, Salem, MA


September 24, 2013

Column: Lyme disease's spread calls for government action


Plotkin wants the Food and Drug Administration to test new vaccines under development and wants the public to demand a new vaccine to prevent Lyme disease.

But Schumer and Plotkin are living in a world in which Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to shut down the government — ending such federal duties as public warnings about disease and approval of new vaccines — rather than funding the new health-insurance law set to take effect in October.

Newt Gingrich once succeeded in shutting down the government when he was speaker of the House; it did not work out well for Republicans. They apparently don’t remember.

Americans have a litany of legitimate complaints about government these days, especially because of the politics of division that causes infuriating stalemates in Washington, preventing hundreds of actions that need to be taken. But a government shutdown, even for a few days, would cause incredible inconvenience and financial chaos for millions. Someone described it as burning down the house to get rid of mice.

It is easy to forget how much we need the government. In a New Orleans suburb right now, a deadly brain-eating amoeba in the drinking water is causing panic; the government has been quick to respond. The devastating floods in Colorado have wiped out roads and bridges; the government will rebuild. The mentally ill gunman who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard was stopped by government agents before he could kill more. Millions are getting government-paid health care they otherwise couldn’t afford.

I can see the buck now, brushing against the fence, perilously close to the car. A doe ambles alongside him. Oh goodie, more deer next year.

As for preventing Lyme disease, the government advises wearing socks, long pants, long sleeves, a hat and gloves outside. It is 85 degrees.

Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered national politics and the White House since 1986. Email

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