This afternoon I went to a health center in downtown Paris. I got the full gamut of STD screenings a month ago (negative for everything, thank you very much) [I got schooled, check out the comments.] and was told that I should get a hepatitis B inoculation, so I went today to get first dose of it. I also mentioned that it's been a while since my last tetanus booster (11 years), and the doctor gave me that too. I'll be returning in June and November for the second and third round of the hep B inoculation.
All of this was for free. When I got the STD screening, I didn't even have to provide a name. The funny thing is, I'm here on a tourist visa and I can get more free health care than I can in America as a citizen.
In America a few months ago, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), trying to make a name for herself as a fiscal conservative, cut hundreds of millions of dollars in pandemic flu funding from the stimulus bill. One would think that, when the point of the bill is to increase deficit spending, appropriating money to fight disease would be one of the least controversial aspects of the bill.
But then one would have to forget that "fiscal conservative" means increasing spending on the wealthy and the military while cutting funds from programs that actually help people.
As The Nation's John Nichols points out, not only did Collins kill off the $900 million pandemic preparedness proposal--a budgetary execution called for by that well-regarded public health expert Karl Rove--Collins even brags on her Senate website about blocking passage of the pandemic preparedness initiative.
But Collins said she was concerned about pandemic preparedness. So, one might assume, she's been using her bully pulpit as the ranking member on the Homeland Security committee to rally support for pandemic preparedness, right? Surely a Google News search of "Susan Collins" + pandemic will turn up lots of articles and press releases, right?
For the folks back home, she sent out a press release touting money she secured for Maine for homeland security efforts, including--yup, you guessed it--"to deal with looming threats such as a pandemic disease."
And that's it. Nothing else.
I understand that people don't like paying taxes. I get that. But if we're going to cut back on spending, shouldn't we cut from things that don't help people, like unnecessary wars, instead of things that do help people, like preparing for epidemics?
The problem with preparing for epidemics is that there is no Randian alternative. There's no way to say that we're in on it for ourselves if we're at all serious about the topic. Epidemics spread, and they generally don't discriminate. They force us to work together and show people that the idea that we're all individuals who can support ourselves completely (and if we don't we're just not working hard enough) is farce, and always has been.
Which is why this flu epidemic has the leader of Collins's party and noted public health expert talking scared:
Rush attacked the UN for issuing a warning for a worldwide flu pandemic, claiming that it is "by design" to get people to respond to government orders. The media fall right in line with this stuff, Rush said, amplifying the nature of the crisis. Rush -- in his capacity as public health expert -- added that "the flu's a common thing."
Their philosophy is bankrupt, and we have to point that out everyday. But today I was able to get free inoculations because I'm in a country that realizes that inoculations aren't just about protecting an individual, they're about protecting a population from a disease that could get out of control. Because when one person can't get a disease, that means that lots of others aren't going to get it from her, and others won't get it from those others, and so on.
Can you imagine the US government systematically giving out free inoculations, even to one of the most despised groups of people who live there: illegal immigrants? Maybe we're embarking on a new era in America, but I'm not holding my breath for that one.