For Donald Trump, the coronavirus is just one more chance for a takeover | Robert Reich | Opinion


TIt has wreaked havoc in the US response to the coronavirus pandemic – shortage of equipment to protect hospital workers, dwindling supplies of respirators and essential drugs, breathtaking confusion over how $ 2.2 billion help in the recent coronavirus law will be distributed – perhaps was predictable in a nation that prides itself on competitive individualism and hates centralized power.

But it is also tailor-made for Donald Trump, who has spent his life exploiting chaos for personal gain and blaming others for losses.

“I don’t take responsibility” for the slow coronavirus testing in the United States, he said.

When asked Friday if he could assure New Yorkers that there will be enough ventilators next week when victims of the virus are expected to swamp hospitals in the city, he said, “No. They should have had more fans. “

Trump told the governors to find life-saving equipment on their own. He refuses to create a central bargaining agent, arguing that the federal government is “not a shipping clerk.” This left states and cities bidding against each other, driving up prices.

Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, described how the fans went from $ 25,000 to $ 45,000 “because we offered $ 25,000. California says “I will give you $ 30,000” and Illinois says “I give you $ 35,000” and Florida says “I give you $ 40,000”. And then, Fema [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] gets involved and Fema starts bidding!

“And now Fema is making an offer in addition to the 50!” So Fema is driving up prices. What does it mean? We literally bid the prices ourselves. “

New York State pays 20 cents for gloves that normally cost less than five cents, $ 7.50 for masks that normally cost 50 cents, $ 2,795 for infusion pumps that normally cost half, $ 248,841 for a portable x-ray machine that typically sells for $ 30,000 to $ 80,000.

Who pockets all of this? A range of producers, importers, wholesalers and speculators. State laws against price increases generally do not apply to public purchases.

Some of them may end up in election campaigns this fall. Former Republican fundraiser Mike Gula and Republican political agent John Thomas have just started a business that sells coronavirus test kits, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies “hard to find to defeat the epidemic”. They call themselves “the world’s largest network of Covid-19 medical providers.”

When asked how he found such equipment, Gula said, “I have relationships with a lot of people. “

Thomas added: “In politics – especially if you are at a high enough level – you are on the phone from anyone in the world. “

Workers roll a body at the Wyckoff Heights medical center during the New York coronavirus epidemic. Trump told the governors to find life-saving equipment on their own.

Workers roll a body from the Wyckoff Heights medical center during the New York coronavirus epidemic. Trump told the governors to find life-saving equipment on their own. Photography: Andrew Kelly / Reuters

Meanwhile, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner – on the phone from anyone – leads a “ghost” coronavirus task force that recruited the private sector and oversaw the strategic national stock of medical supplies, all outside the public. view.

“It is supposed to be our stock – it is not supposed to be a state stock,” he said cryptically on Thursday.

Oh, and let’s not forget the giant coronavirus bill that Trump signed on March 27, which has created a $ 500 billion fund that Trump and his Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, will distribute to the private sector. The bulk of these funds will support $ 4.5 billion in subsidized loans (ie, bailout funds) from the Fed, also distributed by the Treasury.

In a signing statement, Trump said he would not accept the provisions of the Congressional Oversight Bill – meaning trade and transactions will be secret. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she would form a special special committee to look at how the money is spent, Trump accused her of “conducting partisan investigations in the midst of a pandemic”, adding: “Here we are again … It’s a witch hunt after the witch hunt.” “

Is there any doubt that Trump will try to use this money, along with his son-in-law’s secret transactions, to improve his chances of re-election?

Trump was indicted just three and a half months ago for abuse of power and obstruction of the investigation. Eight months ago, he phoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, seeking to smear Joe Biden and threatening to end military aid to obtain it.


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