History “…this was not a problem that money could solve. It was a problem that the scientists could solve.”
posted by June 19 at 12:35 PMon
Oh Mark Mitchell, thanks for reminding me of the Reagan administration.
Margaret Heckler, Reagan’s heath secretary, lead the charge against AIDS. Specifically, she made sure to cut the CDC’s budget right at the start of a massive global epidemic, leading the charge right into a ditch. Sweet!
NARRATOR: Margaret Heckler became Reagan’s secretary of health and human services in 1983. She says she was looking to the scientists to set her priorities on AIDS.
MARGARET HECKLER: AIDS was a mystery. It was a puzzlement even to the scientists. And before we knew what to do or how much it would cost or anything like that, we needed to find out what the scientists could tell us. And my goal was simply to expedite the process.
NARRATOR: But at the CDC, an agency Heckler supervised, officials said their efforts had been severely hurt by the budget cuts.
WALTER DOWDLE, Ph.D., Director, CDC 1989-90: The Reagan administration had come in, and there was a mandate to cut all government activities, but CDC was slated to be cut by at least 25 percent. There was no travel allowed at all. And so therefore, we virtually had our hands tied.
DON FRANCIS, M.D., CDC 1972-92: My area of responsibility at the time was to establish a laboratory to investigate the cause, develop a blood test, and do all of these things. And we really had nothing for the first two years, essentially nothing. We had to steal equipment from the other laboratories. We had to dig out space, and we had to- this was not an appropriate response to a disease that had a mortality that looked like greater than most other infections that we had to deal with.
NARRATOR: In April 1983, four months into her term, Secretary Heckler told a congressional committee that all the federal agencies researching AIDS had adequate funding.
“In the AIDS situation,” she said, “I really don’t think there is another dollar that would make a difference because the attempt is all-out to find an answer.”
INTERVIEWER: There were a lot of people who felt that more money should have been spent.
MARGARET HECKLER: I disagree with that. I think that we could not have gained anything more by increasing the cash expenditures. We were in the right direction. We were placing the emphasis on those who could provide the answers. And in a peculiar case, this was not a problem that money could solve. It was a problem that the scientists could solve.
Money can’t solve the problems. Scientists can! Ergo? Cut the scientists’ funding, and things will go faster—the making of an all-out effort. Neither Orwell nor Kafka ever hit this absolute high in doublethink. I’m practically crazed, thinking she was in charge. Even better? The Reagan administration was an order of magnitude more competent than W’s.
This is some of the central thinking behind the conservative movement, the movement over half the country still adores. Step 1: Science and progress will solve everything! Step 2: We don’t have to spend money on science; tax cuts for everyone! Step 3: Profit!
Any wonder why we’re so totally and absolutely fucked today?