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The CDC Failed, So Spin It Off and Make It More Powerful?

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The failure of the CDC to manage Covid-19 was baked in from the first moments of its response. A government agency was never going to mitigate much less get rid of this sort of pathogen. This is because the virus never cared a whit about prestige degrees, job descriptions, big budgets, high-end connections, media agitprop, or polls. It went on its merry way, hit everyone, and immune systems adapted as they always have done. 

The great experiment was an enormous flop. 

The costs of the experiment we know: it is the catastrophe that Donald Henderson predicted it would be in 2006. 

Thus does it make sense that the present overlords of the agency have admitted at least partially to have made some errors. The question is what were these errors. From the latest news concerning some impending shakeup, I see no evidence of any serious rethinking of the crazed and cockamamie lockdown orders it issued from March 2020 onward. Not even preposterous mandates like plexiglass at retail counters, two years of school closures, “six feet of distance,” one-way grocery aisles, band members in bubbles, mask mandates, and limits on how many people you can have in your home have prompted remorse. 

Instead, every indication is that the CDC believes the real problem was that it did not have a high-enough budget and enough power. Plenty of lawmakers are willing to go along – not that anyone is asking them. Therefore, its tremendous pandemic powers need to be tweak and invested mainly in a division known as the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, or ASPR.

Says The Washington Post:

The Biden administration is reorganizing the federal health department [HHS] to create an independent division that would lead the nation’s pandemic response, amid frustrations with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Joy! 

The new head of this high-level division (same level as FDA/CDC) is Dawn O’Connell who has a background in literature (Vanderbilt) and law (Tulane), not science or medicine. She is a political appointee who took the reins as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Preparedness and Response, as confirmed by the Senate in 2021. She is now elated to report that her division will be elevated to become just as important as the CDC and the FDA. 

Here is her memo to the staff:

ASPR Team:

As you know firsthand, ASPR is at the forefront of many of HHS’s and the Biden-Harris Administration’s top priorities. Whether your work involves strengthening our core preparedness and response capabilities, tackling new and emerging challenges, or providing essential support services to the team, please know that the work that you do matters and that it is making a big difference.

In recognition of the tremendous value this team brings to the Department and the American people – and due to the increasing size and scope of what we do – I asked Secretary Becerra to consider making us an Operating Division and I am pleased to report that Secretary Becerra has made the critically important decision to elevate our team from a Staff Division to an Operating Division (OpDiv)!

This change allows ASPR to mobilize a coordinated national response more quickly and stably during future disasters and emergencies while equipping us with greater hiring and contracting capabilities. As an OpDiv, we are now in the same category as other large HHS teams with core operational responsibilities such as CDC, NIH, FDA, CMS, and ACF. This change is an important next step for our organization which has continued to grow and evolve since its creation in 2006 – the pace of which has quickened over the past year. This change is also a recognition of the good work you all have been and continue to do on behalf of the American People….

Along with this reclassification, moving forward we will be known as the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR). The adjustment to our name signals our elevation to an OpDiv, while maintaining the equity and brand recognition we have built with key internal and external stakeholders, particularly over the course of the pandemic.

Thus must we ask: what the heck is going on here? The Biden administration has no idea. Indeed the Washington Post reports that “some senior Biden administration officials said they were unaware of the plan to reorganize the department, which was approved by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and has been held close by his deputies.”

This point is crucial. This is how the administrative state works. It cares nothing for the elected officials who come and go. It moves on its own, fueled by money baked into the budgets and with power hardly anyone dares to challenge. There is never any accountability. There is only one path forward: more power. Elections be damned. 

The most important part of the memo here is the idea of mobilizing a “coordinated national response.” It drove these people utterly bonkers that during the pandemic, several states went their own way. South Dakota never shut down. Georgia opened a month after the shutdowns. Florida and Texas were next. Finally all the states with Republican governors opened while most states with Democratic governors remained closed to some degree.

The empirical results are incredibly obvious. The open states performed as well and often better on disease demographics. Meanwhile their economies did not suffer nearly as much. The kids stayed in school. The churches functioned. There were live musical performances. The museums, libraries, and playgrounds opened. People are less traumatized. 

The migration of people from blue to red tells the whole story. Masses of people fled the lockdown states for the open states. 

A “coordinated national response” would make such federalist solutions impossible. Forget the 9th and 10th Amendments. These agencies and these people care nothing for them, nor actual science which would encourage a plethora of experiments in the management of a pathogen. These bureaucrats in Washington think they have all the answers, and they demand complete compliance. 

Meanwhile, the CDC itself is being reorganized. But don’t be fooled by any appearance of contrition. They still have a legal appeal in process that would put a mask back on your face when traveling. The new agency to which some its pandemic responsibilities will be transferred will have a 1,000-person staff to start, people paid the big bucks to sit around coming up with new ways to whip up disease panic and start another crackdown. 

A better solution would be to abolish the CDC. States can handle all its responsibilities. It did not even exist until 1947. Its purpose was mosquito control, spraying a now-banned chemical (DDT) everywhere. These days we handle that by going to Home Depot. 

The CDC as an agency grew out of the 1944 Public Health Services Act that permitted nationally ordered quarantines for the first time. The legislative history of that thing remains a mystery to me. Regardless, it is nowhere justified in the US Constitution. This act needs to go too. So too all the federal agencies to which it gave rise. This is the only real solution. 

Certainly creating a new agency is not the answer. And note that ASPR has its roots in 2006 as an outgrowth of the Bush administration’s obsessive panic over bioterrorism. It was also the first year that anyone imagined that lockdowns could be an appropriate path for any free society. It was the year that “social distancing” was invented by a cabal of computer scientists with zero experience in infectious disease. 

These fanatics need to be out of power completely, and the regulations, laws, and agencies that enabled them to ruin the country and its freedoms must be ended. This is what any responsive government in a modern society would do. It would see failure and call it and then do something about it. It certainly would not go in this new direction and reward the disease planners with more power and money! 

We must learn real lessons and act on them.

Author

  • Jeffrey A. Tucker, Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute, is an economist and author. He has written 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He writes a daily column on economics at The Epoch Times, and speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.


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