President Trump Must Act Immediately to Protect Doctors and Nurses from COVID-19Roundup
tags: World War II, Cold War, Donald Trump, coronavirus
Peter A. Shulman is associate professor of History at Case Western Reserve University and author of "Coal and Empire: The Birth of Energy Security in Industrial America."
An increasing chorus is demanding President Trump utilize a law that few had heard of before the past few weeks — the Defense Production Act — to solve the critical shortage of medical equipment that threatens to turn the covid-19 pandemic into an even bigger catastrophe. While Democrats have insisted upon such action, medical professions have joined the calls, as have average Americans amid pictures on social media of doctors and fashion designers sewing masks.
Under pressure, the president signed an executive order delegating power under the act to the Department of Health and Human Services, but has resisted putting its powers into full effect. When asked Wednesday why he had not, the president deflected that “governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work and they are doing a lot of this work. The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know,” he shrugged, “we’re not a shipping clerk.”
Yet American history shows that in times of crisis, one of the most vital powers of the federal government is precisely to coordinate resources and ensure critical needs are met. Today, the Defense Production Act remains one of the most potent legal tools — maybe the only tool — to help the government serve that obligation and make sure our medical professionals have the tools they need.
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