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Opinion: 'Trump’s budget attacks science, medical research and disease prevention'

Beyond the moral atrocities, Trump’s budget is not even competent from a technical perspective, writes Julien Mercille.

Julien Mercille Associate professor, UCD

DO YOU KNOW the expression “to talk left, but walk right”?

It refers to a politician who gives left-leaning populist speeches to please the electorate with all sorts of promises, but in reality, enacts policies that do exactly the opposite: cutting services, benefitting corporations, and taking what little people have away from them.

This is exactly what Trump’s budget does, as announced this week.

$3.6 trillion of cuts

It outlines $3.6 trillion of cuts over the next decade, including to education and health care, but still manages to boost military spending. In other words, it’s an austerity budget, as Reuters noted.

The military is Trump’s priority as usual and gets a 10% increase for next year, or $52 billion extra. Virtually everything else gets slashed. Trump’s budget attacks science, medical research and disease prevention.

Just look at the list of proposed cuts.

Proposed cuts 

Next year, the National Cancer Institute is slated for a $1 billion cut, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute will get a $575 million cut, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will have their budget reduced by $838 million.

Overall, the National Institute of Health funding will drop from $31.8 billion to $26 billion. On top of that, the National Science Foundation will absorb a $776 million reduction, or 11%. And the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would be cut by 20% or more for the next two years.

This programme currently insures 5.6 million children in lower-working class families. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will get a 31% cut, or nearly $2 billion, and could see its staff reduced by 3,000 from 15,000.

These cuts will kill people 

And the list goes on. Trump’s budget cuts $1.2 billion from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC responds to disease outbreaks around the world and in the United States while ensuring water and food safety. It also works on diseases that are preventable by vaccination and respiratory problems.

One of the largest cuts, $222 million, is proposed for chronic disease prevention programmes that help people prevent heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The budget seeks a 17% cut to the CDC’s global health programmes that respond to disease outbreaks globally.

This actually kills people. The New York Times reported warnings from researchers and public health advocates that cuts to AIDS treatment programs could cost 1 million lives around the world, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, and would make 300,000 children orphans.

Indeed, the United States currently spends over $6 billion every year on programmes that buy antiretroviral drugs for 11.5 million people with HIV globally. Trump wants to cut those programmes by $1.1 billion, nearly 20% of their funding. This will reduce the number of people who have access to the vital drugs.

Therefore, more people will die directly, and more people will also die because there will be more HIV transmission (AIDS treatment prevents infected people from spreading the virus to others).

It’s been denounced by every media outlet 

And beyond those moral atrocities, Trump’s budget is not even done competently from a technical perspective. It was denounced by just about every media outlet as deeply flawed.

For example, as the Washington Post explained, the budget assumes that tax cuts for the rich will generate much more revenue than they will cost, which is not true.

The Financial Times declared that “even for those who share its goals, it fails to meet the minimum test of seriousness” and it relies on “double-counting and wishful thinking” by assuming that GDP will grow much more than it will in reality. The Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities said the budget is based on gimmicks and is “completely unconvincing”.

Indeed, the budget “assumes growth would reach 3 per cent by 2021, delivering $2 trillion of extra revenue over 10 years, even though slow population growth and weak productivity mean most forecasters anticipate a far weaker performance.  The budget also fails to detail the costs of a White House tax plan that outside estimates have suggested would reduce revenue by $5 trillion over a decade.”

Those are the kinds of mistakes that if made by a businessman, would quickly lead to his bankruptcy. Yet, Trump and his administration pretend they’re very clever and terrific, truly terrific, really terrific businessmen and should be trusted.

In reality, they don’t care about anything other than themselves and their buddies, as the budget makes crystal clear.

Julien Mercille is an associate professor at University College Dublin. Twitter: @JulienMercille.

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About the author:

Julien Mercille  / Associate professor, UCD

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