Friday, April 3, 2020

Why Trump refuses to take federal action - and why that is costing us in dollars and deaths

Here are excerpts from the latest of Letters from an American by Heather Cox Richardson via this morning’s email. You might lose your breakfast over this one. It offers a clear explanation of why Trump refuses to take federal action - and why prices for PPEs have sky-rocketed. To start, Chuck Schumer asks for centralized action but Trump responds with a narcissistic ad hominem rant.

Today Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) wrote to Trump to urge him to appoint a “senior military officer” as a “czar” to coordinate a federal response to the crisis and to use the DPA to increase production, procurement, and distribution of medical devices and equipment. “America cannot rely on a patchwork of uncoordinated voluntary efforts to combat the awful magnitude of this pandemic,” Schumer wrote. “The existing federal void has left America with an ugly spectacle in which States and cities are literally fending for themselves, often in conflict and competition with each other, when trying to procure precious medical supplies and equipment. The only way we will fix our PPE [personal protective equipment] and ventilator shortage is with a data-driven, organized and robust plan from the federal government. Anything short of that will inevitably mean this problem will remain unsolved and prolong this crisis.”

Trump responded with a letter that was remarkable, even by his standards. It began: “Thank you for your Democrat public relations letter and incorrect sound bites, which are wrong in every way.” Trump denied that there was anything wrong with his administration’s response to the crisis. “As you are aware, the Federal Government is merely a back-up for state governments. Unfortunately, your state needed far more of a back-up than most states.”

He went on: “If you spent less time on your ridiculous impeachment hoax, which went haplessly on forever and ended up going nowhere (except increasing my poll numbers), and instead focused on helping the people of New York, then New York would not have been unprepared for the ‘invisible enemy.’” (Schumer called for a declaration of a public health emergency on January 26.) “I’ve known you for many years, but I never knew how bad a Senator you are for the state of New York, until I became President.”

[Massachusetts] state representative Katherine Clark said “this is not how it’s supposed to work…. What we need is a coordinated federal system.”

But there isn’t one. Instead, the White House is turning to private interests to manage the national response. It is a philosophical position embraced by those who would overturn the active government that has presided over the United States since the New Deal.

There was a remarkable moment tonight in the press conference tonight at the White House, flagged by Josh Marshall at TPM (Talking Points Memo). Countries have been sending supplies of masks, gowns, and so forth that our medical professionals so desperately need. But at the same time, ProPublica has reported that states are paying up to 15 times what medical supplies usually cost to get this equipment. So what’s going on?

At the press conference, Weijia Jiang of CBS News asked the official in charge of the shipments, Rear Admiral John P. Polowczyk, what was happening to them. He explained they are not going directly to the states or to FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Rather, they are going to the private sector, which has systems in place for distributing such materials. But the states are in a bidding war in the private sector to buy this equipment, which is driving prices up.

Shouldn’t the federal government step in to stop profiteering and make sure states get the supplies they need? “I’m not here to disrupt a [commercial] supply chain,” the admiral said.

That’s why more Americans will die today. Trump does have blood on his hands.

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