It's not so much that this disease is killing thousands of people in Africa, or that stupid cuts in basic domestic public health programs have exposed the most expensive health care system in the entire world as a gigantic slab of Swiss cheese. It's how Ebola will affect the congressional mid-terms.
From The Hill:
The mounting anxiety has made politicians extra attentive to Ebola, with candidates seizing on the spread of the virus to hammer their opponents.
The issue is particularly fraught for Democrats, given signs that President Obama’s dragging poll numbers could help Republicans take control of the Senate. Though Ebola is unlikely to move the needle in specific races, political strategists say it adds to the darkening public mood.While the usual suspects at Fox News and Clear Channel screech that Ebola is sneaking through the borders to kill us all as a result of a presidential terror plot, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (himself a former public health official) is refusing to allow even the sterile ashes of medical waste to contaminate his state's precious toxic landfills, the Democrats blame Republicans for cuts in public health programs while whining, according to The Hill, that "Ebola is drowning out their main campaign messages, particularly on the improving economy."
Meanwhile, after sending out a near-constant blast of fundraising email spam and raising a record amount of cash on such appealing appeals as "Doomsday!," and "Final Notice!!!!", the Democrats have already preemptively declared defeat on the front page of the paper of record. Makes you want to demand a refund, or sue for political malpractice. (Assuming, that is, that you gave. I still keep getting reminders, in the form of friendly threats, that my payment thus far to the Act Blue collection agency has been a big fat 0 dollars.)
Could you ask for a more diseased duopoly? It makes you want to don your flimsy corporate-issue protective gear before running straight to the polls to cast your vote for your favorite pathogen.
The Republicans are perfectly adept at constantly exposing themselves as big fat cynical idiots. But the Democrats need some extra help. About those drastic GOP cuts to the public health infrastructure complained about by the We Suck Less Party? Let the American Public Health Association explain:
President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 makes a number of investments in public health, but also cuts millions of dollars from critical health agencies.
Under Obama’s proposal, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would see cuts to its program-level funding of about $243 million, or 3.5 percent, from fiscal year 2014. The agency’s budget would shrink from $6.85 billion to $6.61 billion. As part of that funding, CDC would receive $810 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, the landmark fund created by the Affordable Care Act to support prevention programs nationwide.
In a March letter to members of the U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees, APHA noted that Obama’s proposed budget would cut CDC’s budget authority to fiscal year 2003 levels.(my bold)
“While we appreciate some of the targeted increases in the president’s budget, other important CDC programs would face level funding or significant reductions,” said the letter, which was signed by members of the CDC Coalition. “We believe that Congress should prioritize funding for all of the activities and programs supported by CDC that are essential to protect the health of the American people.”
The letter asks Congress to provide $7.8 billion to CDC in its final appropriations legislation.
And about that "darkening public mood?" New York Times columnist Frank Bruni suggests that we Americans (who "do panic really well") just stop with the hysteria, buckle our seat belts, drive off to get tested and treated for Hepatitis C while getting our annual flu shots as we lay off the sugary sodas and give up our gun fetish:“While we acknowledge the ongoing fiscal pressures on federal discretionary funding, we are deeply concerned that the administration is proposing deep cuts to CDC’s budget authority, particularly on the heels of the fiscal year 2014 omnibus spending bill that restored some of the prior reductions to CDC’s budget,” (the letter) said. “Ongoing cuts to public health programs continue to leave all of us at risk.”
I’m not dismissing the horror of Ebola, a full-blown crisis in Africa that should command the whole world’s assistance. And Ebola in the United States certainly warrants concern. We’re still searching for definitive answers about transmission and prevention.
Of course he's right about prioritizing. He just forgets to mention that relentless bipartisan fiscal austerity in service to plutocratic greed has put a real damper on American health and a severe dent into our individual economic ability to prioritize. My comment:But Americans already have such answers about a host of other, greater perils to our health, and we’d be wiser to reacquaint ourselves with those, and recommit to heeding them, than to worry about our imminent exposure to Ebola.
Maybe we panic really well because on any given day, 20% of us are in medical collections. Medical debt remains the leading cause of bankruptcy in America.
According to the health care consumer site NerdWallet, American households lost $2,300 in median income between 2010 and 2013, but our health care expenses increased by an average $1,814. Many of us are imprudently putting off that doctor's visit because we'd rather eat.
Have you researched the actual price of those curative Hep-C pills? Gilead, the drug-maker, charges $84,000 for each recommended 12-week course. That's $1,000 a day. Quite the pathological profit for them, given that their actual manufacturing cost for an individual regimen is only $136. To add insult to injury, Gilead avoids US taxes by locating its corporate HQ in Ireland. (They charge poor countries a little less, only because of the agreement the White House made with Big Pharma to forgo price negotiations in order to lower drug costs. It was a quid pro quo for the Affordable Care Act.)
Several states have severely cut back on their annual free flu shot clinics this year. And as cruel as the Republicans are, even the 2015 White House budget calls for a $1.3 billion cut in discretionary public health programs. This includes a $36 million cut in the CDC's immunization services and $54 million from its public response and preparedness programs.
The only things we have to fear are unregulated capitalism and corrupt politicians.