Just when I thought my world was falling apart, W. informed me that birds are pooping on it, too. Yesterday, he outlined a $7.1 billion plan (is the Canadian dollar worth more than the American dollar yet?) to prepare for a pandemic influenza outbreak, via the bird flu. I thought storks delivered babies, not pandemics.
All kidding aside, this is serious shit. Kudos to W. for allocating this money as a precaution.
Ripping off the AP story, Bush's plan details:
- $1.2 billion for the government to buy enough doses of the vaccine against the current strain of bird flu to protect 20 million Americans; the administration wants to have sufficient vaccine for front-line emergency personnel and at-risk populations, including military personnel;
- $1 billion to stockpile more anti-viral drugs that lessen the severity of the flu symptoms;
- $2.8 billion to speed the development of vaccines as new strains emerge, a process that now takes months. The goal is to have the manufacturing capability by 2010 to brew enough vaccine for every American within six months' of a pandemic's start.
- $583 million for states and local governments to prepare emergency plans to respond to an outbreak.
"In the last century, our country and the world have been hit by three influenza pandemics, and viruses from birds contributed to all of them," W. said. "The 1918 pandemic killed over a half million Americans and more than 20 million people across the globe. One-third of the U.S. population was infected, and life expectancy in our country was reduced by 13 years."
Although I'm a bit confused because Congress claims this money was already allocated last week. Certainly, W.'s announcement was strategically launched (we've known about the pandemic for a while now) to coincide with the Alito nomination. Last week was devastating for W. between Miers' withdrawal and Scooter's indictment. But this week, W. is looking good. He's proactively addressing a forseeable national threat (note: contrast to hurricane treatment) and the Alito nomination is setting Democrats back on their heels.
The Dems responded with their own political theatre by calling for a rare, closed Senate session yesterday to discuss the questionable reasons for going to Iraq (WMDs, unintelligent intelligence). Isn't this, like, two years too late? They're looking a little desperate. After such a successful, W.-damaging week last week, all of the recent actions by W. this week (and Karl Rove safe from indictments) are hitting the Dems like bird poop on a windshield. Splat!