Editorial: Step up, feds: Nationalize glove and mask production and distribution

How bad does a national emergency have to get for President Donald Trump to use the extraordinary power he already possesses to increase production of protective equipment and ventilators in dangerously short supply, and prioritize their distribution to areas most in need?

We were shocked Sunday to hear President Trump and his economic policy adviser Peter Navarro say their reluctance to utilize the Defense Production Act comes from a purely ideological opposition to “big government.” They’re satisfied that haphazard corporate donations and businesses’ voluntary efforts are good enough to meet the national need for millions more face masks, gloves and respirators. “We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business,” Trump said.

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“We’re getting what we need without putting the heavy hand of government down,” Navarro insists.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state officials, along with health care experts, beg to differ.

Trump’s laissez-faire approach has left states vying against one another in a needlessly expensive bidding war for supplies they need to keep doctors and nurses safe, and sick patients alive.

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Until Trump uses the DPA, ventilator, mask and glove manufacturers face no obligation to prioritize fulfilling orders to meet hospitals’ desperate needs immediately. Under the DPA, Trump could require companies to give priority to government contracts over others. He could demand companies that don’t currently make those goods to retool and quickly start producing them.

Put the feds in charge of production and distribution of lifesaving medical supplies now. Then the heavy burden will be on Washington to swiftly disseminate supplies and prioritize the states in most desperate need.