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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/6/20

To Donald Trump, coronavirus is just one more chance for a power grab

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From The Guardian

Chaos in response to Covid-19 is no surprise. Nor is the unscrupulous operators' pursuit of profit and political advantage

Donald Trump refuses to wear face mask despite CDC recommending.
Donald Trump refuses to wear face mask despite CDC recommending.
(Image by YouTube, Channel: The Telegraph)
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The utter chaos in America's response to the coronavirus pandemic shortages of equipment to protect hospital workers, dwindling supplies of ventilators and critical medications, jaw-dropping confusion over how $2.2tn of aid in the recent coronavirus law will be distributed was perhaps predictable in a nation that prides itself on competitive individualism and hates centralized power.

"I don't take responsibility" for the slow rate of coronavirus testing in the US, he said.

On Friday, when asked if he could assure New Yorkers there would be enough ventilators next week when virus victims are expected to overwhelm city hospitals, he replied: "No. They should have had more ventilators."

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

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

"And now Fema is bidding on top of the 50! So Fema is driving up the price. What sense does this make? We're literally bidding up the prices ourselves."

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

Who's pocketing all this? An array of producers, importers, wholesalers and speculators. State laws against price gouging usually don't apply to government purchases.

Some of it may be finding its way into this fall's election campaigns. The veteran Republican fundraiser Mike Gula and Republican political operative John Thomas just started a company selling coronavirus testing kits, personal protective equipment and other "hard to find medical supplies to beat the outbreak." They call themselves "the largest global network of Covid-19 medical suppliers."

Asked how he'd found such equipment, Gula explained: "I have relationships with a lot of people."

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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