House lawmakers grilled CDC and NIH representatives yesterday in a hearing on the ongoing Ebola crisis. Democrats on the committee repeated over and over that we would have been better able to handle Ebola if it weren't for budget cuts.
Even the NIH Director Francis Collins said recently, “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."
So have the CDC and NIH been starved for funding? Not so. In fact, their budgets have been increasing. From The Washington Examiner:
Neither CDC nor NIH has been starving for cash. Not only did CDC's overall budget increase in fiscal 2014 (by about 5 percent), but so did such individual items as immunization and respiratory diseases (up $66 million for 2014), public health preparedness and response (up $103 million or 8 percent), and emerging infectious diseases (up $49 million or 14 percent). NIH, even without taking into account its short-term boost in funding from the 2009 economic stimulus package, currently has an inflation-adjusted budget of around $30 billion, roughly 50 percent higher than what it had in 1994. It gets more money today (again, accounting for inflation) than at any time during the Clinton era.
And both departments have been good stewards of this additional taxpayer money, right? Right? Um...
CDC, for example, received $3 billion from a newly created Obamacare fund in the last five years, yet used only 6 percent of it for programs related to fighting communicable diseases. The agency spent three times as much on a program that subsidizes bike lanes and farmers' markets, which as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal observed this week “would do little to combat dangerous diseases like Ebola, SARS or anthrax.”
And NIH has funded studies that are either trivial or wholly unrelated to Americans' well-being. For example, it spent $550,000 on a study that concluded that heavy drinking in one's 30s is perceived as a sign of immaturity; $700,000 to discover that Vietnamese children are more likely to be physically inactive if they have no recess at school and no place to play; and $667,000 for a study that concluded that watching reruns of old sitcoms makes people feel good.
In addition, the CDC doled out $25 million in bonuses since 2007 despite claiming poverty, according to The Washington Times.
From 2010 to 2013, all federal wages were frozen because of budgetary constraints, but CDC officials found a way to pay themselves through bonuses, overtime, within-grade increases and promotion pay raises.
Donald Shriber, deputy director of policy and communication at the CDC’s Center for Global Health, received the highest bonus in the six years analyzed — $62,895 in 2011 — netting $242,595 in take-home pay in a year when wages were supposed to be frozen.
Remember this the next time Nancy Pelosi says, "The cupboard is bare. There is nothing left to cut."