Pandemic Flu and the Stimulus Bill
If the current pandemic flu threat becomes a nightmare made real, we are going to hear a lot about the elimination of funding for pandemic flu preparedness as part of the effort to get Senate Republicans across the line on the economic stimulus package. Indeed, as Ryan Powers notes in a Think Progress look- back at that controversy, the appearance of the flu funds on the hit lists of stimulus critics seems to have begun with a Wall Street Journal op-ed by the famed compassionate conservative, Karl Rove.
People like Susan Collins and Arlen Spector who successfully demanded the elimination of the funding will doubtless object that they favored more money for pandemic preparedness, but just not as part of a package aimed at immediately helping the economy.
But as John Nichols notes today at The Nation, the original insertion of the preparedness money by House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey was explicitly justified in terms of the economic disaster that a pandemic could create--an insight that appears pretty reasonable considering the already-sharp reaction of financial markets to the outbreak in Mexico:
Notably, the second question at the White House press conference on the emergency had to do with the potential impact on the economic recovery.
On Monday, the question began to be answered, as Associated Press reported -- under the headline: "World Markets Struck By Swine Flu Fears" -- that: "World stock markets fell Monday as investors worried that a deadly outbreak of swine flu in Mexico could go global and derail any global economic recovery."
Before U.S. markets opened, the Wall Street Journal reported: "U.S. stock futures fell sharply Monday as the outbreak of deadly swine flu stoked fears that a possible recovery in the global economy could be derailed."
Clearly, preparedness comes in many forms.