California Gov. Gavin Newsom has an idea that's so wacky it just might work: What if states cooperated with each other to use their purchasing power to acquire all the medical supplies they need to treat people with coronavirus, instead of the current very screwed up system where they're all bidding against each other — and against the federal government — for the same scarce supplies like ventilators and personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses? He's mentioned the idea previously, noting that with its huge economic power, California "punches above its weight" when bidding against other states, which is nice for California but no way to address a national problem. Instead, Newsom has suggested, how about states work together, possibly through the National Governors Association, to make sure we have a national purchasing and distribution system of some kind?

Newsom repeated that idea Saturday during his daily press briefing on California's coronavirus response, and a lot of people thought the idea sounded vaguely familiar somehow:

But since the federal government has decided we now live under Articles of Confederation that were never replaced by an actual federal government, it's good to see Newsom and other governors working together to act like a national problem needs a national solution, not 55 states and territories and FEMA all fighting each other over masks, gowns, ventilators, and, for folks in Mississippi, prayer cards.


Medical equipment may be in short supply, but there's no shortage of governors pointing out the current system is nuts. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who's head of the National Governors Association, told the Associated Press that not only were states competing against each other and other countries, but that there's only a "very limited supply of all of these things and no real coordination of where it's going."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been especially outspoken on the problem, explaining to ABC News that bidding wars just drive up the prices of medical supplies without any guarantee that the equipment will get to where it's most needed. "We're literally bidding up the prices ourselves."

Cuomo called on the federal government - or even states themselves - to get organized and eliminate private market competition.

"You can't have the states competing against the states, and then by the way, when the federal government goes out to buy the same equipment for their stockpile, now it's 50 states competing against the states and the federal government competing against the states," Cuomo said. "This is not the way to do business. We need a nationwide buying consortium."

Donald Trump keeps repeating his insistence that there really is no such thing as the federal government, and complained Friday that when it comes to a national crisis, the states should have known he'd be completely useless because he literally has no fucking clue what a national government does..

"We have a federal stockpile, and they have state stockpiles, and, frankly, they were, many of the states, they were totally unprepared for this," Trump said. "So we had to go into the federal stockpile, but we're not an ordering clerk. They have to have for themselves."

Trump complained on Twitter last week that governors are just greedy and don't understand that they all lead independent nations, especially if they aren't Republicans. Some governors, he griped,

have insatiable appetites & are never satisfied (politics?). Remember, we are a backup for them. The complainers should have been stocked up and ready long before this crisis hit. Other states are thrilled with the job we have done.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, said on CNN's "State of the Union" yesterday that that's not how any of this works:

The president does not understand the word federal, Federal Emergency Management Agency, we have a State Emergency Management Agency, but if [Trump] were right, why would we ever need a Federal Emergency Management Agency? It's because individual states can't possibly do what the federal government can do.

Pritzker also pointed out that state governors weren't the ones being briefed by the intelligence community back in January, but Donald Trump was warned — and did very little to get the nation ready.

So with the federal government not willing to lead a national response, it looks like states are going to have to fix the procurement and distribution mess the feds refuse to address. Newsom has argued that state procurement systems need to coordinate so that

none of us are being greedy at this moment and that we have the capacity to move things around.

We want to help other states even as large as Illinois and Washington state [...] to see if we can help procure not only a reduction in costs per unit, but also procure a mindset where we're not playing in the margins of a zero sum where it's us versus them.

Newsom returned to that idea in his presser Saturday, when a reporter asked whether California would join Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in sending needed medical supplies to New York. Brown is sending 140 ventilators to New York, and Cuomo pledged he'd return the favor later when his state is past its peak need. Newsom said California would "absolutely, unequivocally" help New York to the degree it's able to, but also noted that California is preparing for its own peak needs, and that's why there needs to be coordination across the states.

Watch Live: California Gov. Newsom Gives Coronavirus Update youtu.be


Newsom said California was

starting to line up our procurement strategies by working with other procurement czars in other states, so we're trying to avoid the competition in this space with each other, and seeing if we can utilize our purchasing power.

Newsom said he hoped to announce soon details on "substantial efforts to procure, at scale, PPE, that would then also provide additional resources for other states, we hope, not just the state of California." Also in the news conference, Newsom announced the state is ramping up testing, and has started a website to coordinate private donations of medical supplies. That site is so far aimed at meeting California's needs as the number of cases grows, but you can imagine it might later be incorporated into this more perfect union of states coming to each other's aid.

Update:



Now, if the states could perhaps elect some sort of national leader ...

[ABC News / AP / WaPo / Willamette Week]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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