Oct 252009
Authors: Ian Bezek

Have you heard the dire news? President Obama has officially declared that the H1N1 flu has become a “national emergency.” That’s right folks, you better take precaution, because the swine flu monster is going to kill us all.

Not really. While I, back in May, in this very column, said that the H1N1 flu would cause more problems than people anticipated at the time, things have not gotten out of hand. The flu has not mutated into anything more deadly the ordinary seasonal flu.

Right now, estimates say the H1N1 flu is killing roughly 500 Americans a week. The normal seasonal flu kills roughly 30,000 people a year, which divided by 52, equals, surprise, roughly 500 people a week. As the swine flu has not become more contagious or more deadly than anticipated, it has failed to turn into a serious public health epidemic.

That said, Obama’s declaration that we are now faced with a “national emergency” is a head-scratcher. He already has declared a “public health emergency” on April 26th that gave him additional powers needed to fight the swine flu. It is unclear what the declaration of a national emergency accomplishes.

It seems the declaration of a “national emergency” is just an attempt at shifting attention away from the Obama Administration’s utter inability to accomplish any of its stated goals and campaign promises.

The centerpiece of the Obama change movement — providing public health care — appears to be increasingly dead on arrival. Democrats are seen in retreat, for instance, changing the name from the politically flat “public option” to Medicare, saying, “Medicare is a public option.”

This is a standard political operation, when an idea you propose fails, change its name and try selling it again. But voters aren’t buying it. A recent USAToday/Gallup poll found only 22 percent of voters thought medical costs would improve if the health care bill is passed, while half of voters thought costs would get worse.

Even our senators aren’t buying it, roundly rejecting the first plank of Obamacare last Wednesday. The New York Times reported, “Democrats lost a big test vote on health care legislation on Wednesday as the Senate blocked action on a bill to increase Medicare payments to doctors at a cost of $247 billion over 10 years. (…) They needed 60 votes to proceed, (but) won only 47. And (they) could not blame Republicans. A dozen Democrats and one independent crossed party lines and voted with Republicans on the 53 to 47 roll call.”

Perhaps Obama declared a national emergency to help people forget that his health care proposal is going down in flames? This has been a trend since inauguration, when Obama fails to pass something he proposed, be it stringent climate control legislation, a consumer protection agency or strict new regulations on the banking sector, he starts unceasingly talking about something else.

This is, I’ll admit, a wise political strategy as Americans have short memories. But Obama seems to have run out of reasonable things to talk about as he’s launched a bizarre quixotic war against Fox News.

The Obama Administration has suggested that Fox isn’t a “real” news organization and has started boycotting the network, refusing to send its representatives on Fox’s shows. Forgetting that there is a difference between its commentators and its reporters, Obama has decided that Fox is out to get him.

While it’s true that entertainers on Fox such as Sean Hannity and Glen Beck don’t like Obama much, they’re no more harsh than Keith Olbermann of MSNBC was in attacking President Bush. And President Bush, despite all his faults, never stooped so low as to go to war with the left-wing MSNBC.

The old saying goes that you never pick a fight with “people who buy ink by the barrel.” It’s odd that Obama has nothing better to do than drum up petty and childish wars with our nation’s media and declare irrelevant states of emergency over ordinary flu bugs.

I humbly suggest that Obama get back down to real business of working on America’s problems. Trying to divert our attention away from the things he promised to change won’t solve anything. Already I’ve seen a T-shirt that reads, “Maybe he can’t.” It’s looking more and more like it.

Editorials editor Ian Bezek is a senior economics major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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