“America First” Apparently Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Americans First

Outdoor briefing earlier in the week, when the weather was good

A lot of Trump’s actions seem increasingly aimed at keeping the private sector happy, not the average Americans he claims to represent

And he seems to have developed a view that states are meant to conduct diplomacy among themselves, with the federal government’s proper role being to stay out of it. He’ll “help out wherever we can”, the President said, but:

The complainers [among U.S. governors] should have been stocked up and ready long before this crisis hit.”


We’re not a shipping clerk“.

Later in the week, he added:

Don’t forget: we’re a secondary source.”

Though earlier in the week he assured the American people state governors were not and would not be put in a position where they are bidding against each other for much needed medical equipment:

They shouldn’t be doing that. If that happens, they should be calling us.”

Or as son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner put it this week, even more confoundingly:

The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.”

Which is interesting, because before the U.S. Constitution was written and adapted, states mostly going it alone except in time of war, was sort of how the country was originally set up. States could largely conduct business as they pleased. Like an orchestra without a conductor. It didn’t work. Which is what led to the U.S. Constitution, which both gave the federal government more power, and the American people a more centralized place to look in times of crisis. Also, even in the original 1777 Articles of Confederation, states are prescribed to be:

[B]inding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them.”

And the President has also repeatedly said the U.S. is under attack, and he’s a “wartime President“.

Yet he also this week described allowing previously allocated shipments to Italy and Spain, explaining:

We had a big order going to Italy. Important outfits and ventilators going to Italy. They made the order a long time ago. I could’ve cut it under the [Defense Appropriations] Act. I said: ‘Can’t do it. You have to let it go’. We had another order going to Spain. I could’ve stopped it, and I said: ‘let it go‘”.

And he complains there are also 151 other countries overrun by COVID-19, bidding against the U.S. for equipment. What about the U.S. being by far the richest and strongest and best-prepared country in the world as Trump used to like to point out at rallies?

Here’s a longer clip from Trump’s briefing (click on the photo to watch):

How’s that “America First”? Now, we’d understand if this was a President who was known for compassion. But we think a lot of people voted for him because they expected him of all people, would not let those shipments go, would not do that kind of thing, yet he is.

Also, if you haven’t noticed, the U.S. hasn’t exactly been the world leader in forming and enacting a Coronavirus battle plan, as it has been with most other global crises, or wars, in the past.

Now, Trump did more recently moved to block 3M from shipping orders for respirator masks to Canada and Latin America. And this is a President who likes sometimes to act like a dictator when he doesn’t have to. Yet now, when it might be appropriate to at least put his foot down (at least temporarily) about things like live saving equipment from being sold by American companies at sometimes exorbitant prices to the highest bidder overseas–or even within this country–he by-and-large won’t do it. He makes a big show of trotting out Attorney General Bill Barr to announce he’s cracking down on price gouging, but he can’t really. States can’t really promote arresting people and entities they’re trying to buy equipment from they desperately need, because that’s a surefire way of never getting the equipment.

Trump’s the same guy who took money from the Defense Budget to build a hundred miles or so of wall because Congress wouldn’t give it to him. But now he won’t block companies from operating completely in their own interests, even if he means he could save lives in the U.S.?

We actually don’t hold it against the Trump Administration that they sent tons of medical equipment, including a lot of just what the U.S. needs here right now to China at the very beginning of February. Something Secretary of State Mike Pompeo bragged about in a Tweet back then. Being a leader and a quick responder to medical crises overseas is what the U.S. has done for years. And it’s an important part of fighting potential pandemics. If that equipment had helped limit the spread of the Coronavirus so that it never got to the U.S. in the first place, that would’ve been worth it.

Anyhow, now that COVID-19 is here, everything’s different. The President can compel companies to do things they don’t want to do. He can distribute material without putting it out on the open market, making hospitals and states bid for it. He could just make industry give it to them. He’s already “paying them” in the form of multi-trillion dollar bailouts, of which we’re almost certain to see more.

And yes, a lot of what we just described would be “Socialism.” So is almost everything else the federal government is doing these days: spending trillions to keep big business afloat, supporting small businesses, and extending unemployment benefits.

In addition, Trump doesn’t need to go around crowing about talking to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in an effort to get gas prices back up. Just a day or two after he bragged the fact that gas prices are so low right now: “it’s the greatest tax cut we’ve ever given” to consumers. But not if they’re out of work, staying at home and can’t drive anywhere. He’s doing what he’s doing to support the U.S.’ own oil and gas industry, which does employ a lot of people, and can’t compete globally with prices at their current level. And maybe that’ll save jobs in the U.S., by saving some of those domestic oil producers. But those are highly protected industries to begin with. You know who needs help more right now? Everybody. Every individual.