by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
October 9, 2014
HOW REPUBLICANS PLAY POLITICS WITH OUR HEALTH
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- One definition of the Yiddish word chutzpah is a man who kills his parents and pleads for clemency because he's an orphan.
That definition comes to mind when you listen to the right-wingers complain about inaction by the U.S. Surgeon General in the face of a growing panic over Ebola.
But there's a reason why we haven't heard anything the Surgeon General has said about Ebola.
We haven't had one for more than a year.
Because Republicans in Congress have prevented President Obama from appointing one.
Obama's last pick for the job, Dr. Vivek Murthy, got his nomination placed on hold in the Senate.
Because Dr. Murthy dared to say that gun violence in the United States has become a public health issue, and that efforts should be made to reduce the number of Americans killed and maimed each day by guns.
So why is it so important to have a surgeon general?
Because that person serves as America's doctor-in-chief, advocating for the health and well-being of Americans. The Surgeon General is the person who cuts through the mumbo-jumbo and corporate spin and tells us what we need to know.
Unfortunately. we have one of our two major political parties so concerned with gaining and consolidating power that it is willing to risk the lives of millions of Americans just to score points against President Obama.
A party that has taken 55 votes to defund or repeal the federal Affordable Care Act has pretty much forfeited its right to talk with credibility on public health. But that won't stop Republicans from trying to blame President Obama for an outbreak of Ebola in the United States.
The good news is that the U.S. medical system, despite its many flaws. seems robust enough to stop Ebola from becoming a pandemic. It's a scary disease, but it's a disease that doesn't spread easily. Even in Third World nations, only a few thousand people have contracted Ebola. Unfortunately, that number is now doubling every three weeks.
One person has died in the U.S. from Ebola, but the reality is that Americans are more likely to die from heart disease and cancer than Ebola. They are more likely to die from gunshot wounds than Ebola. And they are more likely to die from the affects of global warming than Ebola.
This doesn't mean that we shouldn't worry about Ebola, or the possibility of any other infectious disease becoming a pandemic. But it does mean that there are things that kill a lot more people that most of us just shrug our shoulders about.
Beside keeping Ebola in perspective, it also wouldn't hurt to remember which group of politicians seems to have a vested interest in failure, and are doing all they can to encourage the collapse of the public sphere.
It's painfully clear that Republicans are using Ebola as part of their stretch drive in next month's Congressional elections. Fear and disinformation is all they've got.
A responsible political party would be talking about the need to build up public health systems to deal with pandemics. It would put public safety ahead of partisanship, and science ahead of delusion.
But until Republicans become responsible adults, our nation will be ill-prepared for any sort of crisis.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.