Shortage of baby formula a sign of poor governance in US
Published: May 15, 2022 08:08 PM
Grocery store shelves where baby formula is typically stocked are locked and nearly empty in Washington, DC, on May 11, 2022. It's a parent's worst nightmare. The United States is in the grip of a severe shortage of baby formula. Photo: AFP

Grocery store shelves where baby formula is typically stocked are locked and nearly empty in Washington, DC, on May 11, 2022. It's a parent's worst nightmare. The United States is in the grip of a severe shortage of baby formula. Photo: AFP

A worsening baby formula shortage is putting parents across the US on edge as they scramble to find ways to feed their children. According to a New York Times report, more than 40 percent of formulas are out of stock at stores around the country - a crisis that has been building for months and stems from pandemic supply issues that were exacerbated by the February closure of a major production plant. In addition, severe inflation and supply shortages in the global food market caused by the ongoing Ukraine crisis have made it difficult for US households to obtain many essential goods. 

The formula shortage is a sign that the US government is much more anxious about the COVID-19 pandemic, and its domestic economy situation affected by it, than we have thought. It looks like they took all the measures it believed would work, sacrificing 1 million of lives just to save the economy, but as things stand now the economy isn't being saved either. After Joe Biden's inauguration, he poured plenty of money into pandemic relief, but the overwhelming spending only led to the worst inflation in the US since the 1980s, causing the prices of a lot of commodities to skyrocket, affecting American people's access to basic necessities, including baby formula, which has a profound impact on the health of infants and children. 

Moreover, labor shortages since the outbreak have affected supply chains, due to the large proportion (24.7 percent) of adults of 18-64 years old who die from COVID-19. What's more, at least 100 million Americans in this age group have contracted COVID-19, and studies show that 27 to 33 percent of them still experience symptoms months after infection. That means at least 31 million working-age Americans might have experienced, or are still experiencing, long COVID symptoms, leading to a super tight labor market. Rising labor costs are also partly responsible for higher prices for commodities, including formula. 

Not only the US, but also more Western countries, such as Germany, are experiencing food shortages. In addition to the epidemic, the Ukraine crisis is also an important catalyst. As Ukraine is a significant food producer, the conflict has caused problems with the food exports in the country, which brought on the shortage in the global food market and therefore in the US. The conflict breaks the balance of the past, not only formula, but also many other food supplies will obviously be affected. 

Even so, the US is still providing huge aid to Ukraine. On May 9, Biden signed a bill to revive the World War II-era "lend-lease" program that will expedite sending military aid to Ukraine. Generally speaking, security interests trump everything, including economic interests, in the current US administration. Antony Blinken, Jake Sullivan and their likes have totally dominated US foreign policy, even economic policy, while Janet Yellen and other economic experts have been marginalized. Their voices are not properly heard and don't receive proper feedback.

What the US sacrificed for the so-called national security is not only the economic interests of ordinary Americans, but also basic human rights. The Republican Party is now using the formula issue to attack Democrats, and the topic surprisingly turned out to be that the Biden administration prioritized undocumented immigrants over Americans by providing pallets of baby formula to detention centers on the southwestern border, which has been compulsory under the law since 1997. 

In the electoral cycle, basic human life has become a tool for the two parties to attack each other, while political forces ignore the basic facts. For example, two candidates, who are running in the Republican primary election for US Senator from Pennsylvania, have been bashing each other for ties with China, which is groundless. In fact, even if the basic assistance provided by the US government to immigrants stranded at the border is not large, it will be infinitely exaggerated by the Republicans. Under this circumstance, problems concerning the basic life of ordinary Americans, such as the shortage of baby formula, cannot be solved quickly and effectively, and the American people have once again become the victims.

The article was compiled by a Global Times reporter based on an interview with Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn