Almost all of us like to buy products that are made in the USA. It feels good to support businesses that provide jobs to fellow Americans.
But we also should recognize that foreign trade and alliances have always been vital to our nation’s survival and success.
If not for foreign military assistance and loans, we likely would have lost the Revolutionary War. And through the 1800s, the U.S. economy relied on trading raw goods for finished products.
Then during the 20th century, advances in technology and transportation linked the world’s nations, businesses and people in more complex ways.
Those relationships are now under attack by isolationists on the right and left who view globalization as evil.
They claim that shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the pandemic bolster their case. That’s myopic political humbug, not economic reality. Domestic production does not ensure availability.
Take toilet paper. Virtually all of our toilet paper is made in the United States. It is relatively simple and fast to make. Still, the country ran out; shelves were empty in some stores for weeks.
Medical supply shortages were not an economic or foreign policy problem. They were a preparation problem.
The federal government failed to ramp up production and purchase of medical supplies. It failed to heed the intelligence coming from its own agencies regarding the severity and spread of the new virus. It failed to develop testing that would help track and react to the disease. It failed to come up with a plan to distribute supplies and tests. It failed to issue new rules regarding safe business operations in anticipation of the pandemic.
Now, President Donald Trump and his supporters are trying to rewrite history and conjure up culprits.
They want us to blame Democrats, media and China.
Trump has not always blamed China for the pandemic. Here’s what he said Jan. 24: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”
And on Feb. 29: “China seems to be making tremendous progress. Their numbers are way down. … I think our relationship with China is very good. We just did a big trade deal. We’re starting on another trade deal with China — a very big one. And we’ve been working very closely. They’ve been talking to our people, we’ve been talking to their people, having to do with the virus.”
Meanwhile, the president was ignoring reports from U.S. intelligence agencies that China was suppressing information about the severity and spread of COVID-19.
He also ignored calls from U.S. businesses and officials within his administration to gear up production of medical supplies.
Again and again, he told Americans COVID-19 was no big deal, that the virus had been contained, that Democrats and the media were just trying to scare people to hurt him politically.
The federal response to coronavirus has been a bit like a family ignoring a tornado warning from the National Weather Service — then blaming Oklahoma for starting the twister and reporters for covering it.
The shortage of medical devices and supplies had almost nothing to do with where production is located. It had everything to do with a failure to prepare.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.