President Donald Trump has made it clear he’s going to use the force of government to acquire supplies for protecting healthcare workers and patients as the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak worsens.
On Monday the president signed an executive order banning “hoarding” of essential medical supplies like masks, gloves and gowns currently in short supply at hospitals around the country.
These items, known as personal protective equipment, or PPE, are crucial in preventing the spread of the virus to those who are charged with taking care of us at a time when some experts are projecting hundreds of thousands of coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths.
Editor’s note: The Trump administration is now criminalizing inventory of medical supplies. For this very reason, we are no longer importing such items and making them available to America, given that we can now be accused of “hoarding” for merely having inventory in our warehouse. This executive order is an attack on freedom and will dissuade importers from offering medical equipment in the United States, having exactly the opposite effect of what’s intended. This is nothing short of government tyranny and theft of supplies by a government that failed to prepare, so now it’s punishing the private sector for its own incompetence.
It’s not yet known what definition of “hoarding” will be used by the government to visit commercial suppliers with “a knock on the door” to make them hand over their inventories to the federal government. The very existence of this order essentially declares that the government can hoard supplies, but the private sector cannot. It further confirms that the government’s own supplies of medical equipment have run out, providing that the government suffers from a stunning lack of planning and preparedness which it is now exploiting to confiscate medical gear from commercial suppliers.
The lack of planning by the government, in other words, is now being translated into confiscation efforts that target private industry. The use of the term “hoarders” is to vilify private industry as a way to justify the government theft.
“This sends a strong message – we will not let those hoarding vital supplies and price gougers to harm the health of America in this hour of need,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
President @realDonaldTrump just signed an EO to prevent hoarding & price gouging of supplies needed in our war against the #Coronavirus. This sends a strong message – we will not let those hoarding vital supplies & price gougers to harm the health of America in this hour of need. pic.twitter.com/eksxQOVKNM
— Stephanie Grisham (@PressSec) March 23, 2020
Attorney General William Barr had a strong message for “hoarders” as well, noting that anyone found to be in violation of the executive order was at risk of being raided by federal agents.
“If you have a big supply of toilet paper in your house, this is not something that you have to worry about, but if you are sitting on a warehouse with surgical masks, you will be hearing a knock on your door,” he said. (Presumably followed by the “bang” of gunfire if you resist.)
The order granted the Department of the Health and Human Services to designate select medical equipment as scarce, according to Barr, who said that the Department of Justice would be working with them to retrieve the equipment.
Barr said that people hoarding medical goods and materials on an industrial scale for the purpose of manipulating the markets would be affected, not businesses obtaining supplies for operation.
According to the order, the president is deriving his authority to order government agents to seize hoarded medical items — and, according to the text, this EO is only directed at vitally needed PPE — from the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law Trump invoked late last week.
“To ensure that our Nation’s healthcare systems are able to surge capacity and capability to respond to the spread of COVID?19, it is the policy of the United States that health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID-19, such as personal protective equipment and sanitizing and disinfecting products, are not hoarded,” the order states.
“Accordingly, I am delegating to the Secretary my authority under section 102 of the Act (50 U.S.C. 4512) to prevent hoarding of health and medical resources necessary to respond to the spread of COVID-19 within the United States,” it adds.
The good news is, according to White House trade negotiator Peter Navarro, U.S. companies are stepping up their production of PPE to meet increased demand.
“What is interesting now is we have a tremendous voluntary response,” Navarro said Sunday, as reported by USA Features News. “I’m working with the National Association of Manufacturers, the textile organization, and all these groups and companies are repurchasing factories. That’s what’s going to make the difference in the short run in terms of how we do this.
“It’s the biggest industrial mobilization since World War II under the leadership of President [Donald] Trump,” Navarro noted further.
Also on Sunday, Navarro noted that the administration has been tipped off that hoarding of PPE is indeed occurring.
“I also get a lot of calls that are very disquieting. Brokers are offering millions of items, whether they are goggles, masks, or whatever, and you go through three different brokers, tracing to a warehouse in [Los Angeles] that’s allegedly got ten million masks and they want to charge you seven times what they cost,” he told reporters.
Navarro said brokers should contact the government, which would pay a “fair price” for the items, but that came with this warning: “But if you don’t do that, we’re going to come for you and make sure that doesn’t happen in this country.”