October 24, 2009
The Swine Flu Crisis: A Call for BipartisanshipBy Gene Schwimmer
- Satire -
It is ironic that the candidate who ran on a promise to transcend partisanship has revealed himself, in his first year, to be perhaps the most partisan and divisive president in American history. The notion that a republican democracy such as ours, that divides power and protects that division with a system of "checks and balances," can exist without partisanship is absurd. That President Obama can entertain such a notion serves only to demonstrate his naïveté.
But having said that, to move to the other extreme -- to claim that there are no issues that require us to put aside our party labels and work together as Americans to confront a pressing national emergency -- is equally absurd, with equal potential to harm the American people.
Which brings me to the pressing subject of H1N1, the so-called swine flu. As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, in the week ended October 11 alone, 11 children died from swine flu complications, bringing the total since August 30, to 43. The good news is we have a vaccine for swine flu. The bad news is that we are not producing it fast enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, production is running 25% behind expectations, or 28-30 million doses compared to the 40 million doses they had expected to distribute by the end of the month.
As winter approaches, the crisis will only get worse, and need it be said that disease belongs to no political party? It can strike anyone. Therefore, if Liberals have an idea that will palliate the swine flu vaccine shortage, it is Conservatives' patriotic duty to recognize it and work with them, in the interest of all of us, to implement it.
In my opinion, Liberals have such an idea. I urge my fellow Conservatives -- as patriotic Americans first and Conservatives last -- to support it, so that the country may adopt it as quickly as possible." And the idea itself comes from the most unlikely source: the Democratic economic stimulus plan.
I believe that we can inflate ourselves out of the swine flu vaccine shortage. I believe, using the logic of the Democratic stimulus plan, that it is possible to produce virtually limitless quantities of vaccine using only the supply we have on hand. Counterintuitive as it might seem, there is, in fact, a Keynesian solution to the H1N1 vaccine shortage.
To see how the process would work, imagine, purely for illustrative purposes, that we want to increase the vaccine supply by a modest amount -- say, tenfold. Here is the simple, four-step process by which this could be done.
Step 1: For every existing bottle of vaccine, manufacture nine empty bottles.
Step 2: Print and apply to each empty bottle a label, identical to the one on the existing bottle of vaccine, ideally, using the same printing press that printed the labels for the existing bottles.
Step 3: Withdraw nine-tenths of the vaccine from the full bottle and divide it equally among the nine empty bottles.
Step 4: Top off each bottle with ordinary tap water.
The result is as obvious as it is irrefutable. In the proverbial wink of an eye (assuming automation), in only four steps, one bottle of swine flu vaccine has become ten. But, as can readily be seen from our little Einsteinian thought experiment, the actual supply of vaccine is potentially limitless, constrained only by the number of bottles and labels that can be produced. The amount of medicine "backing" my "stimulus vaccine" is no more relevant than the amount of wealth backing the stimulus dollars that have allowed us to achieve an unemployment rate of 9.8% in only a few months.
Given a plan so brimming with boldness, so elegantly simplistic, so audaciously hopeful I suppose, some skepticism by the timid, the unaudacious, the unhopeful is to be expected. But remember: people also laughed when the president assured a doubtful nation that his stimulus plan would limit the unemployment rate to 8%. Today, unemployment is 9.8% and rising. How many among that 9.8%, basking in the afterglow of Obamanomics, are laughing now?
Others might say (or naysay) that if one dilutes medicine to the point where it no longer cures anything then it is not really medicine, becoming (in their view) a kind of non-medicine, or "medicine." But of course, it is medicine for the simple reason that the label, clearly visible on every bottle, will say so. If the federal government can print money, it can print labels. To believe otherwise -- to believe that filling bottles with "medicine" that really isn't medicine is ineffectual, even harmful -- then one must also believe, simply as a matter of logic, that filling wallets and bank vaults with "money" that really isn't money is ineffectual and harmful, too. Yet our leaders, buttressed and inspired by the impressive, blatantly illogical theories of John Maynard Keynes -- arguably the greatest (and therefore, by definition, most convincing) quack economist ever -- assure us that it is not. Indeed, any reader having difficulty imagining how my plan could possibly function in the real world need only imagine Keynes running the Food and Drug Administration, and he will have the concept in a nutshell.
Which is not to say that my proposal is perfect; it is not. Yes, some swine flu victims may become ill, perhaps even die, when injected with 90% (or more) tap water instead of 100% swine flu vaccine. But any loss of life should be more than offset when the plan, if implemented, produces its most beneficial byproduct: jobs. For undertakers. Gravediggers. Casket-makers. Florists. (And let's not forget the revenue from presents for the women who love these brave businessmen.)
And finally, one advantage my plan has that the president's economic stimulus does not: unlike his, my plan will not be inflationary. "You can't take it with you" is not just a saying. The dead really do spend less than the living. Combine the production of increasing numbers of bottles of 90% (or more) tap water with fewer people alive to buy those bottles and the result is a "perfect calm" of less money chasing more goods-the very antithesis of inflation.
For us Conservatives, my proposal will not be easy to accept. It will require us to eschew common sense: to believe, literally, that one can get something for nothing. Above all, it will require us to see people not as unique, independent entities created by a Divine Intelligence, but as Thomas Sowell's 'blocks of wood': mere cogs in an enormous, impersonal machine called "society." This worldview comes naturally to the Liberal, but only with great difficulty to the Conservative, if ever.
But with patient instruction from towering Liberal intellects such as a Barbara Boxer, a Pete Stark, perhaps even a Joe Biden, and with-yes!-the audacity to hope, perhaps- perhaps-we can begin to learn.