Sunday, October 26, 2008

Being in Debt to China Makes US More Susceptable to Infectious Disease

It's taking me a while, but I've been working through Tracy Kidder's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, which calls attention to the relationship between pandemic illness, geopolitical power, and wealth.

Take a look at this passage and change the players from debtor Peru/loaner America to debtor America/loaner China:
A TB epidemic, laced with MDR, had visited New York City in the late 1980s; it had been centered in prison, homeless shelters, and public hospitals. When all the costs were totaled, various American agencies had spent about a billion dollars stanching the outbreak. Meanwhile, here in Peru, where the government made debt payments of more than a billion dollars every year to American banks and international lending institutions, experts in international TB control had deemed MDR too expensive to treat.
Given our past relationships to third-world debtor nations, there is some karma in the current US economic crisis and in our debtor stance toward China. However, we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being exposed to dangerous infectious diseases without safety nets.

The current federal bail out is being financed by foreign countries to whom we are in debt, and the dollars are going to banks that are taking care of themselves first. So, where is the money going to be when another major MDR-type of epidemic hits our shores? China will be protecting their own; we probably will not have the disposable finances to do the same.

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