The PJ Tatler

No, the Republicans Did Not Cut the NIH Budget

Democrats and some members of the media allege that Republicans are to blame for what may turn into an Ebola outbreak, because they supposedly cut funding for the National Institutes of Health.

That is not true, and every media member who says otherwise must get their facts straight. Here is the brief history of NIH funding, according to the Congressional Research Service. (h/t Powerline)

Attached [at the link] is a CRS analysis of the actual NIH budget for the last several years in inflation adjusted (real) dollars. It’s worth noting that after the Republican takeover in ’94, the NIH budget rose until the Dems took over Congress in 2006. The Pelosi/Reid congress was the first to flatline the NIH budget in nominal dollars.

Some will leap from that to blame Bush, as he was still president after 2006. Presidents don’t write and pass budgets; Congress does. At worst, the NIH budget flatline was bi-partisan. There are lots of bad things that enjoy the veneer of bi-partisanship.

I’m speculating here, but we may be seeing one of the fundamental differences between the two parties at work. Republicans tend to oppose most government spending, but tend to favor government spending on security-related issues. Defense and disease-prep and protection fall under that description. Democrats tend to favor increasing spending on social programs, and tend to take those increases in two ways — by raising taxes, or by cutting other areas of the budget. Defense is usually the first place that Democrats look to cut.

In addition to the above, it was the Obama administration that scuttled Bush-era CDC quarantine regulations that were aimed at diseases like avian flu and Ebola. The USA Today reported at the time, in 2010 (when Democrats still controlled all of Washington):

The Obama administration has quietly scrapped plans to enact sweeping new federal quarantine regulations that theCenters for Disease Control and Preventiontouted four years ago as critical to protecting Americans from dangerous diseases spread by travelers.

The regulations, proposed in 2005 during the Bush administration amid fears of avian flu, would have given the federal government additional powers to detain sick airline passengers and those exposed to certain diseases. They also would have expanded requirements for airlines to report ill passengers to the CDC and mandated that airlines collect and maintain contact information for fliers in case they later needed to be traced as part of an investigation into an outbreak.

The ACLU was happy about the scuttling at the time.

Here’s a fun time capsule from that story.

Jennifer Nuzzo, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Center for Biosecurity, said the rapid worldwide spread of swine flu showed flaws in the proposed regulations’ premise.

“They probably learned during H1N1 that this hope of preventing diseases from entering the country by stationing people at airports is unrealistic,” she said.

Funny, stationing more people at airports is exactly what the government is doing now.

Since taking power in 2006, Democrats have cut two areas of government spending that have become relevant now — NIH and the Pentagon — while increasing social spending in other areas. Flatlining a budget is a “cut” in Washington-speak. Obviously, one cannot then directly blame Democrats for both Ebola and the rise of ISIS solely because of those cuts. In the case of ISIS, Obama’s politically-driven withdrawal of American forces from Iraq has had quite a lot to do with the rise of ISIS. Drawing a red line over Syria’s WMD and then not enforcing it has also eroded American authority.

But you shouldn’t kid yourself about how the media would draw bright red lines between those budget cuts and the current state of the world if the Republicans had held power during those years.

In fact, don’t be shocked if the media wait until after the elections, when Republicans re-take the Senate, and then start blaming them for the cuts anyway.