While the country faces the coronavirus pandemic, three tech moguls—Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Apple CEO Tim Cook—have donated, or promised to donate, much-needed supplies to healthcare workers. That’s obviously great, but not a reason to lose sight of the bigger picture. First of all, charity aside, the super-wealthy need to be taxed way, way more. And the federal government shouldn’t rely on the kindness of the rich to fight a pandemic, anyway.
First, let’s go over the good. As Zuckerberg shared on a Facebook post (where else?) over the weekend, the company is donating 720,000 respiratory masks. In the post, he noted the company had the masks in an emergency reserve because of California’s wildfires. Cook said that Apple is donating “millions” of masks to healthcare workers in both the U.S. and in Europe. It’s not yet clear how Apple came to have the masks to begin with. Lastly, Musk told a Twitter user he’d send out the much-needed N95 masks. One researcher at the University of Seattle Washington reportedly received 50,000 such masks from Musk. Musk’s also said his company will make ventilators and hopes to have more than 1,000 this week.
What we don’t want to lose sight of, however, is the fact that our federal government, not billionaires, should be stepping up and providing for the general public. Why? Because it’s too risky to rely on the donations of the super-wealthy. FEMA head Peter Gaynor suggested that Trump hasn’t needed to invoke the Defense Production Act, which compels companies to make needed medical supplies because so far, those items have been donated. As we know, however, hospitals and clinics across the country are dwindling on much-needed personal safety items, and workers are, understandably, terrified. Reports of physicians needing to treat patients without appropriate supplies, like gloves, reportedly dying in countries like Italy, do not instill confidence.
All of this to say: What these tech giants are doing is wonderful and inspiring. Hopefully more ultra-wealthy people continue to donate and volunteer as they can. But it isn’t an excuse for the federal government to drag its feet, and it’s good news that comes with a dark reminder—our health and safety shouldn’t rely on the goodwill of the most privileged among us.
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