Trump Fighting for Floating Petri Dishes but Not Life-Saving Ventilators

Trump’s response to learning that the cruise industry — which is almost entirely flagged overseas, in part to avoid US taxes — would not be eligible to tap the $500 billion slush fund for large businesses was to work to find a “legislative fix” so these floating petri dishes could survive a pandemic exacerbated by their industry.

Sr. admin official says bipartisan Senate grp working to ensure they can access one of the facilities–or else will seek a legislative fix in the next package.

He proposed adopting Josh Hawley’s offer, which is that if they registered here they could qualify for this loan package.

Meanwhile, on the same day Trump went out of his way to think creatively about how to fund an industry that has almost no societal value that isn’t already being addressed with extended unemployment benefits, outlets reported that the Trump Administration was balking on a plan — which both Trump and Mike Pence had already celebrated — to back a joint venture between General Motors and ventilator manufacturer Ventec Life Systems to produce up to 80,000 ventilators in Kokomo, IN. The problem: $1 billion was too much to spend to address the acute shortage of ventilators in the country.

The decision to cancel the announcement, government officials say, came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price tag was more than $1 billion, with several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made with Ventec’s technology.

By the end of the day, both Trump and Dr. Deborah Birx questioned the number of ventilators New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has consistently said his state will need.

“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” he said. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

New York has become the new epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, with hospitals struggling to keep up with larger patient numbers and limited supplies, including masks, gowns and ventilators. In severe cases of Covid-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, ventilators can allow patients to breathe with incapacitated lungs — a common outcome of the disease.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said earlier on Thursday she was told that New York had enough ventilators to meet current needs. While there may be shortages in urban areas like New York City, Birx said, there are other parts of the state “that have lots of ventilators and other parts of New York state that don‘t have any infections right now.“

“There is still significant — over a thousand or two thousand ventilators that have not been utilized yet,” Birx said. “Please, for the reassurance of people around the world, to wake up this morning and look at people talking about creating DNR situations — do not resuscitate situations for patients — there is no situation in the United States right now that warrants that kind of discussion.“

Trump’s interest in thinking creatively to fund the cruise industry as compared with his stinginess regarding crucial medical needs is not just malpractice during a pandemic.

But it doesn’t even serve his own stated priorities.

Trump has said he wants the economy to resume as soon as possible — he has been pushing for an Easter restart. Both WA (where Ventec is headquartered), MI, and IN are under state-wide stay-at-home orders, permitting only essential workers in the state to leave their homes to go to work. With some exceptions, the stay-at-home orders in the Midwest have shut down much of the auto industry.

Redeploying a parts plant in IN to produce ventilators would be a way to shift a facility and its workers from the non-essential category to the essential category, potentially getting them working before the stay-at-home orders are lifted.

Indeed, pushing manufacturers to shift production to items deemed essential, via whatever means (in this case, the venture would be supported only by a purchase agreement, but the Defense Production Act could be used to do even more of this). And even if Cuomo is overestimating how many ventilators he’ll need (there’s no reason to believe he is), if there’s a surge in COVID cases in the southern hemisphere as it shifts into fall, there’ll be plenty demand worldwide to pick up the slack.

Even if it led to a glut, one of the best employment policies right now would be to shift as much short- to medium-term production from goods deemed non-essential to goods deemed essential. Even if the US government overpays for those products, it’d be a better jobs program than restarting the cruise industry.

Trump continues to fool himself about where capitalism ends and state support begins. But he’s also adopting a policy that undermines his own hopes to get as many people back to work as he can.

33 replies
  1. J. H. Frank says:

    (WWJ) After President Donald Trump issued scathing comments about Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying she’s “not stepping up,” and “doesn’t know what’s going on,” she told WWJ 950 the state is having trouble getting the equipment they need to fight the novel coronavirus.

    “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts — They’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan,” Whitmer said live on air. “It’s really concerning, I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”

    I have no comment to add. Nothing I could type here could do this justice.

    • Geoff says:

      If these types of statements can be substantiated, you know, recordings by the people that supposedly Trump is telling to withhold life-saving equipment from the leaders of states he doesn’t like, well, one would think that is something that one could be indicted for upon leaving office.

      Of course, bmaz will likely tell me I have no idea what I’m talking about with respect to the law, and truth is, I don’t. But if one cannot indict legally, indictment on a moral basis is a certainty. I don’t know how judgement is one day served, but it must be. This is a national tragedy.

      • Rayne says:

        He should be impeached and removed RTFN. Every GOP senator should be forced to ask why they support the president’s murder of Americans by negligence.

        • Geoff says:

          I think there will be time for this to happen. It wont happen now, because it will be deemed too political, but once the corpses pile up, I think we will have a lot of support from both sides of the aisle to have him removed. It needs to have happened yesterday though. There is no denying that he is a murderer. And I’m not mincing words.

      • P J Evans says:

        He’s said in public, on TV, that he wants governors to “be nice” to him, if they want to get supplies their state desperately needs. If that isn’t bribery/extortion/quid pro quo, then nothing can be. (I’m seeing the tag on Twitter #DragHimOut – yes.)

  2. harpie says:

    1] 8:13 PM · Mar 26, 2020 NYT:

    [NYT] [KUSHNER] has been directing officials at FEMA in the effort. Two officials said the suggestion to wait on the General Motors offer came from Col. Patrick Work, who is working at FEMA. Some government officials expressed concern about the possibility of ordering too many ventilators, leaving them with an expensive surplus.] […]

    A spokeswoman for FEMA said Colonel Work presented information on each contract in such meetings but did not make any recommendations. A White House spokesman declined to comment. […]

    2] 8:00PM ET

    Dr. Marc SIEGEL: [on Tucker 8:00PM ET] It looks like the rate of hospitalizations in NY, though still on the upswing, the rate itself is starting to flatten out a little bit. That means, we may not need the thirty thousand respirators [SIC], which I can’t even put my mind around, because that would mean one or two million people get coronavirus, god forbid, in NY.

    3] 9:00PM ET

    TRUMP: [on HANNITY 9:00PM ET] I don’t believe you need forty thousand or thirty thousand ventilators. You know, you go to major hospitals sometimes they’ll have two ventilators, and now all of a sudden they’re saying can we order thirty thousand ventilators

    • harpie says:

      Trump changed a call with Xi of China to talk to Sean of FOX.

      SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Mr. President, thank you. Apparently I heard you in the press conference, you had a 9:00 P.M. Call with President Xi of China, let me start there how did that go?

      PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well because of you, I made it at 10:30 so that just shows you the power– that just shows when you have the number one rated show in television I better change things around. No, I am talking to him at 10:30 right after this call I’ll be talking to him.

    • Peterr says:

      Some government officials expressed concern about the possibility of ordering too many ventilators, leaving them with an expensive surplus.

      Because ventilators turn brown and get mushy if you leave them on the counter for a week, right?


      • cavenewt says:

        “Because ventilators turn brown and get mushy if you leave them on the counter for a week, right?”

        You beat me to it. I’ve been trying to figure out how to compose a comment about how buying ventilators is just like buying lettuce — get too much and it goes bad before you can use it.

    • harpie says:

      5] 9:50 PM · Mar 26, 2020
      9:50 PM · Mar 26, 2020

      Pres Trump is saying @NYGovCuomo is off base to say NY state needs 30,000 ventilators.
      Trump said, “I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they are going to be. I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators”

  3. BobCon says:

    Trump and the GOP are stuck in a mindset that systemic changes are still not needed, which is why major capital projects like ventilators and hospital construction lag so badly.

    Conservatives don’t want to admit that the old dynamic has failed. US Catholic bishops are starting to OK eating of meat during lent, but a quick check of the US Conference of Bishops website shows press releases condemning abortion but nothing about the death panels being proposed by conservatives. Obamacare was poison for them, but breaking up the alliance with McConnell and Alito is still off limits.

  4. harpie says:

    TRUMP complains about GM and it’s [female] CEO:
    11:16 AM · Mar 27, 2020

    As usual with “this” General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, “very quickly”. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar. Always a mess with Mary B. Invoke “P”.

    • Rayne says:

      Trump wants to blame anybody but himself for this debacle. It takes MONTHS to clear automotive plant space for health care quality products, design and build equipment and handling processes, not to mention the supply chain which must come with it. If this was a normal product development situation where the company was building something similar to what they were already building, it’d take 6-12 months — and my household has relied on this, design-build manufacturing automation for companies like the Big Three automakers.

      What Trump is doing with his bullshit harassment is obstructing the process while redirecting attention away from the fact he fucking dropped the ball back in January when he should have launched the DPA to build federal reserves.

      It’s not like increasing wildfires and larger hurricanes wouldn’t eventually use up all the reserves.

  5. Rugger9 says:

    It’s another example of the penny-wise pound foolish attitude, since the extra ventilators could be sent elsewhere in the world. This pandemic will ensure few leftovers, and I for one am surprised that DJT and Jared failed to see the opportunity to monetize this and stick it to WHO. They can’t even be self-serving capitalist jerks correctly. The Ferengi would send them back.

    • Philip Rhodes says:

      Hmm – I wonder which Rules of Acqusition should be considered here. Many might apply but I throw out this one:

      #162 Even in the worst of times someone turns a profit.

    • rip says:

      Delirium j Trumpkin and robotic SIL are probably finding lots of ways to capitalize on this pandemic and self-induced shortages. While neither of them have the combined brain-power of a can of split peas, they do listen to other voices.

    • P J Evans says:

      I keep thinking of the various stories I grew up with: “Compound Interest” by Christopher Anvil comes to mind, where they get warring groups to cooperate, by making sure both of them benefit. (The principal was, IIRC, one makes the heads for tools, and the other makes handles, and both make money, though the actual products weren’t hand tools.)

  6. harpie says:

    Two consecutive retweets on Laura Rozen’s timeline:

    5:54 PM · Mar 27, 2020

    NEW YORK (AP) — Confirmed coronavirus infections top 100,000 in US, deaths at over 1,500, according to Johns Hopkins University tally.

    6:00 PM · Mar 27, 2020

    Putting Peter Navarro in charge of the National Defense Production Act is beyond ludicrous. First, he fought the implementation of the act. Next, he is incompetent. Third, he is a crackpot who is respected by not one single economist of note. Fourth, see the last two.

    …not feeling too hopeful at the moment.

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