NIH uses Ebola to hide mismanagement and increase funding

Francis-Collins

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health are pulling out all the stops to capitalize on the Ebola scare in the United States by wringing extra funding out of a Congress that is too panicked to do anything but throw money at the problem. Yesterday, my colleague, Aaron Gardner highlighted a television ad produced by Democrats which blames the Ebola death in Dallas on Republicans. This morning Erick showed how the GOP has funded CDC at higher levels than those requested by the administration.

The CDC has been the most blatant about turning death and fear into cold hard cash, but the NIH is now joining this budgetary equivalent of the Oklahoma Land Rush.

As the federal government frantically works to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and as it responds to a second diagnosis of the disease at home, one of the country’s top health officials says a vaccine likely would have already been discovered were it not for budget cuts.

Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said 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.”

There is a thin line between hyperbole and absolute balderdash and Dr. Collins crosses it. In the puff piece coordinated between NIH and Huffington Post, this helpful chart is presented:

The article correctly notes that compared to the high water mark of 2004, the NIH budget has only increased by $1.28 billion, that’s billion with a “b”. In actual purchasing power this is a cut in Washington terms. However, don’t be fooled, the technical, budgetary term for $29.31 billion is “crap load of money.”

The real question is what did the NIH do to combat Ebola over that same time horizon. Here we turn to unpublished data on NIH’s expenditures for …read more    

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