I saw a recent news article about President Trump, forcing car makers to make ventilators.

In the US there also a significant shortage of toilet paper, which seem to be a supply and demand problem. People want more than the available supply.

Can the president increase toilet paper supplies?

  • 6
    The question might seem a bit frivolous but it's a substantive question about what the POTUS can do in the economy in an emergency. I'd object to having it closed. Mar 30, 2020 at 20:41
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    Is there actually a toilet paper problem? Over here it's been a local distribution problem only, caused by increased demand due to scenes of possible shortages abroad.
    – JJJ
    Mar 30, 2020 at 21:20
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    @JJforTransparencyandMonica What I've read is that the shortages are just local ones due to hoarding and there's no long term lack of toilet paper
    – divibisan
    Mar 30, 2020 at 21:41
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    It's really a self-correcting problem. Unlike for instance ventilators, where there's a real need for more, the use of toilet paper is pretty well constant: if some people panic and buy more, that just means they will be buying less for the foreseeable future.
    – jamesqf
    Mar 31, 2020 at 1:25
  • Toilet-related questions? What do you think this is, Travel.SE?
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 31, 2020 at 9:38

2 Answers 2


President Trump was able to do that with ventilators because of the Defense Production Act:

On March 18, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, President Trump issued an executive order that defined ventilators and protective equipment as "essential to the national defense", the standard required by the DPA.[17][18] Later that day, he indicated that he would not make immediate use of DPA authority, writing, "Hopefully there will be no need"; he indicated that he would do so in a "worst-case scenario".[19][20] Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called upon Trump to "immediately use the powers of the DPA to mass produce and coordinate distribution of" critically needed hospital equipment such as ventilators, swabs, and personal protective equipment.[19][20] On March 20, Trump said that he will use the DPA.[21] General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra spoke to Trump administration officials about how GM could support production of ventilators.[22] On March 23, Trump issued an executive order classifying "health and medical resources necessary to respond to the spread of COVID-19" as subject to the authority granted by DPA to prohibit hoarding and price gouging.[23][24] Trump's continued reluctance to use the act's authorities prompted further criticism.[25] On March 27, 2020, after negotiations with GM to produce ventilators had broken down over cost, which was being estimated at over $1 billion, but primarily due to GM’s uncertainty as to its ability to provide the number of ventilators required speedily, Trump ordered HHS Secretary Alex Azar to use the authority available under the DPA to require GM to accept and prioritize contracts for the number of ventilators that Azar determines to be appropriate.[26] Trump also named Peter Navarro national policy coordinator for the DPA.[27]

For Trump to do this for toilet paper, he would need to declare it vital to national defense. That seems kind of silly to me, but I recon he could do that. It has been done for "aerospace structures":

In June 13, 2017, President Donald Trump invoked the law to classify as "critical to national defense" two sets of products. The first referenced "items affecting aerospace structures and fibers, radiation-hardened microelectronics, radiation test and qualification facilities, and satellite components and assemblies".[13][14]


There is no real shortage of toilet paper production, though hoarding is going on at the distribution end, reinforced by media coverage of toilet paper issues.

The president may or may not have the levers to increase supply/production, I defer to other answers there. But perhaps a more relevant response, given that there is no shortage, would be rationing.

However, it's not all that difficult to make the argument that the president, and politicians elsewhere, have bigger fish to fry right now than chasing after a largely inexistent problem.

Also the advent of official, government-led, rationing, on any general goods, in itself would trigger additional worries and panic so it should only be done if there is a real need for it. Informally, supermarkets are already starting to ask customers to limit hoarding-type purchases.

  • In 1973 Johnny Carson incited hording and caused a short lived toilet paper shortage.
    – MaxW
    Mar 31, 2020 at 20:14

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