Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Coronavirus and U.S. Public Policy

It’s been quite a few weeks since I was supposed to put up a few posts.  The last month and a half hasn’t gone as expected but I have a few posts that will roll out in the next month. 

I wanted to make a few comments about the current outbreak in China.

No one really knows what is going on.  Period.  That likely includes Xi, China’s authoritarian emperor for life.  China isn’t accommodating US health requests and WHO personnel don’t appear to be given the access they need.  People are publishing all kinds of nonsense including some pretty substantial conspiracies.  Facts don’t matter in this world.  Online, it’s first about providing clickbait or, as it pertains to the corporate state, misinformation.  I’m not a big fan of regulations to control speech but some of the people fanning conspiracy flames are like yelling fire in a theater.

Here’s what we do know. U.S. scientists who are working with the virus have publicly stated there is no evidence this was manufactured in any lab. Regardless of the corruption of science, or the corruption of our society by corporate state power, I suspect this is accurate rather than CIA (Capitalism’s Invisible Army) massaged data.  In other words, there is no evidence this is something out of a Chinese lab that was inadvertently released.  Unless you are a biological chemist or something similar, spreading these stories is irresponsible. But, corporate capitalism and the fascist state that supports it is foundationally irresponsible.  Let me count the ways people in our society are rewarded for being irresponsible.  Mostly people of privilege.

We have no idea what the real infection rate is.  China never provides accurate facts on anything.  The communist bureaucracy is wildly corrupt and completely self-serving.  So, when China states that overall new virus cases have gone down, I suspect this is propaganda.

I have a close friend who is a microbiologist that has some specialty in virology.  In our conversations, it has become apparent that testing kits are often inconclusive and throwing everyone who is symptomatic of some flu-like illness into the same facility will likely increase the spread of the virus through unintended consequences.  That appears to be what China is doing from the limited information we have.

China needs to start putting people back to work or risk incredible economic consequences.  It’s possible that Chinese bureaucrats may panic in an attempt to call this situation as “peaked” or the worst is over in order to restart factories and whatnot.  If this is the case, the consequences could be massive.  Regardless, it appears evident that public health officials are not running the show in China.  This situation appears to be managed by political officials.

I have almost no confidence in public health policy within the U.S.  Our public policy across a whole slew of issues was hijacked long ago by corporate capitalism.  That’s why our society is a f*cking disaster across so many public health issues. 
  1. The U.S. has a public health crisis with 50,000 drug-related deaths a year.   Over a ten year period, I believe that may be more people who died from combat in any American war.  (Combat deaths. Not total deaths in any war.)
  2. We have a mental health public policy crisis where upwards of half of the population are on some kind of mind-altering prescription drug, self-medicating through alcohol, suffering from food addictions or whatnot. 
  3. CDC protocols for infectious disease prevention have sometimes led to just the opposite effect where patients and medical health professionals become infected after entering hospitals.
  4. Lack of rigorous, tested and benchmarked protocols leads to nearly 500,000 unnecessary deaths a year caused by medical errors as claimed by some experts.  
  5. We have a public health crisis in rural America as corporations have acquired and close previously community-owned or non-profit facilities as they consolidate services and expenses leaving little or no health services for communities.
That’s enough for now.  Do you see anyone addressing these issues with substantive public policy?  (All of these issues and more are available from reputable sources and research data.  But, the list certainly can go on and on.  And the lack of public policy is disconcerting to say the least.)

In my large number of posts on China, I noted a decade ago that we would eventually see supply chain shocks of American and western firms doing business in China.  And, because of the bullwhip effect, the impact would be staggering.  I want to focus specifically on public health as it pertains to this issue.

Here’s what is really disconcerting about any potentially-serious infectious outbreak in the United States.  Courtesy of our bought-and-paid-for government, corporations have outsourced essentially all drug and medical supply manufacturing.  And, much of that has been outsourced to China.  A communist, authoritarian government who doesn’t share any democratic ideals.  If there is an epidemic, do you think China is going to cooperate with the U.S. on those supplies?  Hardly.  They aren’t cooperating today.  What is the public policy impact on supply chain shocks if this becomes a major crisis in the U.S.?  The answer is no one has a clue.  Why?  Because if they did, they never would  have allowed this overt risk to develop in the first place.

This is what happens when you turn healthcare over to corporate capitalist interests and abandon democratic public policy courtesy of bought-and-paid-for fascist political parties who allow corporations to write our laws and control our lives.  Public policy is almost certainly near death, if not dead in health care.  And, as the corporate state continues to unwind democratic social safety nets in favor of more corporate welfare and corporate socialism, it would be a massive surprise to me if any remaining public policy isn’t underfunded, untested and lacking in infrastructure to actually execute on.

I’ve noted in the past we are overdue for a pandemic.  This virus may wane and the worst may be over.  Or not.  No one has that knowledge.  But, if it becomes a public health issue in the U.S., expecting our government to be prepared could very well be very interesting.  Because our government is controlled by private interests who place profits over public policy and American citizens.   
posted by TimingLogic at 11:22 AM