FDA

Jen Psaki's Snarky Comments Can't Cover for the FDA's Rapid Testing Approval Failures

Plus: RIP to sex entrepreneur Phil Harvey, Elon Musk says Congress should can Biden's spending plan, and more....

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During a testy exchange with reporters on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki accidentally admitted the real reason why America is lagging so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to COVID-19 rapid testing: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In response to a question posed by NPR's Mara Liasson about why other countries seem to have more readily available, less expensive at-home COVID testing kits, Psaki rattled off her talking points about how the Biden administration has "quadrupled the size of our testing plan" and is working to ensure that many Americans can get refunded for out-of-pocket testing costs.

When Liasson continued pressing, Psaki turned to her usual snark to avoid offering a straight answer.

That's pretty rich coming from the same White House that was, just two months ago, touting its plan to spend $1 billion purchasing and distributing roughly 200 million at-home tests for free each month to health clinics and community centers. As Reason's Ron Bailey noted recently, that amounts to around 0.6 tests per American per month. Psaki is literally mocking the Biden administration's own approach as woefully inadequate—which, to be fair, it is!

But here's the real money shot, from the White House's official transcript of the press conference:

Q: I don't know. All I know is that other countries seem to be making them available for—in greater quantities, for less money.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we share the same objective, which is to make them less expensive and more accessible. Right?

Every country is going to do that differently. And I was just noting that, again, our tests go through the FDA approval process. That's not the same process that—it doesn't work that way in every single country. But what we're working to do here is build on what we've done to date and continue to build out our testing capacity, because, Mara, we absolutely recognize that this is a key component of fighting the virus.

(Emphasis mine.)

Exactly. It's the FDA's uniquely labyrinthine and time-consuming approval process that is causing America to lag behind so many other countries.

Indeed, as journalist Matthew Yglesias points out, there are American companies making tests for use overseas even though they have not been approved by the FDA for use in the United States. This is madness. If the FDA cannot accelerate its evaluations to match what's being done in Germany, Britain, and elsewhere, it should at least offer an emergency use authorization so tests approved by public health officials in other countries can be legally sold here (albeit without the official seal of approval). President Joe Biden should have asked the FDA to do that months ago.

The availability of rapid, at-home testing could make a huge difference for Americans who are trying to navigate another holiday season during the pandemic. Even though I'm vaccinated and probably quite safe from COVID, I'd like to be able to take an at-home test before and after any visit with relatives or other social engagement this winter. But, as I learned after a visit to a local pharmacy before Thanksgiving, that means shelling out about $25 for a two-pack of tests. A family of four would have to spend about $200 per month just to allow each member a single weekly test. Even for those who can afford it, the high price of testing is likely to limit how much testing is done.

The best way to lower prices is to increase supply. And there is plenty of supply in the global COVID-19 testing marketplace—except in America. Thanks, FDA.


FREE MINDS

Phil Harvey—the erotica and contraceptive entrepreneur who in 1972 founded Adam & Eve, a groundbreaking mail-order business specializing in erotic literature, film, and sex toys—died last week at age 83. 

Harvey was a frequent target of government anti-smut campaigns and won more than a few legal battles on behalf of Americans' sexual and reproductive freedoms. "Harvey's work and philanthropy were dedicated to freedom, and to the power and ability to manage those freedoms responsibly; a delightfully and quintessentially American combination that helped bring pleasure, choice, and control to countless people in America and across the world," writes Reason's Brian Doherty.

(Harvey was a financial supporter of the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this newsletter.)


FREE MARKETS

"I'm literally saying get rid of all subsidies," Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Monday, escalating his recent criticisms of the Biden administration's "Build Back Better" proposal. 

During an event hosted by The Wall Street Journal, Musk suggested that Congress "can this whole bill." He criticized the Biden administration's plan to subsidize the purchasing of electric cars and plans to spend $7.5 billion to expand access to electric vehicle charging stations.

Biden's plan would provide subsidies of up to $12,500 for Americans to buy electric cars. Musk is probably a little salty about that because (as Reason's Joe Lancaster noted last week), Tesla cars would not qualify for the full amount because they (like Toyotas, Hondas, and other varieties of EVs) are not produced by unionized workers.

And while Musk's anti-subsidy stance is welcome in this instance, he's got a long history of collecting government aid when it is convenient.


QUICK HITS

• Reason's annual webathon is ongoing! If you've enjoyed all the free content we've put out supporting free minds and free markets, please consider donating.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell is signaling that the central bank could raise interest rates in the spring to help combat inflation.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden's "Buy American" rules and strict immigration policies are adding to inflation.

• The U.S. officially announced plans for a "diplomatic boycott" of the upcoming Winter Olympics, which will be held in China during February.

• American households saved a boatload of cash during the pandemic, but those reserves are starting to dwindle.

• Pennsylvania's high-stakes Senate race will be a test of which faction controls the Democratic Party in a crucial swing state.

• Rep. Devin Nunes (R–Calif.), the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, is resigning to become CEO of former President Donald Trump's new social media venture.

• Is this salad "Mexican food" or not? A Nevada judge will decide.

• Has the elusive Reason Rat finally been unmasked? Watch and decide for yourself—then donate to Reason to ensure the rat has an ongoing supply of material to post, whoever he (or she?) might be.