Are “Budget Cuts” Responsible for the Ebola Outbreak?

A syringe and vile sit on a table together

Politicians are blaming each other for the Ebola virus. All of them assume that government — and only government — can solve such problems. Sure, they agree that ultimately solutions come from science; but without government, there would be no science.

At least, that’s the unstated claim nobody ever seems to question.

Specifically, Democrats are blaming Republicans for the spread of the Ebola virus. and The Washington Times report:

“House Republicans’ priorities aren’t just out-of-touch, they’re dangerous,” said Rep. Steve Israel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to the Times.

Israel, a New York Democrat, pointed to a vote in 2011 when the GOP took control of the House that made cuts to CDC funding.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, said the budget sequesters, which had been agreed on by both parties, were responsible for reducing the amount of funds going to the CDC, the Times reported.

Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Robert Casey said Monday there had been “chronic underfunding” of initiatives that would have prepared hospitals to cope with an Ebola epidemic and called for “drastic cuts” to be reversed…

…Meanwhile, Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, said that without the budget cuts, his agency “probably would have had a vaccine” by now, the Times reported.

First of all, Republicans did not single out Ebola as a virus not to research. Ebola is not a politically charged virus. It does not pose risks for only certain groups, and everyone is at risk if it spreads.

Secondly, Democrats control the White House and the U.S. Senate. For all practical purposes, they preside over nearly all of the government, and they certainly control the agenda.

Budget cutting is not proposed by anyone other than the minority Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. The Tea Party has lost every major political battle since becoming an influence in the House of Representatives. To say that the Tea Party’s “budget cuts” are responsible for the lack of an Ebola vaccine assumes that we haven’t been raising the debt ceiling and raising government spending for the last five years. But we have. The so-called “sequestration” was a dishonest compromise designed to make it look like the federal government is at least cutting the rate of increase in government spending, although it’s not even doing that.

The Tea Party has no influence whatsoever in the White House or Senate leadership. Tea Party Republicans have been routinely criticized for their proposals by the Republican Speaker of the House, who probably agrees with Obama more than with those in the Tea Party proposing meaningful and serious budget cuts.

The greater danger lies not in the fact that government spends too little; government spending is higher, and more in the red, than any government (by far) in all of human history. Given unfunded entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, we are in debt virtually into infinity, on our current course. Government, as Frederic Bastiat once said, is the “great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” Fictions eventually reveal themselves for what they are.

With regard to Ebola, the greatest danger lies in the fact that we all expect government to prevent and quickly resolve the spread of this disease. Now there’s some fiction for you.

It’s interesting. We don’t expect the federal government to competently do much of anything else. When the post office stays in the red; or the Obamacare website repeatedly crashes; or the “cash for clunkers” program implodes; or the government shuts down all its “nonessential” services and nobody notices … we don’t ever seem surprised.

Yet we somehow think that same federal government will be able to (1) predict, with accuracy, precisely which health threat will arise, how bad it will be, and when — all ahead of time; and (2) once that health threat arises, to be able to resolve the problem immediately, in Star Trek-style, only without the tension and the effort.

I blame both Democrats and Repbulicans, along with everyone who supports them, for continuing to foster the evasive illusion that government can really prevent anything like Ebola. It gives the uncritical among us an unfounded, false sense of security bordering on the absurd.

Without science, there would be nothing for the government to resolve. And without a private marketplace to produce, for a profit, the things required to combat disease — things such as medication, vaccines and surgeries — there would be nothing for the government to even talk about, in the first place.

Aside from being a way to restrain criminals, what’s so great about a government?

Third-world countries like Liberia have governments. The U.N. and other agencies pour money into those governments, in fact, often with U.S. tax dollars in the form of foreign aid.

You’d think that if government and other people’s money were the main answer, that these diseases would not be so widespread in these countries. Yet they are. AIDS, while a tragic illness for many in the United States and the Western world, was a social catastrophe in poor countries. Ebola already is shaping up to be a third-world catastrophe, regardless of what ends up happening with Ebola in more advanced countries.

Government and other people’s money exist in countries with the catastrophes. Yet they’re not enough to solve the problem. What warrants all this blind trust and faith in government?

As for the doctors who are employed in our federal agencies: Why does nobody consider the source? If a physician paid by a private company says something that serves the company’s financial interests, we might question that physician’s integrity or authenticity. It’s fair to ask, “Is he saying this because he was paid; or is he saying it because it’s really true?”

Yet if a physician works for a federal agency whose primary job is to get more money and more power all the time, it doesn’t even occur to most of us to question that physician’s reliability, and never his integrity.

If it’s in the federal sector, we trust blindly. If it’s in the private, for-profit sector — well, then, anyone’s claim is dead on arrival.

This makes no sense, given the fact that everything worthwhile that does happen comes from the private sector of science (ideally, private and non-politicized science) and the for-profit world.

It’s this kind of biased and unthinking mentality that’s dangerous, not the unwillingness to spend more and more money all the time on agencies who will never resolve the problem.


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