Tuesday, February 07, 2006

No future in cancer or heart disease

I hope you weren't planning to get cancer or heart disease anytime soon. Better you should get bird flu. That's President George "Keep Us Safe" Bush's budget says. Because the budget provides more lots more guns and tax cuts (obligatory tag line: for the Rich, because it's true) and $2.3 for "pandemic preparedness," but slashes Medicare (medical aid to the elderly) by $35 billion over 5 years and reduces payments to providers and hospitals (pandemic preparedness in reverse?).

Oh, did I say that CDC would get a 9% cut? That gives yet another meaning to "pandemic preparedness." CDC Director and Administration Water Carrier Dr. Julie Gerberding stood up for public health in her usual courageous [sarcasm alert] fashion:
"We're doing the same thing others are doing," CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding told the news conference. "We have to look at opportunities for us to invest resources to have the best possible impact and at some programs that have been around for long time that may not be doing as well." (HealthDay)
What about the bird flu money? The budget is asking for $2.65 billion on top of the $3.3 billion Congress provided this year. The money is slated to provide vaccine for everyone (except that there is no bird flu vaccine yet, so no one knows how much it will cost or when it will be available or who will distribute and administer it, a cost, like batteries, "not included"); and for antivirals for a quarter of the population (I think I know which quarter it will be, too).

Who needs science? NIH will be cut 0.7 % (the first cut ever in its history), which in real terms is more like 4% over this year. Eighteen of the 19 institutes will get the axe, except for NIAID, which drives the bird flu and bioterrorism Welcome Wagon for Big Pharma. The National Cancer Institute gets whacked $4.75 billion (now you know where the vaccine and antiviral drug order money came from) $40 million [h/t Sandy for major correction], and the Heart Institute got hit by $21 million (putting it $40 million below its 2005 budget) (figures from New York Times).

I'm sure as scientists get a chance to go through the massive budget document they'll find a lot more appalling stuff.

As Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt remarked yesterday, "Budgets are an investment in the future." (HealthDay)

I guess we know what our future holds under the Republicans.