Monday, October 13, 2014


At Politico Magazine, Bobby Jindal tries to persuade us that the uniquely depraved Barack Obama is mismanaging the funding of the CDC while Ebola runs rampant:
... In a paid speech last week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ... claimed that the spending reductions mandated under sequestration "are really beginning to hurt," citing the fight against Ebola....

Her argument, like those made by others, misses the point. In recent years, the CDC has received significant amounts of funding. Unfortunately, however, many of those funds have been diverted away from programs that can fight infectious diseases, and toward programs far afield from the CDC's original purpose.

Consider the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a new series of annual mandatory appropriations created by Obamacare. Over the past five years, the CDC has received just under $3 billion in transfers from the fund. Yet only 6 percent -- $180 million -- of that $3 billion went toward building epidemiology and laboratory capacity....

Instead, the Obama administration has focused the CDC on other priorities. While protecting Americans from infectious diseases received only $180 million from the Prevention Fund, the community transformation grant program received nearly three times as much money -- $517.3 million over the same five-year period.

The CDC's website makes clear the objectives of community transformation grants. The program funds neighborhood interventions like "increasing access to healthy foods by supporting local farmers and developing neighborhood grocery stores," or "promoting improvements in sidewalks and street lighting to make it safe and easy for people to walk and ride bikes." Bike lanes and farmer's markets may indeed help a community -- but they would do little to combat dangerous diseases like Ebola, SARS or anthrax.
Okay, let's back up.

First of all, Jindal is trying to bamboozle you here. If you read this hastily, you might think that the majority of the CDC's entire budget goes to this awful, horrible Obamacare program. But Jindal's talking about one portion of what the CDC receives annually -- $517.3 million over the past five years, or about $100 million a year. The CDC has a budget of $6.85 billion (which still reflects budget cuts from the sequester). The money spent on the community transformation grant program is a small slice of the CDC's total budget.

Second, it's not an Obama-era innovation for the CDC to be focused on trying to get people to live healthier lives in order to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases. Long before Barack Obama even entered politics, the CDC had a National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Here are doctors from the National Center contributing to a 1993 report titled Measuring the Health Behavior of Adolescents: The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. Here's a 1999 CDC report from the National Center titled "Physical Activity and Health," which encourages people to exercise. Here's a 2002 report -- yes, it was completed during the Bush presidency, after 9/11 -- on the effects of secondhand smoke, with contributions from the National Center.

So there's nothing new about the CDC paying attention to health problems that aren't spread by scary viruses.

But what's the point of the program that has Jindal's knickers in a twist? Here's what the CDC says:
The Prevention and Public Health Fund was established under Section 4002 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).... By law, the Prevention Fund must be used "to provide for expanded and sustained national investment in prevention and public health programs to improve health and help restrain the rate of growth in private and public health care costs."
Right -- we spend a lot of money treating preventable medical conditions in younger people. A lot of that money comes out of taxpayers' pockets. If, say, high blood pressure contributes to 350,000 deaths a year (we've had one Ebola death so far this year), should we ignore high blood pressure because it doesn't give us nightmares? With regard to health care, do we not want to try to "bend the cost curve"?

In fact, Jindal agrees that public health efforts of this kind are worthwhile -- at least if they're not run by evil Democrats in evil Washington, D.C.:
Make no mistake: These types of projects may represent worthwhile endeavors -- when funded by states, localities or private charities. And I certainly believe in the goals of wellness as one way to improve health and reduce costs. Here in Louisiana, we've launched the Well-Ahead Louisiana program, working with local businesses and organizations on ways to promote healthy lifestyles.

But, as the old saying goes, to govern is to choose. Unfortunately, this administration seems intent on not choosing, instead trying to insinuate Washington into every nook and cranny of our lives.
Here's where Jindal is really trying to bamboozle his readers. This is Washington "trying to insinuate Washington into every nook and cranny of our lives"? Public health programs focused on wellness should only exist in states that choose to have them? Medicare and Medicaid money disbursed from Washington goes to residents in all fifty states. Medicare is a federal program. And even states that didn't go for the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare still get a hell of a lot of Medicaid money. Medicare spending in Louisiana is $11,700 per enrollee. Medicaid payments per enrollee are $5,196 in Louisiana -- and the feds pick up 69% of that. So Jindal shouldn't try to tell us that public health is none of the feds' business.

Meanwhile, Well-Ahead Louisiana, according to a press release from Jindal's own office,
establishes healthy living designation criteria for organizations to follow that will result in better health outcomes for Louisiana residents. Examples of healthy designation criteria include breastfeeding friendly policies, tobacco-free environments, employee wellness and consistent healthy food offerings. These changes will make smart choices an easier part of living and working in Louisiana.
I guess it's horrible if Washington does this, but if Baton Rouge does it, it's just fine.


Anonymous said...

Jindal is also talking about a portion of a portion of the CDC budget by reducing the whole thing to "farmer's markets" and "bike lanes." Here's an example of the kinds of things the Community Transformation Grants support: CTG States and Communities Program Descriptions.

Jindal is doing the equivalent of the sleazy "bear DNA" japes of people like John McCain.

Anonymous said...

A better description of goals: Strategies Snapshot: Community Transformation Grants in Action.

Victor said...

How is it possible that Boobby J was a Rhodes Scholar?

I think that in reality, he was a Rogue Skoler.

He needs to realize that he has zero chance of being the next Prreznit!

Glennis said...

Right. Because the ONLY thing the Center for Disease Control should focus on is one virus.

What a wanker.

Glennis said...

Wonder how long it will take for Jindal's nonsense to echo through Right Wing World. Twitchy is already on it, see Roy's take:

Ken_L said...

Conservatives really have become dangerously obsessed with Barack Obama. They seem to get up in the morning, find out what's happening in the world, and then find ways to spin it as (a) very very bad for America and (b) Obama's fault. Or part of Obama's deliberate plan to destroy America, if you're in the loopier section.

Consider conservatives are now shrieking that Obama should ban flights to half of Africa, screen all incoming passengers, place thousands of people in quarantine etc - the kind of thing that only Big Government can do.

Imagine if Obama had actually done those things in the face of professional advice they were not necessary. We would have been deafened with screams that he was taking another step towards the police state, wasting public money, refusing to accept expert opinion and so on. There is simply nothing he can do that will not be misrepresented.

However I don't blame the MSM too much. I frankly doubt too many people actually take much notice of the MSM any more. The politically engaged look for openly partisan sources of "news" and the an increasingly large number of politically unengaged couldn't give a toss about any of it.