Barack Obama, Department of Health and Human Services, facemasks, Following Up, George W. Bush, health security, healthcare goods, imports, Lena H. Sun, manufacturing, masks, Mike Bowen, Prestige Ameritech, Rachel Siegel, supply chain, The American Conservative, Trump, Washington Post
Since news organizations can be so unreliable, I always do whatever I can to use information from primary sources instead of items in the media. I’m making an exception this morning, however, because I’ve failed to find a government document mentioned in several news articles, and reportedly it contains such important data that it deserves mention. Specifically, this document seems to add vital detail to my recent description in The American Conservative of how extensively the United States relies on foreign sources for crucial health care goods, and how long this gaping hole in the nation’s healthcare security has existed.
The document I can’t find has been described in this Washington Post piece as “a 2014 briefing released by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.” Among its findings, according to Post correspondents Lena J. Sun and Rachel Siegel:
“Up to 95 percent of surgical masks are made outside the continental United States, in places like China and Mexico….”
The 2014 date, of course, is revealing in that it was two years before Donald Trump was elected President. Also revealing: The authors interviewed a domestic mask manufacturer who showed them letters he’s written to American Presidents warning that mask availability could be disrupted during a pandemic outbreak.
The first was written to Barack Obama in 2010. And apparently little or nothing was done. But the manufacturer, Mike Bowen of Texas-based Prestige Ameritech, says he reached out to George W. Bush’s administration as well – with the same results.
But just in case you think this is an establishment-bashing exercise, it’s important to note also that Bowen says he sent the same warning in 2017 – when Mr. Trump did occupy the Oval Office.
Contrary to much (self-serving) conventional wisdom, I’m not at all opposed to finger-pointing and blame-casting, even during a crisis. In fact, I view it as critical to ensuring that mistakes aren’t repeated. But I am opposed to cherry-picking finger-pointing. Because by now it should be abundantly clear that when it comes to U.S. national leaders and American health security, both Democrats and Republicans and liberals and conservatives and even populists have let the country down.
And the faster all partisans get off their high horses and focus on identifying lessons that need to be learned regardless of political effect, the faster Americans will overcome this crisis and the lower the chances of a rerun.