by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If President Trump is right that the fight against the coronavirus is the equivalent of a war, we need to focus first and foremost on defeating the enemy.
That means, as an urgent priority, getting hospitals the protective gear and ventilators that they need to handle the surge of patients that is already showing up in New York City, New Orleans, and other hot spots. If nothing else, it’s a sign of seriousness in meeting this need that President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act — the Korean War–era law allowing the government to direct the manufacture and distribution of goods necessary for the national defense — on Friday to compel General Motors to make ventilators on an emergency basis.
The action comes after a typically confusing back-and-forth over GM. If a report in the New York Times was to be believed, the $1 billion price tag of a potential deal with GM for the ventilators caused the administration to have second thoughts. Given the massive economic cost of the current lockdowns and the amount of money Congress is spending to try to cushion the blow, obviously, $1 billion is a pittance. The Times also reported that the administration worried about getting saddled with too many unused ventilators, a concern that accorded with President Trump’s statement on Fox News a day earlier that he doubts that New York City will really need 30,000 ventilators.
At the end of this, though, if we have kept hospitals from getting overwhelmed at the cost of paying top dollar for gear and buying too much of it, our response will have been a success well worth the price.