NIH director turns Ebola into political football; Twitter explodes

NIH director turns Ebola into political football; Twitter explodes
Image source: The Atlantic

During an interview published Sunday evening, the director of the National Institutes of Health, which conducts bio-medical research and funds independent research, politicized the lack of an Ebola vaccine–he claimed it was all due to budget cuts.

His assertion, however, bears little semblance to reality.

The Huffington Post reported:

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. “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.”

NIH funding has seen modest increases for most of the last 10 fiscal years, with the notable exception of 2013, when the entire federal government saw modest budget cuts due to sequestration, according to the agency’s website.

However, NIHs’ budget doubled during the five-year period beginning 1999 to 2003, at the request of Senate Republicans, according to the Office of Legislative Policy and Analysis. The doubling process raised NIHs’ 1998 $13.612 billion base level to $27.165 billion by 2003.

The Office of Legislative Policy and Analysis offered this background to the bill authorizing NIHs’ enormous budget hike:

The effort to double the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget began as a movement among Senate Republicans and has had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate since the first session of the 105th Congress. Based on the substantial increases provided to NIH in fiscal years (FYs) 1999 through 2002, the effort created a climate supportive of the move to double the NIH budget to a level of $27.221 billion by 2003, and has been responsible for the increases provided in the appropriation measures for NIH. NIH’s FY 1999 appropriation was an unprecedented 15-percent increase, or a $2.03 billion increase, over the FY 1998 level, which was claimed by the Chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education as the first installment in doubling NIH’s budget by 2003.

Significantly, the NIH began its Ebola research in 2001, in the middle of their five-year budget doubling period.

Nonetheless, Democrats were only too happy to use the Collins interview to point fingers at the GOP, according to Twitchy. Pro-Obama PAC advisor and CNN commentator Paul Begala tweeted:

Many other liberals jumped on Begala’s bandwagon, including Democratic strategist and frequent MSNBC guest Donna Brazile.

But it didn’t take long before conservative Prudence Paine noted that the Obama administration has wasted a huge amount of money on something that shouldn’t have cost nearly as much as it did–and it continues to do so.

Other Twitter users looked to the NIHs’ own spending habits, and found plenty of “extra money” for Ebola research. Here are a few examples:

And an anesthesiologist and medical researcher with the Twitter handle SpeepDoctorJoe chided Collins for even bringing politics into the picture:

Bike lanes? Origami rabbit condoms? Money to China and obese lesbians? They all sound like even more politicizing by the National Institutes of Health–as well as a colossal waste of money. Both have come to be hallmarks of the Obama administration

Check out more tweets on this at Twitchy.

Michael Dorstewitz

Michael Dorstewitz

Michael Dorstewitz is a recovering Michigan trial lawyer and former research vessel deck officer. He has written extensively for BizPac Review.


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