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Don’t Let MyPillow Guy’s Dorkiness Keep You from Cheering Private-Sector Wins

MyPillow CEO Michael Lindell heads forward to speak as President Donald Trump introduces him during the daily coronavirus response briefing at the White House, March 30, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)
Private efforts and solutions in times like these are wonderful to see.

During Monday’s press conference, President Trump brought out Mike Lindell (better known as “the MyPillow guy”) to announce that his company would be making masks to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The response to Lindell’s potentially lifesaving efforts?

Mockery, mostly.

Now, I can understand how seeing the dude you’d only ever seen hawking pillows suddenly take the stage at a presidential press conference could be a little jarring. What’s more, I can actually also understand some level of mockery, too. I’m a nonreligious Gary Johnson voter, and even if I weren’t either of those things, I probably still wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from rolling my eyes at Lindell’s claim that God Himself had brought President Trump to us in 2016.

At the same time, though, I think that, amid all the eye-rolling — no matter how warranted it may be — we missed the chance to talk about something else that’s quite warranted, too: the way that private companies have been making a difference in our fight against this pandemic.

Make no mistake: Efforts such as Lindell’s are not just commendable, they are actually crucial in our fight against the coronavirus. I’m not saying that the government has no role to play in fighting this pandemic. It certainly does, but the truth is, far too much of the conversation on this issue is completely centered on debates about the government response, when reality shows us that the government is only one part of the equation.

It is not, after all, just Lindell and his pillow factory aiming to do this sort of thing. In fact, the examples of private companies aiming to make a difference are far too many for me to list.

To name a few:

Cascade Lacrosse, a company that specializes in making helmets and other protective gear for athletes, is now making face shields for hospital employees and first responders. Clothing brands including Hanes and Gap are preparing to start making masks and other protective equipment, and Neiman Marcus has people sewing scrubs using donated materials from Joann Fabrics & Crafts. A Maine-based startup, Tissue Plus, has been working around the clock to help combat the toilet paper shortage. Both GM and Ford have offered to use their factories to produce ventilators.

Then, there’s this, from a piece in yesterday’s Boston Herald by Veronique de Rugy:

Singapore’s Veredus Laboratories, for example, said it will soon release ‘Lab-on-Chip’ kits to test patients for three kinds of coronavirus within two hours. Four American startups had also launched at-home tests for COVID-19, until the Food and Drug Administration unwisely demanded they stop issuing or testing kits.

(By the way: The government making this crisis worse by getting in the way of private companies’ attempts to help with testing is, unfortunately, not new. It goes back months; you can read my March 18 column on that here.)

Yes — the MyPillow Guy seems like a dork. It’s fine to say that; I just did. The thing is, though, he’s also a dork who’s an American success story. Mike Lindell is a former crack addict who started his own company, which grew to be worth an estimated $300 million as of 2018, and now he’s using his wealth and resources to help us get through this. The whole thing is, truly, a microcosm for the beauty of capitalism — a guy who came from the bottom, worked his way to the top, and is now using what he’s earned to aid the country in a time of crisis.

Private efforts and solutions in times like these are wonderful to see. They are, after all, not only helping us to mitigate the public-health crisis that we’re facing, but they’re also helping us at least reduce our economic one. We should all be celebrating this — and, most importantly, cheering for it to continue.

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