The Trump administration’s response to the crisis incurred by the novel coronavirus gained renewed attention on Friday, when a surprising jobs report showed the U.S. had added nearly 2.5 million jobs in May, after shedding over 20 million jobs in the month prior.
The report demonstrated a “rocket ship” economic recovery, Trump said; while presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he was “disturbed” to see Trump celebrate when “so many Americans are still hurting.”
In a newly released interview, taped on Monday, Trump’s handling of the pandemic received a mixed review from Chase Koch, the president of venture capital firm Koch Disruptive Technologies and son of Charles Koch, the multi-billionaire CEO of Koch Industries and one of the nation’s most influential conservative political donors.
Chase Koch, whose family’s political network will forego support for Trump’s re-election, credited the Trump administration for removing regulatory barriers in healthcare but criticized it as part of a broad government effort to preempt business owners from determining whether they can operate safely.
“There's some some really great things that the administration has done, and some things that probably have room for improvement,” says Koch, 42, who sits on the board of directors at Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries, a manufacturing conglomerate with annual revenue of over $110 billion.
“One thing that is a positive would be on the medical side and on the health system, a lot of regulations that have been holding innovations back for some time were opened up,” Chase Koch says.
In mid-March, the Trump administration allowed Medicare beneficiaries to use their insurance for a wider array of telemedicine consultations. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal agency, followed with further regulatory waivers that eased the hiring of local community members as nurses or physicians, and permitted hospitals to open temporary expansion facilities, among other measures.
“My hope is that those aren't temporary options for the health system and that they can stick into place,” Koch says. “Because we've been able to help so many people through the health system and the rollback of those regulations.”
Koch made the remarks in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
Since 2017, Koch has served as president of Koch Disruptive Technologies, which invests in companies developing advances in cybersecurity, medicine, and other sectors. He has held a position on the board of directors at Koch Industries since 2013, according to LinkedIn.
Disagreement between the Koch family and Trump goes back to at least 2016, when Charles Koch said the political network would not back Trump in the presidential race.
In January, the Koch political network told donors that it again would not work to re-elect Trump, whom Charles Koch had sharply criticized in 2018 for differences on immigration and trade policy. In response, Trump tweeted that month that Charles and his since-deceased brother David “had become a total joke in real Republican circles.”
Chase Koch criticized government efforts to dictate whether a business owner could safely operate his or her establishment amid the pandemic.
“An area that I would have thought about it differently was the government making decisions in terms of what is an essential business and what’s a non-essential business,” he says.
The Trump administration released a set of conditions for coronavirus containment in April that it recommended states meet before they reopen, including a 14-day downward trajectory in new cases or positive test rates. While all states have begun to reopen, many have failed to meet the White House conditions, according to ProPublica.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control released new guidelines last month to help businesses, schools, mass transit systems, and other entities determine whether they can safely reopen. The White House urged the agency to revise a prior version of the document that it considered “too prescriptive,” Politico reported.
“I would have thought about it more from the government framework of how do we keep folks healthy and safe, but trying to push down the the decisions to business leaders,” Koch says. “If they demonstrate that they can keep people healthy and their data looks good from a business standpoint, then let them make more of those decisions.”
“So more of a bottom-up approach instead of a top-down approach,” he says.