The COVID funding fiasco

At the Atlantic, Ed Yong reminds us that COVID has not disappeared, and that our governing institutions are hardly covering themselves in glory on this issue:

This week, Congress nixed $15 billion in coronavirus funding from a $1.5 trillion spending bill, which President Joe Biden then signed on Tuesday. The decision is catastrophic, and as the White House has noted, its consequences will unfurl quickly. Next week, the government will have to cut shipments of monoclonal-antibody treatments by a third. In April, it will no longer be able to reimburse health-care providers for testing, vaccinating, or treating millions of uninsured Americans, who are disproportionately likely to be unvaccinated and infected. Come June, it won’t be able to support domestic testing manufacturers. It can’t buy extra doses of antiviral pills or infection-preventing treatments that immunocompromised people are banking on but were already struggling to get. It will need to scale back its efforts to improve vaccination rates in poor countries, which increases the odds that dangerous new variants will arise. If such variants arise, they’ll likely catch the U.S. off guard, because surveillance networks will have to be scaled back too. Should people need further booster shots, the government won’t have enough for everyone.

Over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, Dan Nexon offers this gloss on the situation:

I think it worth remembering how we got here. A combination of incompetency and mendacity led the Trump administration to botch its response to COVID-19. Faced with this failure, his right-wing media personalities and officials decided to deny the problem itself; to do so, they turned to conspiracy theories, quack doctors… they “flooded the zone.” It worked, sending the base into the epistemic equivalent of a circular firing squad. But where goes the base, so goes the GOP, and here we are.

It’s not clear to me that Republican opposition to vaccines and support for bogus remedies came from right-wing media figures covering for Trump’s failures.  Trump himself encouraged crazy thinking about cures (hydroxychloroquine, bleach).   Trump was clearly sympathetic to the “herd immunity” strategy pushed by Scott Atlas and the Great Barrington Declaration crew. 

And all these ideas were percolating in right-wing think tanks before they were picked up by Fox etc.

The same thing happened with the Republican / right-wing media attack on critical race theory

Koch-affiliated national think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, and the Manhattan Institute, among others, have used their influence to generate and spread talking points, briefed state and federal legislators on model policy, and attempted to generate grassroots mobilization against local school districts. This influence is not without consequence: State politicians were almost entirely silent on the topic until Koch-funded entities started pushing the issue earlier this year. Now, more than 25 states have introduced legislation or taken other action that, backers claim, is aimed at banning “critical race theory” (CRT) from schools and government programs. Several of these states have already passed these bills.

Finally, congressional Democrats bear some responsibility for the fact that funding for treatments, testing, and vaccines is threatened.  They had many opportunities to provide these resources.  I am certainly not defending Trump or Republicans here; but when the dust settles, Democrats of all stripes need to acknowledge this failure and attempt to figure out why it happened and how we can do better in the future.  Republicans are not going to help Democrats make government more effective, Democrats are going to have to carry this water uphill all by themselves.