Image credit: NOAA/Wikimedia Commons
In the latest part of their campaign to make Democrats look like geniuses in comparison, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said this about Senator Susan Collins' short-lived pride in cutting funding for pandemic research in the stimulus package last February:
Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele defended GOP opposition to pandemic preparedness funding in the stimulus bill in an interview with CNN Tuesday, saying the party had no way of knowing that such a threat might actually materialize. "Did we know this at the time of the vote?" Steele asked. "Don't come back and make this link six months after the fact ... we don't know what tomorrow holds." He added, "I'm not going to sit here and accept that connection."
Steele: Swine Flu Couldn't Be Predicted (VIDEO)
Steele strikes me as a guy who'd throw out a fire extinguisher so he could have more room for firewood.
Medical professionals have been saying for years that another pandemic was going to happen eventually. The recent concerns over bird flu, SARS, and the very real pandemic of AIDS should tell us that these things will happen, and often do. There's no reason to assume that it's any more likely next year than this. As the Virginia Health Department writes:
Pandemic influenza is a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza A virus appears in humans, causes serious illness and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide. Three major influenza pandemics swept the globe in the 20th century causing millions of deaths, and no one knows for sure when the next pandemic may strike.
But, as Mr. Steele would point out, no one can say it's going to be this budget cycle when the pandemic hits, so why do we have to worry about it right now? Oh, wait, that's exactly what Steele said, isn't it? It's hard to say something that's obviously sarcastic when the people you're talking about are this egregiously stupid.
Here's what Trust for America's Health has to say in its very first paragraph on pandemic:
Scientists around the globe continue to warn the public about the risk of a potential pandemic influenza outbreak, which typically strikes three to four times a century. Pandemic flu is caused by a strain of flu virus that is capable of producing severe disease and spreading rapidly person-to-person worldwide. Unlike the seasonal flu, a pandemic flu virus poses a novel threat.
Pandemic Flu Information
The fact that this potential pandemic started mere weeks after the Republicans were crowing about having cut all that wasteful spending for pandemic preparedness is just a sad coincidence. It might have happened a few years from now, after the program would have been fully in place and operational. Add all those "it might haves" up and what you get is Murphy's Law - something that can go wrong eventually will. What anyone with even half a mind would be realizing right now is that the Republicans were proud of themselves for refusing to be prepared for a disaster that was almost inevitable in the next few decades.
And now they're asking you to think that this was a good idea.
The Republican argument with this provision, such as it was, was that this wasn't stimulus spending. Note that this was their argument against any sort of spending except defense spending, which is generally acknowledged to be the least economically beneficial (PDF). As The Nation's John Nichols points out, there was ample reason to think that pandemic preparedness was related to economic well-being, too:
When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year's emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.
Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse -- with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.
GOP Know-Nothings Fought Pandemic Preparedness
One only had to be familiar with the last three pandemics to know what was likely to happen this time.
Based on their incredibly lame response to every disaster that has hit us in the last few years, it's pretty obvious that Republicans don't believe in planning. After all the market foresees everything, right? After the volcano erupts, the hurricane strikes, or the pandemic hits, we'll just go down to the local department store and pick up everything we need, right? The vaccines will be right there behind the cough medicine.
While I've certainly had reason to doubt the intelligence of Democratic politicians lately, it's perfectly clear that this batch of Republicans are far too stupid to be left in charge of anything important.