Zika, Congress, and Damaged Lives

Author: David Kotok, Post Date: September 7, 2016

Dear readers, here is what a microcephaly case looks like: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/06/americas/brazil-zika-babies-uncertain-future/index.html.

The Senate failed to reach cloture when it voted again yesterday on the Zika bill. As last time, the majority party voted “aye.” The minority party, led by Senator Harry Reid, voted “nay.” The obstacles of not allowing Planned Parenthood to utilize Zika funds and of redirecting unused Obamacare money stood in the way. So, 68 senators who originally voted “aye” could not find 60 among them to vote for cloture on a bill to fund Zika defense. The bill would surely pass if it got to the floor of the Senate for a final vote.

These rotten XhG%#Tzards we have elected (for now) to govern us have again thrown the US citizenry under the bus.

Here is the link to the piece we just published with damning statistics about the rapidly growing number of cases: https://www.cumber.com/zika-4/.

Option one: We can do nothing. Accept that this is the way it is: Dozens and maybe hundreds or thousands of Zika babies will be born in the continental US and Puerto Rico, and the federal government’s response to the crisis will be wholly inadequate.

OR: We can act. Readers. Please look at the video of the result of Zika infection and then act: http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/23/health/micaela-mendoza-born-with-zika-complications-in-miami/index.html.

Get angry. To quote the movie line, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”

Here is the vote tally in the US Senate: http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=114&session=2&vote=00135. I wonder if Senators want this public. They make it hard to find.

Option two: Democrats. Tell Clinton, your running mate is a US Senator who voted “nay” on cloture the last time and didn’t even vote this time. Where are you now, Mrs. Clinton? Where is Mr. Kaine? Does he recant his prior vote? Will he stand up to Harry Reid? You blame Republicans, but how can we trust you if your hands are not clean?

Option three: Trump and Republicans. This is a national risk. Mosquitos do not know about walls and borders and immigration. Why are you silent on Zika? Are you really afraid of Planned Parenthood? It is an agency that provides a wide range of reproductive healthcare services and that Republicans in Congress want to exclude from receiving Zika funding. But Zika is not about abortion. It is about lifetime care and disrupted families. You have bluster to spare, Mr. Trump. Why not select better targets, including those who would jeopardize the health of Americans through congressional negligence?

Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. You are being handed a gift. You are rising in the polls. You can point out failures, including the lack of a Zika response, in the present two-party governance system. Act now.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Mosquitos and sickness and horror are handing you an issue. Where are you?

Larry Kotlikoff. You want to be a write-in presidential candidate in 50 states. Speak up. Here is a natural message for a thoughtful professor to address. Discuss why Zika is a federal issue, why funding has to be federal and not from the states. Mosquitos don’t respect state borders. Databases are national. Some idiots think states and local jurisdictions can fix the issue. They don’t get it, but you do. Speak out.

Readers. I believe we are governed by people who do not grasp threats but are trapped in their own party’s ideologies instead. They cannot act preemptively. They are busily working to embed themselves politically. And that means the system as we know it is broken and needs critical and quick repair. Zika is a current example of political dysfunction for Americans to contemplate and respond to.

So, who are we? What do we stand for?

This issue is not about Republicans or Democrats. They have both failed us.

There is a reason why third-party alternatives to the Republican and Democratic choices for the presidency are now collectively in double digits and rising in the polls every day.

Silence is easy. And we get what we ask for with that silence.

The caring option is to take action. I haven’t decided how I will vote in November, but I will consider all options. The Democrats will not and do not own me. The Republicans will not and do not own me. So my choice will be a vote FOR rather than a vote against unacceptable options. That is not how I will act.

I want a reason, maybe even reasons plural, to vote for someone for president, not against someone. That is my standard.

And mosquito-borne viruses, the infection of mothers who are American citizens, and the risks to public health give me a metric to evaluate all options for my vote. It is only one vote, but it is mine, and I will exercise it carefully.

Lastly, for those who email me about state funding and regional funding and local funding of Zika, you don’t get it. Would you fight polio or tuberculosis or dengue or Ebola or bird flu with local funds? We did that once in the 1918 bird flu epidemic and lost an estimated 675,000 lives in the US. There are two known types of mosquitos that carry Zika. Their range encompasses well over half of the continental US. The virus is thus a national threat, not merely a local one, and it requires a federal response. Many local jurisdictions are ill-equipped to cope on their own. Reported cases of Zika are in all states but two. There may be 50 unreported cases for each one that is documented.

Damn the US Senate.

And why don’t the presidential candidates speak out? Will the media question them in the upcoming debates? What about our president, who is so intent on defending his unused and never-to-be-used Obamacare marketing money, who fails us and uses the veto threat as his legacy. And why does Harry Reid do the president’s bidding in his farewell to service of the State of Nevada in the US Senate?

The system is sick, dear readers. It needs a lot of help, and it needs it now. The Congress should go back to the drawing board. Republicans should set aside their battle over Planned Parenthood and agree to provide new funding in keeping with the scale of the need and the threat. Democrats should likewise wrap their heads around the concept of compromise and cooperation, and together they should pass a bill that the President will sign so that the battle against Zika can be effectively waged instead of fizzling for lack of funds before it’s even properly launched.

In researching this series of commentaries on Zika, I have engaged in discussions with physicians who have treated microencephaly cases. I have personally discussed with them and others the economics of Zika care. My conversations were with those who have to deliver such care. I have discussed with caregivers the pain and suffering inflicted on every family that has a Zika patient.

This is real. I’m not impartial. I’m damn angry at our failure of governance.

All I have is my words and my vote.

You have them, too.

Please join me.

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