The CDC Isn’t Understaffed, And Other Myths

It’s social media; I should just let it go.  People hear something that supports their biases so they Share it without checking, and it becomes common wisdom.  Sometimes it’s gets to a point where everyone knows is true so it’s no longer even discussed, and if you argue you’re nuts.

I’m going to start off with this:  I don’t like Trump; I’m not a supporter; I didn’t vote for him; I can’t imagine voting for him in 2020.  I’m saying this explicitly because as soon as I tell you something that conflicts with your biases, you’re going to immediately flash to “He’s a MAGA nut”, and I’m very much not.  I don’t think being great is something America ought to strive for, for one thing — but that’s beside the point.

Trump is hated.  I don’t care; he deserves it.  The man’s a former real estate mogul who made a fortune cheating subcontractors and bilking investors.  What’s admirable about that?

And yet, his presidency hasn’t been the unmitigated disaster it’s made out to have been.  Partly because Congress has been doing its job and obstructing him, mind; that’s the purpose of Congress when there’s a fearmongering demagogue in power.  But also because a few of the things he’s aimed at and taken action toward have borne fruit.  A few things got done right, and a few more he started to do right before he got stopped by Congress or the courts — which also is the way it’s supposed to work.

I know; you’re about to object “but the Supreme Court”; shut it and keep reading.

To start with, back in 2017 he consolidated a crap-ton of redundant federal departments.  There were thirty-two separate departments (the ones I know about) all in charge of pandemic response but with no clear chain of command.  Now there’s nine, each with a defined sphere of influence.  Most of the employees were moved to other departments; the hiring freeze at that time, combined with massive attrition at the top levels, drastically reduced payroll without eliminating capacity.

Today there’s a few select viral (too soon?) stories about how that evil Trump wiped out the CDC just in time for a pandemic.  They’re wrong, but they’re popular because we hate Trump.  We choose to believe that the CDC is understaffed because the alternative is to ignore our prejudice in favor of the facts.

To be completely fair, he has been trying to slash the CDC’s overseas programs, in part because they overlap with some under State and others under USAID, in part because the grant ran out and wasn’t about to get renewed, and quite possibly in part because he’s an America-First nationalist who objects to American money flowing overseas.  He’s failed, but it should be acknowledged that he’s tried.  Given our massive budget deficits, I find it difficult to completely condemn the attempt, but that’s neither here nor there.

Truth is, it’s not the media that’s lying to us so much as it is us lying to ourselves.  The Post put out fifteen different opinion pieces (that I counted) about the CDC between then and now; nine condemned Trump, three were neutral, three praised him.  The viral ones are condemnatory, but if things turned out differently, the clicks would be going to the other ones.  That’s just how major media works:  We choose the facts we want to hear.

Which is why The Not Fake News doesn’t get many clicks, shares, or donations, and that’s fine.  If we wanted to get rich we’d be doing something else.  We’re here to make you think.

So here’s some truths to conflict with your biases:

(1) Trump is probably handling this contagion more or less appropriately.  Part of what he should be doing is lying to the public, because the public is really stupid and tends to panic when it should be acting circumspectly.  Yes, I mean you.  Me too; I’m in Chicago right now and I ought to be home with the door locked.

(2) You don’t need to be tested for the Coronavirus.  Most people don’t.  If you’re sick enough to go to the hospital, you’ll know it; otherwise, if you’re a little sick, stay the f%# home and quit whining.  There’s plenty of tests if we don’t waste them, and more keep coming all the time.  Also, unless you needed a mask a month ago, you probably don’t need one today.

(3) You don’t really want to fix things.  If you did, you’d have picked a reasonable and intelligent candidate during the Democratic primary.  Instead, you’ve got Biden, who’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street and the labor unions.  And, so you can pretend you’ve got a choice, you’ve got Bernie Sanders, who’s too extreme to win the DNC even if he can beat Trump.  If you wanted to fix things, you’d have voted Warren or Klobuchar.  Instead, you picked Biden so you can lose heroically and get Four More Years because you fear change.

(4) We shouldn’t be in Afghanistan, Syria, or any of half a dozen other countries.  On the other hand, we’re there now and we’ve got to be damned careful how we leave.  It’s not easy; it never is, which is why we probably shouldn’t have gone there in the first place.  Thank George W. and Barack Obama for that, though — and don’t bother blaming Trump.  Miracles are beyond him.

(5) The Supreme Court is fine, Roe v Wade is not about to be overturned, and there’s no emergency.  For as long as I’ve been alive there’s been total swine on the bench, and the world’s still spinning.  Hell, Ginsburg has complimented Kavanaugh’s legal scholarship.  You’re buying into partisan hysteria — whether or not you want Roe v Wade gone.

(6) Over a million Americans are about to die, ostensibly from the Coronavirus but actually because we’ve got a for-profit healthcare system that we’ve been horrifically mismanaging for five decades now.  Once they’re dead, we’ll have a very similar system to the one we have now because, as a population, we lack the will to fix it.  When terrible things happen, we’ll react in fear rather than hope; instead of making needed changes, we’ll resist them.

(7)  And when it’s over we’ll blame the government instead of ourselves, because how could we take responsibility for anything that horrific?  How could we face ourselves?  No, we’ll lie to ourselves again and choose fear and spite instead of hope and action.  Because that’s what we do.

I want to end this with a rant about how much you all disgust me, but I can’t.  Because I’m one of you; I’m right there with you.  If I truly had the courage of my convictions, I’d have done more to inspire and direct and lead rather than sitting here in my comfortable quiet safe space ranting pointlessly at people who will never listen, never learn, and never change.

So, sure:  Go ahead.  Hate Trump; blame him for your failings.  While you’re at it, vote Biden and evict Senate moderates like Collins.  Smear Tulsi Gabbard.  Sneer at Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; call them crazy or stupid or liars or whatever the hell you want.  And completely ignore that this is all your fault, and that you could have changed it at any point.  You could change it all right now; you have the power…

But you won’t.

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