The coronavirus is all over the news today. Probably the scariest news connected with COVID-19 was a Washington Post story with the headline “CDC to cut by 80 percent efforts to prevent global disease outbreak.” What’s so scary about it is it was dated Feb. 1, 2018.
In other words, the Trump administration defunded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s capacity to deal with pandemics more than two years ago, and now here we are. Because you know, we needed a border wall more than we needed to safeguard our health. And since we needed to cut taxes for the rich, the money had to come from somewhere, so let’s take it from the organization that just sits around being prepared for diseases that never materialize — until two years in the future.
As always, the president is saying don’t worry; he knows how to get the experts we need to fight the virus. It’s as if, two years after shutting down 80 percent of the fire stations in a city, a huge fire broke out, and the mayor said, “Don’t worry, I know where all the firemen have been living since we laid them off.” Yes, but where are the firetrucks? In scrap heaps? Dismantled?
Then, in the most amazing “What, me worry?” moment since the 1950s, Trump puts Mike Pence in charge of dealing with the coronavirus. A man who can’t be in a room with a woman who’s not his wife. A man who rejects any science that isn’t in the Bible. Who confidently asserts smoking doesn’t cause cancer. Who agrees with Trump that global warming is a Chinese hoax.
In Indiana in 2011, Planned Parenthood provided HIV testing, treatment and prevention. In 2013 Pence and the Republican-controlled Indiana Legislature defunded Planned Parenthood in the state, and the next year there was an outbreak of HIV in southern Indiana. After the outbreak began, Pence wouldn’t restore funding to Planned Parenthood, and HIV testing is still not available in some parts of Indiana.
In the face of increased HIV, after resisting the introduction of needle exchange programs for a long time, Pence “compromised” on the issue by allowing needle exchange programs in the counties most affected. But he refused to allow funding for the programs, effectively killing them.
Pence, the biggest public health expert and the man who said “ ... condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.”
Regarding the coronavirus, Trump says Pence is “very expert in the field.”
The real experts, including experts laid off two years ago by Trump’s decision to hobble the CDC, are meanwhile saying that a response to the virus will take six to eight months to get off the ground, because the tools aren’t there, having been scrapped. That of course assumes that the Trump administration restores some of that lost funding.
My belief that the coronavirus won’t kill me is predicated on the fact that so far only 1 in 50 people who get it die. Hey, I’ve totaled six cars in my life, with me in them, and not died. Not once. I eat raw habaneros and raw garlic. How’s a silly virus going to kill me?
But just as I was thinking how the virus couldn’t touch me, the news broke that Coca-Cola was having trouble getting the artificial sweetener they need to make Coca-Cola Zero, because of disruptions in their Chinese supplies. This is striking close to home. I don’t drink the stuff myself, but someone I live with is going to have a hard time if her drug of choice disappears from the stores. We might have to invest in indoor grow lights and raise our own stevia.
Speaking of budgets and the effects of budget cutbacks, Trump’s budget this year would eliminate the federal funding for Stars and Stripes, the military’s independent newspaper. Because, we need the wall.
The wall is so important, no joke, the Trump administration tried to divert funding away from a Kitsap County, Washington, nuclear submarine base. The $89 million for construction at the base to keep it functioning was eyed to build a few more miles of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. The funding is safe for now. A federal judge has blocked the diversion.
There’s your weekly irony: that a right-wing administration would try to stop a project that old left-wing warriors like the late Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen would have attacked with a kayak.
The country is supposed to turn upside down, spin around and bite itself, every time Trump spots a wad of cash he might use to build that border wall.
I’m beginning to suspect the money for the border wall is mostly going to Russia to service Trump’s debt.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
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