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March 25, 2005

Shortchanging Security

The Bush administration has spent hundreds of billions of dollars fighting non-existent WMDs in Iraq.

But bioterrorism in the US? Obviously not much of a threat if you look at the shortchanging of funding to detect a bioterror attack. While mointors to identify air-born pathogens like anthrax, smallpox and plague have been set up in some cities:

The inspector general, Nikki L. Tinsley, found that in some cases the monitors were installed too high or too close to the ground or next to objects that obstruct air flow. In other cases, the monitors are too far apart to ensure that they could detect an attack or are in places where they could be tampered with or vandalized.

The agency has also not ensured that the monitoring equipment is regularly checked to make sure it is working properly; in some cases, it said, improper maintenance has resulted in incorrectly calibrated equipment.

After 911, with all the insane parts of the overreaction, the one good thing I assumed would come out of the hysteria were serious investments in the public health system to prevent any bioattack from raging out of control. But no, any part of security that might imply subsidiary benefits that help public institutions like hospitals rather than Halliburton have been shortchanged:
The great majority of U.S. hospitals and state and local public health agencies would be completely overwhelmed trying to carry out mass vaccinations or distribute antidotes after a large biological attack...

Local and state health officials say their underfunded agencies, which focus on caring for the poor, have received inadequate federal money and guidance on what the states should address in their bioterrorism master plans.

Slashing Medicaid: In fact, Bush's proposed Medicaid cuts would have shut down public hospitals in such critical areas. The Senate blocked those cuts, but who knows what will come out of House-Senate negotiations?

The reality is that a tiny portion of the money spent in Iraq could bolster the public health of our whole population. That this would enrich the lives as well of low-income families needing health care rather than defense contractors appears to be its major downside for the administration.

Posted by Nathan at March 25, 2005 07:09 AM