Specifically, Trump has slashed the relevant government agencies tasked with protecting us against pandemics:
- He eliminated the National Security Council’s Global Health unit, which coordinated U.S. responses to pandemics.
- He decimated the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Emerging Threats Division.
- He defunded 80 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) efforts to prevent global disease outbreaks. Now, instead of working in 49 countries, it only has enough money to monitor 10.
- His budget proposal for the next fiscal year calls for another 16 percent cut in CDC’s budget and a 10 percent cut in the budget of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The CDC’s Public Health Preparedness and Response Program, responsible for the agency’s laboratories and public health surveillance and epidemiology would be cut by $25 million, and HHS’s Hospital Preparedness Program is in line for an $18 million cut.
- Trump is also proposing a $3 billion cut to global health programs, including a 53 percent cut to the World Health Organization and a 75 percent cut to the Pan American Health Organization.
Couple Trump’s blowing up of these first-line pandemic defenses with his “management” of the coronavirus crisis and it is not a pretty picture. He--
- tells Americans to go to work even if they’re sick (Sean Hannity Interview, March 4, 2020);
- fails to assure enough test kits despite knowing two months ago they would be needed;
- calls coronavirus a Democratic hoax;
- puts Mike Pence, the ex-governor who (1) took a meat axe to his state’s public health programs, (2) said “smoking doesn’t kill,” and (3) failed miserably in dealing with an HIV outbreak, in charge of managing the federal response;
- tries to muzzle the scientists who are the sources of all accurate information about the virus and how to protect against it;
- lies about when a vaccine might be developed;
- claims the coronavirus death rate is much lower than the 3.4 percent World Health Organization figure (34 times higher than the death rate from flu);
- believes that the flu vaccine can be used to combat coronavirus;
- goes to court to destroy Obamacare, which would increase the coronavirus danger many times because people without health insurance don’t see doctors; and
- flails around with no clue as to how to manage or how to lead.
What a mess.
Despite ample warning that the disease was inevitably going to affect the United States, Trump ignored the experts and, as always, went with his ever-expanding “gut,” which he has often claimed provides him far better advice than any of the professionals whose expertise he disparages. His gut told him we didn’t need to test Americans for coronavirus and isolate those who had contracted the disease. Until recently, only 500 Americans had been tested compared to millions of Chinese and tens of thousands of Brits, Italians and South Koreans.
The Trump Administration’s unpreparedness has also prompted it to steal $139 million from programs that help the poor to apply to fighting the virus:
- $37 million from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that pays for heating and cooling assistance for the poor;
- $4.9 million from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services;
- $4.2 million from Aging & Disability Services; and
- zero from his bonehead border wall.
So the poor—the most vulnerable to disease—are being hung out to deal with a threat to their lives with no resources to fight back.
Meanwhile, Pence had to be pressured into adding the Surgeon General and the Food and Drug Administrator to his coronavirus task force, two positions key to combatting a pandemic.
We are in a very bad fix thanks to Trump’s perverted view of government, his obsession with the non-existent deep state and his pathological concern only for himself. The virus is spreading rapidly at the worst possible time—while the government is directed by a bungling incompetent and malicious paranoid who is in denial after dismantling the very institutions established to keep us safe. His daily chaos, confusion and resort to lies, crazy claims and insults will only exacerbate the crisis and cause needless suffering.
Bottom line: We should listen carefully to what our health experts tell us and ignore what our political leaders say about the coronavirus.
March 6, 2020