• Jeffrey Zalles

Richard Burr Makes a Killing

Updated Memorial Day, 2020

Now that deaths from Covid-19 have reached the 100,000 threshold, perhaps this is a good time to come up with an amount that best represents the dollar value of a human life. To help with the math, I will employ one of North Carolina’s most successful investors, Senator Richard Burr.

You may recall that shortly after attending a closed-door meeting that included warnings of a potentially devastating economic threat from the coronavirus, Senator Burr, on February 13, sold between $618,000 and $1,700,00 in stock, while at the same time downplaying the threat to the public. Weeks later, the market crashed, losing 30% of its value in a matter of days.

Research published on April 15 revealed that “the vast majority, as much as 90%, of U.S. deaths from the coronavirus outbreak, could have been avoided if strict social distancing measures were imposed just two weeks earlier.” Had Senator Burr called the New York Times instead of his broker, tens of thousands of American lives could have been spared.

With that in mind, let’s do the math. Since deaths are increasing daily, we will use the total of 100,000 deaths as of Memorial Day – a fitting day, indeed - in our calculations. Considering the research referenced above, 90% of those deaths, or 90,000 lives, were lost thanks to the suppression of critical information by Senator Burr, among others.

Experts have estimated that Senator Burr avoided a drop in the value of his portfolio of around $250,000. By dividing this amount by the number of avoidable deaths, we arrive at a valuation of $2.78 per life lost.

In other words, given the choice between one American life and $2.78, Senator Burr chose the latter. And if you happen to be one of 1,679,189 who came down with the virus, you can take comfort in knowing that Richard Burr sold you out for 14.8 cents.

So, now we know how much our lives are worth, at least to Senator Burr and, sadly, to his Republican colleagues who have remained silent in the face of his reprehensible behavior in a time of national crisis.