by Bob Barr
After causing Americans to suffer whiplash over the past year and a half with conflicting and at times openly contradictory statements on how to deal with COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seems now to have shifted focus to issues that more easily fit within the overarching themes driving the Biden-Harris administration: Racism, guns and climate change.
Not coincidentally, for an agency that urges everyone except itself to “follow the science,” there is far less need to do so when pontificating on racism, guns and the climate, because there really is no “science” involved.
In April, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky declared that “racism is a serious public health threat” that has become an “epidemic impacting public health.” As overseer of the 13,000 employees at CDC, Walensky directed that every component of the agency, which has been headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia since its founding 75 years ago, must consider racism as a top priority.
In late August, Walensky explained in a CNN interview that “preventing gun violence and gun deaths” has shot to the top tier of priorities at the CDC, which has been chomping at the bit to jump back into the “gun violence” business after having been prevented from using taxpayer money to do so since the late 1990s.
As for climate change, or the climate crisis as this administration has now rebranded the issue, the creation of a new “Office of Climate Change and Health Equity” within the Department of health and Human Services, of which CDC is a part, will provide many new avenues for Dr. Walensky and her cohorts to save the world.
The executive order that prompted the establishment of this particular new bureaucracy was one of the many President Joe Biden issued during his first days in the White House. The 21-page “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” called on virtually every federal department and top-level presidential adviser, including CDC’s parent agency, Health and Human Services, to tackle climate crisis-related issues. These offices were also directed to address the amorphous problems of “environmental injustice” and “equity.”
These tasks alone are sufficient to keep HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Walensky busy for the remainder of Biden’s term, notwithstanding that none of it has anything to do with disease control and prevention, which happens to define the jurisdiction of CDC since it was established in 1946 to direct the fight to eradicate malaria, which at the time was rampant in the southeastern United States.
Going off on such a tangent, however, never has given CDC pause to expand its mission to include all manner of non-disease problems. It is, indeed, the poster child as an example of “mission creep,” notwithstanding it has not always been successful in taking on new issues outside its defined jurisdiction.
Late last month, for example, the Supreme Court shot down the eviction moratorium mandate that CDC had been pressing.
Also, the agency’s previous, repeated moves to involve itself in the highly political subject of gun control led the Congress in 1996 to slap the agency’s hands and declare that none of its appropriated funds could be used for such activities. The ban was partially lifted in 2019, which paved the way for congressional Democrats to now start pouring millions into CDC’s budget so it could once again engage in “gun violence prevention.” Dr. Walensky has enthusiastically embraced this windfall.
Shortly after taking the reins at CDC, Walensky identified all three of these issues – racism, gun violence and climate change — as top priorities for her tenure as America’s “Top Doc.” She has not disappointed her supporters.
In her Aug. 27 interview with CNN, Walensky offered as justification for pulling CDC directly into the ongoing and highly political gun violence policy debate, the fact that she “swore to the president and to this country” to protect our health. Seems she has already forgotten the oath she took upon becoming CDC director was actually to the Constitution and laws of the United States, not to Biden.
Pledging allegiance to Biden, however, makes it easier to justify engaging in activities and policies bearing little, if any, relationship to the Constitution or the legal jurisdiction of the CDC.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.