It's not like we didn't warn and warn and warn about austerity and its cost. Reams have been written about why funding medical research at the National Institute of Health is a prudent investment in the future, but that didn't stop Republican austerity fetishists from cutting it anyway.
Sam Stein at the Huffington Post:
Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said that a decade of stagnant spending has "slowed down" research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. As a result, he said, the international community has been left playing catch-up on a potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe.
"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."
It's not just the production of a vaccine that has been hampered by money shortfalls. Collins also said that some therapeutics to fight Ebola "were on a slower track than would've been ideal, or that would have happened if we had been on a stable research support trajectory."
"We would have been a year or two ahead of where we are, which would have made all the difference," he said.
Speaking from NIH's headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, the typically upbeat Collins was somber when discussing efforts to control the Ebola epidemic. His days are now spent almost exclusively on the disease. But even after months of painstaking work, a breakthrough doesn't seem on the immediate horizon.
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.
So the next time the Fox News wankers think it's a good idea to whine about how Obama is endangering their health, please go to Sam's article and shovel that graph in front of them. The next time some wingnut decides to claim Obama wants to turn the US into Africa, remind them that their obsession with balanced budgets means we don't get the quality health research and breakthroughs that save people from dying from a horrible virus.
Diseases like Ebola are something we have the ability and capacity to deal with, if Congress can ever get off their ass and actually pay for the research.