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The War on COVID = $$$$$

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted January 15, 2022

Publisher’s note: We will be releasing our 2022 market forecasts and predictions in the coming weeks. These reports will be a blueprint of what we see coming in the year ahead and beyond, and how to profit.

Prior to this, the market thinkers at Wealth Daily met once a month to talk about the trends — large and small — we see on the horizon.

The report below is my installment. Enjoy.

The United States craves war. 

As a nation, we were born from revolution, from musket shot and cannon fire. 

War galvanizes us in a way few other forces do. War gives us meaning and a purpose. 

In the face of a life-or-death struggle, real or imagined, we reach out across class and creed, race and place, and find each other as siblings, as Americans. 

This is likely why, ever since the Soviet Union fell, we’ve descended upon each other with a vicious fervor. Our war hunger has become focused not outward but inward.

We are in the midst of an autoimmune attack on the body politic. 

When we were a strapping new country, we fought other nations to survive and to grow. Sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly, always bloodily.

Britain. France. Spain. Mexico. The Confederacy. Austria-Hungary. Germany.

Then we were a world power. 

At which point our wars became strange. Ephemeral.

We started to war not with dangerous states but with ideas themselves.

Such wars are expensive to wage. Ideas are hard to pin down. 

Such wars are impossible to win. Ideas are impossible to kill. Maybe that’s the intention: Wars that have no end. 

Why? Because where there is easy money to be made, a war is the quickest means to that end.

In 1918, social critic Randolph Bourne coined the phrase "War is the health of the state."

He knew that war — like no other phenomenon — galvanized citizens into a cohesive, momentous movement of one.

But wars don't have to be of the military kind to be an effective social mobilizer. They can be social, political, cultural... and, as we have seen recently, medical.

Here's a quick recap of some of these “wars on X.”

The War on Communism — 1945 Until… Today

The U.S. Communist Party boasted a membership of 55,000 in 1946. Less than 0.04% of the U.S. population of 141 million.

But if you asked Sen. Joseph McCarthy, they were everywhere. The State Department. The Army. Hollywood. 

And so the war on communism, previously focused on anarchist immigrants who spoke little English, consumed American life.

Joseph McCarthy had thousands of government officials fired with no evidence of wrongdoing. The House Un-American Activities Committee destroyed the careers of hundreds of artists and writers. The First and Fifth amendments were suspended left and right.

This was only the beginning.

The fear of communism at home and abroad led us into prolonged wars and proxy skirmishes across the world, sending troops or providing weapons to everywhere from Nicaragua to Vietnam to Afghanistan to Angola.

Millions of civilians and a hundred thousand U.S. soldiers died in these conflicts. 

The cost?

$9 trillion. And counting.

What do we have to show for it?

China, still communist and the most populous country in the world, has taken the stage as a new world power. The U.S. Communist Party remains alive and kicking. Disillusionment with capitalism is at an all-time high, with over half of U.S. 18–29-year-olds having given up on the system. 

If our goal was to erase communism from the face of the Earth, did we? Did we really intend to?

The War on Poverty — 1964 Until… Today

In 1964, a fifth of people in the U.S. lived in poverty. 

Poverty, and the collapse of society generally, was on everyone’s mind. 

The civil rights movement revealed an entirely different side of America. The Vietnam War was picking up. The Beatles crossed the Atlantic.

Newly instated President Lyndon B. Johnson saw all this and thought he should do something.

So he started the Great Society.

The Economic Opportunity Act created the Job Corps and Head Start. Soon came food stamps, Medicare, and Medicaid. Social Security expanded. 

Some administrations have increased funding. Some have cut programs. Some have reformed the system. But throughout all this tinkering, the war on poverty has raged ceaselessly for over 50 years.

The price tag? 

Some say as high as $23 trillion! Some say as low as… $15 trillion.

What happened to poverty?

That 19% in 1964 dropped to 11.1% in less than a decade. Then a decade after that it was… 15%. Later 11.3%. Later 15% again.

The War on Drugs — 1971 Until… Today

Nixon declared his war on fun — I mean drugs — in 1971. Two years later he established the DEA. 

Some experts estimate that since it began, the drug war has cost the U.S. government a trillion dollars. 

That money bought a huge expansion in the U.S. prison system, with 450,000 people locked up for non-violent drug offenses in 2020. That’s over twice the size of the ENTIRE prison population when the drug war began.

All these people — and the millions that have come before them — have found their ability to work and contribute to society, along with their political rights, curtailed because of unnecessary criminal records. Resentment and mistrust has built up between communities, the police, and the justice system. 

And people, just as they have for thousands of years, still use drugs today.

In fact, the use of drugs both benign and harmful is rising. Pot is probably less than a decade from full legalization in the U.S. Scientists left and right are talking about turning hallucinogens into life-changing medications. Per capita overdose deaths are seven times higher now than they were in 1971.

It would appear that, despite the war we’ve waged, things have only gotten worse.

In 2021, the U.S. hit a grim milestone: Over 100,000 Americans died of a drug overdose. A record.

In fact, drug overdoses killed more young people in 2021 than COVID did.

The War on Terror — 2001 Until… Today

9/11 fundamentally altered the course of history for the U.S. and the world. 

We were shocked, afraid, and mourning. 

Then we began the war on terror. Ground occupations of Afghanistan and then Iraq. Drone strikes. Weapons sales. Troop training. Global surveillance.

The war just kept building, and $8 trillion and 400,000 civilian deaths later, we don’t have much to show for it. We’ve yet to see another 9/11, thank God. But the escalating war on terror has also turned much of the world against the U.S. and been a boom to jihadist recruiters everywhere. The Islamic State, which didn’t exist when all this began, is wreaking havoc across Iraq and Syria. Between 2018 and 2020, we were working with 85 countries on counterterrorism measures of some kind or another. The war in Afghanistan, the LONGEST war in U.S. history, ended with the collapse of the U.S.-installed government and a return to Taliban rule.

Just like communism, terrorism can’t just be killed. It’s an ideology. It’s a way of seeing the world. It’s a set of values. And while there are things we can do to help turn people away from such an ideology, we cannot eradicate an idea. We can’t kill it out of existence. We need to live with a certain level of insecurity. 

Perfect safety, as we’ve seen, is a very expensive impossibility.

The War on Climate Change — 2016 Until… Today

Climate change has been in the news a lot recently as environmental disasters become more powerful. World leaders gather to discuss mitigation and adaptation.

The 2016 Paris Agreement had leaders hoping to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Yet some studies indicate that the emissions cuts most countries agreed to for the Paris Agreement will result in 3°C of warming.

Many environmentalists hope to push countries to do more, urging investment in renewable energy and cuts to fossil fuels.

Some have looked to recent policies from the Biden administration as the start of a new “war on climate change” — though the president has not yet used that phrase — including funding for electric vehicle charging stations and green utility projects.

But, these baby steps notwithstanding, most people don’t have an appreciation for how much really tackling climate change would cost. 

Specifically, the U.N. estimates that keeping warming to 1.5°C would require an investment of between $1.6 trillion and $3.8 trillion. A year. Every year until 2050.

And a good chunk of that money would come from the U.S. government and U.S. corporations.

This isn’t to say that this investment isn’t worth it — the non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that if nothing is done, climate change will cost the U.S. over 10% of its GDP every year by 2100.

But what it means is that any war on climate change, like any war on anything, will cost incredible amounts of money.

And the secret is climate change is already here. 

With over $100 billion in extreme weather damages a year in the U.S. alone, climate change is already happening. The carbon we’ve put in the atmosphere will be there for centuries. Any war we wage is a war of attrition, trying to keep the flood waters at bay where we can and fleeing the rising tides when we must. 

And this brings us to the newest war, the one that has only just begun…

The War on COVID — Today Until…

COVID-19 upended every element of human life across the world. And two years in, it’s still with us.

After months of intermittent lockdowns, mask mandates, 800,000 U.S. deaths, the fastest vaccine development operation in history, and $5.5 trillion, we’ve still got variants popping up left and right with no end in sight.

There’s a reason we haven’t cured the common cold or extinguished the flu, and that same reason applies to the ever-mutating COVID-19. 

People may be sick and tired of lockdowns, but investment in fighting COVID-19 and future pandemics is only just starting.

The Biden administration just announced it was ordering 500 million new at-home tests to counter omicron. The Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Security Council released a new pandemic preparedness plan to cost $65 billion over the next 10 years. McKinsey has called for investments of $50 billion annually. And all this is just basic pandemic-fighting infrastructure.

While many have referred to COVID as a once-in-a-century event, we’ve seen smaller pandemics and near-misses come more rapidly over the last few years. After the Spanish flu in 1917 and AIDS in 1981, we’ve had SARS (the first COVID) in 2003, H1N1 in 2009, MERS in 2012, Zika in 2015, and multiple Ebola scares. 

As we globalize, pack tighter into cities, and venture further into previously untouched environments, the next COVID is likely to come sooner than anyone predicted.

When it does, we’ll see huge profits for the biotech companies that take it on.

Moderna and Pfizer are expected to make $18 billion and $36 billion, respectively, from their COVID vaccines in 2021, with their stock prices up over 1,100% and 100% since the start of the pandemic. 

We are going to keep seeing returns like this, because the war on COVID and on all pandemics to come isn’t going to end. As long as humans continue to build, gather, and spread, we’re going to get sick. 

Sometimes we’re going to get really sick. 

Every doctor, researcher, and scientist believes COVID will be endemic, meaning it’ll be with us forever like the flu. And that means learning to live with it. And that means a pipeline of treatments — like the ones we use perennially to combat the common cold, seasonal allergies, and the flu — will continue to hit the markets.

Billions will be spent and made. In the coming weeks and months, we will bring you news on the most promising COVID treatments and the companies you should invest in. But it won't be just a war on COVID that will see massive investment. Investing in the war against future pandemics is here to stay.

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Brian Hicks

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Brian is a founding member and President of Angel Publishing. He writes about general investment strategies for Wealth Daily and Energy & Capital. For more on Brian, take a look at his editor's page.

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