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.This goes back to the Republican cult-like belief in "small government". Their argument has long been that government has no role to play in public health issues. Thus, they ridiculed the idea that the government should spend any money preparing for a pandemic.
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.
But former White House political czar Karl Rove and key congressional Republicans -- led by Maine Senator Susan Collins -- aggressively attacked the notion that there was a connection between pandemic preparation and economic recovery.
Now, as the World Health Organization says a deadly swine flu outbreak that apparently began in Mexico but has spread to the United States has the potential to develop into a pandemic, Obey's attempt to secure the money seems eerily prescient.
And his partisan attacks on his efforts seem not just creepy, but dangerous.
Let us remember that this belief extends to disaster relief, which was why we saw the abysmal federal response to Katrina in 2005. That's why "Brownie" didn't think anything of it when he wasted 24 hours trying to find a dog sitter while a major American city was drowning. He wasn't supposed to have a role to play anyway. The Red Cross and private charities were supposed to handle that stuff. In the minds of most Republicans the federal government was only there to shoot looters.
This is just a reminder of why Republicans suck so badly at governing. They don't believe in government. A Republican in government is like an atheist being a priest.