Across the country, health workers on the front lines of the Coronavirus pandemic have struggled to procure adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which is crucial for safe handling of virus exposure. Without adequate PPE, health workers and other people exposed to the virus might contract it and spread it, and considering the struggles to secure sufficient PPE, it seems likely that the transmission process has played out in that fashion a perhaps inordinate number of times. As part of the Coronavirus relief package known as the CARES Act, Congress passed $1 billion for the Defense Department to use for aims like bolstering medical supply availability. They’ve dished out most of it in direct payments to defense industry contractors for unrelated ends.
Under the CARES Act, the Defense Department money was meant to boost work to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” That’s not exactly what happened. Instead, a total of apparently $688 million went out as direct payments to businesses that work with the Defense Department on the production of goods that have basically nothing to do with the Coronavirus.
These goods, however, are part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to shore up national defense capabilities, specifically against China. (Their obsessive anti-China stance seems pretty consistent.) A study that was carried out in response to an executive order on the matter from Trump “pointed to several hundred supply chain shortfalls that could hamper the U.S. military’s ability to compete with China,” according to The Washington Post. These so-called supply chain shortfalls have informed the Defense Department’s funding decisions, even as case and death counts from the Coronavirus in the U.S. have continued to climb.
Mandy Smithberger, who works as a defense analyst at the government watchdog group known as the Project on Government Oversight, observed to the Post:
‘This is part and parcel of whether we have budget priorities that actually serve our public safety or whether we have a government that is captured by special interests.’
Some of the Defense Department payments include $183 million that went to firms including Rolls-Royce and ArcelorMittal “to maintain the shipbuilding industry,” as the Post puts it. The list even includes $2 million that went to the American Woolen Company in Connecticut, which makes Army dress uniforms. As Americans have suffered under the weight of the pandemic, money that was originally meant to help procure potentially lifesaving supplies has instead gone, in part, to the manufacturing of Army dress uniforms.
Going forward, the president’s own response to the Coronavirus seems to be to pretend that it doesn’t exist. At a rally on Monday night, he claimed that “virtually nobody” among groups of young people is affected by the disease. Actually, more than 513,000 children have contracted the disease in the U.S. Overall, millions of people have lost their jobs at some point during the pandemic, millions of people have been infected, and over 200,000 Americans have died. The forever self-obsessed president is floating basically completely free of any connection to reality.
There have been negotiations over a potential new Coronavirus relief funding package from Congress, but those negotiations haven’t gotten anywhere. The federal government might soon shut down unless Congress can agree to an overall funding plan. The Democrat-led House recently put one forward, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected it, at least for now.