Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Praying The Problem Goes Away

What is the role of government?

Conservatives and liberals lock horns over this question constantly, the extreme positions being "protect us militarily and get out of the way" (conservative) to "any problem that can be solved by large infusions of cash" (liberal).

Neither extremist position truly appeals to me, but I think one thing most reasonable people can agree upon is that, when it comes to a crisis, the federal government's job is to prevent the problem and should it happen anyway, offer solutions that work.

So imagine my surprise this morning to read this:
Report: Federal Bird Flu Aid May Be Tough

AP Medical Writer

May 3, 2006, 6:35 AM EDT

WASHINGTON -- States, cities and businesses should not expect to be rescued by the federal government if a flu pandemic strikes, warns a draft of the latest national response plan, one already under fire from critics who say federal preparations are moving too slowly.
Ya huh. In other words, "Don't mind us, we'll be praying for you!"

To continue:
On Wednesday, the Bush administration will update the $7.1 billion pandemic preparations it proposed last fall, an incremental step that basically outlines exactly which government agency is responsible for some 300 tasks. [....]

Once a pandemic begins, expect massive disruptions with as much as 40 percent of the work force off the job for a few weeks at a time, even if the government slowed the spread by limiting international flights, quarantining exposed travelers and otherwise restricting movement around the country, the document says.

"Local communities will have to address the medical and nonmedical impacts of the pandemic with available resources," the draft warns, because federal officials won't be able to offer the kind of aid expected after hurricanes or other one-time, one-location natural disasters.

A flu pandemic instead would roll through the country, causing six to eight weeks of active infection per community.
OK, so what is the Bush administration going to rely upon?
The report aims to energize the private sector, noting that 85 percent of the systems that are vital to society, such as food production, medicine and financial services, are privately run. Those businesses must ensure that power stays on and food is shipped even if 40 percent of their workers are absent because they're ill, caring for sick relatives or other pandemic upheaval.

But the report doesn't actually put anyone in charge of checking whether vital businesses are heeding these warnings.
"Doin' a heckuva job there, Brownie," musta caught up with these lemme see...I can just imagine an executive from Citicorp running over to Big Allis in Queens to ensure that the generators are working, probably priming the pump to put a little more fuel into the system to get his computer system up, but um, oh, gee, is that the wire to Chase Bank headquarters?

Sharight. Let's put the market forces to work on this! And then run and hide...but wait! There's some good news to be had!

[A] survey that found 66 percent of mid- to large-sized companies have made no preparations, said former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, whose new Deloitte Center for Health Solutions conducted the survey.
Tommy Thompson found a job!

Now, contrast that with another pandemic affecting American society, one I'd argue is even HARDER to control and more insidious, and certainly more obvious: childhood obesity.
Nearly All Sodas Sales to Schools to End

Associated Press Writer

May 3, 2006, 8:31 AM EDT

NEW YORK -- The nation's largest beverage distributors have agreed to halt nearly all soda sales to public schools, according to a deal announced Wednesday by the William J. Clinton Foundation.

Under the agreement, the companies have agreed to sell only water, unsweetened juice and low-fat milks to elementary and middle schools, said Jay Carson, a spokesman for former President Bill Clinton. Diet sodas would be sold only to high schools.
(emphasis added) Do you see how it's done, Mr. Bush? Even a former President carries enough influence and power to pressure soft drink manufacturers to change their evil, short-sighted, market-driven ways for the greater good of Americans.

It's too bad we don't have a real President in office, one to whom this story would raise an alarm:
Study Shows Americans Sicker Than English

Associated Press Writers

May 2, 2006, 10:47 PM EDT

CHICAGO -- White, middle-aged Americans -- even those who are rich -- are far less healthy than their peers in England, according to stunning new research that erases misconceptions and has experts scratching their heads.

Americans had higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, lung disease and cancer -- findings that held true no matter what income or education level.

Those dismal results are despite the fact that U.S. health care spending is double what England spends on each of its citizens.
So much for private health care beating nationalized medicine, huh?

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