The Zika virus is in the United States. As of this writing, there are 1,825 confirmed cases, and a spread is likely (despite some novel attempts at slowing it down). It’s a pressing health emergency, which is the sort of thing we generally look to our elected officials for help with, but the good people of America may have to take care of this one on our own, because our leaders are fighting like toddlers.
The White House requested 1.9 billion dollars to fight Zika back in February but that ask has been subjected to a slew of partisan infighting, juvenile brinkmanship and lots of general Machiavellian, House of Cards shit. Let’s take a look at what went down.
In May, the Senate slashed the Obama Administration’s original $1.9 billion request down to $1.1 billion, while President Obama redirected about $600 million originally pledged to fight the Ebola virus towards fighting Zika instead. Senate Democrats originally said they were willing to play ball with this reduced budget, but here’s where things started to get slimy.
As part of the new bill, Republicans added a few provisions. They cut $540 million from Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They bizarrely stripped a House provision banning the flying of Confederate flags in federal cemeteries. And most vexingly to Democrats, they restricted the role of Planned Parenthood in fighting Zika.
Planned Parenthood is the scourge of elected Republicans and they’d be loathe to see any federal funds going towards it, even to fight Zika. This infuriated Democrats, who say the bill itself is only a half measure without enlisting the help of Planned Parenthood in distributing contraceptives. Florida Democrat Bill Nelson said the GOP’s new measures would limit access “to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus and prevent terrible birth defects,” calling the new bill not “a serious solution.”
That’s only partly true, as Politifact pointed out that even without Planned Parenthood, women in Zika-infected areas would still have access to other women’s health clinics. It’s hard to believe that Republicans didn’t know the Planned Parenthood provision would ruffle feathers with elected Democrats and their constituents, but on the whole, the provision itself doesn’t dramatically alter the bill. Nevertheless, Senate Democrats blocked the new bill, and Congress headed into its August recess without having passed any legislation to help stem the tide of Zika.
So, in summary: a bill providing aid to fight Zika was ready to go, Republicans loaded the bill with partisan fat, Democrats cried foul and everyone ended up going home without having accomplished a single thing. Nothing. They might as well have not met at all for all the good it ended up doing. In the meantime, Zika is here, in the United States. And Congress won’t be convening again until September to figure out how to stop it.
None of this drama made it into House Speaker Paul Ryan’s USA Today op-ed, where he chastised Democrats for being “obstructionist”, saying “unfortunately, when this plan went to the Senate for a vote, Democrats derailed it …despite months of calling for action.”
This is all accurate as far as it goes, but it does not mention the extra weight Republicans added to the bill, which is why Politifact rated Ryan’s op-ed only “half true”. Democrats are calling for a new bipartisan funding bill, but Republicans are balking. President Obama blasted Congress for not getting its act together, calling out Republicans for cutting his initial proposed budget. But he didn’t mention that it was Democrats who actually blocked the vote.
So, yes, there’s a lot of finger pointing to go around, and it’s probably a matter of opinion as to who’s more to blame. What’s not up for debate is that while Democrats and Republicans continue to thump their chests, Zika is spreading. And as of right now, the U.S. government isn’t putting nearly enough money towards stopping it.
Jason is the cofounder of the iconic non-profit Invisible Children which was founded to increase awareness of the horrendous activities of the LRA in Central Africa. Jason was also the director of the iconic Kony 2012 film that took the world by storm. In this two-part interview Jason and Branden talk about what it means to create a movement, what Jason experienced during his breakdown and subsequent recovery, and Jason’s experience in the world of theater.
Aharon Rabinowitz is the head of marketing for Red Giant based in New York City. During our conversation, we discussed the importance of work life balance, his start as a production intern at Sesame Street and why artist’s feel personally offended when you reject their work.
United gets their cheap on, fake news, and Trump hired who?
Welcome to Episode IV. This week, Dan spends some time with his favorite singer/songwriter, Matthew Perryman Jones. Matthew and Dan talk about panic attacks, growing up in Atlanta, the way music is informed by pain and suffering and the way music gives freedom.
If you have spent any time watching television in the last decade you have most likely heard one of Mattew’s songs on shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, One Tree Hill and many others. His insightful writing and voice have drawn comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley, and he is on the short list of songwriters who skillfully weave the deeply philosophical and the vivid utterly human without ever losing sight of either.
To get his new album Cold Answer, (which features the three songs from him you heard on this episode), visit MPJmusic.com.
Branden sits down with writer and speaker Tyler Huckabee days after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States to talk about empathy, justice, listening, and where we go from here.
Special Election Edition, President Trump to legalized weed and everything in between.
This week we reflect on the election and discuss our strategies for staying sane.
Luca and Ilenia are the founders of Illo, a studio based in Turin, Italy. During our conversation, we discussed their self-driving video bot named Algo, how Illo was formed and how they’ve crafted a unique office culture.
This week we discuss Beyonce’s night at the CMAs, last minute election plans and how SNL might save us all.
We appreciate everyone sticking with us through this long hiatus but are planning our return even as we speak, with a bunch of new goodies and an updated format. In the meantime, here’s a brief primer on Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange — just so you can go into the movie knowing what you’re getting yourself into.