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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
8 Apr 2023

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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic response that included lockdowns, many small businesses folded while big companies thrived, a senator said, calling this phenomenon a “wealth transfer.”

 Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) criticized the response to the pandemic, particularly the shutdowns, in a March 22 interview on EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” program.

“There was nothing in the pandemic plan that called for shutdowns,” said Johnson, a Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs member, and the Budget and Finance Committee.

“The way we shut the economy down, we shut down all the little mom-and-pop shops, but we let the big box stores open.”

According to a study, a massive transfer of wealth occurred from the middle class to Big Tech and social media giants during COVID-19 lockdowns, Carol Roth said in a Newsweek Opinion piece.

According to CNBC, seven tech companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook, Tesla, and Nvidia, gained $3.4 trillion in market value in 2020.

Meanwhile, “The number of active business owners in the United States plummeted by 3.3 million or 22 percent over the crucial 2‐month window from February to April 2020,” according to a study on the impacts of COVID policies by Robert Fairlie, professor of economics at the University of California.

“The drop in active business owners was the largest on record, and losses to business activity were felt across nearly all industries,” Fairlie said.

Johnson called the government, Big Pharma, Big Tech, and legacy media the “ COVID Cartel.” He said Big Pharma had captured federal health agencies, legacy media, and social media giants.

“They controlled the narrative in a way that was highly beneficial to them,” Johnson said. He explained that companies like Amazon and social media did great during the pandemic because, due to the shutdown, people had to use social media and Big Tech.

The Pfizer logo and a stock graph are seen in this illustration taken on May 1, 2022. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)

Johnson said that “the revolving door between the federal health agencies and Big Pharma” is very concerning, referring to an undercover video recorded by Project Veritas which shows a Pfizer director talking about the serial passage of viruses for mutation.

Dr. Jordon Walker, director of R&D strategic operations and mRNA scientific planning at Pfizer, said in the video: “It [Pfizer] is a revolving door for all government officials.”

“As a regulator, you’re not going to really seriously regulate or question your future employer or your previous employer, who will be your future employer once again,” Johnson commented.

In a written statement addressing the claim of conducting gain of function and directed evolution research made in the video, Pfizer did not dispute that Walker was or is a Pfizer employee.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who served as the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 2017-2019, joined Pfizer’s Board of Directors in 2019. Before 2017, Gottlieb was a member of the product investment board at GlaxoSmithKline and the board of directors at Daiichi Sankyo, a global pharmaceutical company based in Japan, according to Open Secrets.

Another official working alternatively in public and private sectors is Dr. Julie Gerberding, who served as the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2002-2009, was appointed president of Merck’s vaccine division in 2009, and became CEO of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health in 2022.

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar, who held the office from 2018 to 2021, was a senior executive at Eli Lilly for a decade. Before joining Eli, Azar served at HHS for six years as a general counsel and deputy secretary.

“Big business works very tightly with big government,” Jeffrey Tucker, senior economics columnist for The Epoch Times and founder and president of The Brownstone Institute, said on the “Go Woke, Go Broke” segment of the “American Thought Leaders” program.

Tucker cited Milton Friedman, an economist and a recipient of the Nobel Prize, who warned that big business is the biggest enemy of capitalism.

“They [big business] don’t like competition, and they don’t like freedom. They like the tight relationship with the regulators,” Tucker said.

“Unfortunately, it’s very easy to manipulate a population, and the best way to manipulate them is with fear,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that the technocrats and government health officials used fear to ensure that “the world was deathly afraid” of the COVID-19 pandemic. “As a result, when you’re deathly afraid, you’re looking for some relief from that fear.”

Then, health officials presented the vaccine as a cure for COVID-19, the senator explained.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was unknown what the potential fatality rate of the disease would be, Johnson said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a congressional hearing in March 2020 that the estimated mortality rate of COVID-19, “I think if you count all the cases of minimally symptomatic or asymptomatic infection, that probably brings the mortality rate down to somewhere around 1 percent, which means it is ten times more lethal than the seasonal flu.”

Johnson said some light was shed on this question by John Ioannidis, who analyzed the COVID-19 outbreak on a Diamond Princess cruise ship in February 2020. Ioannidis asserted that the disease would be deadly for elderly people, especially with certain comorbidities. Still, the senator pointed out that it would be a flu-like type of disease for the young and healthy. “His analysis of what happened on the Princess Cruise has pretty well stood the test of time.”

Ioannidis, a professor of medical sciences at Stanford University and one of the most-cited scientists worldwide, estimated in a paper published a few months after the start of the pandemic that people under 65 “have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in pandemic epicenters.”

“Strategies focusing specifically on protecting high-risk elderly individuals should be considered in managing the pandemic,” the paper said.

A recent paper co-authored by Ioannidis assessed that during the pre-vaccination era, the median infection fatality rate of COVID-19 was 0.035 percent for people under 60 years old and 0.095 percent among people under 70.

The paper said these mortality rate estimates in non-elderly populations are lower than previous calculations had suggested.

Johnson said he initially was not going to run for Senate in the 2022 midterm election after serving two terms in the upper chamber of Congress but changed his mind because no other lawmaker or congressional committee was conducting hearings on the COVID-19 response, vaccines, or vaccine injuries.

Johnson added he was using his former chairmanship of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to hold hearings and roundtable discussions to explore questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines.

“The hearings I held should have been held in the health committees in both the House and the Senate, [but] they weren’t.”

“I got connected to the vaccine-injured community. Nobody was advocating for them,” Johnson said. “You can’t turn your back on people like that. All they wanted was to be seen, heard, and believed because they wanted to be cured.”

“I couldn’t turn my back on this country. This country is something rare and precious, Johnson continued. “ We’re a long way from perfect, but the people of America are good, as I think most people are around the world. The problem is really bad governance around the world.”

The senator also questioned restricting the free flow of information about the virus and the pandemic.

“Skeptic, to me, is a synonym for science. Science is about being skeptical,” Johnson said, “One of the greatest tragedies of the entire pandemic episode is we haven’t even been allowed to ask the questions.”

Johnson wondered why early treatment was not pursued in response to the pandemic, calling this decision “insane.”

“We didn’t look at all the different generic drugs that were on the shelf. They have been used for decades safely. They had the kind of properties that you’d be expecting in terms of being antiviral or anticoagulant or working with respiratory illnesses. We just threw all that aside.”

COVID tests cost the country tens of billions of dollars and created an opportunity for early disease detection, thus allowing for early treatment “which produces better results and better healing,” Johnson said. But “for whatever reason, there was a concerted effort not to promote or research or push any kind of early treatment, anything that might mitigate and lessen the severity of the disease.”

A bottle and pills of hydroxychloroquine sulfate, a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug, sit on a counter at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20, 2020. (George Frey/AFP via Getty Images)

Johnson said that very early in the pandemic, he contacted Novartis, a hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) manufacturer, to find out if the company could make this inexpensive generic drug used by some doctors to treat COVID with promising results.

Johnson said the company was conducting clinical trials on hydroxychloroquine that were due in May or June 2020, but he stopped hearing from Novartis around mid-April.

In June 2020, Novartis said in a statement, “Novartis has made the decision to stop and discontinue its sponsored HCQ clinical trial for COVID-19 due to acute enrollment challenges that have made trial completion infeasible.”

“No safety issues have been reported, and there are no conclusions on efficacy from the study,” the statement said.

“It just seems like at some moment, pretty early on in the pandemic, the decision was made throughout the pharmaceutical industry, and throughout federal health agencies globally, that the solution was going to be a vaccine,” Johnson said, calling the response to COVID “a miserable failure.”

Dr. Harvey Risch, professor emeritus of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and Yale School of Medicine, said that early treatment of COVID with drugs like hydroxychloroquine or Ivermectin could reduce the risk of hospitalization by 50 percent.

According to a paper published in 2006, measures such as lockdown, travel restrictions, and masking should not be used in pandemic management, Risch told “American Thought Leaders” in February.

The paper, co-authored by Don Henderson, a medical doctor who led the international effort to eradicate smallpox, talked about influenza at the time, “but there’s not a lot of difference in how you manage a large-scale epidemic between the two viruses,” Risch said.

All the measures applied to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic were “plausible, but the scientific evidence is exactly opposite,” Risch stressed, referring to the paper.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.