Oct 21st 2014

GOP Plan on Ebola: Cry Fire in a Crowded Theater

by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on amazon.com.

Here’s the bottom line.   If your idea of leadership is a guy who cries fire in a crowded theater, then vote for the Republican candidate nearest you (or at least most of them) in the November election – and help make Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader.
 
There is an Ebola crisis.  It is in West Africa.  And it could surely affect people in other areas of the world if the entire international community does not respond to contain it. 
 
It is absolutely in the entire world’s interest to develop treatments for those who become infected, and a vaccine to prevent future epidemics.  After all we all live on the same tiny “spaceship earth” where infectious diseases that affect some of us, can surely spread to others.
 
But we do not currently have an “Ebola Crisis” in the United States. Those who have fomented panic for their own political gain are engaging in the worst form of demagoguery.
 
At this moment one person who was infected with Ebola came to this country.  Two others have been infected.  Forty-three others who lived in close proximity to the original Ebola victim have failed to develop any Ebola symptoms and been cleared from quarantine after the 21-day incubation period elapsed.  Others are still being monitored.
 
To date, Ebola has infected .0000006 percent of the U.S population of 316 million. It has infected one person in every 158 million.  Remember that 36,000 people die annually in the United States from the flu.
 
At this moment there is no Ebola epidemic in the United States.  But some have tried – quite intentionally – to create an epidemic of fear and panic for their own political gain.  That is irresponsible and reprehensible.
 
Many of the Republican Party’s most strident voices – including the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – have absolutely no shame when it comes to exploiting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to sow fear in the United States with the hope of harvesting votes in the November election.  
 
There has been a chorus of inflammatory comments.
 
Then they proposed cutting off flights from the affected countries to the United States.  Of course, since there are no direct flights from these countries, that would involve cutting off connecting flights – mostly from Brussels, Amsterdam and other European cities.  As usual, they shot first and aimed later.
 
Some have now clarified they want to suspend temporary visas for those who have traveled in the region.  Of course, as the White House and virtually every expert in infectious disease has pointed out, that would give travelers an incentive to evade detection, conceal their travel histories and therefore make it much harder for us to make certain they are screened before they enter the United States.   It would also make it more difficult to combat the epidemic at its source, since what is really needed is to surge resources to West Africa and a travel ban would make it harder to move critically needed personnel and supplies.
 
Amazingly, on Fox New Sunday, conservative commentator George Will erroneously cited a Minnesota report to claim that the Ebola virus could be “airborne”.  The agency issuing the report immediately indicated Will was misreading its conclusions – since there is no known case of airborne transmission of the disease.  In fact, to get Ebola you have to be exposed to the bodily fluids of a symptomatic victim.  Forget the facts, better to incite fear.
 
Senator Rand Paul suggested that the Ebola virus is “incredibly infectious” and could be picked up at casual social events. Experts in infectious disease say that is simply not true.
 
Various Republicans have argued that our “porous borders” allow immigrants with Ebola to sneak into our country.
 
What makes all of this even more outrageous is that the Republican campaign to slash Federal budgets has resulted in cuts to spending at the Centers for Disease Control – our front line against biological enemies like Ebola – and to the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).   In fact the Director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, stated flatly that if agency’s budget had not been cut by 23% over the last decade, it would have probably already have developed an Ebola vaccine.
 
The fact is that the Republicans are soft on our defense against deadly biological enemies – like viruses.  And that is not only true of Ebola.   We could save tens of thousands of people each year from infectious diseases like the flu, if we were to use a fraction of the money going to tax breaks the GOP gives to the oil companies and to hedge fund managers to fund scientific research.   But Republicans would much rather give tax breaks to CEO’s and Wall Street banks that do something serious to defend our population from biological attacks.
 
And in the end it gets down to a question of leadership.
 
Most people want leaders like Captain Chesley Sullenberger who was cool a cucumber as he successfully executed an emergency water landing in New York’s Hudson river after US Airways flight 1549 was disabled when it ran into a flock of geese after it took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport in 2009. 
 
Sullenberger could have panicked – and he could have panicked his passengers.  Instead he focused on solving the problem and doing what was necessary to maintain control of the airplane to land it safely.
 
I’ve been a pilot for 30 years.  The first thing you are taught in flight school is that panic is your enemy.  If you encounter a problem, the first priority is to remain calm and maintain control of the aircraft.
 
You may disagree with some of the policies of Barack Obama.  But when he was first elected and confronted a true crisis – a crisis that threatened to destroy the American economy – that no kidding threatened the American way of life – Obama was decisive, cool and effective at steering America away from disaster.

And against the advice of many of his advisors, Obama – together with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – were calm but iron willed – as they passed health care reform that now provides health care for the first time to millions of Americans and eliminated from us all the fear that one illness could cause us financial ruin.
 
After hearing out many of his advisors who were hesitant to act, Obama coolly and decisively launched the raid that finally brought Osama Bin Laden to justice.
 
I’d be a passenger on a ship of state captained by leaders like Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid any time before I would trust our future to those who would intentionally incite public panic in order to seize personal power.

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "
Jan 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "Barack Obama cautioned in his final speech as president that, “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” Yet isn’t that exactly what America has been doing? In a decade punctuated by the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, a racial-justice crisis, an inequality crisis, and now a political crisis, we have only paid lip service to lofty democratic ideals. ... Sadly, this complacency has come at a time of growing fragility for the American experiment. Internet-enabled connectivity is dangerously amplifying an increasingly polarized national discourse in an era of mounting social and political instability. The resulting vulnerability was brought into painfully sharp focus on January 6. The stewardship of democracy is at grave risk. "