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A VIEW FROM HERE

There is no shame in accepting help

Posted

I understand criticism of the Biden Administration for not acting sooner to address the baby formula shortage before it became a crisis.That’s justified.

What I don’t understand is the criticism he’s received for fixing the problem.

Political commentators from both parties have claimed it is “shameful” to be receiving assistance from other countries. No, it isn’t. It’s wonderful, and it’s bringing immediate relief to desperate mothers throughout the nation.

The only reason to think it would be shameful is pride, which is a quality shared by both parties. We are a very proud people.

Pride can be a good thing. For individuals and groups who have been marginalized for decades, pride can be essential. But when pride gets in the way of asking for help when it’s needed, that’s not a good thing. And it’s a huge problem in this country, for both our physical and mental health.

It’s estimated that only 41 percent of those in the United States who had a mental health disorder in the past year received professional treatment. While cost was the leading factor for why people did not seek services, the second-most common reason given was a belief that they did not need help. Not surprisingly, the percentages are higher for men than women.

As for the baby formula shortage, that is the symptom of a larger economic problem -- the creeping monopolization of one critical industry after another.

Almost 90 percent of the baby formula manufactured in the United States comes from just four companies - Abbott (Similac), Reckitt Benckiser (Enfamil), Nestle (Gerber) and Perrigo (store brands). An FDA inspection of the Abbott plant in Michigan resulted in the temporary closure of the plant and a product recall. And that resulted in the shortage.

In the meantime, our friends and allies in other nations did what friends and allies are expected to do, they helped us out. The United Kingdom and Australia announced last week that they would be sending millions of cans of infant formula. Earlier shipments were flown in from the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

None of this is meant to excuse the Biden administration’s poor handling of the crisis. Its slow response led to desperation and panic for mothers throughout the nation. There should be accountability in the short term, along with long-term restructuring that allows the system to survive the closure of one plant.

But the help we have received should be accepted with gratitude, not shame. It’s good to have friends. And the day will certainly come when we will be able to repay the favor.

Walter Rubel is a freelance journalist based in Las Cruces. His 40-plus-year career includes work in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and— since 2002 — in New Mexico, covering Las Cruces and the state Legislature. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Las Cruces Bulletin. Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com.