During a Senate hearing in September, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, was asked whether sequestration had harmed our nation’s ability to fight disease threats. This was his answer.
“I have to tell you honestly it’s been a significant impact on us. It has both in an acute and a chronic, insidious way eroded our ability to respond in the way that I and my colleagues would like to see us be able to respond to these emerging threats. And in my institute particularly, that’s responsible for responding on the dime to an emerging infectious disease threat, this is particularly damaging.”
Mother Jones, which reported the story, added that “Sequestration required the NIH to cut its budget by 5 percent, a total of $1.55 billion in 2013. Cuts were applied across all of its programs, affecting every area of medical research.”
Who was responsible for sequestration? Tea Party Republicans are fond of saying that sequestration was President Obama’s idea, most recently as part of their effort to blame Democrats for the ebola situation in Dallas. Once again, they are trying to rewrite history while revealing their contempt for American voters.
We remember perfectly well that in 2011, Republicans were demanding huge budget cuts as the price to be paid for approving an increase in the debt ceiling. The Administration recognized that a default on the national debt would have been a disaster for the global economy, which was still recovering from the 2008 Bush-era financial crisis. The possibility of a sequester was put forward as a temporary stopgap to prevent a new crisis while a bi-partisan super-committee tried to work out a compromise. The sequester promised sharp cuts in both domestic and defense spending to create an incentive for the super-committee to complete the work which, ultimately, it failed to do.
Republicans, in other words, held the economy for ransom, and they are entirely responsible for the grave spending reductions that followed — the reductions that Dr. Fauci deplored.
If you’re worried about ebola or EnterovirusD68, the respiratory disease affecting children, voting for a Republican candidate for Congress would be a mistake. If you would like to see new means developed for fighting influenza, which in a bad year can kill 10,000 people or more, many of them seniors, voting for a Republican would be a mistake.
Only Democrats can be trusted to fund our nation’s health system at the levels needed to meet the challenges we face. And that’s one more reason to vote for Martha Robertson on November 4.