Vivek Murthy’s nomination to be U.S. Surgeon General (SG) is back, giving us a health policy version of Groundhog Day, only so much less endearing without Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Leave aside the perfectly legitimate question of why we need a Surgeon General’s office. At a time when the federal government literally cannot control itself, it seems preposterous to fund this $2.5 million per year obsolete, bureaucratic pothole. There is only one reason to fill this position now and that is to give voice to advocacy groups who want to undermine the Second Amendment, who persist in peddling the myth that gun violence is epidemic.
The SG has no statutory authority to do anything. Unlike the heads of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who oversee agencies that do actual work in health (perhaps a generous characterization of the CDC’s Keystone Cops Ebola response), the SG is just a microphone on a pulpit. Washington is full of these, and if Murthy had any humility at all, he would decline the nomination on the grounds that he has better things to do.
Murthy is earning renown among people hostile to the Second Amendment and the right of self defense, which will render him persona non grata to a majority of the population. Like all political celebrities, Murthy will have to dance with those who brung him, which means we can forget about him speaking up about health issues that actually matter to a majority of Americans. To what good end? More talk about the assault weapons ban? Been there, done that. Even the New York Times has weighed in and said it amounted to bupkus. Banning high capacity magazines? Go ahead, make my day. I can switch magazines without ever losing my target. The firearms ignorati will simply ignore the reality that smaller magazines make it easier to conceal weapons intended for evil purposes.
Let’s see if Vivek has the guts to get down to brass tacks: can he take on the American public which, by overwhelming numbers, is pro-gun rights and believes that a home with firearms in it is safer than one without? This is curiously consistent with the incontrovertible fact that gun crimes and homicides by firearm are in a 20-year long decline, coinciding with steep rise in gun ownership.
People have lost confidence in the federal government’s leadership on health because it all smacks of political motivation and officious condescension. Can he restore confidence without alienating half the population? If Vivek is going make it to the SG’s office, I can think of four things that are worthy of his time and attention far beyond guns.
Vaccination rates are falling and the infectious diseases we never imaged would again plague American children are returning. Maybe Vivek can have a vaccination throwdown with Mehmet Oz and the anti-vaccination charlatans from his TV show. Would Vivek Murthy, the Harvard- and Yale-educated physician-businessman, make it his mission to eradicate ignorance about preventable infectious diseases?
We are a chronically sleep deprived culture, which raises the risk of heart disease, cancer, depression, and work and auto accidents. Can Vivek Murthy, MD, help restore getting a good night’s sleep to what it once was … part of the routine of a thoughtful, independent, healthy adult? Or, would helping Americans find their personal dignity and independence through healthier choices simply be too much of a nightmare for people who crave obedience and dependence?
Five times as many Americans die on the highways as by firearm homicide and distracted driving is at least as big a problem now as impaired driving. Is Murthy willing to take on the cell phone, alcohol, restaurant, bar, and auto industries?
Let’s talk about an industry that is chewing up and spitting out Americans — the healthcare industry. We spend more than three trillion dollars per year on healthcare and about one third of it is wasted. Americans are being pursued by the Obamacare-empowered medical marketing machine like blades of grass before a lawn mower. Why leave generally healthy people alone when you can scare them witless and pick their pockets with a panoply of worthless screenings and risk factor assessments that produce far more false positives than lives or dollars saved?
Perhaps Murthy can explain to employees why the Affordable Care Act promotes intrusive, harmful workplace wellness programs that shame and punish people for their health failings and tell us why the administration relied upon deceptive Safeway executives to promote the idea that wellness works. Safeway didn’t even have a wellness program.
Finally, let’s talk about guns. What scares people about guns is primarily the prospect being a crime victim. Let’s get honest about guns and criminality. Let’s talk about race, socioeconomic status, too few intact families, illegal drugs, predators, gangs, recidivism, and legacies of violence passed from one generation. Let’s talk about irresponsible adults raising clones who will victimize others because it’s what they learned from mommy and daddy, if he was even around, and they don’t need a firearm to do it. Some of Murthy’s biggest supporters just released a report claiming that the most important factor in school shootings is a firearm brought to school from home by a kid seeking to settle a score. Let’s talk about why families and schools are failing to teach kids about civil discourse, anger control, and dispute resolution so that a child never needs to feel like a gun is even a foreseeable option.
As you can see, for someone actually committed to helping heal Americans, the list is indeed long. I don’t believe for a second that Vivek Murthy is interested in helping heal Americans. He is interested in miasmic boogey men. Because that’s what celebrities do; they cling to the ether of facts that don’t add up, no matter how much they pound the calculator keys.
If Vivek Murthy really wants to be a surgeon general for all Americans, I challenge him to speak at the NRA’s annual convention within one year of ascending to his throne.
Vik Khanna is a healthcare consultant, writer, and gun owner in St. Louis, MO. Vik is the author of the new e-book, Your Personal Affordable Care Act: How To Avoid Obamacare, available now in the Amazon Kindle Marketplace and at Smashwords.com.