Usually, when a politician says “don’t let a crisis go to waste,” the meaning is: “let’s take advantage of this crisis to move policy in the direction we think it should go.” It implies recognition that crises are often opportunities for positive change.
A report from NBC News is a reminder that not letting a crisis go to waste means something rather different to folks whose only goal is to make a profit–and that we have a federal administration just chock-full of grifters who think that way
It seems that, as the country hunkered down, DuPont convened a crisis team, charged with figuring out how to increase production of personal protective equipment (PPE). DuPont has a patented material called Tyvek, which its distributors sell between $5 to $15 apiece to hospitals, and according to NBC, by early March, DuPont’s factory in Richmond, Virginia, was cranking out Tyvek.
In non-crisis times, it can take up to three months to turn Tyvek into body suits, because DuPont usually ships the fabric to Vietnam, where the body suits are sewn. So when the federal government offered to pay for chartered flights to reduce the round trip for 750,000 items to 10 days, DuPont agreed.
Then DuPont sold the suits to a third-party distributor for approximately $4 each, according to company documents it provided to NBC News, and that distributor sold them to the government. The company initially declined to say how much the Department of Health and Human Services paid for 750,000 suits, and it refused to identify the third-party distributor or say how much that firm charged the federal government.
“We actually helped get raw materials supplied from Richmond, Virginia, and we flew that s— to Vietnam, all so that DuPont could sell us” their products, said a senior federal official involved in the coronavirus effort.
Trump, of course, bragged that the deal was evidence of his administration’s excellent efforts to provide PPE.
NBC–and a number of government insiders–have a different view.
[F]or some government officials familiar with the supply-chain end of the coronavirus fight, it was yet another example of Trump’s task force serving industry as the White House tried to corner the market on medical supplies.
For weeks, Trump has resisted pressure to use the full power of his office to temporarily turn the private sector into an arm of the federal government in a national emergency. He and his lieutenants instead have used the crisis to make federal assets and personnel a support group for industry, rather than the other way around, according to NBC News’ interviews with dozens of public- and private-sector sources involved in various aspects of the coronavirus response.
In doing so, the vice president’s coronavirus task force — mostly through a supply-chain unit led by Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, vice director of logistics for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and heavily influenced by White House adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law — has favored some of the nation’s largest corporations and ignored smaller producers of goods and services with long track records of meeting emergency needs, according to officials at multiple federal agencies and people familiar with contracting.
They have operated almost entirely in the dark, releasing few details of their arrangements with the big companies; created a new and convoluted emergency response system; and sown confusion and distrust in the states and among the people who need medical supplies.
The supply-chain group is just one part of the task force run by Vice President Mike Pence. That task force is routinely described by insiders as chaotic, secretive and inept. According to the NBC report (and numerous others, including Governors, local officials and veterans of federal emergency response), it has deeply complicated the national fight against the pandemic.
We don’t know much, because transparency is clearly not a priority of this administration; however, there are two priorities that–according to off-the-record officials–definitely remain: private profit and the ability of the White House to choose where supplies go.
A friend of mine used to say that the whole point of holding political office was to help your friends and screw your enemies. Whatever the truth of that cynical maxim, it may be the only political principle guiding the know-nothing grifters in this administration…