Much of the cruelty and corruption, not to mention sheer ineptitude, of the current administration flies under the radar. This next story would have gone that way too, but for the fact that plague, like pestilence, war and famine, rears its ugly head with regularity and COVID-19 is the 100-year-cycle deadly virus. It was anticipated that something like it would come along in the fullness of time. Much was learned from the last pandemic in 1918 and from other, more recent outbreaks of lethal viruses, notably SARS and Ebola. Therefore, the United States, under Barack Obama, had prudently planned for just such an event as we are experiencing now — and Donald Trump’s administration shortstopped and botched those plans, resulting in costly and deadly results. New Civil Rights Movement:
A new report from the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform found that the Trump Administration repeatedly delayed an Obama-era order from the health-technology company Philips for 10,000 ventilators, wasting half-a-billion dollars for machines that won’t even arrive until September 2022.
According to the report, in 2014, the Obama Administration signed a contract with Philips to add 10,000 ventilators to the nation’s stockpile by June 2019. Though Philips delayed the fulfillment until November 2019, had they been held to that deadline, the nation would have had plenty of ventilators for when the coronavirus epidemic started in March 2020. [emphasis added]
However, the Trump Administration granted Philips three extensions.
“On January 21, 2020, when the first coronavirus case was reported in the United States,” the report states, “Philips approached the Trump Administration about accelerating the delivery of ventilators under its existing contract. The Trump Administration ignored this opportunity, and for six weeks, it did not respond to Philips’ offer.”
When Peter Navarro — Assistant to the President, Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy — and other senior officials in the White House negotiated a new contract with Philips, they ended up scrapping the Obama-era terms and agreed to pay almost five-times the price set under those terms.
Now that is not only the synopsis of yet another example of how coronavirus has been frightfully bungled under Trump, it is the template for the gross incompetence that is the norm in this administration. Peter Navarro is no kind of an economist or administrator. The man does not belong in government. He is the punch line of jokes that real economists and financial people make.
If you have not yet hit the link to the press release issued by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform do so now. It is subtitled, “Staff Report Details Inept Negotiations Led by White House Official Peter Navarro” and dated July 31. Read how, “While the Trump Administration paid $15,000 per ventilator, some small purchasers, buying as few as one unit, were able to negotiate prices as low as $9,327 per unit.”
Now read between the lines here. In January, Philips approached the administration about accelerating delivery of ventilators — and they were ignored. This was most probably due to the fact that in January, Trump’s “policy” with respect to COVID-19 was to characterize it as a hoax. Or, alternatively, hoax or no hoax, it was believed that it would only affect blue states, and that was just fine, as we learned from the Vanity Fair bombshell yesterday. In all events, nothing was done until March, when, incredibly, the Trump administration screwed things up even worse.
Finally, in March 2020, the Trump Administration responded, but rather than demand that Philips meet the deadlines required by its existing contract, or move them up to address the pressing need, the Trump Administration agreed on March 11, 2020, to another extension, removing all delivery deadlines until September 2022. Philips secured the extension by suggesting it would actually help move up delivery.
The Trump Administration failed to question Philips and granted the modification, which made the Obama-era contract useless for aiding the country during this pandemic. The Administration never asked Philips to produce more ventilators under the existing contract.
The Trump Administration, represented by Peter Navarro and other senior officials in the White House, negotiated a new contract with Philips. The Administration agreed to pay Philips almost five times the price than under the previous contract. The ventilators purchased under the new contract (called Trilogy EV300s) were functionally identical to those required under the previous contract (called Trilogy Evo Universals), but the Trump negotiators appeared gullible and conceded to Philips on all significant matters, including price. The documents show that the Administration accepted Philips’ first offer without even trying to negotiate a lower price.
This is some art of the deal. One can reasonably infer that Philips, knowing that it was now a seller’s market, decided to take advantage of that fact and the brain-dead Navarro and his cohorts, apparently just nodded and signed whatever was put in front of them. On these facts, it is phenomenal that they would agree to such different terms, but they did. A first year law student would never have agreed to these revised terms. Now America is paying the price, both in terms of people dead and the considerable amount of money wasted and squandered.
Meanwhile, one American dies every minute from this plague, and the vaccine for coronavirus will likely arrive before these ventilators do.