With the baby formula shortage getting worse, parents are desperate for solutions. Contrary to the “tragedy of the delayed treadmill,” the situation poses serious health concerns for both babies and moms. Thanks to a small handful of reporters and media figures who’ve stayed on it, lawmakers and the White House are finally paying attention. But so far, it’s too little, too late.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden spoke with baby formula manufacturers and retailers about families struggling to find formula due to supply chain issues and a safety recall. But he made the decision to ban press from being in the room, leaving moms in the dark about what he’s actually doing.
Democrats heading the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced this week they will hold a hearing on baby formula shortages—but not until May 25. What’s the rush? White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre assured us the Biden administration is focused on solving the crisis “24/7,” but then awkwardly laughed and responded “I don’t know” when asked about which White House official or staffer is in charge of handling the situation.
Most recently, Republican Congresswoman Kat Cammack from Florida suggested that while American grocery stories are empty, federal detention centers for illegal immigrants are stocked with pallets of baby formula.
“The American government is sending by the pallet, thousands and thousands of containers of baby formula to the border,” she said.
To be sure, all babies deserve to be fed. However, the current situation is a matter of managing supply and demand. Right now, demand for baby formula in the U.S. far outweighs supply. As of late April, 40% of baby formula is out of stock nationwide and many retailers have been forced to place limits on how much parents can buy. Migrant mothers must be told about America’s shortage, and the Biden administration must stop increasing demand.
Republican lawmakers are responding. Indiana Congressman Jim Banks sent a letter Thursday to Department of Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas and Department of Health and Human Services Sec. Xavier Becerra asking a series of questions about the formula it has purchased for migrants, and whether DHS has been subjected to the same purchase limitations that many American parents are facing. The letter, obtained by The Daily Caller, states:
During the border surge of 2019, Border Patrol spent $230 million on ‘snacks, diapers, and baby formula,’ according to former chief of Customs and Border Protection law enforcement operations, Brian S. Hastings. With officials anticipating up to 18,000 illegal immigrants crossing our southern border every single day once Title 42 is terminated, it is safe to assume this costly figure will rise even higher. Sadly, while dealing with the consequences of the Biden’s administration’s border crisis, Texas is grappling with another crisis: Young parents are unable to feed their children.
Title 42 is a Trump-era health immigration measure that is set to expire May 23, It allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the border and prevents them from seeking asylum. Without it, immigration officials are predicting a tsunami of new migrants.
Of the nearly 20,000 migrants expected at the border per day, many will come with babies in tow. Of course, the resources they need impacts others. To be sure, no one wants innocent babies to go unfed. However, it’s unacceptable that the Biden administration has enabled the demand for items such as baby formula to become so extreme that Americans don’t have the ability to purchase these supplies for themselves.
American parents need solutions to the baby formula shortage. Instead of closed-door meetings and empty rhetoric, the White House needs meaningful action.
Reinstating Title 42 to limit new demand hitting the Southern border is one small step of many the White House could take. More significantly, the Biden administration could immediately reduce infant formula tariffs and lift the U.S. ban on European-imported formulas. When banning European baby formula, The New York Times in 2021 reported,
[M]edical experts we talked with don’t think the theoretical advantages to European formulas are worth the possible risks and expense. ‘There is a wide variety of regulated infant formulas available in the US’ Young pointed out. ‘This variety assures parents that they can find a formula that works for their unique baby and fits in their budget.’
Well, times have changed. There is no longer a “a wide variety of regulated infant formulas available in the U.S.” With parents left begging relatives to ship cans across states, there’s certainly not enough to fit into everyone’s budget. Not to mention, in addition to supply chain disruptions, the FDA’s failure to property regulate an Abbott baby formula plant caused this shortage in the first place. Who are they to tell parents what alternatives they can and can’t buy?
For too long, major media ignored government incompetence that led to this situation, likely in an attempt to protect Biden from being responsible for more bad news. If elected president, “I’ll take responsibility instead of blaming others,” remember he once said?
If the Biden administration wants to demonstrate that it’s serious about addressing the baby formula shortage, lifting trade restrictions and taking action to reduce demand at the Southern border are two obvious starting points. Invoking the Defense Production Act might also be necessary. If the White House won’t take these actions, parents deserve to know why. And considering the stress many of them are under, hearing directly from the president would be nice.