These are scary times to be alive. It seems as though the world is crashing down around us with pestilence, disease, disasters, and every other imaginable bit of nastiness you can think of. The big one in the news lately has been the Ebola virus. A horrific virus to be sure. The administration and the CDC seem to be conflicted about how it spreads, how it differs from the original Ebola Zaire virus that it came from and what to do about it. There have been calls for an “Ebola Czar”, democrats have already blamed republicans for its very existence, and even Jesse Jackson has thrown his hat into the fray (big surprise there). We have heard things like, “if they wouldn’t have cut the budget to the NIH and CDC maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation!” and, “we need to stop flights to everywhere!” But is that really the case? Is what they need more money? More soldiers? A better question to ask is what are they doing with the money we give them?
It might come as a surprise to John McCain and others that we don’t need an Ebola Czar, because we already have one. Didn’t know that? You’re not alone. In 2006 the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act was passed for the specific reason that we be prepared for disasters like Ebola. In 2013 congress renewed it with the, Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013. A doctor was put in charge to oversee worldwide public disasters like Ebola. Her name is Dr. Nicole Lurie. Google her, you won’t find much. Maybe a few cronyism scandals. She has been MIA during the very pandemic she was hired to manage.
Let’s talk money. The NIH has a budget of about $30 Billion dollars a year. That’s billion with a “B”. The CDC gets a budget of about $11 Billion, also with a “B”. That’s not one year, that’s every year. That’s not enough? That is an unimaginable amount of money. What are they using this money for? Like most entities that spend other peoples’ money they don’t care as long as they spend it. If they don’t spend it they will get less the next year, (hypothetically). Look at some of the grants they give out, you will want to pull your hair out. I won’t go into it here because there is not enough space and typing the words would make me too angry and I would not be able to finish this blog. The NIH is a perfect example of why we should not entrust the government to lead during times of crisis. Where are the overseers of this institute? Why is our invisible Ebola Czar able to keep her job? Short answer, government. If your department doesn’t perform, don’t fix the department, just bury your department with another department and no one will see.
Let’s talk solutions. Several republican elected officials, and commentators have called for a travel ban to the affected countries. I’m sure there have been some democrats too, but they are not as quoted in the news. The problem with this solution is that there is no way to actually enforce it. If we ban travel to the countries with the outbreaks, people will just travel to countries that don’t have a travel ban imposed on them. That is actually how the first man with Ebola got to America. Most airlines stopped going the affected countries a couple months ago for the health of the crews. If you scale up and say we can’t fly to places that don’t have flight bans on these countries you will eventually get to the point where we can’t fly anywhere. When you look at who is actually helping you will find private charities and organizations, much like when Katrina hit New Orleans. These organizations need to have access to the counties wrought will Ebola in order to help stop the virus from spreading. Private companies, unlike governmental organizations, work fast, make decisions based on their bottom line. These decisions usually are helpful toward the overall solution. This is where the solution will come from, despite the government, not because of it. Trying to enforce a travel ban will just waste millions of dollars and hurt the people who are actually helping from actually helping.
Let’s talk threats. Exactly how big a threat is Ebola to the average American? It would be almost impossible for a virus like Ebola to make a major impact on any first world nation with a decent healthcare system. This is true for a few reasons, Ebola is not spread easily, you need direct contact with bodily fluids to soft tissues. You need unsanitary conditions like filthy hospitals with poorly trained doctors, places with no access to clean water and electricity and poor living conditions. Ebola does not spread exponentially, meaning one gives it to 4, 4 becomes 8, 8 becomes 16, etc… It’s more linear. 1 gives it to 1, he gives it to another, 1,2,3,4, etc… American hospitals can deal with this type of infection rate as well as anywhere in the world. That’s not to say no one will get Ebola. Mistakes have and will be made. It’s just not a virus that explodes into the population. There a ton of illnesses that will kill thousands more Americans this year.
This is not a political issue. This is a human issue. When you see the left blame the republicans for not spending enough money, realize they are wrong. When you see the republicans blame the democrats for not wanting to police the airlines more, realize they are wrong. That’s not to say we can’t call them out when they do something wrong, I’m saying when things like this get politicized to score political points it should raise a red flag in your mind, no matter who’s doing it. We need to get away from the notion that the government should lead us during a crisis. It is the government after all, that says never let a good crisis go to waste. The government should be playing a supporting role for those who are actually helping. They should know what’s going on and be able to give clear information to the people. They should be able to coordinate with the many charitable associations that are on the front line fighting the virus in Africa so that it stays in Africa. It’s not how much they spend, it’s how they spend it. So far, they are doing a poor job, which is why people are starting to panic.