Republican Sequester Prevented Health Agencies From Stopping Ebola Spread

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Consequences happen as a result of a particular action or set of conditions, and heading into the midterm elections, it is certain politicians will be reminding Americans that elections have consequences in the coming weeks. Often, the results of an election may not bear fruit immediately, and although the consequence of teabagger Republicans taking control of the House and the nation’s purse-strings in the 2010 midterms were immediately evident, they are still and will continue wreaking havoc on the nation for several more years.

After the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a case of the Ebola virus was positively diagnosed this week, the outbreak of the virus took on an added air of urgency now that it is in America. Although there have been no fatalities in America, the virus has killed over 3,000 and sickened over 6,500 in Africa. America’s government pledged to send aid to West Africa to help stop Ebola from spreading even more, but there is a minor problem going forward that is a direct consequence of the 2010 midterm elections. There is little money for the agencies tasked with helping stop the virus due to the Republicans’ precious sequester the GOP House cannot possibly blame on anyone but their sick austerity economics.

Two weeks ago in the Senate, committees on Appropriations and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions convened a hearing to “discuss” what kind of resources are necessary to address, and stop the virus from spreading. According to the director of the CDC National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Dr. Beth Bell, the epidemic could have been stopped if more had been done sooner to build global health security.

Bell asserted that if the Republican sequester had not cut aid budgets and global health programs indiscriminately by $411 million, and USAID by $289 million, the epidemic could been reduced to a manageable situation if not stopped altogether. Bell said, “If even modest investments had been made to build a public health infrastructure in West Africa previously, the current Ebola epidemic could have been detected earlier, and it could have been identified and contained. This Ebola epidemic shows that any vulnerability could have widespread impact if not stopped at the source.” Now it has the possibility of impacting Americans.

Despite warnings from economic experts and myriad agencies across the government, Republicans parlayed their fear-mongering about deficits, debt, and “foolish, wasteful, out-of-control, and unnecessary spending” into a devastating sequester that put a major dent in the CDC’s budget that is bearing exactly the fruit experts warned Republicans about. NIH representative Anthony Fauci reiterated Bell’s conclusion and told the committees, “honestly it’s (the sequester) 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.”

The Republicans’ precious sequester required the NIH to cut its budget by $1.55 billion in 2013 across the board that had the desired result of affecting every area of medical research within the agency. Bell agreed with Fauci that her department is leading the U.S. intervention in West Africa, but complained the agency is being hamstrung by a $13 million sequester cut that a minuscule increase in 2014 and 2015 is not going to make up in time to effectively stop the virus’s inevitable spread.

In spite of the daunting, and woefully underfunded, task of stopping “the Ebola virus dead in its tracks,” the CDC and NIH have pledged to everything in their power to get it under control. The CDC Director said a month ago that “We know how to stop this outbreak. There is a window of opportunity to tamp this down-the challenge is to scale up the massive response needed.” That was weeks ago and the consequence of not having funding to “tamp this down with a massive response” is that Ebola spread and made its appearance in America. If the various agencies had not had their funding slashed by the Republicans’ sequester, the outbreak may have been contained to a small area of West Africa and stopped it in its tracks.

This is not the first negative consequence of Republicans’ austerity and sequester cuts. Last week the head of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson, said cuts due to the sequester had hurt staffing and had the agency “down 500 employees.” Republicans claimed the cuts were necessary to rein in spending across the board and subsequently have now affected Veterans, the EPA, IRS, Secret Service, and all national health agencies responsible for stopping real threats like an infectious disease running rampant throughout the population.

However, Republicans certainly know how to find money to spend on their “high priorities” such as corporate tax cuts, oil and pharmaceutical subsidies, and weapons systems the Pentagon does not want, but for something as critical as embassy security, it was prudent to rein in spending and make drastic cuts. Remember, early in 2011 then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begged House Republicans for increased funding for embassy security that led Republicans to promptly make $112 and then $331 million in cuts.

Utah Republican Representative Jason Chavitz boasted that Republicans made the right choice even after the attacks on an outpost in Benghazi and said, “When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.” Republicans opted for the difficult choice of giving billions in oil subsidies, corporate tax cuts, and Bush-era tax cuts for the rich and cut funding for embassy security that likely cost four American diplomats their lives.

It is important for Americans to remember that the Republicans rejected any proposal to restructure the sequester to prevent devastating cuts to agencies like the Veterans Administration, NIH, Secret Service, and the CDC, but they did not and the negative consequences were felt immediately at the White House and continue today with a dangerous Ebola virus outbreak that could have “been stopped in its tracks” if funding had not been slashed.

Republicans, and their teabagger cohort came into the House in 2011 with no measured approach to rein in the deficit and just wanted to slash and burn spending. Americans have not yet seen the end of the sequester damage because this is only the second year of a ten year austerity disaster Republicans have no intent of stopping regardless the consequences.

Sadly, it is far too late to reverse the negative austerity effects that are already in place, and Republicans have already promised they will go after everything in the federal government if they win a majority in the Senate. Tragically, even if Democrats maintain the Senate, Republicans will still control the House, and the nation’s purse strings, and they have indicated they have no intent, and are in no mood, to change their austerity habit regardless of the imminent danger to the American people, and according to Speaker John Boehner, Republicans have a plan for more drastic cuts in 2015. Elections have consequences and Americans will experience the negative impacts of the 2010 midterms for at least a decade if not a generation.




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