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Budget Cuts and Ebola Research: Right Wing Fact and Fiction

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In an article produced by and for the faithful followers of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, titled Here's Why Budget Cuts Have Nothing to Do with Developing an Ebola Vaccine, the arguments included some really pathetic reasoning.

The article was a response to NIH Director Francis Collins' comment in an interview that cuts to his agency's budget prevented researchers from developing an Ebola vaccine. The article attempted to show all of the reasons why the undisputed funding cuts could not have been responsible for our failure to more quickly contain the spread of Ebola this year.

Only one cited "reason" held any serious credibility. That was the fact that other infectious disease research received preferential treatment and funding. AIDS, for example, "warranted increased attention, research and funding from the NIH," and increases in funding might not have necessarily increased Ebola research in light of other programs deemed more life threatening at the time.

This is a decent point, but unfortunately it is the only one in the entire article. And while it does make its point, it also ignores the obvious fact that, despite perhaps being somewhat limited in comparison, Ebola research WAS IN PROGRESS before the budget cuts.

Other arguments were down right laughable. Yet followers of the Right Wing talking points are eager to soak this kind of crap up like sponges in a puddle.

1. More federal funding likely would not have led to the creation of a vaccine because pharmaceutical companies had little incentive to produce one. This obviously ignores the fact that funding, itself, is an incentive. In fact, it is the primary incentive of private corporate entities like pharmaceutical companies.

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2. In recent years "steady funding has been available" for vaccine-creation programs, which usually take many years to be productive. This straw man argument ignores the fact that some funding is not necessarily sufficient funding. No one claimed there had been no funds available. There just haven't been enough to go around since the GOP cuts.

3. Ebola is "absent from the relevant strategic plan" produced by the National Institutes of Health. And no solicitations for research on Ebola have been included in recent request for research partners. Well, duh. Guess what the results of budget cuts usually include. That's right. Budget cuts equal elimination of programmatic objectives.

4. The NIH has funded some questionable initiatives and research studies over the years. And forgetting Ebola entirely for a moment (because we have an agenda to tout), for these right wingers, this is a "good reason" to claim increased funding is in general a bad idea. Why complain about one program being cut when you have all these questionable ones continuing to receive funds?

No one is saying all programs are of equal value. And no one is saying that Ebola research funding was dropped by choice when others could have been dropped instead. The fact that the far more expensive Ebola research was dropped might be related to the fact that they were forced to cut A LOT OF MONEY. Cutting ten programs like the research on why lesbians tend to be more overweight than gay men, or on the sex lives of fruit flies, would still not have produced sufficient savings to continue the Ebola research.

The article devolved into rants about entitlement programs, and the conclusion that they should anticipate further cuts as the economy adapts to greater expenditure on health care, retirement benefits, and increasing interest payments on the national debt. No mention was made, of course, about the fact that health care costs are actually projected to come down as a result of Obamacare. And no mention was made of how far the deficit has been reduced by the current administration. These things were obviously less attractive to the desired agenda and talking points. They were undesirable with respect to the fictional proposal that the budget cuts could not possibly have had a negative effect on Ebola research.

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Dan Cooper is an award winning freelance writer/editor living in the Texas Hill Country. He has worked in news and sports journalism and is currently working on several projects, including an autobiography and the editing of a California Gold Rush (more...)

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