Friday, October 24, 2014

Never Waste a Crisis

"You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before"            
                                                                                                                                               ~Rahm Emanuel, former Obama Chief of Staff

Presuming that you have not been living in a cave during this past month (and if so, hopefully, it wasn't in a bat cave in Kenya),  you cannot have possibly missed the ubiquitous media discussions about the CDC, NIH, and Ebola. You may have even watched the recent political television commercial, "Republican Cuts Kill" produced by Agenda Project, a New York City-based progressive political non-profit group. You just might get the not-so-subtle hint that Republicans are solely responsible for most of the world's evils (and from the tone of the video, after they spend time denying crucial funding for the CDC & NIH, they probably eat babies in their leisure time).  

As a student of politics, I'll admit it's a rather impressive video, with powerful, heart-breaking images. It gives the appearance that the homework has been done, and ties it all together so nicely at the end, with a call to action: Vote.  Project Agenda has produced a convincing and poignant video. It's also extraordinarily deceitful and misleading.

The fact is that the National Institute of Health's budget more than doubled between the years of 1996 and 2005 from $14.8 to $32.4 billion. After the stimulus bill, NIH spending shot up to $36.1 billion. The Centers for Disease Control's budget follows a similar pattern. CDC's annual budget in 1996 was $3.1 million, skyrocketing to a high of $7.5 billion in 2010. The CDC's 2014 budget has been tempered to $6.8 billion, but still quite a chunk of change.


Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, stated, '"Aid that a decade of stagnant spending has "slowed down" research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. As a result, he said, the international community has been left playing catch-up on a potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe. NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It's not like we suddenly woke up and thought, 'Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'" Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. "Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would've gone through clinical trials and would have been ready."'

Now for the absurd things that have been largely unreported and ignored by most in the media.  National Review's article, "The CDC's Laughable Pet Project"  reports a colossal waste of the additional funding. Among the various projects National Review reports that the NIH & CDC paid for: 

  • "The new Arlen Specter Headquarters (named after the chairman of the CDC’s appropriations committee) cost $110 million — including $10 million for furniture alone — a cost of $12,000 per employee. The nearby fitness center included $200,000 for light-shows, saunas, and zero-gravity “mood chairs” — all free for employees on CDC’s Atlanta campus."

  • $1.7 million spent to make sure "Hollywood's portrayals of medical portrayals on TV shows are accurate."

  • A CDC-funded Stop AIDS Project in San Francisco included a four-part erotic-writing workshop, “practical tips for friendly relations” with prostitutes, and a “bar night” for HIV-positive men. 

  • $667,000 for a study on the health benefits of rerun television.

  • $1 million on the sexual proclivities of fruit flies

  • The agency also spent $117,000 in taxpayers' grant dollars to discover that most chimpanzees are right-handed
  • Other winners of NIH grants consumed $325,000 to learn that marriages are happier when wives calm down more quickly during arguments with their husbands.
  •  $257,000 to make an online game as a companion to first lady Michelle Obama's White House garden. 
  • $939,000 to find out that male fruit flies prefer to romance younger females because the girl-flies' hormone levels drop over time.
  • $550,000 to determine that heavy drinking by people in their 30's can lead to feelings of immaturity.
  • Researchers at the University of Kentucky were given $181,000 to study how cocaine 'enhanced' the sex drive of the Japanese quail. 
  • Another NIH project included $2.4 million to develop 'origami' condoms designed with Japanese folding paper in mind.

During a time of alleged austerity and tight budgets (all federal employee's wages were supposedly frozen between 2010 and 2013), there were still some creative ways to dole out $25 million dollars in bonuses to certain elites at the CDC.  Think about the roughly $7 billion dollars per year spent at the CDC over the last few years, and then we are told that "Republican Cuts Kill."  Well, you know what else kills? Stupidity. Precious resources have been squandered on trivial pet projects at the expense of critical research that could save lives during a pandemic. Stupidity. Unfortunately, those in charge who allowed the gross mismanagement of tax money will likely never be held accountable.  

Progressive groups like the Agenda Project can put together a campaign to assign blame and quickly politicize the Ebola crisis, essentially using volatile situations and hot button issues to further their own political goals. They are good at distilling a potential crisis and turning it into a means to further their agenda. 

Americans need to see beyond the propaganda. Duplicitous pundits can spin things in such a way that can give primate scat the appearance of fine European chocolates.  Take the time to dig a little further and get the facts. Truth should win every time, but we must be courageous enough to withstand the adversarial rhetoric when asking legitimate questions. Get past the smoke and mirrors, and you will discover a bureaucratic government that has not only allowed gross mismanagement and frivolous spending on pet projects, but propagated it. No doubt some U.S. officials are more concerned about avoiding political blow back and saving their own backsides, than how such a mess was permitted in the first place.  If there was competent leadership at these government agencies, the United States wouldn't seem so unprepared for Ebola and other potential pandemic viruses. The red herring of 'lack of funding' (insert: by a certain, evil party in Congress) makes for a much easier and sensational scapegoat.  Left-wing groups can repeat falsehoods enough times, and soon myths become facts in some people's minds.    

Maybe I'm just a good 'ole frugal and simple-minded Hoosier. Call me provincial, but it frustrates me to no end to read about abuse and mismanagement of hard-earned American tax money which we regularly and willing fork over to Uncle Sam, for ludicrous pet projects which have no merit or value. Worse, the diverted funds never went to the things that could prove to be life-sustaining during a national crisis. This wasted money is gone, forever. These precious resources should have been responsibly allocated in accordance with the NIH & CDC's mission to truly ensure the health & safety of our fellow citizens.  Let someone who believes studying why monkeys fling their dung, or creating designer origami condoms to be of such national importance, fund it on their own darn dime!

Meanwhile, beware of scary videos that simplistically assign blame, and conveniently fail to mention the rest of the story. It's what they don't say that says the most. 


1 comment:

  1. Some things don't change. Reminds me of Mark Twain's words: "A lie can go 'round the world before truth gets its pants on."
    Yeah, someone did their homework. thanks Dave.


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I work for a Community-Based, Not-for-Profit agency. I have worked in the disability field for over twenty-five years. I am the father of two boys, and have been married to my teenage sweet-heart for 23 years. I live and work in the same town where I was born & raised.
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