In the past few months, several multimillion-dollar government contracts for face masks have come under scrutiny. David McSwane, an investigative journalist at ProPublica, spent 36 hours watching one such deal fall apart. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talked with McSwane about his article on the role of profit in the market for personal protective equipment right now.
“You have unprecedented demand and very little supply,” McSwane said. To profit from that demand, McSwane said, brokers are offering to connect contractors to the face mask supply chain.
“That contractor is weeding through all of these intermediaries who are making big promises, folks who say they have somebody with masks or somebody in China. In the end, for our contractor in this story, navigating that just proved too much and his deal fell through.”
Click the audio player above to hear the interview.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?
Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.
How are Americans feeling about their finances?
Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.
Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.
What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?
A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.
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