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Abolish the CDC and NIH

Abolish the CDC and NIH

(Above: The CDC campus in Atlanta; Reuters)

This essay was first printed in The Epoch Times on October 31, 2021; the date explains the Halloween references.

Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spends public money to warn of attacks by hordes of zombies? Really. The program is designed to make some demographic groups more receptive to CDC propaganda—or rather, “messaging.”

But spending our tax dollars on zombie posters, a zombie novel, and zombie history are among the lesser problems at the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Both of these federal agencies are overgrown, unnecessary, arrogant, infused with leftist politics, and unconstitutional. And both should be abolished.

Recent Revelations: Fauci and Walensky

This past week, Americans were stunned to learn that a long-standing charge was actually true: The NIH funded coronavirus “gain of function” research at the Wuhan lab in communist China. This revelation directly contradicted repeated reassurances by NIH official Anthony Fauci that such funding didn’t happen.

Apart from the issue of misinforming the public (although that’s serious enough), why would a federal agency spend nearly $600,000 in taxpayer money to make a virus more dangerous? Why would it fund anything in communist China—except, perhaps, resistance to that country’s tyrannical government?

Earlier this year, CDC Director Rochelle Paula Walensky issued a decree rewriting every residential landlord-tenant lease in the country. This was outside her statutory authority and in defiance of both the Constitution and the Supreme Court (pdf).

Legal issues aside, consider the sheer hubris: There’s nothing in Walensky’s background to suggest she has any expertise on landlord-tenant law or management. What made her think she knows anything about the subject? What drove her to impose her will on millions of other people?

Fortunately, the Supreme Court promptly voided her order (pdf).

The Constitutional Issue

Every federal elected office holder promises to defend the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. Outside of the capital district and the federal territories, that Constitution assigns no powers to the central government over civilian health care. Further, the Constitution limits the permissible size of the capital district to 10 miles square, so as to prevent federal institutions from metastasizing into state territory and unduly influencing state policy.

The great Chief Justice John Marshall—an advocate of a strong federal government—summarized the Constitution’s position on health care in his famous decision in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): Reserved exclusively for the states, he wrote, are “health laws of every description.”

Nevertheless, enabled by rogue Supreme Court rulings issued in panic circumstances during the Great Depression, Congress continues to fund both the CDC and the NIH.

Bureaucracy Run Wild

Over the years, these two agencies have grown into massive bureaucracies. The CDC has nearly 11,000 employees and recently enjoyed a budget of $11.1 billion. That budget is now almost certainly higher. Rather than being located in the capital district, the CDC occupies a campus in Atlanta, Georgia. Except for a museum on the grounds, that campus is closed to the public.

The NIH is not located in the capital district, either. It occupies a lavish main campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The campus is a federal enclave, which means that although it’s within a state, it’s under direct federal control. It’s large enough to house several fitness centers and its own fire department. According to its official directory, the NIH contains 27 separate institutes and centers and a National Library of Medicine. It has 20,000 employees, and in 2020 enjoyed a budget of $42 billion.

The publicity and—for lack of a better word—conceit surrounding these two entities might make you think they’re the only health agencies in the country. Wikipedia, for example, describes the CDC as “the national public health agency of the United States.” This makes it sound as if the United States didn’t have 50 state public health departments and thousands of local public health departments.

Similarly, the NIH Clinical Center identifies itself as “America’s research hospital”—as if America didn’t contain hundreds of other research hospitals funded by state and local governments and by private philanthropy. In addition, the United States has 4,000 degree-granting institutions of higher learning, many of which are involved in health care research, and the pharmaceutical companies also operate a huge health care research sector.

Constitutional issues aside, therefore, an objective observer must ask why, at a time when the federal government is essentially bankrupt, are the feds duplicating state, local, and private efforts? After all, with modern telecommunications, research can be coordinated among different entities nationwide. Moreover, to the extent the CDC and NIH are not duplicating other efforts, why is Congress allowing federal agencies to crowd out programs that might otherwise flourish?

Politicization: Critical Race Theory and Other Leftist Notions

But duplication and waste are not the biggest dangers posed by federal involvement in health care. The biggest danger is politicization. When politics infiltrate science, science becomes corrupted and its application inefficient. Corrupted and inefficient medical science can lead to the death of millions who might have been saved and prolong the misery of millions who might have been cured.

One long-standing example of politicization is the CDC’s efforts to become involved in the issue of gun violence. Traditionally, this is an issue for law enforcement and criminologists rather than for public health agencies. The CDC’s intrusion into the area is a classic example of “mission creep.”

The reason for this mission creep is politics. The CDC started meddling with the “gun violence” issue during the administration of President Bill Clinton. A major agenda item for Clinton was more regulation of owners and users of firearms. The CDC apparently was to supply the supposedly neutral “science” to promote that agenda. Congress had to enact legislation to stop it.

Now Joe Biden is president and he also wants draconian control of firearms. So CDC Director Walensky has announced that she wants to renew CDC gun-violence research.

Another example of politicized mission creep is how the NIH and the CDC have become invested in the left’s poisonous racial politics—including “structural racism” (translation: “You’re a racist even if you’re not”) and the misnamed critical race “theory.”

Like gun control, race relations are outside the traditional scope of public health agencies. Walensky, however, claims that “racism is a serious threat to the public’s health.” So the CDC now spends your tax dollars on both a “Health Equity Matters newsletter” and an “Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE).”

The latter office recently named a certain Chandra Ford as “the Health Equity Champion for Spring 2021.” The reason was that Ford and another person “originated … the Public Health Critical Race Praxis, which is a framework for applying Critical Race Theory empirically.”

Just as the CDC is on the lookout for zombies, the NIH is deeply into racial witch hunting. The agency has assigned nearly 100 highly paid witch-hunters to its UNITE program with the assignment of exorcizing “structural racism.” The NIH website virtue-signals by affirming that “ending structural racism in biomedical research starts now.”

The CDC and NIH are also attuned to the wider “woke” cause. The CDC’s celebration of Ford, for example, was a “two-fer” because she also works on LGBTQ issues. The NIH (like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services generally), grants federal funding—that’s our money—to writers committed to the leftist agenda. Recent “funding opportunities” include “New investigators to promote workforce diversity in genomics, bioinformatics, or bioengineering and biomedical imaging research” and “Understanding and addressing the impact of structural racism and discrimination on minority health and health disparities.”

All of these are easily accessible examples of CDC and NIH politicization. My long experience in government taught me that for every easily accessible example, there are many hidden ones. Only whistleblowers can reveal the full extent of the rot within.

A Message to Republicans: Abolish Both Agencies

How can we clean up this mess?

It’s not by writing a letter to the president. It’s by insisting that the next time Republicans control Congress they permanently defund the CDC and NIH, thereby eradicating them root and branch.

Radical? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. History tells us why:

Conservatives and “progressives” have one thing in common: Conservatives use their own money to fund their political activities, and “progressives” use the same source—conservatives’ money—to fund theirs. Without constant forced subsidies from hardworking taxpayers (overwhelmingly conservative and moderate), the far left would be an insignificant force in this country.

When Democrats obtain majorities in Congress and the state legislatures, they use public money to create and fund social programs that become (1) mechanisms for social control and (2) bases for leftist political activity. When Republicans regain legislative control, they may trim the programs and reform them. But those changes don’t last long, because when Democrats recover their majority, they expand funding, lift restrictions, and render the programs even larger and more powerful than they were before.

If the Republican Party wants to continue as a viable force, it must fully defund these programs and the agencies that administer them. This will eliminate their lobbying power and make it harder for subsequent Democratic majorities to re-create them.

Permanent defunding is, I recognize, a difficult task. Once accomplished, however, the agency and its lobbyists have vanished, its abuses are over, and a reliable Democrat base has vanished. This is because for all their talk about “public service,” once the money has dried up, bureaucrats don’t hang around. As the late California state senator and humorist H.L. (“Bill”) Richardson often remarked, “I never knew a bureaucrat who worked for nothing.”

What will happen to the CDC and NIH staff once the funding has stopped? Some will retire on their government pensions. Some will get jobs in state and local health agencies, where their potential to inflict damage is more limited and they may actually do some good.

But most will switch to the private sector where they no longer have incentives to be nuisances, and will become productive and useful members of society.

Rob Natelson