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Thursday, June 19, 2008

“…this was not a problem that money could solve. It was a problem that the scientists could solve.”

posted by on June 19 at 12:35 PM

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!

Check out this exchange from the exemplary Frontline documentary, the Age of AIDS:

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?

RSS icon Comments


No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

Posted by Toe Tag | June 19, 2008 12:44 PM

Step 1: Admit you have a problem

Step 2: Draft the neocons and have them serve in Iraq while our troops come home

Step 3: Leave them there.

Problem solved!

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 19, 2008 12:49 PM

That reminds me of that 30 Rock episode where Jack goes to work in D.C.

Posted by keshmeshi | June 19, 2008 12:55 PM

Except that it's not funny and people died.

Posted by keshmeshi | June 19, 2008 12:57 PM

yay! republicans as underpants gnomes. Perfect

Posted by vooodooo84 | June 19, 2008 12:58 PM

@5 Yes, perfect. Now we just need a song.

Posted by Mike of Renton | June 19, 2008 1:05 PM

Just watch out for the woodland creatures ... they have glowsticks.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 19, 2008 1:18 PM


Posted by TacomaRoma | June 19, 2008 1:19 PM

how does she get the disconnect that scientists don't need money to conduct research?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 19, 2008 1:22 PM

keshmeshi --


What floors me is Margaret Heckler actually believes this. Not just then. Now. After the millions infected and dying. She believes her logic to this day. She believes.

I have trouble accepting that she and I are the same species.

As much as I disliked the Clintons, at least they were calculating when fucking over all of us. They obviously knew "welfare reform" meant the working poor were going to be fucked. Less money, less services, more hungry people. The "end of big government" line was just too good, and they had an election to win. At least they understood the concequences of the decision.

Maggie believes that spending less gets you more. I'm going slowly insane, rolling this in my brain. She believes.... she believes....

Posted by Jonathan Golob | June 19, 2008 1:25 PM

Not just that she believes. She was put in charge because she believes.

Posted by Greg | June 19, 2008 1:27 PM


I don't think she believes that.

She's just regurgitating the weird political doublespeak that was scripted for her.

At this point, wouldn't you?

Posted by Toby | June 19, 2008 1:46 PM

@11 for the win!

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 19, 2008 2:08 PM


I thought this too, when reading the quote. Watching the video changed my mind.

I'd like to think I'd be the guy stealing equipment to get things done. Hell, I am the guy who scrounges equipment, just in W's America.


So sad, and so true. I hear we'll be greeted as liberators in Iraq!

Posted by Jonathan Golob | June 19, 2008 2:15 PM

Conservatives on funding education: "You can't solve the problem by throwing money at it!"

Conservatives on funding scientific research: "You can't solve the problem by throwing money at it!"

Conservatives on funding the military: "Budget cuts will cripple our defenses. No one but traitors and cowards would ever want to cut funding to the military!"

Posted by Kevbar | June 19, 2008 2:25 PM

Don Francis made a bundle off insider trading before the public announcement that his vaccine had been a failure. I doubt that I'd give any credibility to what he says now or has said in the past.

Posted by Rich | June 19, 2008 2:31 PM

@15: important amendment to the education rule:

"If we're talking about most schools. If we're talking about the one MY children go to, public or private, well, it's actually quite well-funded, yep."

And remember, we can't do anything to the health care system, or we might have to start denying care to people (which isn't going on now) or some people might start using it too much (you know... them.)

Yes, Underwear Gnome Rule must end!

Posted by CP | June 19, 2008 5:49 PM

A propos of all the sexism/misogyny discussions as of late... This is an example of someone disagreeing with a women's opinions and actions without being even one iota sexist or misogynistic. If this was some of the regular Slog commentors talking about this topic, I'm sure the words "bitch" or "cunt-face" would have been thrown around in the analysis of her comments.

Posted by Julie | June 19, 2008 7:56 PM

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