How We Got Here
The media has accurately reported how President Trump’s mismanagement of COVID-19 has exacerbated this global health crisis. But Trump’s damage to our public health goes back to the beginning of his administration — and for Congressman Lee Zeldin and the rest of the Republican Party, their culpability starts much earlier.
It begins with the universal Republican vow to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and is compounded by their ideological orthodoxy to starve every federal agency of funding, including those agencies that are charged with public health. Like every Republican, this was the platform Zeldin ran on in 2014, and this is how he has voted as a member of Congress.
But these dual GOP missions — repeal the ACA and reduce the size of government — have directly contributed to the disastrous federal response to this crisis.
The ACA, while primarily concerned with health insurance access and patient protections, also focused on public health issues through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010, the ACA established the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) at the CDC. It supported a public health mission that included the “early detection of and response to health threats.”
The GOP could not repeal the ACA while Obama was president, but once they took over the House after the 2010 election, largely on the strength of campaigning against the ACA, they worked hard to consistently weaken it, including weakening the PPHF. Then, in 2017, with the inauguration of Trump and complete control of the federal government, they went full-steam ahead to repeal the ACA and reduce the size of all federal agencies. The CDC and the PPHF were no exception.
In early 2018, Trump signed the budget bill that cut the PPHF by $1 billion over 10 years. Later, in 2018, Trump eliminated the global health security office within the National Security Council and made further cuts to public health programs by diverting money from the CDC and the National Institutes of Health for his policy to detain migrant children. Public health experts at the time warned that such drastic moves would harm the country’s ability to respond to and contain outbreaks of disease.
Trump and Zeldin are now working overtime to bury this history. To deflect blame, Trump insists that his name be stamped on the stimulus checks being mailed to desperate Americans. In a similar vein, Zeldin recently announced how he alone got much-needed medical equipment rushed to Suffolk County.
They would like you to forget how we got here.