Ebola Politics On The Left

Alex Rogers flags the fear-mongering ad seen above, which tries to make political hay out of the Ebola crisis by blaming the lack of preparedness on budget cuts supported by Republicans:

Erica Payne, the producer of the ad and president of the Agenda Project Action Fund, blamed the Ebola crisis wholly on the Republican Party. “I think any Republican who attempts to chalk this ad up to politics is a Republican who is too afraid to examine the results of his of her actions and the very real consequences that they have,” she said. “They have developed a governing philosophy that is so fanatically anti-investment that they literally have at their doorstop death. There is no exaggeration in this.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH, tells Sam Stein that Ebola research has been hampered by stagnant funding over the past decade:

“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 on Friday. “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.” …

Money, or rather the lack of it, is a big part of the problem. NIH’s purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency’s budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion — barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation. The situation is even more pronounced at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a subdivision of NIH, where the budget has fallen from $4.30 billion in FY 2004 to $4.25 billion in FY 2013.

But Nick Gillespie doesn’t buy that the NIH and other government health agencies are hurting for money:

According to its budget documents, the NIH got about $23 billion in fiscal 2002 (George W. Bush’s first budget year), a figure that rose to $30.2 billion in 2009 (his last budget year) before peaking at $31 billion in 2010. It dipped a bit from then and came to $30.1 billion in 2014, which is about the same amount the NIH requested in President Obama’s 2015 budget plan.

You can argue that the United States needs to be constantly and massively increasing its spending on everything and that every time spending doesn’t go up in a lockstep fashion (and faster than inflation, as it did throughout the Bush years) that you’re killing people. You can also argue that the topline budget figures for various agencies don’t matter, but then you’re really talking about the ways in which bureaucracies, especially in the budget sector, misallocate resources. The one thing you really can’t do is say that the federal government, which is not actually controlled by the Republicans (just saying), has been slashing its spending on anything.

Noah Rothman adds:

There are some conservatives who have convinced themselves that the federal government is to blame for the spread of Ebola to the United States. A few conspiratorial types insist that Washington is indifferent to the spread of this deadly bug to America, despite the fact that this claim defies Hanlon’s razor and there is no evidence to support it. There is, however, sufficient evidence to suggest the federal agencies responsible for preventing a public health crisis – from medical care, to transportation, to oversight – are simply too unwieldy and prone to human error to take the necessary precautions which might have prevented Ebola’s spread across the Atlantic. That is a debatable point, but it is apparently so dangerous to the left that they are mounting a counteroffensive.