Apr 28, 2009
We don't need a 100-day reckoning to know the score: war, recession, violence in Pakistan and now a global epidemic.
The landscape before us is a pretty tense: more than thirteen million unemployed, falling prospects, rising gun sales, not to mention the foreclosure of probably an additional ten million homes. Many are fearing a long hot summer, the implications of which will be felt across the land. And now there's Swine Flu.
It's funny that when it comes to Swine flu, we get it. When we're talking about the human body, we seem to understand that vulnerable parts put the whole body politic at risk.
In the face of a virus it makes perfect sense: germs don't
discriminate. Poisons spread. Switch to the topic of poverty and
predatory lending, and we have a problem grasping the basics. Yet
exploitation and corruption jump fences too. The epidemic of predatory
lending, for example, began by targeting Black, Latino (especially
female) borrowers, but predatory practices didn't stay in the 'hood.
On Sunday, as 20 cases of swine flu were confirmed, American health
officials declared a public health emergency. After scares from SARS
and bird flu a few years ago, international protocols were put in place
to deal with global pandemics. At a news conference in DC, Homeland
Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called the flu emergency declaration "standard operating procedure."
Imagine if we'd declared an Economic Health Emergency after Enron,
and the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the collapse and devaluation
of the Russian ruble?
What we need are some standard operating procedures to deal with a plague of killer economics. Reading today's New York Times about the Treasury Secretary's cosy professional and personal relationship with the very industry he was supposed to regulate, it's clear that quarantine would have served us well.
In the case of epidemics, we investigate the causes and isolate the
carriers. On the economic front, so far, we've forged forward without
virtually no diagnosis -- and promoted the virus-carriers to high
So what, now? Well, we'll need more than a face mask to protect us from Geithneritis. And no amount of Theraflu will do.
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