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Ralph speaks to two authors who have written books about how disease has shaped history, first journalist Vidya Krishnan, author of “Phantom Plague: How Tuberculosis Shaped History,” which features Dracula and Bill Gates, and then John Nichols, author of “Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers: Accountability for Those Who Caused the Crisis?” including Jeff Bezos, Donald Trump and Pfizer.

Vidya Krishnan is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting on medical science for the last twenty years. She has written for the Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, and the Caravan. Her new book is Phantom Plague: How Tuberculosis Shaped History.

One of the champions of the knowledge monopoly is Mr. Gates. Bill Gates, not coincidentally, made a lot of money after 1995, when the TRIPS agreement went into force. Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation bring a very technocratic approach to healthcare, as against an approach that has human rights in it. Especially when dealing with infectious diseases. Big Philanthropy in particular has– in some twisted way– raised “charity” to some high principle of justice. And we now see, with COVID technologies, they are locked in patent.

Vidya Krishnan, author of Phantom Plague: How Tuberculosis Shaped History


I live between the US and India and… this architecture of unfairness is so exacting. It falls very precisely on exactly the same minority communities in an extremely predictable way.

Vidya Krishnan, author of Phantom Plague: How Tuberculosis Shaped History


This idea of our founding fathers– or the framers of the Constitution– to entice innovation by giving the lone inventors at that time a monopoly for a few years, so they could market it and get a reward, has turned into a global monster. That is really hard to exaggerate.

Ralph Nader


This is a grotesque circle that’s going on, where you have: the government uses tax dollars to do the risky research and development for these pharmaceuticals (because the drug companies don’t want to risk their own money); and when the discoveries are made, the government gives it away to selected drug companies…; and then the drug companies use the monopoly patent cover to secure total monopoly prices, which have devastating effects killing millions of people all around the world. Literally pay or die.

Ralph Nader

John Nichols is an author, the national affairs correspondent for the Nation, a contributing writer for the Progressive and In These Times, and the associate editor of the Capital Times, a daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His latest book is entitled Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers: Accountability for Those Who Caused the Crisis.

The bottom line is: during the pandemic, we asked people to engage in shared sacrifice. Nurses sacrificed. Doctors sacrificed. Bus drivers sacrificed. Grocery store workers sacrificed. We had a tremendous amount of sacrifice in this country. Many people got sick and died. And yet our billionaire class in this country? They retired to their country homes or their waterfront villas; they turned on their computers; they started moving money around; and they ended up richer than they had ever been before.

John Nichols, author of Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers: Accountability for Those Who Caused the Crisis


I found again and again in researching the book frontline workers who recognized the danger. They recognized the threat. And yet, when they complained– either to their employers, or to government officials– they got a very limited, and sometimes neglectful response. And there’s simply no question, those limited and neglectful responses led to hundreds of thousands of deaths that were unnecessary.

John Nichols, author of Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers: Accountability for Those Who Caused the Crisis


[A Lancet report concluded that] 40% of the [COVID] deaths in the United States would not have occurred if the Trump administration and others in positions of power had simply followed the basic protocols that other countries followed.

John Nichols, author of Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers: Accountability for Those Who Caused the Crisis


The pandemic was very very good for Jeff Bezos. It was a boom time for him. But during that same time, he and his company fired whistleblowers who tried to reveal that the warehouses for Amazon were not safe. They spent millions undermining union organizing drives that were based on making those warehouses safer. And again and again and again, Jeff Bezos and Amazon put profiteering ahead of the safety of their workers.

John Nichols, author of Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers: Accountability for Those Who Caused the Crisis

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 422 Transcript (Right click to download)


  1. Steve says:

    Nichol’s book may point to valid governmental incompetence, but many of his healthcare assumptions are still based on corporate propaganda.

    • David Faubion says:

      Steve, thanks for the heads up and/or your opinion. However, no thanks to your argument’s missing evidence in the form of quotes from what John Nichols told us. Hence, I will need to re-listen to this outstanding, as usual, ‘Ralph Nader Radio Hour’ podcast with your contention in mind. OTOH, if you could be so kind as to qualify your rather propaganda-like statement here. then I’ll be able to spend my hour listening to some other goody.

  2. Don Harris says:

    In your recent blog “Corporate Media Ignores Senate Hearing on Corporate Greed and Inflation” you made one really good point but missed the point of the need to make that statement.

    “The Democratic leadership has to decide what they want most- votes or more corporate money….”

    That was the good point.

    But the Deathocrats have already made that decision.

    The incumbent Deathocrats are not felling despair and defeatism over the prospect of the lying, corrupt and corporatist and clever(?) Republikillers taking control of Congress next year. They do not expect to stop the Republikillers from blaming Deathocrats for the corporate -bred inflationary pressures.

    The Deathocrats job is to pretend to be opposition to the Republikillers.

    And they tell us that when they decide that more corporate money is more important than our votes.

    And they make that decision because citizens decide to vote for them anyway when the Deathocrats take the big money.

    If there are no consequences other than losing to Republikillers (which is the Deathocrats job) then there are no consequences for the Deathocrats taking big money and our government remains under corporate control no matter which half of the one big money party is in control.

    If you really want politicians to have to decide between our votes or taking big money then citizens have to demand small donor candidates and enforce that demand with our votes.

    If they take big money they don’t get our votes.

    If there are no small donor candidates on our primary and/or general election ballot we can write-in our own name to register a vote against the big money candidates and to create and demonstrate demand for small donor candidates.

    While this will still result in big money Deathocrats and Republikillers being elected in 2022, just 10% national participation in 2022 will set up a base that will inspire more citizens to participate in 2024 and this will inspire candidates to meet the demand for small donor candidates in 2024 and 2026 in order to get the votes of this growing block of voters making the demand.

    Basic democracy.

    Power concedes nothing without a demand.

    Deathocrats will continue to choose the big money over our votes as long as citizens keep giving them the votes for nothing. We have to force then to make that choice by making the demand they run small donor campaigns and enforcing it with our votes.

    It doesn’t do any good to say it if we are not going to do it.

  3. Don Klepack says:

    As a loyal listener and a progressive , I found the discussion with John Nichols, author of Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers: Accountability for Those Who Caused the Crisis very painful to listen to and this is someone who never voted for a Republican. I would of felt the same way if another author wrote World War 2 Criminals and WW2 Profiteers: Accountability for Those Who Caused the Crisis. Then this author blamed the actions of FDR and his administration and mention a few Republicans to make it appear as if it wasn’t a partisan hit job.

    I refused to justify Donald Trump’s action during the Covid Crisis, except to say more Americans Died from Covid under Biden than Trump. I will defend both Ron DeSantis and Rand Paul who followed the law (and in my opinion the science) than most of the elected politicians.

    It would be nice and fair if Ralph has a follow-up show with John Nichols, Ron DeSantis and Rand Paul.

  4. Ben Leet says:

    Dean Baker, economist, has argued against patent privilege for many years. He projects that pharmaceutical (drug) costs could drop by 85% if all patents were removed. In 2020 some $500 billion was spent on drugs in the US, but this could have been $75 billion without patent protections — a huge savings. Today drug costs are double in the U.S. what they are in Canada, Germany and France. — — He says it would work better if government would “pay out money for research to drug companies on long-term contracts, similar to the way the Defense Department contracts out for major weapons systems.” He has many many articles at his blog about patents, for instance this title: “Between 1989 and 2020, Spending on Prescription Drugs Rose from 0.6 Percent of GDP to 2.4 Percent of GDP”. The other fact not mentioned in the interview is the Cuban Covid-19 vaccine which had high success rate in Cuba, a 92% effectiveness rate. It uses another technology, not mRNA technology, a different but historically effective technology for other vaccines. The WHO has not certified this vaccine as yet, but Cuba has announced it would allow other countries free access to the process. It sounds like US political bias against Cuba has stifled its production by restricting sales of pharmaceutical components, and persuasion against its dissemination.
    All in all nationalization seems an inexpensive alternative. And Robert Pollin, economist at PERI U.Mass/Amherst has a new paper, April 8, 2022, about nationalizing the fossil fuel industry. “Nationalize the U.S. Fossil Fuel Industry to Save the Planet”

  5. John Puma says:

    We have not had such a truly tender & heartwarming story of love-birds/soul-mates in US federal government as Chao+McConnell since the (even more de-structive!) cute Clinton couple came to town and began ravaging the country and the globe.

    A bit of post-Trump COVID discussion would have been informative for perspective – even though outside the scope of Mr Nichols’s book. I refer to the fact that 41% of total COVID deaths, at present, had occurred through Biden’s inauguration day. Are we to regard Biden, and the Dems who control both houses of congress, any less criminally negligent than Trump era monsters, to have soundly quashed any discussion, not to mention passage, of a universal health care insurance bill during the absolute depths of the US pandemic experience? The deadly delta variant had been identified a few weeks before Biden took office. If his, implied, “competent” people noticed it at all, what, exactly, did they do to boldly alleviate its effect?

    The deadly delta variant had been identified a few weeks before Biden took office. If his, implied, “competent” people noticed it, what, exactly, did they do to alleviate its effect?

  6. David Faubion says:

    Intently or not, you and Don K. above ignore the plain fact that the Trump admin is liable for most if not all of the COVID in Biden’s tenure thus far. Trump’s lack of a sound healthcare response, which includes (1) the grotesque absence of PPE (personal protective equipment), (2) the dire lack of hospital beds, ICU, and ventilators for years, (3) the President’s middle finger to the WHO, and the CDC for that matter, (4) his months of ignoring the obvious threat of the deadly virus, (5) his hysteric and historic denial of the science of COVID and the statements of findings from scientists, and (5) the chronic and acute movement of the anti-vax, anti-mask, and general disruption, non-cooperation, and threats to public safety that his admin intentionally ginned up for whatever reason (you could ask Trump but he won’t give a coherent answer). Other countries–even states like California and Hawaii in the USA had great success in minimizing COVID because they locked down their populations, provided free testing, and made vaccinations immediately and widely available. Lastly, Trump and dozens in his White House contracted the virus, something that has not occurred in the Biden WH.

    Furthermore, excuse me, but DeSantis and Rand Paul to this day echo Trump’s and other COVID misinformation.