Great America

Did CDC’s Focus on Social Justice Reduce Its Readiness?

The Centers for Disease Control should spend its money and time fighting disease, not playing politics.

You had one job, CDC: to prepare America to combat infectious disease. It’s a sign of what’s happened to the government generally over the last 20 years, that CDC used its resources to advance left-leaning agendas instead of focusing on positioning itself to fight infectious disease. 

We’ve seen the headlines blaming the president for the lack of readiness in response to the outbreak. In mid-March, the Guardian reported, “Trump’s staff cuts have undermined Covid-19 containment efforts.” You can find other such headlines here, here, and here

Most of these accusations are either completely untrue or wild distortions of the facts. The get-Trump media are so obsessively politicized that much of the coverage of the virus has been corrupted in the same way that Russian collusion coverage was so unreliable. PJ Media, for example, published this list of the “Top 10 Lies About President Trump’s Response to the Coronavirus.” 

Lost in the debate over whether CDC had enough money to prepare for the crisis is this critical question: What was the CDC doing with the money it already had?

Why, for example, is the CDC spending resources to study transgender health? There are 2,287 search results for “transgender” within the CDC website. The CDC published the following guidance for LGBT youth: 

Having a school that creates a safe and supportive learning environment for all students and having caring and accepting parents are especially important. Positive environments can help all youth achieve good grades and maintain good mental and physical health. However, some LGBT youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience negative health and life outcomes.

 

CDC uses its disease-fighting appropriations to fund “education and health agencies in states, territories, and large urban school districts to conduct the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The YRBS monitors the health behaviors of U.S. high school students. Starting in 2015, the national YRBS questionnaire and the standard YRBS questionnaire (the starting point for the state, territorial, and large urban school district questionnaires) included questions about sexual identity and gender of sexual contacts.”

A search of the CDC website for the term, “climate change” yields a whopping 5,578 results. The CDC proudly exclaimed, “CDC’s Climate and Health Program is excited to celebrate 10 years of supporting state, tribal, local, and territorial public health agencies as they prepare for specific health impacts of a changing climate.” It reports funding over 18 “grantees” around the nation to support the “BRACE” framework, an acronym for advancing climate change agenda (essentially political propaganda for Green New Deal-type public policy). The CDC is quite open about using its scientific credentials to “Serve as a credible source of information on the health consequences of climate change.”

The CDC sees its role in the climate change debate as providing, “leadership to state and local governments, community leaders, healthcare professionals, non-governmental organizations, the faith-based communities, the private sector and the public, domestically and internationally, regarding health protection from the effects of climate change.” 

That’s right, instead of fighting disease, the CDC bureaucrats use their scientific credentials to “lead” our local governments on climate change. In a true republic, unelected bureaucrats are not the ones “leading” elected officials. 

Bureaucratic culture undermined the CDC’s early response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some blamed the FDA’s complicated “Emergency Use Authorization” protocol which was so complex that it required weeks to clear. 

Although the United States had a 10 companies with the technical capacity to mass-produce COVID-19 tests, the CDC instead exerted a government monopoly over test production. But the CDC proved unable to produce sufficient working tests to meet the immediate demand leading to a missed opportunity to assess and contain the early penetrations of the virus in the United States. 

Across government, social-justice priorities have gradually diluted and even displaced core missions of government agencies. CDC used a not-insignificant portion of its scarce resources to create a platform for unrelated priorities. We don’t have time for that crap anymore. 

If CDC employees want to use their own time and money to promote climate change and transgender social issues, they should be free to do so. But taxpayer money should not be used to advance political agendas—particularly when those agendas are completely unrelated to an agency’s mission. The Centers for Disease Control should spend its money and time fighting infectious disease, not playing politics.