Biden just announced that all Federal employees are required to be vaccinated. What does this mean to the US and especially the private sector? Tony Nash joins the BBC Business Matters for a discussion on this. Also discussed are the BRICS and how they are catching up to the world’s major economies and will the environment be a big priority in the next US election?
This podcast was published on September 10, 2021 and the original source can be found at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w172xvqj8vfxhr5.
BBC Business Matters Description:
US President, Joe Biden, has announced that all federal workers have to be vaccinated against Covid-19. He’s also instructing the Department of Labor to draft a rule mandating that all businesses with 100 or more employees require their workers to get vaccinated or face weekly testing. And as the BRICS leaders meet, is the loose alliance of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa working? We hear from Professor Miles Kahler, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC. Facebook has been accused of breaking UK equality law in the way it handles job adverts. The campaign group Global Witness said the social network failed to prevent discriminatory targeting of ads, and its algorithm was biased in choosing who would see them, as Naomi Hirst from the organisation explains. Also in the programme, we find out why the issue of climate change has become such a dominant theme in the upcoming German federal elections. And the American car giant, Ford will stop production in India; we get analysis from Nikhil Chawla, a business journalist and proud Ford owner based in Delhi. We’re joined throughout the programme by Jyoti Malhotra, National & Strategic Affairs Editor at The Print; she’s with us from New Delhi. And Tony Nash, co-founder and Chief Economist at Complete Intelligence, is with us from Houston, Texas. (Photo of President Joe Biden by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images).
FW: It’s good to hear you, Tony. Back last summer, when the vaccine was a fantasy, we didn’t know how far they were getting and how fast they were working. I remember an astute commentator on this show saying it answers the question, should the federal government get involved in forcing people to have it, if and when it becomes available said, “no way, no way, because it’ll polarize opinion. Leave it to business.” Is the President going too far with this?
TN: I do think he is. I think forcing this through the private sector as an enforcement vehicle is polarizing, will say that much. I think this will drive a political wedge, like very few other things, and I think it’s somewhat intentional. I’ll say I don’t necessarily believe that public health is the guideline. I’m looking right now at COVID figures for Texas, and the fatality rate is something like 40% lower than it was during the cycle we had in Q1 in February.
So I think people are looking at the data we’re accustomed to COVID, and we’re accustomed to these data, and I think he sounded quite a lot like he was lecturing and talking down to people. And the folks that have not been vaccinated wouldn’t really appreciate that. So it’s politically polarizing. There will be more States rights issues that come out of this than I think he had intended.
FW: Okay, that’s an interesting thing that we’ll be watching. Is it not the case or there are those who may disbelieve the figures, the assertion being that 97% or so of those in hospital with COVID have not been vaccinated, and that would suggest that the president’s got the message exactly right. These 80 million, whatever their reasons, they are the most vulnerable.
TN: So, I haven’t seen those data divided at the state level, and those data differ dramatically from what we see out of Israel, which is one of the only governments that’s got very transparent data on who is vaccinated, at what stage they’re vaccinated and so on. So the data from Israel tell us very differently than 97%. So whether I’m vaccinated or not isn’t necessarily a part of this discussion. I think what really matters is we have to look at data, and the American system is one where if you look at American health care, if you look at American public health, for the most part in our history, individuals have been able to decide on the course of their own treatment and what has happened with American government that’s happened under Trump. This is happening under Biden. This has happened at some state levels where governments are telling people how they have to manage health care, and it’s not left up to them. So, again, this is translated by a number of Americans, not as a public health policy. iIt’s translated as an individual and States rights policy. So we’ve already had a number of governors, Oklahoma, Georgia, Missouri, other places, Florida and Texas will come out soon, basically saying this will not be enforced in my state and this is a state rights issue.
FW: Very interesting. Let’s go a very quick one if you would have both of you about the corporate side. Seems to me we discussed this a bit on the show, Tony, that in America, a company has immense power to tell its employees and fire them. We talked to one instance about CNN firing three employees who haven’t had the jab. Is that something that the President can count on?
TN: Can you count on companies to do that? Yeah. I think you’ll have plenty of companies who will not do it. So it will likely come the Federal through OSHA, which is a health and safety Department in the US government, and they’ll issue mandates. The question is around enforcement mechanisms. I think the main problem with this is the forcing it on smaller companies. The expectation is that it would be on bigger companies, but it’s companies down to 100 staff. And you’ve got a lot of very independent, very willful heads of smaller companies who will outright refuse to do this. I think larger kind of corporate America folks, no problem. They’ll get it done
FW. From a US perspective. Tony, thanks, Joy. From a US perspective, is this a kind disaster for Ford, or is he just a really hard nose business decision that has been made by Jim Farley and 2 billion for Ford? It’s affordable. Yeah.
TN: I think it’s just a business decision. I think Americans obviously want to expand overseas, but in markets where the difficult people understand. So I just think it’s seen as a business decision.
FW: And that moved to China. That Jose said that is the business decision.
TN: It is. Yeah. And for got some catching up to do with General Motors there as well. So I think that’s the bigger priority.
FW: Tony, react to that if you would, because there’s a suggestion and I might be taking this too far from what Jody was saying. But when we had the professor talking about these constant ideas of reforming the multilateral system and redefining a multipolar world, it sounds what Jet is suggesting is actually this is all a bit hypocritical because it’s going to be mono, polo or unipolar. It’s just going to be China, that’s all.
TN: Well, I think that’s possible. But I also think that if we look at the three most active participants in BRICS, Russia, India, China, they’re strategic competitors. Yes, they’re rising fast, but their strategic competitors and they’re neighbors. So I think BRICS is a really interesting organization, kind of to ensure that they don’t become competitors or aggressive competitors too quickly to be able to cooperate in finance, cooperate and kind of cross border things. Other social programs, investment, that sort of thing. I think I remember when BRICS was announced, and I think it was kind of a neat thing to have, but there wasn’t an understanding of how important these economies would actually be. Now that they’re there, of course, as Jose mentioned, Brazil in South Africa just haven’t kept up in terms of relevance and importance. But the Russia, India, China part of BRICS really has, it really has. And I think it’s necessary to keep the kind of temperature low between those countries. I think there’s a lot of friction between the or potential friction between those countries.
FW: So just to pick up on that. From a DC perspective, does the State Department watch a BRIC summit and think the three primarily, China, Russia, India, these are countries need to be following closely in what they do in their internal relationship because we have to watch them all for different reasons.
TN: Will the State Department watch the brick summit. I think they would. I am not sure what they would do with it, because I think the US has opportunities to apply diplomatic carrots and sticks in different ways outside of multilateral, because it’s one of the leading economies and one of the leading powers. It has opportunities outside of multilateral environments to do that. So what we have with BRICS is some countries that were, I guess, economically considered kind of small countries 15 years ago when it was formed. Now they’re actually big countries, and so they needed the multilateral environment in those days to get things done.
Now, they don’t necessarily need the multilateral environment as much. They can do more on their own. I would argue that any one of those top three BRICS countries potentially has more diplomatic ability than many countries in Europe. Whereas 1520 years ago, you couldn’t say that. So it’s really the countries themselves are a lot more powerful than they were. So I think it could potentially be an important organization to keep them somewhat aligned.
FW: Equipped Tony to you. Cop 26, just coming up in November. I guess that’s a full year ahead of the next midterms in the US. Would the environment play at all in the campaign?
TN: I think it will. I think it will be marginal. I think things like COVID and some social issues and the business cycle, to be honest, will be bigger issues than the environment. But of course, it’ll hit certain cities and certain demographics, but I don’t think it will be a major issue.
FW: Well, thank you both. It’s great having you with us. We’re off for now. Bye bye.