Monday, November 12, 2001

Is Urban Sprawl a Disease?

I have a lot of friends at the CDC, intelligent and hardworking people all. None of them (to my knowledge) are at a policy-making level: Thus, I hope they will remain my friends after this. One of them wrote a letter to the local newspaper (link has expired):
Starting with the Reagan era the federal employees, were tasked to do "more with less." Over the years our missions have steadily increased, even as our employee base has steadily decreased. We have continued to do "more with less."

Now we are in a time of national crisis. Suddenly the public is crying for the federal government to protect them from terrorists in the skies and diseases on the ground. They want "more."

There isn't any more. Years of cutting back has produced the size government that the taxpayers demanded, and it doesn't have the resources to take on additional workloads.

The logical response to seeing an agency's budget trimmed would be for that agency to focus on its core business, do the work for which it was created, and avoid diluting its resources on tangental or irrelevant issues. This the CDC has failed to do. Walter Olson at
The Centers for Disease Control were established to combat outbreaks of infectious disease, but have been steadily expanded and politicized to the point where the agency has recently crusaded against 'epidemics' of gun ownership, tobacco use and domestic violence. The newest initiative of agency officials? A joint effort with the Sierra Club to put over the notion that housing sprawl is a public health risk, in part because suburbanites don't get exercise walking to shops or work the way many city dwellers do.
Regrettable, perhaps. The CDC's business? No. As Virginia Postrel (who cites the Olson article) continues:
Every penny the CDC spends on telling people not to smoke, drink, eat too much, own guns, live in the suburbs, or otherwise how to live should be zeroed out of their budget and given to the folks at Ft. Detrick, who don't confuse behavior and disease.
Now that the CDC is being criticized for its response to the anthrax scare, asking for more of our money to rebuild its ability to perform this pesky Disease Control thing, will anyone ask if maybe now is a bad time for the CDC to attack urban sprawl?

[Later: *Sigh* Sometimes I get tired of finding out that InstaPundit was there first. "Bureaucratic mission-creep", Dr Reynolds calls it, and I don't think I can improve on that.]

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