Maybe Trump's Budget Cuts Will Force Lazy Coronavirus Patients To Get Well

Among the other terrible ideas in Donald Trump's proposed federal budget, the Great Man wants to slash budgets for the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, as well as for international health programs, because it's simply not America's job to keep you from getting sick, especially if you aren't even America. The administration has to pretend it's paying for those giant tax cuts, after all, and so it's proposing some belt-tightening, even as the new coronavirus, now officially called COVID-19, continues to spread. But don't worry! Administration flacks are happy to point out that as the Great Man slashes disease prevention and research budgets by billions of dollars, the White House does at least want to spend a few million bucks to react to new health emergencies, so that's something, at least. (No it isn't.)

The real good news is that there is pretty much zero chance that Democrats in the House will agree to the massive spending cuts, meaning we're likely to have another year of continuing resolutions to maintain funding at current levels, with maybe the occasional government shutdown threat if Trump decides that would be a good idea in an election year. So half a cheer for incompetence!

Domestically, the proposed budget would

cut the CDC's discretionary budget authority by $1.3 billion in fiscal 2021 compared with fiscal 2020 — a 19% cut —including $25 million from public health preparedness and response outlays.

That would clearly be an excellent thing, because "public health" sounds pretty socialist when you think about it. Private individuals should take responsibility for themselves like the Founders wanted, which means Americans should also pay for their own leeches and learn to do their own safe, effective bloodletting to avoid buildups of harmful humours.

Also, the budget includes some bafflegab about "efficiency," claiming that instead of preventing individual diseases, it would be hella cool to just give block grants to the states, and kill two diseased birds with one dollar:

The budget says chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes have common risk factors, and thus consolidating funds "can help magnify the public health impact."

Similarly, the budget would cut about $3 billion from the National Institutes of Health, which does biomedical research in its own labs and and also funds other research efforts around the country. It's the third year in a row Trump has sought to cut the NIH budget, because what are those scientists even doing, probably making lab rats smoke cigarettes when everything gives you cancer anyway.

As the most costly line item on the NIH's budget, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) would take the biggest hit in dollar terms under Trump's plan. Trump wants to cut the NCI's budget by $559 million. That works out to around a 9% reduction on the NCI's budget for 2020. Many other units face cuts of a comparable size, although Trump plans to go easier on some groups including the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

We can only assume Trump worries that orange dye causes hives. And in another fun cut, the budget seeks to zero out the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The budget announcement came just a few days after HHS Secretary Alex Azar "wished AHRQ, which started in 1999, a happy 20th anniversary in a "State of the Department" address.

Then there are the great big America First cuts, which would cut in half the amount the US spends on the UN's World Health Organization (WHO) — again, something previous Trump budgets called for as well. At a February 7 briefing, members of congressional appropriations committees tried to get some answers from administration officials about why they'd cut funding for the central international health agency in the middle of an international health emergency, but they mostly got bland assurances that everything would be just fine, because the US would still spend something on efforts to fight COVID-19.

The band-aids include $115 million in new spending for the US Agency for International Development's Global Health Security Program, to go specifically to dealing with the coronavirus, and a request for

$25 million for a so-called Emergency Reserve Fund, which, according to a State Department spokesperson, "can be quickly deployed to respond to pandemic outbreaks."

For some reason, international experts pointed out those amounts didn't really do much to offset the requested $3 billion in cuts to the WHO.

Liz Schrayer, the president and CEO of the nonprofit organization U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, told Foreign Policy in an email. "If there is anything the coronavirus reminds us, it's that a global threat anywhere is a global threat everywhere."

Maybe so, but that sounds a lot like the sort of thing a globalist would say.

An anonymous Senate aide told Foreign Policy that State Department and USAID officials were asked to explain their claims that the budget "asserts moral leadership through global health and humanitarian assistance" while sharply cutting both those things.

The response, the aide said, was "essentially silence. There was no substantive explanation, but everyone knows they are simply carrying out the orders of the White House."

"We said, 'Of all things to be doing in the midst of a global pandemic, you're cutting funds for global health,'" the aide added. "Their response was: 'We did what we could with the funds we were told we could spend.'"

Also too, there was codswallop about synergy and force multipliers from working with international partners and similar crap, according to a State Department spokesperson who probably wanted to go do something else, but at least it echoed the Great Man's insistence that the US is tired of other countries ripping us off.

In addition to the cuts to WHO, the budget would chop 58 percent from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, although other funds would be aimed at Donald Trump's own pet project to eliminate AIDS — and we can hardly wait until we find out which GOP donors end up getting that money, not that we're cynical. Funding would at least still be maintained for an international program to vaccinate children against common diseases, so that's nice.

But let's not forget, Trump is also raiding the military budget againto pay for WALL, so as long as nobody coughs too hard, we should all be safe. He's a germophobe, remember, so he cares very strongly about the public health.

[MedPage / WaPo / CNN / Foreign Policy]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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