he would have handled the pandemic, people would’ve given him a verbal pass if he would have turned into a public servant.
I agree. He had a ball teed up for him on a tee like a five-year-old would have at the baseball plate. Not having the ball pitch to him. The ball with and sitting on a tee and all he had to do was swing at it. He would have at least gotten on base. He never stepped up to the plate when it came to the Coronavirus. I’m making a metaphor here, but had he done that, had he appeared to care about the virus situation in a meaningful way, he would have won reelection in a walk.
It’s a weird thing to say and it’s surprising to me that somebody close around him would have gotten him to do it, “Here’s what you could do.” All he had to do is put three sentences next to it and Donald Trump would have turned into a public servant. The three sentences are, “I’d like to acknowledge and recognize you for your strengths and your ability to deliver a message that engages people.” That’s message number one. You meet the need for recognition and acknowledgment first for the president.
The second thing that needs to be said is that, “I wonder what it would look like if you can use your messaging skills to get people to do something that would protect all of them. I wonder what that would’ve looked like, but I don’t know if you could do that. What would be a good message if you were to do that?” He would take it as a challenge. You go like, “Watch how I pull the levers. Watch this Twitter tweet I do about masks. Watch this thing I do.” “I wonder what that message would look like as a positive, optimistic message that demonstrated strength.” He would have come up with it. He would have been the mask guru guy.
If you were his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and you had taken that kind of message to the president, you could have almost challenged him or baited him.
Challenge and made it impossible for him to do it, “I don’t think you could do that. I guess you could.” “You were successful with that drain the swamp, I wonder how that would look with put the mask on and make the mask fashionable. Why don’t you go ahead and do it this way? Let’s see if we can brand and market your mask. Let’s see if we can do it this way.” He would have said instead of, “Make America great again,” it would have been, “America’s strong across this or trump this virus.”
On a mask and distribute those everywhere. We even talked about mask messages in the past during the campaign. It could have been an entirely different thing, but instead, the president goes off on his labeling and diagnosing of these things, calling it the Kung Flu or trying to blame it on China.
He was looking for the enemy. He tried to assign an inanimate particle, which is what a virus is until it hooks into a cell. He tried to make it responsible for an enemy image and that’s that isolationism stuff that we tapped in. Our nation has experienced and trumped things. Around World War II, there were all people that go like, “It is over there. This is their fight. We do not need to be over there.” There were candidates hammering the nation not to get and spend our affluence and resources over there to those people that are fighting. Just let them be there. Can you imagine how close Hitler was to having a nuclear bomb? That would’ve reset the whole of Europe, Nazi Germany and the suppression. We would have had the Coronavirus problem that we have now from a political-ideological piece that a darn right mess is what it would have been.
I can imagine it would have been entirely different if Pearl Harbor had not happened. Hitler probably would have been allowed to get a much stronger foothold. He probably would’ve made it across to Great Britain, which he never otherwise did, because the Americans were involved at that point. There’s a whole potential history shift there and technology is a big one. The Germans had come up with jet engine airplanes in World War II before we did too. It’s interesting if you correlate that to the virus because it was a virus is what you’re saying.
We could do an episode on this is that, ideas are viruses. You got to decide if what ideas are you going to spread? Are you going to go after something that helps people to gain a healthy perspective about themselves and others? A healthy way to grow into things. In social media, messages or viruses. They call it that. “How many viral clicks are you getting for this message? This message went viral.” Now, is viral good? With social media, it’s good. In medicine, it is not good.
We have the supply and demand going on of the vaccine distribution and it’s very interesting because there’s a lot of uncertainty about how this is going to play out. We started by talking about the messages of the virus and truly, as a nation, to get out of this thing, we need as many people to get the vaccine as possible. Right now, there’s not enough supply to meet the demand. I wonder what’s going to happen when there are an oversupply and plenty to meet the demand. Do enough people get the vaccine? I don’t know.
That’s going to be interesting. The next set of messaging needs to take place in order to get engagement of the next group of folks and as it moves around because in the transmission of things, it’s a toughie. This virus affecting old people, older folks, is being treated completely different if it affected children. If it was affecting children and you started losing children over this, it’s a catastrophic experience of a race, of a species under attack. It’s like, “How are you going to come back from this?” I felt like our species hasn’t had problems like this with the plague and stuff like that in the past and other viruses. Tom, it’s going to be interesting. Let’s take a look at how we can talk about communication and supply and demand. How messaging needs to take place in order to get the nation to support itself and to protect itself, making sure the product lines work both in a socialism and capitalism way. It’s got to work both. It can’t be one or the other. It’s a good place for us to stick and move forward from.
I appreciate that, Bill. There has to be a balance. It can’t be socialism is all bad and capitalism is all good. We’re seeing that play out in our nation now. You have to have a balance, don’t you?
You’ve got to have a healthy narrative. You can’t just not inspect things like wind turbines and gas lines. They won’t work if you don’t inspect them. You got to watch things. Tom, have a good one. Thanks, everybody for reading.
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