Fact check: Tom Cotton falsely claims there were no labor or supply issues under Trump

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There were both supply chain and labor shortages under former President Donald Trump.

On Monday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) claimed there were no supply chain or labor shortages in 2020 when former President Donald Trump was in office. But this is not true.

Cotton made his comments during an appearance on Fox News' "Ingraham Angle," hosted by Laura Ingraham.

"We've had this pandemic for two years, Laura. I don't remember inflation or supply chain shortages or labor shortages that we've seen this year in the first year of the pandemic," Cotton said. "What changed? Joe Biden and the Democrats took power in January."

But in a report his own office released in February, Cotton acknowledged supply chain problems that disrupted the distribution of personal protective equipment to doctors and hospitals.

Cotton's report, "Beat China: Targeted Decoupling and the Economic Long War," discusses actions taken by China to manufacture equipment for its virus response, which led to shortages elsewhere in the world.

"This move imperiled America's ability to procure personal protective equipment at the outset of the pandemic, likely costing American lives," the report said.

 

Supply chain problems became clear almost immediately after the pandemic began, forcing medical workers on the front lines of the response to reuse and ration equipment like N95 face masks. There were also more widespread supply-chain issues when Trump was in office, including shortages of groceries and consumer goods like toilet paper and diapers.

As the virus spread across the country, Trump refused to invoke the Defense Production Act to make more personal protective equipment for frontline medical workers.

"The federal government's not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping," Trump told reporters in March 2020. "You know, we're not a shipping clerk."

On Jan. 21, 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to get American manufacturers to produce more medical equipment.

Labor shortages also predate the Biden presidency. The percentage of workers participating in the economy fell as the pandemic began in 2020.

In a report on labor shortages, the Wall Street Journal noted in October that the percentage experienced its biggest drop since World War II "in the early months of the pandemic." Some economists have attributed the ongoing problem to lingering concerns about the virus as well as retirement schedules being accelerated.

The U.S. economy has improved since Biden took office. More than 5.5 million jobs have been added since January, and the unemployment rate has fallen from 6.3% to 4.6%.

Nevertheless, Republicans keep using Cotton's misleading line of argument. In a Fox News appearance earlier this month, former Trump senior counselor Kellyanne Conway falsely claimed that "there wasn't a supply chain crisis" when Trump was in office.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.