Sorry for the inelegant headline, but…
We’ve all gotten used to hearing about the continued shenanigans of this corrupt administration: the purge of federal employees who earned Trump’s enmity by actually doing their jobs; the continued rollback of environmental protections; the cushy contracts with friends and supporters; etc.
We’d have had to be blind to have missed the central policy imperative motivating Trump–overturning anything and everything Obama ever did, no matter how sane, helpful or appropriate. That’s why one of the first things he did when he assumed office was dismantle the pandemic preparation task force Obama had established.
We’re also well aware of the incredible ineptitude of this administration. Governors and public health officials are pleading for coherent policies, for protective gear, for straight talk–none of which they are getting.
Okay. So we know he’s corrupt, insanely jealous of the black guy who preceded him, and totally ignorant of how government (and much else) works. But what explains this?
At Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall reports
Let’s talk about these seizures of PPE goods by federal authorities. There are a number of instances of this and as I noted in the post below a number of reasons why it might be happening. There are numerous cases where orders placed by states or hospitals have been canceled after they have been outbid by federal authorities or federal authorities have ordered vendors to sell to the federal government. According to Kaiser Health News, those compelled sales appear to be pursuant to an executive order President Trump signed on March 18th under authorities granted by the Defense Production Act.
But what I’m more interested in are reports of federal authorities confiscating physical shipments en route to states, local governments or regional hospital systems. The most publicized case of this came at some point in March when, according to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a shipment of 3 million masks ordered through BJ’s Wholesale was seized by federal authorities in the Port of New York. Baker did not say which agency confiscated the goods or under what authority. That incident was what led to the widely reported and successful effort to fly goods in from China using the New England Patriots jet.
Another case happened just yesterday when the top county official in Somerset County, New Jersey, Freeholder Director Shanel Robinson, announced that a shipment of 35,000 masks had been confiscated by federal officials. According to this report in the Franklin Reporter and Advocate, “As of early in the afternoon of April 3, Robinson said that the county was told the surgical face masks would be delivered that day, but that the federal government had taken the N-95 masks.
Evidently, there have been a number of other, similar incidents reported, including what Marshall says is a “reliable report of a major non-governmental entity in the western United States having a major shipment seized by federal authorities at an airport in California.”
This is inexplicable–and just nuts. (Hence the “headline” of this post.) Every time Trump holds one of his briefing-cum-political-rallies, he insists that the states are responsible for getting their own supplies and should only appeal to the federal government in emergencies. Why, then, would federal authorities be seizing shipments that states, local governments and major medical organizations have managed to locate and purchase?
As Marshall says,
In any case, we need to know more. States have been asking the federal government to take over the process of provisioning the country with these critical PPE goods. That at least would avoid states being forced to bid up prices by bidding against each other. After having FEMA swoop in and purchase ventilators that Colorado was in the process of buying, Gov. Jared Polis (D) said: “Either be in or out. [Either let] us know what we’re going to get and when we’re going to get them or stay out and let us buy them.” But these seizures of shipments are at best causing confusion for desperate states and hospitals. And they seem so haphazard that they are raising legitimate questions about whether they are being allocated to states in a preferential or politicized fashion.
If this was part of a legitimate FEMA effort to allocate supplies more equitably, the narcissist-in-chief would undoubtedly have bragged about it. So I repeat: WTF is going on?