OPINION: WWII’s Production Model Solves Today’s Corona Virus Crisis

The corona crisis mounts as even low-end death projections reach 100-200,000, yet our federal government waffles on crucial matters like vaccine research, hospital supplies and respirators. We are not where we should be.

Our leaders in Washington are well advised to study and implement the successful approach taken in the early days of World War II. Government forcefully, intelligently took the reins of power in planning out production for naval ships, airplanes, tanks, and everything from coal to corn.

Government worked closely with industry nationwide. GM, Ford and Chrsyler quickly converted car or idle factories reeling from the Great Depression into the Arsenal of Democracy, retooling factories. Car factories soon produced tanks and airplanes.

Where is this government/business collaboration now? Our leaders barely mention the successful World War II model. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, our military was in dismal condition. FDR took the country’s breath away in announcing the goal of building 60,000 airplanes, 45,000 tanks and 8,000,000 tons of shipping for 1942. Washington did not scoff. It got to work. By 1945 America had 324,750 military aircraft. In 1939, aircraft production was under 3,000. We need this “can do” America today, only it must be for virus testing, vaccines and medical gear. Look to 1942 for a path.

No competition between corporations can be tolerated. Patriotic cooperation must be mandated as done in 1942. Biotechs and drug giants must be enlisted to work feverishly in finding a vaccine. Corporations in competition must be placed on a war-time footing, required by a muscular federal government to cooperate fully in sharing information.

Currently, the motivation is profit-driven. Success means stock prices will soar. Merck may not be motivated to share research with competitors. This is a disastrous approach, for if all biotech and pharmaceuticals work together for the good of nation and world, powerful drugs will sooner become a reality.

We are at war. We need a wartime approach, not “business as usual.” Who cares if Pfizer profits soar, but it took months longer than it would have had Pfizer and others shared resources. How many thousands must die because Washington was wobbly? Politicians must learn from brethren of past. We don’t benefit from a president calling a governor a snake. We need Roosevelt as a role model, for FDR oversaw the conversion of a struggling economy to our nation’s proudest moment.

Think of the nightmare our country, under existential threat from fascist Japan and Nazi Germany, would have faced had our current approach been the modus operendi. A microscopic enemy is deadly all the same as bombs and bullets. From Pearl Harbor came miraculous economic transition.

While at it, let’s make sure everything is made in America. No outsourcing, no off-shoring. Make sure Americans are put to work. It’s the right thing to do. It’s smart national security. Anything less may mean the different between moderate mortality or millions of dead.

Government. Industry. Together. Make it so, Washington. A fearful nation looks to Washington for leadership.

James Behr is a political consultant, journalist, and bookwriter on political topics. He was a consultant for several political campaigns, has been active in political clubs in Manhattan, and is an Adj. Associate Professor at Manhattan College. An attorney admitted to the New York bar. Mr. Behr is multi dimensional, as he is also an accomplished Broadway composer and recording artist with a MM from The Juilliard School and a BA in Political Science from Northwestern University. He is currently a key political advisor and issues consultant for Michael Zumbluskas, candidate for New York State Senate, 28th district, Manhattan.

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