H1N1, the virus popularly called “Swine Flu,” is all anyone can talk about. Anyone but Republicans.
When the economic stimulus package was first before Congress, explains John Nichols in The Nation, the bill included $900 million for flu pandemic preparedness and additional funding for the Centers for Disease Control. Karl Rove attacked these items as waste in the Wall Street Journal, and Senator Susan Collins (R, ME) bragged about killing the health provisions in Congress. Critics stripped all medical and research provisions from the proposal, leaving only $50 million to improve IT services at HHS. State and local public health officials were concerned.
“Everybody … is concerned about a pandemic flu,” Collins said at the time. “But does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill? No, we should not.”
The argument that anti-pandemic measures have no economic ramifications was a bad diagnosis. The new flu has caused panic on Wall Street as well as Main Street, with more to come. Emergency measures are costing Mexico City’s economy at least $57 million a day and direct costs are unknown. Expect similar local losses across the USA.
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