Friday, April 15, 2011

What Has Uncle Sam Done For You Lately?

According to Republicans in Congress, your tax money supporting federal programs is being poured down the drain with nothing to show for it.  Baloney. Worse than baloney, lies.  Consider the following examples

Environmental Protection Agency: The Koch Refining Co./N-Ren Corp toxic disposal site in Minnesota’s Pine Bend area covers 50 square miles.  EPA made an extensive investigation of wells in and near the site indicating persistent seepage from holding ponds, lagoons, and spent bauxite piles on property owned by Koch and N-Ren that was contaminating ground water with lead and phenols. About 1,600 people, as well as a school serving 2,600 students daily, used wells within 3 miles of the site as a source of drinking water.  The site was cleaned up with money from Koch/N-Ren and from the EPA Superfund. Now the kids aren't being poisoned any longer. Hundreds of more examples like this.

Center for Disease Control:  CDCs Outbreak Response Branch responds rapidly to outbreaks of infectious diseases, including food-born illnesses.  Recently, more than 500 million eggs were recalled after dangerous levels of Salmonella were detected in the eggs of two Iowa producers. Two thousand illnesses related to this outbreak were reported between May and October 2010. People infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal cramps12 to 72 hours after infection. In most cases, the illness lasts 4 to 7 days and most people recover without specific treatment.  However, in some people's cases the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient becomes dangerously dehydrated and must be hospitalized where they receive intravenous fluids, and medications for the and painful symptoms. In severe cases, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites, and can cause death. The Tea Party folks want to slash the CDC. 
Food and Drug Administration:  The FDA Foods Program has identified E. Coli, the same bacteria that is in fecal matter, in lettuce from Arizona, and in Hazel nuts, resulting in very serious illnesses and food recalls in seven cases including Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Food destined for human consumption, including meat and poultry, are also known to harbor intestinal bacteria. These bacteria include organisms such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, and Enterococcus.  In a Joint project with the CDC, FDA identified such contamination in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Tennessee and removed the products from the market and cautioned farmers against the use of antimicrobial agents that lead to resistant strains of these toxin-producing bacteria.

The National Institutes of Health based in Bethesda, MD is the backbone of American medicine and health care.  The basic research that led to development of nearly every medicine sold by a pharmaceutical company in the US, was originally conducted by research sponsored by NIH. Among NIH-sponsored medical breakthroughs have been new treatments to reduce the risk of heart and vascular disease, effective treatments for some kinds of cancers and new treatments for diabetes. Researchers using funds from NIH have developed vaccines to prevent chickenpox. Since the vaccine was introduced, the number of hospitalizations and deaths from chickenpox has declined more than 90 percent.  The hepatitis B virus (HBV) attacks the liver. Chronic (long-lasting) HBV infection increases a person’s risk of liver disease, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death.  In 2006, about 4,700 new cases of acute hepatitis B were reported, a decline of about 75 percent of reported cases since the vaccine was introduced in 1981. Polio was the scourge of the 1950s.  Of people who become paralyzed, about 2 to 5 percent of children and 15 to 30 percent of adults died from the disease. Before the Polio vaccine was introduced 13,000 to 20,000 cases of paralytic polio were reported each year in the United States alone.  Due to the widespread use of the Polio vaccine, only 2,000 cases were reported worldwide in 2006. 

NIH researchers discovered that Toxoplasmosis is an infection contracted from contact with cat feces, insects and birds.  Pregnant women who contract the disease are at high risk of giving it to their unborn babies via the placenta.  Up to half of the fetuses which become infected with toxoplasmosis during the pregnancy are born prematurely, and have damage to the baby's vision and brain, resulting in seizures and intellectual disabiltity, skin problems, and deafness.  NIH has sponsored a campaign to inform obstetricians and family doctors to warn women about the dangers of exposure to these sources of contamination during pregnancy, as well as a public health campaign to alert pregnant women.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issues weather forecasts state by state and county by county including hurricane, tornado, blizzard, flooding and maritime weather forecasts and warnings to ocean going vessels.  NOAA monitors over 4500 water level gauges throughout the US to provide flood warnings to cities, smaller communities and rural areas, constantly updating flood estimates hour by hour in high risk areas.  In the past three years NOAA has issued an average of 1376 tornado warnings throughout the US per year.  Thanks to increasing accuracy in warnings the number of deaths have declined.  NOAA tracks shrinking of polar ice caps, which the Republicans especially hate because it confirms the planet is gradually warming due to excess carbon emissions. They are like the three monkeys with their hands over their ears, eyes and mouths (no talking about it either!).

Social Security:  Republicans claim younger workers would have more money for retirement if they invested their Social Security taxes in stocks and bonds.  The Social Security is remarkably efficient, with overhead costs of only about 1%. Private accounts have an overhead cost of 15%, which comes directly out of earnings. T.Rowe Price’s stock investment return calculator projects a 10%, return, of which you pay 15% in overhead.  So you invest $1000, earn $100 for a total of $1100, but you pay 15% to the brokerage firm for handling the transaction, so you end up with $935.  Nice.
So when you hear Boehner, Canter or McConnell belittling the accomplishments of your federal government's agencies,  ask them what planet they've been living on.  Better yet, recommend they try telling the truth. 

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