COVID-19 and American Manufacturing

Is COVID-19 the Wakeup Call America Needs to Start Manufacturing Medicine and Medical Equipment in the US Again?

The COVID-19 epidemic sweeping the world is just one of the many reasons why has emphasized the importance of US manufacturing since 1998. We are low on medical supplies and medications for a variety of reasons, but the number one factor is that China produces 95% of the medications and medical supplies used in the USA. When they shut down their factories, they used those products they produced for their own citizens. Likewise, had we been producing our own products, we would have been able to increase production quickly to help with the increased demand by our hospitals and medical staff.

Over the years we have been labeled as protectionists, because we had a view that we need to protect ourselves from catastrophic events like wars, earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, Tsunamis and pandemics.

Now lawmakers have seen the light and are scrambling to save face during an important election cycle. Those that make the best promises and actually fulfill them will be the ones who win at the polls. Or at least that is the theory. We have seen it over and again, promises to make the system better have fallen on deaf ears with our elected officials year after year.

The New York Times recently wrote an article about how the coronavirus is reigniting efforts by the US to stop China’s chokehold on medications, vitamins and supplements as well as medical supplies and encourage American manufacturing of drugs and medical products. These efforts are something that needed to happen a decade ago but our manufacturing capabilities began to dissolve two decades ago with NAFTA and when our elected leaders voted China into the World Trade Organization in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks and have done so year after year.

Many politicians have touted the notion that if we open up free trade to China, they will experience capitalism and want to embrace it and the democratic republic ideologies we currently embrace. The end result is that China embraced the opportunity to amass huge quantities of wealth, technology, US assets and have done nothing but ignore any trade agreements it has signed with the United States and other countries.

Is this article all about China Bashing? Not at all, but it does show a pattern in regards to how China conducts business and how off shoring has cost the United States trillions of dollars and endangered the lives of the American people with the current COVID-19 crisis. We want to focus on getting industry back to manufacturing in the USA. If the large corporations don’t want to jump in, then lets help the small US manufacturers scale up and make up for the shortfall; by creating collaboration and partnerships to speed up the process.

Americans are sick and some are dying for several reasons. First and foremost, the US is not producing enough of its own supplies to handle demand across the board. Second, The US did not have a large enough strategic stockpile and we don’t have the capabilities to mass produce certain products even though the technology to do so is readily available. Sadly most of that equipment is also in China. Thirdly, states and local governments did not have enough stockpiled. Finally, hospitals and medical facilities were not even close to being ready for a pandemic.

Meanwhile China is making it more difficult to export face masks and more PPE.  The order is done so under the guise that theyare trying to improve the quality of the products that they are shipping, but it is speculated that China is doing this to have a ready stock pile of PPE as their country goes through another round COVID-19 infections as it is now seeing with a second wave of outbreaks.  That being said, many of the corona virus test kits being shipping out of China have proved to be faulty and have been rejected by other countries as well. So do we really want to rely on China any longer for medical supplies, medication and vitamins?

The crux of the problem is not about China, the problem lies within our own borders. Manufacturing facilities shuttered, more than two decades of shipping equipment and production moved to China and elsewhere. We stopped becoming self-reliant and do not have enough capacity to handle demand in the US.

We did not have this problem during WWII. In a short time frame factories were able quickly convert their production facilities to help with the war effort. All Americans were united in fighting and winning the war. The United States Government was asking Americans who were not fighting in the war to work at the factories and ration supplies.

Today, average Americans are fighting in the war, they are making masks and giving them to their loved ones and medical care facilities. Manufacturers of all sizes are working to convert their facilities to produce PPE. However, because our capacity for production of many of the items we rely on have to be imported, it will take more time to produce what we need for millions of Americans and medical workers, first responders and law enforcement.

As a matter of national security, we need to have production of anything crucial to our survival as a nation manufactured in the United States by American owned companies. As a matter of national economic security, we need to be able to manufacturer just about anything we use within the borders of the United States to avoid these shortages in a pandemic or crisis scenario again.