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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Bad Virus Spin

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax and economics issue in the 2016 campaign.  The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  In 2020, a good economy could tip the election in Trump's favor.  A bad economy would drag him down.

Joseph Zeballos-Roig at Business Insider:
Public health officials warned for the first time on Tuesday that the spread of the novel coronavirus is "inevitable" in the US and said the virus could lead to a "severe" disruption to the everyday lives of Americans.
"Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in the United States," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters during a conference call. "It's not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses."
Messonnier also said: "We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad."

That assessment was echoed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday there would likely be additional cases of coronavirus in the US and called it "an unprecedented, potentially severe health challenge globally.
Russell Brandom at The Verge:
This morning, President Trump seems to have wished a vaccine for the new coronavirus into existence. “I think that whole situation will start working out,” he told reporters at a press conference in India. “We’re very close to a vaccine.”
At a Senate hearing that same day, Trump’s acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf took a similar line, promising a vaccine would be ready within “several months.”
“You’re telling me we’re months away from having a vaccine?” asked Senator John Kennedy (R-LA). “That’s your testimony as head of the Department of Homeland Security?”
“That’s what I’ve been told by HHS and CDC, yes,” Wolf responded.

None of it was true. The CDC estimates that a vaccine for the new coronavirus is unlikely to be available in the next 12-18 months, far too late to be useful in preventing an outbreak in the US. Asked about the ambitious estimate in the same hearing, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said simply, “that’s never happened in human history.”



Fears of a pandemic come after the Trump administration spent the past several years gutting the very government programs that are tasked with combatting such a crisis.
In 2018, for instance, the CDC cut 80% of its efforts to prevent global disease outbreaks because it was running out of money. Ultimately, the department went from working in 49 countries to just 10.
Here are some other actions the Trump administration undertook to dismantle government-spending programs related to fighting the spread of global diseases, according to Foreign Policy:
  • Shutting down the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council.
  • Eliminating the US government's $30 million Complex Crises Fund.
  • Reducing national health spending by $15 billion.
  • Consistently attacking Mark Green, the director of the US Agency for International Development. 
The CDC is working on a new test to screen for the coronavirus, but according to New York magazine, problems with the test's development resulted in only three out of 100 public-health labs being equipped to screen for the virus. Moreover, each test costs as much as $250, and the Health and Human Services Department is already running out of money to finance an adequate response to the outbreak.