Why isn’t the U.S. ready for a pandemic? For politicians, investing in prevention doesn’t pay off.
The federal government has been criticized for bungling its plan to adequately prepare for the spread of the covid-19 virus. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been unable to roll out mass-scale testing needed to contain the virus and understand its spread. By contrast, South Korea has been able to test hundreds of thousands of people and to begin to curtail the increasing death rate.Some observers are blaming the lack of investment in public health infrastructure including the limited number of hospital beds, masks and medical devices. Further, the global health security team within the National Security Council was disbanded in 2018. However, this isn’t just a result of the Trump administration’s decisions. According to the Trust for America’s Health, the country’s lack of investment in public health stretches back long in history.So why is the U.S. so poorly equipped for a mass pandemic? Much of the answer plausibly lies in democratic politicians’ incentives. Having the federal government prepare for crises may be incredibly good value for money. But politicians get few or no benefits from doing so, since voters don’t reward them for being ready. This is why.Preventive spending is very effectiveIn 2009, Andrew Healy