Anyone who places themselves on the right side of the political spectrum has no business advocating for the blind expansion of a government agency. But that’s exactly what former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich did in an op-ed for the New York Times on April 22, 2015, and he calls himself a conservative while doing it.
Titled “Double the NIH Budget,” Gingrich’s piece glorifies the bipartisan era of NIH expansion in 1994, when both Democrats and Republicans doubled the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget. The result: a welfare program for government workers along with the researchers and university system that pays for decade-long “science” involving macabre animal experimentation yielding little in useful results, all at taxpayer expense.
No thank you, sir.
This opinion piece is quite a switch from just last November – six months ago — when Gingrich posted on his Facebook page: “Perhaps the Left should take a look at how the #NIH is spending their current budget—funding projects like rabbit massages—before making another claim that budget cuts have prevented NIH scientists from discovering a cure for #Ebola”
Perhaps you should too. What changed, Mr. Speaker?
Now, let’s get back to the current position Mr. Gingrich is advocating.
A key argument Gingrich makes is that the cost of healthcare for the government has skyrocketed and so, consequently, should the cost to the taxpayers to find cures for the diseases draining the government bank account. But the idea that government needs to pick up the tab for healthcare simply goes unchallenged here. What kind of conservative idea champions expanding the responsibility of a government-operated healthcare system?
The government is a bloated, monstrous entity that wastes millions if not billions of taxpayer dollars each year. The NIH is certainly no exception and it should not be allocated a single cent more until a full external audit of its activities is completed.
Many people believe that the NIH is doing the noble work of finding cures for AIDS, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Maybe in some cases, but certainly not in all. At least $12B (47 cents on the dollar) is spent a year on perpetual, hideous animal experiments that yield virtually no useful results for the taxpayers subsidizing them. We are underwriting “science for its own sake.”
Don’t believe me about the success of such endeavors? The government’s own FDA reports that 92% of the animal-based drug experiments on animals don’t work in humans.
The example Gingrich gives is AIDS research. “The N.I.H. recently discovered a vaccine that appears to cure an AIDS-like virus in monkeys,” he writes.
Here’s how many times the NIH has said it is approaching some kind of breakthrough on AIDS (2013, 2000, 1999, 1994) — and that’s just a cursory search. We’ve been experimenting on animals while doing AIDS research since the ‘80s. Where is our AIDS vaccine? All we have is a lot of dead monkeys.
Here are some of the ways the NIH is currently spending the money it gets from taxpayers in the name of science:
(NIH Grant #5R01DA002486): $3.6M to Discover Menstruating Monkeys Shouldn’t Smoke Dope Feds spend up to $14.5 billion annually on animal testing
(NIH Grant #5R01HL055473) Wayne State University. For nearly a generation, at a cost of over 5 million tax dollars, Wayne State University has forced dogs to run on treadmills until they induce heart attacks. Wayne State University claims: “experiments will be repeated on a daily basis until we feel comfortable that we have obtained relevant control data.” Wayne State under fire for inhumane experiments on dogs
(Payouts #HD001106; HD001107; and MH002902. Associated projects: AA000214; HD064653; and AA014106). $31.9M Since 2007 For Forced Maternal Deprivation Experiments On Baby Monkeys. If NIH Hadn’t Spent So Much Money Abusing These Baby Monkeys, We Might Have An Ebola Vaccine By Now
Do any of these endeavors sound like something to cure what ails the American taxpayer? I don’t think so.
The former head of the NIH also thinks the government needs to stop conducting these absurd animal experiments. “We have moved away from studying human disease in humans,” he lamented. “We all drank the Kool-Aid on that one, me included.” With the ability to knock in or knock out any gene in a mouse—which “can’t sue us,” Dr. Elias Zerhouni quipped—researchers have over-relied on animal data. “The problem is that it hasn’t worked, and it’s time we stopped dancing around the problem….We need to refocus and adapt new methodologies for use in humans to understand disease biology in humans.”
And yet, the NIH is still paying out windfalls for these experiments.
Is there any oversight at the NIH? Not really. It is a self-policing entity just as other government agencies are. Even the Democrats are concerned. In December of 2014, four congressmen sent a letter to the NIH regarding their animal experimentation. “Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Sam Farr (D-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) – point out that ‘prominent experts . . . have raised questions about the scientific and ethical justification of these particular experiments.’ ”
The NIH did look into their concerns, of course, and surprisingly found nothing amiss. “Through its deliberations, ACUC (Animal Care and Use Committee) members reached the conclusion that the classification of the research protocol under the current pain/distress category C was, in fact, appropriate.”
Research grants are rubber-stamped year after year — there is no accountability as to the progress of these experiments, and there is no incentive to make progress as the slush fund never really dries up. The end result is universities getting large grants of taxpayer dollars and researchers publishing results in journals to get tenure. That’s the return on our investment.
“In another NIH-funded experiment, University of Wisconsin researchers were given funds to cut into the brains of cats, drill holes in their skulls, place wire coils in their eyes, deafening them and starving them to death. The researchers didn’t even justify the cat deafening based on its benefits to humans, instead saying that the NIH funds were meant to ‘keep up a productive publication record that ensures our constant funding for 30 years.’”
That was written by the researchers themselves to the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) about the U of Wisc. experiment that is deafening cats for whatever reason.
If you aren’t convinced of the massive waste yet, let’s turn to the salaries of NIH employees. Over 17,000 employees of the NIH earned more than $200,000 last year and 1,600 federal employees cleared $300,000 in base salary. Maybe we should re-think those kinds of paychecks if we want more money diverted into the development of medical cures before we put another burden on the taxpayer?
So no, Mr. Gingrich, we should absolutely not double the NIH budget, we should at the very least audit it. The NIH, like every other agency, is full of waste and that waste involves conducting ethically questionable research for very little human benefit. If this work is so important, let the private sector handle it as it is clear the government is not a good steward of either our money or our animals.
If you want to learn more about the ridiculous world of taxpayer-funded animal experimentation, watch this episode of the The Blaze’s For the Record , “Socialized Science.” Full disclosure: I was one of the producers of this episode.