As of April 30, the United States has had more than one million confirmed cases of Wuhan Coronavirus. U.S. deaths related to the virus have topped 63,000 and are still climbing.
Because of COVID, much of the US and global economy has been shut down since early March. More than 30 million American workers have now filed for unemployment insurance, while tens of millions more have also been furloughed or seen their hours and salaries reduced severely. With no end in sight for lockdowns in most states, millions of businesses face bankruptcy or simple disappearance. If stay-home orders don’t end soon, rebuilding the recently vibrant US economy could take years.
The Eurozone is likewise in dire straits, as are countless other countries around the world, even as Africa is being hit by the Wuhan Coronavirus amid one of the worst locust plagues in history.
Perhaps the most vital and fundamental role of government, at every level, is to protect its citizenry from invasions, natural disasters and other threats – including pandemics that have ravaged mankind repeatedly throughout history. This raises two enormously important questions.
A Wall Street Journal article suggests that “missteps” nearly everywhere helped magnify problems. Multiple federal government reports called attention to potential threats and inadequacies during future pandemics, but only modest steps were ever taken to prepare for them.
A Strategic National Stockpile was established in 1999 for pharmaceuticals needed in a terrorist attack, natural disaster or pandemic, but Congress never allocated ongoing funding for pandemic preparations. The Bush, Obama and Trump administrations focused more on preparing for chemical, biological and other terrorist attacks than on pandemics.
Reliance on foreign production (mostly Chinese) for N95 masks (30%) and surgical masks (90%) was highlighted but not addressed. Expanding “Made in America” capacity was never much more than a slogan.
Left with large quantities of personal protective equipment (PPE), respirators and other items after the Swine Flu epidemic ended in 2009, most manufacturers that had ramped up production during the epidemic refused to maintain high output capacity. Hospitals with similar experiences slashed inventories of masks, respirators and other supplies, to reduce costs; their inventory tracking software and programs focused on economic efficiency, rather than availability and resiliency during pandemics.
One healthcare system that did stock up on masks failed to replace them after their expiration date, and brittle elastic bands made them unusable. After Maryland (and probably other states) acquired abundant Coronavirus test kits, regulatory red tape and inefficiencies prevented their use for over a week.
Little has been reported thus far about state or local studies, plans, actions or stockpiles for pandemics – except that in recent years New York City sold off its ventilator stockpiles to avoid spending more money on storage and maintenance. Maybe logical at the time, NYC’s decision led to chaos amid corona.
Post-pandemic analyses and actions must be far better than this.
Two, what were all these government entities focusing on – if not recurrent pandemics? Put another way: How much money, attention, task force time and policymaking was devoted during the past several decades to preparing for such pandemics and drug, PPE and respirator stockpile needs – versus
How much was devoted to “dangerous manmade climate change” … closing down fossil fuel production, pipelines and use … mandating and subsidizing wind, solar and biofuel operations … and adapting bridges and other infrastructure to rising seas and other alleged climate-related disasters?
Cumulative climate and renewable energy spending at federal, state and local levels was certainly in the hundreds of billions of dollars over this period, if not in the trillions. Government time devoted to climate change and renewable energy certainly totaled many millions of hours.
It’s unclear whether anyone has any idea how much money, time and resources were devoted to climate research, modeling, preparation, mitigation, conferences and just plain fear-mongering.
It’s equally uncertain whether any federal or state study examined how much was devoted to preparing for pandemics. But I would bet it was a tiny fraction of the climate change/renewable energy total.
Hardworking American taxpayers absolutely deserve and must receive a detailed accounting of how much money and personnel time were devoted to both of these threats.
They deserve to know how much was devoted to protecting families and communities from pandemics like this Wuhan Coronavirus onslaught (and perhaps to other bona fide real-world disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts) – versus
crises that exist primarily in computer models and endless assertions that every temperature blip, drought, species loss and extreme weather event was unprecedented and due to fossil fuel use – despite a near total absence of real-world evidence to support any of those claims.
We know the Defense Department alone spent billions on climate initiatives and renewable fuels during the Obama era. How much did it spend preparing for pandemics on aircraft carriers and during basic training? How many billions did federal, state and local healthcare agencies spend on climate change versus past and future pandemics? How much money and attention did those healthcare agencies devote to our excessive dependence on China for masks, pharmaceutical components and other materials?
The United States and individual states established countless agencies, task forces, and special legislative and regulatory panels devoted to climate change. How many did they establish for pandemics? In the seven years following the 2009 Swine Flu Epidemic, how much money and attention did the Obama Administration devote to pandemic prevention and mitigation? How about all those House and Senate committees and staffers? What about all those state agencies, state legislatures and city councils?
In just a few months, the Wuhan Coronavirus has locked us in our homes, shuttered our businesses, cost the United States trillions of dollars in lost economic output, and resulted in hundreds of billions in lost tax revenues. Even if we attribute every flood, drought, hurricane, tornado and dead polar bear to manmade climate change, the cumulative impact of our fossil fuel use won’t come anywhere near that.
Does Congress have the stomach for digging into this? For appointing a “blue ribbon task force” to do so? Would any of the intrepid editors and “investigative journalists” at the Washington Post or New York Times take up the challenge? Would President Trump? What about individual states and cities?
They can ignore my cheap rhetoric about real-world crises versus those that exist in climate models and environmentalist press releases – and just tally up the expenditures on the pandemic and climate sides of the ledger. In fact, they should do exactly that. We need a factual, data-driven analysis, not more politics.
In fact, Europeans, Canadians, Australians and people everywhere deserve to know how their national, state and local governments allocated and spent tax revenues intended for disaster preparation and relief.
How about it? When do we get this accounting – followed by a reordering of government priorities? Lord knows it’s long overdue.