Presidential historians will likely agree that Donald Trump did fine work taunting his political enemies on Twitter, but he was less successful at the whole “leading the country" part of his job. The president's response to the coronavirus outbreak has only generated more chaos, a chief export of the Trump administration.

Governors are begging the federal government for much-needed help, and while Trump gets off on the begging, he's useless on the follow through. He thinks the states should fend for themselves. Instead of “The Buck Stops Here," his presidential motto is “Get Your Own Damn Ventilator."

From the New York Times:

"Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves," Mr. Trump told the governors during the conference call, a recording of which was shared with The New York Times. "We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself."

That is not more direct. This is a national public health crisis, and it requires a coordinated response from the federal government. Forcing governors to mud wrestle for vital supplies isn't ideal. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo described the situation as "being on eBay with 50 other states, bidding on a ventilator."

And now CBS says it's worse than we knew.


If Trump understood the first thing about economics, he'd know that intense bidding wars only raise the cost of limited medical equipment. That's capitalism at its worst ... or more precisely, that's capitalism. States aren't individual businesses competing in a literal life-and-death marketplace. We don't need the Grim Reaper's invisible hand right now.

We currently endure minority rule in the Senate and the presidency, thanks to the Electoral College. Conservatives insist this is fair and proper because of "democracy." We can't let millions of Californians drown out the voices of several dozen people in Wyoming. But when it comes to a national pandemic, Trump and presumably his Republican enablers are fine with a Darwinian bidding war. California's state economy is equal to France, which is a country. New York's is equal to Canada. How is Alabama supposed to get a ventilator if it has to bid against these mack daddy states?

According to Pro Publica, New York is already getting gouged for medical supplies.

New York state has paid 20 cents for gloves that normally cost less than a nickel and as much as $7.50 each for masks, about 15 times the usual price. It's paid up to $2,795 for infusion pumps, more than twice the regular rate. And $248,841 for a portable X-ray machine that typically sells for $30,000 to $80,000.

Trump has said that states shouldn't compete against each other. He's also said he's 6'3 and weighs 243 pounds. That doesn't mean anything. He's also boasted that he's given states loads of needed medical supplies, so where's his own personal medal of freedom?

Thursday, Rear Adm. John Polowczyk announced during a White House press briefing that six cargo planes with medical supplies from overseas had landed in the US and 28 more were on their way. Great news! However, Weijia Jiang from CBS News asked Polowczyk what percentage of those supplies, which states are desperate to receive, was going to the private sector rather than, say, FEMA.

POLOWCZYK: This product that we're moving is primarily commercial product that would enter the commercial system and be distributed through financial business transactions between hospitals and these distributors.

JIANG: Just to clarify, that explains why states say they're bidding like they're on eBay. The supplies are going to the private sector and they have to go there to get the supplies.

Polowczyk insisted that's “normally how things work." Maybe he hasn't been keeping up on current events, but nothing is normal right now. That's what our elected leaders are telling us as an explanation for why we can't leave the house and our hair looks like shit. People are dying! Trump has called this a war, and during a war, governors don't have time to bid on medical supplies like they're browsing through the IKEA catalog.

POLOWCZYK: I'm not here to disrupt a supply chain.

Oh, noes! Not the supply chain. Our nation can survive anything but the disruption of a supply chain.

POLOWCZYK: These six distributors ... they have six to seven hundred warehouses. They have trucks to go to the hospital door every day. We're bringing product in. They're filling orders for hospitals, nursing homes like normal.

STOP SAYING “NORMAL"! We'd love to return to normal but this isn't how you do it. We need real leadership working with governors as if they're all part of some united group of states. Let's get the equipment to who needs it most and let's do it as if lives depend on it, because they do.

[Politico]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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