Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Reverse New Deal: Giving viruses, bacteria, and cancers a better chance of harming us

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

One the most consistent--and craziest--things we have had to endure these past few years is all the anti-government spending hysteria emanating, largely, from the political right. Whether it be "sequestration," the 2013 government shutdown, blocked spending bills, or the like, we have watched vital government programs hamstrung by this hysteria.

Ironically, when measured as a percentage of GDP, spending under Obama hasn't been much more (and sometimes less) than during the Reagan years (see chart here). Also, while we're being warned that government spending is out of control, that we need to cut back, and that the world will end if we don't, we have watched many super-wealthy Americans evade & avoid taxes to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars every single year, we have watched Corporate America amass record profits, we have watched corporate executives rake in more and more bonuses, and we have watched millionaires & billionaires add more millions & billions to their personal fortunes. But remember....."We can't afford it!!!"

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

During a Senate Committee hearing on September 16, 2014, a National Institutes of Health representative explained the effect of Congress-imposed budget cuts on his agency's ability to respond to disease outbreaks: "it's been a significant impact on us. It has both in an acute and a chronic, insidious way eroded our ability to respond in the way that I and my colleagues would like to see us be able to respond to these emerging threats. And in my institute particularly, that's responsible for responding on the dime to an emerging infectious disease threat, this is particularly damaging." A director for the Centers of Disease Control made a similar statement. (See "Budget Cuts 'Eroded Our Ability to Respond' to Ebola, Says Top Health Official" and also "First diagnosed case of Ebola in the U.S.")

During the 1930s and 40s, New Deal policymakers did a number of things to improve the health of Americans, including enhanced immunizations, mobile health clinics, and hiring unemployed nurses and pharmacists to address the needs of low-income Americans. Today, on the other hand, public health is threatened by constant hysteria over "out-of-control government spending!!" (See also, "Cancer progress threatened by budget cuts in Congress, group says" and "Government shutdown forces clinical trial patients to wait")

 (WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Welcome to the Reverse New Deal.

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