October 17, 2014

Health Experts: Sequester and Other Budget Cuts Left us Vulnerable to Ebola

Health experts are saying that the budget cuts, including sequestration, resulting from fiscal conservatives’ goal of cutting government at all costs, has greatly exacerbated the Ebola crisis in Africa and left the U.S. vulnerable. Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said that a decade of stagnant spending has “slowed down” research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. As a result, he said, the international community has been left playing catch-up on a potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe. Several Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would increase NIH funds to $46.2 billion in 2021. But there is no indication that such a bill will move forward any time soon. You can read more at Huffington Post: http://tinyurl.com/q84ghe5. Dr. Collins said that steep budget cuts by Congress have set back the institute’s work on both prevention and treatment for Ebola and that if it hadn’t been for a decade’s worth of cuts, “we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”

According to Daily Kos, (http://tinyurl.com/pfo5s3m), “It’s not just the NIH that’s suffered, and it’s not just in Africa where the cuts are harming people. The Center for Disease Control’s emergency preparedness budget has been nearly cut in half in just the past seven years…That means that local health departments in this country don’t have the funding—or the staff—they need to do the necessary preparation and training to deal with any epidemic.”

Dr. Judy Stone, an infectious disease specialist, details the cuts at Scientific American(http://tinyurl.com/mskmooe), writing, “Shockingly, annual funding for the CDC’s public health preparedness and response efforts were $1 billion lower for 2013 fiscal year than for 2002 (http://tinyurl.com/lyzb9eg). These funding decreases have resulted in more than 45,700 job losses at state and local health departments since 2008.”

The U.S. does not have a Surgeon General. President Obama had nominated Dr. Vivek Murthyto be America’s Surgeon General back in November of last year. However, Dr. Vivek expressed his view that he sees a connection between gun violence and overall public health, and Senate Republicans have held up his nomination under pressure from the National Rifle Association.

See also why travel bans don’t work in containing Ebola:  http://tinyurl.com/qgdx6xt.

“Fiscal conservatives cut government to the bone, and as a result, the country wasn’t ahead of the curve when it came to disease research and prevention,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Alliance Members Join Latest Tele-Town Hall Calls with Candidates
Thousands of Alliance members joined the latest round of tele-town hall conference calls with candidates running in the November 4 midterm elections. On Monday, a call with Michigan Alliance members featured both Rep. Gary Peters, who is running to be a U.S. senator, andMark Schauer, who is running for Michigan governor. “Incumbent Governor Rick Snyder is taxing pensions and retirement income,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance, on the call. “As Governor, Mark Schauer will repeal Governor Snyder’s new senior retirement tax, which Mr. Snyder signed into law while giving tax cuts to the wealthy and businesses.”

“As a senator, Gary Peters will fight to keep the retirement security we have earned by strengthening and protecting Social Security and Medicare, and not giving billionaires and Wall Street tax breaks to ship jobs overseas,” added Dick Long, President of the Michigan Alliance.

On Tuesday, Colorado Senator Mark Udall spoke and took questions from Colorado Alliance members. “I don’t call Social Security and Medicare entitlements…they are earned benefits,” said Sen. Udall on the call. He also mentioned his support for raising the minimum wage.

On Wednesday, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Fred DuVal was on the telephone line. “There is a big difference between the candidates for Arizona governor,” Arizona Alliance PresidentDoug Hart said on the call. “While Fred’s opponent Doug Ducey paid his employees minimum wage at Coldstone Creamery, Fred will be focused on creating an economy that grows our middle class, instead of shrinking it.”

Texas, Wisconsin Voter ID Laws go to U.S. Supreme Court as Election Approaches
According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide whether Texas can enforce its new photo-ID rule in time for this year’s midterm election. The case reached the court Wednesday in an emergency appeal. Critics asked justices to block the rule, arguing it discriminates against minorities. Last week, a federal judge decided that the rule could prevent as many as 600,000 registered voters from casting a ballot and that Texas lawmakers who approved the law intended to make it harder for blacks and Latinos to vote.

Also last week, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, blocked Wisconsin from enforcing its new voter-ID law in this year’s election. In Texas and Wisconsin, the judges who conducted a trial concluded the ID requirement would hit hardest among voters who were poor, elderly or racial minorities. Many seniors do not have a driver’s license or other photo-identification, and health issues often make it a hardship for them to procure a photo ID. More athttp://tinyurl.com/nuoqmgd. Go to http://tinyurl.com/nv5jxpj to read about five seniors who were disenfranchised by voter ID laws. If you have trouble at the polls on or before November 4, remember that you can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, or go to http://www.866ourvote.org, for assistance.

Strange Opening to Florida Gubernatorial Debate
Florida’s second gubernatorial debate got off to a bizarre start Wednesday evening when incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R) initially refused to debate his opponent, Charlie Crist (D), because he had a fan under his lectern. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have an extremely peculiar situation right now,” debate moderator Elliot Rodriguez of CBS Miami told the crowd, as the camera panned to two empty lecterns onstage. Seconds later, Crist walked onstage, but Scott was absent. Eventually, Governor Scott did come out to debate. “Rick Scott acted highly erratically,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Charlie Crist is right in saying that there are bigger issues for Floridians than whether a fan should be allowed.”

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