Ebola’s grim original secret: How capitalism and obscene military spending got us here

Salon: This week stateside, the edge may be off the Ebola story for the U.S. news media, as those people in Dallas who were close to the late Thomas Eric Duncan emerge from their 21-day quarantine. The Obama administration has appointed an Ebola czar and the military is pulling together a kind of infectious disease SWAT team that can helicopter in the next time a “world-class” American hospital fumbles an Ebola case.

Glad that’s resolved.

What a human tragedy it will be if we fail to grasp what are the existing pre-conditions that set the stage for this unprecedented global outbreak of Ebola.

Missing from the wall-to-wall coverage of the global Ebola crisis is a root-cause analysis that shows how unfettered free market global capitalism and our obscene spending on the military both play a part in creating the environment for this latest outbreak and the ones that are sure to follow.

Annually the world spends more than $1.7 trillion on the military. According to the Wall Street Journal the world spends a whopping $27 billion on the world’s public health. Keep that obscene imbalance in your mind the next time you see pictures of Liberians bleeding out in the street.

No missile killed them, but our greed and global death-oriented spending priorities have left fingerprints on all these bodies.

Here in the U.S. we spend close to $700 billion on the military annually, roughly 20 percent of the federal budget, equivalent to just under $2,500 per capita. Contrast that with our foreign aid for things like public health where we part with just $19 billon, or .6 percent of the federal budget, just $61 per capita. Twenty other nations actually give a higher percentage of their gross national product in non-military aid to nations in need than we do.

Our military spending squeezes out so much that needs to be done both at home and abroad. And there are lost opportunity costs of not doing what needs to be done, like seeing to it that places like West Africa, the epicenter of the latest Ebola outbreak, have a basic public health infrastructure.

This latest global pandemic shows just how yesterday our “homeland security” threat–based security matrix is. In the jet age of hop-and-a-skip Ebola, it feels fatally provincial. Ultimately, our essential homeland is planet Earth.

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