Seeking silver linings amidst mounting dark clouds, some administration officials are urging President Barack Obama to link increasing job losses in the American economy to a potential reduction in the severity of an expected swine flu outbreak this fall.
“The president is already on the record as saying people with swine flu should stay home from work,” one administration spokesman stated. “Wouldn’t it logically follow that if you don’t have a job in the first place, you are actually assisting the effort to contain the spread of the H1N1 virus?”
The administration is said to be “going into overdrive” in an attempt to explain how the promises made during the campaign are actually being delivered, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
“We need to get back to campaign mode,” said one official. “We’re discovering that actually getting things done is a lot harder than just talking about them. We’re learning the president is much more effective in front of a podium than in front of a desk working on stuff.”
Others in the administration have suggested the fear of a flu epidemic might be a good way to explain away the slow distribution of most of the $900 billion in federal stimulus money.
“The president has also stated his belief that frequent handwashing can reduce the spread of the illness,” said another official. “We could argue that the fewer stimulus dollars in circulation means less paper money exchanging hands that could be spreading sickness.”
Republican strategists said they have no intention of just sitting back and letting Democrats take credit for the control of swine flu, and are said to be already working on a campaign should the expected outbreak actually occur.
“We’re advising Republicans to promote the fact that a full-blown epidemic is a way to demonstrate the strength of the current health care system in this country,” said one strategist, who immediately offered a handshake. (Posters stating, “Bring your gun and your cough to the next town hall meeting!” have been popping up in traditional Republican enclaves around the country, reports say.)
Political insiders say neither the administration nor the Republican strategy has been officially adopted. “But it’s a measure of the level of political discourse in this country that such strategies are even being contemplated,” said one inside-the-beltway analyst. “How dumb do you think ‘WMDs-in-Iraq’ or ‘torture-isn’t-torture-as-long-as-it’s-us-doing-it’ sounded the first time those ideas were floated.”
Meanwhile, the health care industry is reportedly bracing for a worst-case scenario regarding a severe outbreak of swine flu. Insurers are reportedly considering increasing premiums and deductibles in response to a deluge of formerly healthy ratepayers suddenly accessing their benefits. “There’s also the possibility that since swine flu has been around for awhile, we may be able to classify it a ‘pre-existing condition,’” said a health insurance representative, who spoke only on condition of having his personal safety protected should that occur.
The nation’s hospital systems are also said to be gearing up to potentially receive hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed workers who’ve lost their health benefits suddenly showing up in hospital emergency rooms.
“You have to wonder how you’ll get anyone to believe the current health care system is sound should anything like happen,” said one analyst, “but they probably will. It’s too bad you can’t buy gullibility insurance.”
And then he quickly added: “But please don’t pass that on to any Wall Street investment bankers.”