I believe it’s really that infuriatingly and despicably simple. Weeks have stretched into months with knowledge that medical supplies as basic as face masks and protective gowns (can gloves be far behind?) as well as more sophisticated items like ventilators are (and have been) in short supply. Not to mention test kits to see just who has contracted COVID-19 and who hasn’t which of course is crucial to managing the pandemic. Everyone keeps asking why? Why in a country with the resources this one has have we been unable to keep up with the demand for such things, much less build up to the point of what’s going to be needed in the weeks and months ahead?
The answer has been staring us in the face all along and I wish it was being talked about more. We see Governors begging for help, the Trump administration resisting (first) invoking Emergency Powers and then when Trump finally did so refusing to wield those powers. Day after day we hear not just Gov. Cuomo but other Governors on TV talking about having to bid against each other AND the federal government for critically needed items, including complaining directly to Trump and his minions in conference calls. Orders that have been contracted for have been cancelled. And on top of that it’s now been reported that so much of the things OUR Governors can’t get for their states is being shipped out of the U.S. to other countries! That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but since the United States is experiencing the largest number of cases, and will likely wind up with (by far) the most deaths from this virus some priority setting is needed.
But at the heart of the matter is that the government doesn’t manufacture stuff – it buys stuff from the private sector and the private sector expects to make a profit. War profiteering is nothing new even in the United States. Americans and our allies have suffered casualties and deaths because of it so it shouldn’t come as a shock that American businesses are going to make every attempt to maximize what they can get out of this crisis. That would be the case in the best of times with any of our greatest Presidents but we now have someone squatting in our White House who by his very nature looks for every opportunity to enrich himself and doesn’t have an ounce of compassion or empathy for anyone who suffers (or even dies) due to his unethical and illegal scheming. He never has. With an example like that leading our country I again say no one should be surprised at any business owner or corporate type who decides they are going to put the hammer down and milk every cent of profit out of every sale of life saving medical equipment in this crisis. It’s not like THIS President would call on the DOJ to investigate price gouging on this.
It’s all about profits. It has been from the beginning of this crisis. In fact, it’s been the problem with American health care in general but that’s a whole different set of things to talk about. THIS is about manufacturing, who the products are sold to and for how much profit. It’s why people who didn’t have to die (including health care workers and support staff in hospitals) who didn’t have to die and the number of deaths will be appalling. Doctors are at the point where with not enough ventilators to go around they will have to start making choices multiple times a day on who lives and who dies. I read an article the other day about how a contract was awarded to develop the means to quickly ramp up production of basic ventilators for just this type of crisis. It was a small, nimble company that was making good progress and then the small company was bought out by a big company that happened to make things like ventilators only at almost four times the price per unit that the small company was on track to be able to produce and just as importantly others would be able to produce. The big company of course killed the contract. As far as I’m concerned every executive and board member of that company that signed off on the decision to stop work on the project to produce cheaper ventilators is guilty of mass murder. Even if they can’t be charged, journalists need to be asking them the question ON CAMERA “Since you approved discontinuing that project and hundreds of thousands of people (probably millions) in the United States and around the world will die due to a lack of ventilators will you at least apologize for your greed?” Similar questions need to be posed to those who have been cancelled contracts as they pit states against each other, our federal government and even foreign governments so they can jack up the price and therefore their profits.
While they are at it they need to ask Trump every day he stands up there and boasts about his “leadership” why he is allowing people including health care workers to get sick and die because he refuses to use the Emergency Powers he has at his disposal to stop U.S. companies from price gouging. Let him throw his tantrums.
I am behind Pelosi and Schumer one hundred percent in their efforts to get the next round of stimulus done. However since unlike Republicans we Democrats can do more than one important thing at a time I’d like to see legislation introduced to impose criminal penalties on executives and even board members of companies who pit states, our federal government and foreign governments against each other in bidding wars to maximize their profits. While they are at it they can also add in provisions for class action civil lawsuits against both companies and individuals. I’m well aware nothing like that would ever become law and even if it did it would never survive court challenges. That’s not the point. The point is to shine a bright freaking spotlight on the companies and individuals who are in the process of creating unfathomable suffering and death just to make an extra buck. I want to see those people on the defensive, with microphones thrust in their faces. I want them publicly shamed. I want their companies publicly shamed. If we can’t throw their asses in jail (which is what they deserve) we can at least expose them as gigantic, gaping rectal orifices they are!
Profits over people needs to become the rallying cry each and every day when the subject of the supply problems is discussed.