As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the world and in the United States, many have speculated that giving the government or, in particular, the president, more power would be the best way to handle the situation. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, were some of the first to suggest such. According to them, nationalizing certain industries would allow the medical supplies and tests we are in short supply of to be created more quickly.
However, I’m not exactly sure that idea is in the country’s best interest, at least at this point and time.
That isn’t to say there isn’t a time and place for that. During extreme times of duress, such as war, the nation has enacted the Defense Protection Act, which gives the president emergency powers to control industry and economy so that resources and materials are used wisely. The act was created in 1950 at the beginning of the Korean War.
According to former deputy assistant secretary of state and ABC News contributor Steve Ganyard, “It was based on lessons learned by the U.S. in the early days of World War II when massive mobilization of industrial resources and control of raw materials was required.”
And while President Trump has signed the act, allowing him to use such powers if necessary, he believes that time has not yet come. He stated that it was to be used in “a worst-case scenario,” but “hopefully, there will be no need.”
And I have to agree.
Sure, we are seeing considerable stress in our medical industry at this time, both in the production of materials needed and the staffing required. However, both of those needs have been noted and are being addressed. And we only just noticed these shortages.
We have to remember that it has roughly only been a week or so since the brunt of this pandemic has hit America. And a change in supply and demand takes time to be implemented. So we won’t see a significant increase in either supplies or staffing happen overnight, no matter how hard we wish it be so.
Where change can happen, it is, and without the government’s help, I might add.
Take ventilators, for example. These are one of the medical supplies that are in short supply.
Companies like General Electric have been a mass producer of them for years. But until now, most retailers of such only kept a limited supply on hand, and so manufacturers only made them as needed. So there isn’t a giant warehouse somewhere housing thousands of them.
However, during this time, GE, as one of the nation’s leading manufacturers in ventilators, has stepped up its production, adding new manufacturing lines and shifts. In addition, GE has said that they will also be stepping up the production of a vast number of other medical supplies such as CTs, patient monitors, and mobile x-ray systems.
And other companies are stepping up as well.
General Motors Corp., one of the nation’s leading auto manufacturers, has been in contact with Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic advisor as to how they can help. GM announced last week that they would be closing up shop for several weeks due to the spreading virus. However, GE Chairman and CEO Mary Barra told Kudlow that she would be willing to reopen their doors during that time to build ventilators instead of cars and trucks, according to Forbes.
Kudlow told Fox News that “while men and women may be off for two weeks due to the virus, she’s (Barra) gonna try to call them back so they can produce ventilators and they might even ask them to do it on a voluntary basis for civic and patriotic reasons.”
A GM spokesman, Pat Morrissey, confirmed that Kudlow had been in talks with Barra about the possibility but that it was “still very early in the process.”
If companies like this are already having these conversations, it is unlikely the government will need to step in and take control.
But the private sector is also proving their worth in other ways.
Grocers and retail chains all over the nation have begun changing their hours to accommodate the most vulnerable citizens, namely the elderly and first responders. Walmart, Dollar General, Target, Costco, and many more have announced “senior only” hours either before or after usual business hours so that these people can get items they need without having to worry.