Book Review by Tom Nelson — Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers (John Nichols)

Tom Nelson for Wisconsin
2 min readAug 22, 2022
Tom’s Tomes: A book review series where Tom Nelson talks about his latest favorite books.

Few examples of reprehensible Republican behavior tick me off more so than the GOP’s response to the COVID pandemic. And I’m not just talking about just Donald Trump, the U.S. Congress or even Ron Johnson.

I’m talking about the Wisconsin Republican state legislature.

They fought the Governor at every turn — stripping executive powers, filing frivolous lawsuits and racking up millions in legal expenses for the taxpayers to foot, and making it difficult for the governor to work with local officials to fight the pandemic.

I was on the front lines as County Executive trying to keep my community safe while fighting a rear-guard action against the legislature to limit the damage they were doing to the pandemic effort.

And while we were in the trenches fighting to keep our constituents alive, I was hoping that someone would one day tell our story to hold those to account for allowing a deadly pandemic to get out of control and needlessly claim the lives of over one million Americans.

John Nichols did just that with his highly acclaimed book Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers. Chapter by chapter, Nichols profiles CEOs, GOP Senators, and Trump administration officials who were in a position of power to save lives though chose to enrich themselves to the tune of $1.5 trillion, or score political points to win elections or improve political fortunes. It’s a satisfying read though it is impossible to get through a single chapter without throwing the book across the room in a fit of controlled rage. (I recommend reading alone and with the hardcover version.)

But it’s worth getting through it because once you finish you can say with absolute confidence: case closed.

Democrat, Republican, or Independent — it is hard to dispute Nichols’ thesis.

The pandemic was too good of an opportunity for the billionaire class to pass up to enrich themselves or for Republican politicians and operatives to make life as difficult as possible for responsible Democratic officeholders (and several moderate Republicans governors like Ohio’s Mike DeWine or Maryland’s Larry Hogan) to do their jobs. Even in the country’s darkest hours, you can’t get a greedy CEO or corrupt politician to change their jail-house pin-stripes.

Let the punishment fit the crime.

“When a country has been undermined, weakened and traumatized by those who choose political advantage or personal profit over human life and shared prosperity, truth and reconciliation is not enough,” Nichols writes in the concluding chapter. “Forgiving and forgetting becomes dangerous. There must be a reckoning and it must be sweeping in its scope and character, or the crimes of the past will be repeated.”

To the country’s patriotic district attorneys, attorneys general and the Honorable Merrick Garland: time to get to work.



Tom Nelson for Wisconsin

Husband, father of 2, former candidate for U.S. Senate, Outagamie County Executive