by Bob Barr
At this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, most government sectors are playing out their roles according to script. Congress is throwing money at the problem. Liberal governors are preening for the cameras and auditioning to be chosen by Joe Biden to be his running mate. The mainstream media is obsessed with criticizing Trump’s every move.
Local government officials of all political stripes are becoming mini-despots — ordering law enforcement to yank people off buses if they are not wearing mandated personal protective equipment (PPE) and instructing police to intimidate parishioners wanting to attend in-car religious services.
Federal regulatory bureaucrats are doing what they do best – demanding that every rule be followed to the T even if doing so slows down salubrious processes.
Outside the glare of the TV cameras, however, it is the president, perhaps alone, who is trying to take meaningful steps that will actually improve the chances the United States will be better prepared to both avert a future health crisis imported from outside our borders as well as to respond to health crises wherever their origin.
Regulatory reform has been the quiet storm of the Trump administration. Unnecessary and burdensome rules have been identified and, where possible without congressional action, limited or rolled back entirely. The Left, as seen in a recent New York Times piece by Lisa Friedman, is worried sick about Trump’s efforts in this regard. Liberal efforts to slow this hallmark policy of the administration, however, will not succeed; unless, of course, the November election returns control of either the White House or the Senate (or both) to Democrat control.
Long before the onset of the current health crisis, Trump knew that regulatory red tape was hampering innovation in our domestic economy. More important to the current analysis, Trump understood that such regulatory suffocation was a major factor driving American businesses and manufacturing abroad.
It has become common knowledge, for example, that one of the reasons N95 masks and some other PPE are in too short supply during this pandemic is at least in large measure the result of regulatory roadblocks for their manufacture and distribution erected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is those same regulatory processes that work, in reverse, to make it easier for plants in other countries, notably China, to manufacture goods and to then export them to the U.S. domestic market.
Consider just one product much in today’s news – drugs. When it becomes easier and cheaper to manufacture drugs overseas, it comes as no surprise that this is precisely what companies have been doing for years, and why a significant, perhaps frightening percentage of generic drugs are made in China and imported into the United States. The one federal agency responsible for monitoring this sector, and for ensuring the efficacy of those imported products – the FDA — apparently does not even know how significant this problem really is.
In congressional testimony last fall, months before the Chinese Wuhan Coronavirus made its hellish appearance, a top FDA official admitted the agency does not know how many facilities in China are licensed to manufacture APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients). What is clear is that China (along with India) now is one of America’s largest suppliers by far of generic drugs, and drug manufacturing plants in that country have become adept at evading the strict scrutiny by which the FDA monitors pharmaceutical companies inside the U.S.
Ironically, it is here in our country that many of the Chinese business and science leaders learn the skills that are taken back to their homeland and deployed to the advantage of their country to the disadvantage of ours. Trump gets this irony and has moved to address it.
Academic leaders in the U.S., of course, bewail the Trump administration’s two-year old policy of limiting the flood of Chinese students (whose parents have become wealthy off of that country’s communist-run oligarchy) into American colleges and universities. The FBI has raised alarms about the ease with which these students, particularly those at the graduate level, thereby gain access to research with military and other national security ramifications.
Hopefully, this latest health crisis visited on us by China, will further invigorate the administration to use all the regulatory, immigration and national security tools at its disposal, to protect America from future such occurrences. If there were just a single reason to reelect Trump to a second term, that would be it.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He now serves as President of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation based in Atlanta, Georgia.