70b3dac1-61b3-425f-8f10-dcd72531733c.jpg

Ramesh Ponnuru swears he didn’t really mean the Democrats when he called his new book The Party of Death, but was instead referring to the NRO’s annual Keg Party of Death, or, no, it was actually a certain Bat Mitzvah of Death in Trenton, New Jersey. But since we’re on the topic, I would like to bring a few things to Mr. Ponnuru’s attention.

It isn’t exactly rocket surgery to figure out that under Republican control of all three branches of government, the bottom has rapidly begun to fall out of public health. Selling our nation’s health care system to Big Pharma and the Insurance companies has been the GOP agenda from the get-go. But let’s look at some statistics from the House Governmental Appropriations Committee:

The number of Americans without health insurance increased by 1.4 million last year and 5 million since the Bush-Cheney administration came to power, reaching a total of 45 million-the largest number of uninsured Americans ever recorded. The percentage of the population without health insurance rose from 15.2 percent in 2002 to 15.6 percent in 2003.

That number has only grown since the report was compiled. This presents a tremendous danger to public health. People don’t seek help for health issues now until they are so sick that they have no choice. Some people don’t seek help at all. This means that infectious diseases and other threats to public health have more of an opportunity to gain a foothold within our population. A society is only as healthy as its poorest parts of town because epidemics begin where nutrition, hygeine, and living conditions are poor, but they don’t stay there. Germs don’t care about the gates on your community. They’ll come in any way they can. They’re upwardly mobile and truly democratic. When access to health care is divided along economic lines, society as a whole is weakened.

But beyond the right wing’s fawning toadyism toward the interests of big business, even a cursory view of health trends demonstrates that on nearly every front, Republicans consistently act against the public good by acting for their own gain. By catering to a base of religious extremists, they are playing Russian roulette with the health of millions of people all over the world. Take AIDS. Back in the 80′s, Reagan and Bush the First consistently opposed funding for HIV research and appropriate action against HIV related diseases. From writer Michael Bronski:

[Reagan's] appalling lack of leadership and vision — which led directly to enormous setbacks for HIV/AIDS research, discrimination against people with AIDS and the lack of any comprehensive outreach for prevention or education work, thus adding to the already-staggering tally of deaths — was a product of indifference, disdain, self-imposed ignorance and a political capitulation to the rising wave of a new, staunchly reactionary and religious Republican constituency that was to reshape not only the party but the state of American politics.

The Reagan/Bush administrations had always opposed the existence of a federal tuberculosis task force and in 1985, they managed to do away with it.  Immediately, tuberculosis rates in this country soared from a record low in that year to the highest numbers in American history.  This trend was only brought to heel when Bill Clinton took office and provided resources to the CDC. This is from a recent CDC report on TB:

After the unprecedented 1985-1992 resurgence in TB in the United States, the annual TB rate steadily decreased during 1993-2005; however, the decline has recently decelerated, raising concerns that the progress toward eliminating TB is slowing.

Guess whose budget cuts we have to thank for that?

Had enough? Well, how about this from Africa?

Stephen Lewis, the UN secretary general’s special envoy for HIV/Aids in Africa, said US cuts in funding for condoms and an emphasis on promoting abstinence had contributed to a shortage of condoms in Uganda, one of the few African countries which has succeeded in reducing its infection rate.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven by [US policies]," Mr Lewis said yesterday. "To impose a dogma-driven policy that is fundamentally flawed is doing damage to Africa." The condom shortage has developed because both the Ugandan government and the US, which is the main donor for HIV/Aids prevention, have allowed supplies to dwindle, according to an American pressure group, the Centre for Health and Gender Equity (Change).

In 2003, President Bush declared he would spend $15bn on his emergency plan for Aids relief, but receiving aid under the programme has moral strings attached.

Recipient countries have to emphasise abstinence over condoms, and – under a congressional amendment – they must condemn prostitution.

Yeah. That’s going to work out just great. Don’t fight AIDS with condoms! Fight it with Bibles!!

I had the honor of interviewing scientist Don Francis, the maverick AIDS and Ebola researcher who is featured prominently in Randy Shilts’s epic biography of the AIDS virus, And the Band Played On. I asked him what is the single biggest impediment to realistic AIDS prevention and treatment in the world, and he said, "Conservative politicians. They won’t accept reality, and insist upon interfering with public health. Public health should be beyond the reach of ill-informed power-brokers and their religious agendas."

The struggle is always with us. Whether it’s the Right’s opposition to birth control, abortion, contragestives like RU4-86, sex and health education, AIDS prevention, and now to the cervical cancer vaccine or their stubborn refusal to provide health care to the poor and middle class on any kind of resonable and affordable basis, it’s like they’re trying to commit cultural suicide. Or when you consider that the US currently boasts the second highest infant mortality rate in the developed world, economic genocide.  It’s ethnic cleansing, the free market way! Those aren’t the children of Bill O’Reilly’s White Christians who are dying in such staggering numbers.  And all this comes from the people who swear they’re trying to Save the Babies™ by chiselling away at Roe v. Wade, and if that doesn’t work, by bombing abortion clinics and taking out bounties on nurses and physicians who work in clinics that perform abortions.  It’s like Barney Frank says, "Republicans believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth."

Clearly, the right wing minority would rather preach empty platitudes than save lives, even if that means killing and maiming some people along the way. It’s better for people to die with Jesus in their hearts than to live with medicine in their bodies, I guess. WHO are you calling the "Party of Death", now, Skeeter? Do we need to continue this discussion to include how y’all’s "Culture of Life" is working out in Baghdad?

Republicanism is hazardous to your health.  The "Culture of Life" will kill you.  Now that we have that cleared up, I trust we won’t be hearing any more of this tripe from you, Ramesh. 

Ramesh?