Showing once again how out of touch he is with fiscal conservatives, president Bush today unveiled a $7.1 billion plan to fight a flu pandemic. Broken down into individual measures, the expensive plan would pay $1.2 billion for stockpiling 20 million of the perishable doses, or enough for less than 10% of the U.S. population (which he admitted may not even combat the specific strain that may cause a pandemic).
Another $2.8 billion would be given away by the government to private industry in the form of technology freebies and vaccines (which they would undoubtedly turn around and sell back to the government for a pretty penny).
And another $1 billion would be spent on the most realistic measure, stockpiling antiviral medicines such as Tamiflu and Relenza.
While it’s evident that president Bush is pandering to the media hype surrounding flu pandemic fears, the money has to come from somewhere. And with a federal budget stretched thin by recent hurricane spending and the Iraq war, there’s no indication where the new proposal will find funding (aside from more deficit spending).
Oh, and if the lackadaisical security response since 9/11 (or hurrican Katrina) is any indication, the U.S. government will have an effective response to a flu pandemic at least four years after it hits.
Update: Prairie Weather has a very good analysis and breakdown of this government giveaway scam, noting that avian flu is just the latest tangible boogeyman for the administration, and saying we need to kep an eye on thing “to the extent to which “pandemic” is replacing “bin Laden” as a political tool.”