We now know a bit more about what is happening with the critical medical supplies that I wrote about on Monday. Here is how Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker explained it on PBS News Hour.
Gov @GovPritzker confirms that the federal ‘Air Bridge’ flights from China, organized by the White House taskforce, are bringing PPE back from China which are then turned over to private companies. The states then have to bid against each other to purchase from those companies. pic.twitter.com/QG62dWtQuc
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) April 7, 2020
The federal government is seizing shipments of these supplies meant for states or other countries and then turning them over to private companies to distribute. Here is the formula, as outlined by a report in the New York Times.
FEMA allows those distributors to sell about half of the equipment to companies and counties that had previously placed orders. The other half of the shipments must be sold to counties that the federal government prioritizes by the severity of the outbreak, based on data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The federal government will also soon save 10 percent of the supplies on each flight for the national stockpile, according to officials.
There are five companies that have been chosen to distribute these supplies: McKesson Corp., Owens & Minor, Cardinal Health, Medline Industries, and Henry Schein. While there has been zero transparency on how those companies were chosen, on Saturday, it was announced that they would all be exempt from anti-trust laws in order to coordinate their efforts.
That’s what we know about the plan so far. This one has all the markings of being dreamt up by Jared Kushner, who has long demonstrated that he embraces the Republican principle that private business operations are always superior to those handled by the government. So after weeks of telling governors that they were on their own to find critical supplies, the White House has seized the product, handed it over to private for-profit businesses, and put governors in the position of having to compete against each other. What could possibly go wrong?
But there is also the issue of the supplies that will be sold directly to counties by FEMA based on priorities established by the federal government. Under normal circumstances, that might be the preferable approach. But normal doesn’t usually include having the president’s son-in-law in charge of those decisions. Here is what Gabriel Sherman reported about how that works.
In recent days Kushner has advocated for his usual, iconoclastic public-private approach, drawing on business contacts. Last week he called Wall Street executives and asked for advice on how to help New York, people briefed on the conversation said. Kushner encouraged Trump to push back against New York governor Andrew Cuomo after Cuomo gave an emotional press conference during which he said New York was short 30,000 ventilators. In a White House meeting around this time, Kushner told people that Cuomo was being an alarmist. “I have all this data about ICU capacity. I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators,” Kushner said, according to a person present.
In that instance, Kushner consulted with Wall Street executives and his own data about ICU capacity to suggest that the governor of New York was being “alarmist” in stating his need for critical medical supplies. Here’s another example from the New York Times article.
Advisers to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, have surprised FEMA officials in recent weeks to deploy supplies to communities after the area’s representatives got through to Mr. Trump, even if the state had not yet gone through the formal process to secure supplies.
For instance, after Mr. Trump heard from friends that the New York public health system was running low on critical supply, Mr. Kushner directed agency officials to ensure that there were enough N95 masks in the administration’s inventory…
If that sounds like a new reality television series titled “Kushner Knows Best,” it is because that is how he operates, according to those who have dealt with him in the past. Journalist Andrea Bernstein literally wrote the book on the Trumps and the Kushners. Here’s what she told Michelle Goldberg about Jared.
Again and again, she said, people who’d dealt with Kushner told her that whatever he did, he “believed he could do it better than anybody else, and he had supreme confidence in his own abilities and his own judgment even when he didn’t know what he was talking about.”
I have often felt that Jared and Ivanka are carbon copies of “the Donald,” with the one exception being that they have replaced his showmanship with an obsession about image combined with proficiency in speaking the language of PowerPoint.
Alexandra Petri did an amazing job of using irony to describe Jared in Jared’s voice in a piece titled, “How lucky we are to have Jared Kushner!” Here’s just a taste, but you’ll want to read the whole thing.
We would be fortunate if into this generation had been born a person capable of solving the problem of peace in the Middle East, or the opioid crisis, or how to make government work in an age of pandemic — but what are the odds that we would have all three, and that they would turn out to be the same man? Truly the gods have blessed us. Truly this is a towering intellect.
The amazing thing, too, is that if you were to listen to him talk, you would not think that this was a man who knew anything about anything. Perhaps to really understand his brilliance you must be related to him. At least there was one person who always believed in Jared Kushner, and fortunately for him, that person was the president’s son-in-law, who through a strange coincidence was also himself.
That would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic. After all, Kushner’s accomplishments fall miles short of his opinion of himself. Here is how Goldberg put it.
Kushner has succeeded at exactly three things in his life. He was born to the right parents, married well and learned how to influence his father-in-law. Most of his other endeavors — his biggest real estate deal, his foray into newspaper ownership, his attempt to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians — have been failures.
With lives on the line, this is the guy who has put himself in charge of making decisions about who gets the critical medical supplies that hospitals need during a pandemic. As I said, what could possibly go wrong?