Actions have consequences and political actions can have non-political, and serious, consequences. The budget sequester is one such political action that has had a serious effect on our ability to fight Ebola. That’s right, the Teabagger Republicans who forced the sequester to go into effect may be at least partly responsible for how out of control the epidemic is in West Africa, and for its travel here.
Politicus USA highlighted a conversation that occurred during a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee. During the hearing Dr. Beth Bell, director of the National Center for Infectious and Zoonotic Diseases at the CDC said that if the sequester had not cut our aid budgets and USAID by a total of nearly $700 million, we might have had the resources to stop the spread of Ebola before it even became a major epidemic.
Yesterday the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. died of the illness in Dallas. Thomas Eric Duncan contracted the disease in his home country of Liberia, but traveled back to the U.S. before he started showing symptoms before he even knew he was infected.
As if that’s not bad enough, Duncan’s family remains in quarantine while dozens of other people are under close watch and Sgt. Michael Monnig of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office had to get tested for the virus himself. The Huffington Post is reporting that he tested negative and has no symptoms consistent with Ebola. Monnig had to enter Duncan’s apartment to get the quarantine order signed but wasn’t wearing protective gear.
While health officials continue to warn that there are diseases of far more immediate concern here than Ebola, the fact remains that if we’d had sufficient funding for the aid West Africa needs, we might have detected the Ebola epidemic sooner and been able to stop it quicker, before the disease made it back here to the U.S.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) asked Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health about how the sequester has affected their ability to fight the Ebola epidemic. Dr. Fauci responded with:
“I’d have to tell you honestly it’s been a significant impact on us, as you well know, and I know you’ve been fighting for us for a long period of time. Our budget has been flat since the end of the doubling in 2003, with the two-plus percent inflationary index that over a ten-year period, we’ve lost about 22 percent in our purchasing power. That was the left hook. The right cross was the sequestration that came in and pulled out a significant amount of money. […] When you shrink the budget or don’t even get an inflationary increase, all of that starts to whittle away. […] In my institute particularly, that’s responsible for responding on the dime to an emerging disease threat. This is particularly damaging.”
While many conservatives have been quick to blame Obama for the sequester taking effect, the truth is that the Party of “No” (read: the GOP) allowed the sequester to take effect by refusing to budge on any federal budget that did anything other than cut spending. Since the budget committees couldn’t reach a deal that would nullify the sequester, it stood.
The sequester has been good for the deficit but not for other things, as noted in the hearing. We could have prevented this much sooner had the Grand Ol’ Party of No not been more concerned about cutting federal spending than putting the health and well-being of our citizens in jeopardy with their irresponsible cuts.
h/t Politicus USA
Image credit: Cynthia Goldsmith, Centers for Disease Control, via Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image.