Sen. Susan Collins, in our estimation, showed good judgment in throwing the flag on $900 million for pandemic flu preparedness in the federal stimulus. The purpose of that legislation was economic recovery, after all, which was — and still is — at crisis levels. The stimulus needed focus on that one issue and Collins brought it. 
This hasn’t quieted some left-wing euphoria over the swine flu outbreak as subsequent proof of Collins’ partisan myopia. But if removing flu funding was so nonsensical, why did it stick? Our guess is because there was bipartisan consensus it should.
Our favorite rationalization for Collins’ wrongness, though, is that pandemic flu funding is economic stimulus because global markets were rattled by the outbreak. This is rich thinking, as our financial markets haven’t been unflappable portraits of stability in recent months. (When Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner sneezes, stock prices shift.)
But this issue is about money, first and foremost. So consider these two facts: Since 2006, the federal government has appropriated $7 billion for flu prevention, ever since the “bird flu” threatened to spread its evil wings across America, yet never did.
Then, in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress just last month, some $776 million to fight influenza was included, though largely ignored because it wasn’t a bargaining chip in high-stakes Senate negotiations over legislation important to a new president.
We should be wondering what this total of nearly $8 billion has bought us. With the best advice on preventing the spread of disease still homespun — wash hands, use disinfectant, avoid contact with sick people and stay home if feeling ill — there’s room for questions of whether we’ve gotten our money’s worth in stopping flu so far.


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