After fearmongering about Ebola, Trump proposes slashing the agency working on a vaccine

Trump tweeted about Ebola 100 times.

President Donald Trump listens in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump listens in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump spent the summer of 2014 tweeting obsessively about the deadly Ebola virus that ravaged several West African countries and advocating for a travel ban for people from that region (which scientists and health researchers said would only make the Ebola crisis worse).

Now, as president, Trump has control over the agencies responsible for dealing with crises like Ebola and working on a vaccine to counter Ebola, such as the CDC and the NIH. And he’s using his power to drastically slash these agencies’ budgets.

Trump Twitter Archive has a searchable database of Trump’s tweets. In 2014, he tweeted about Ebola 100 times, including retweets.

He advertised appearances on Fox and Friends where he would be discussing Ebola. He slammed President Obama’s response to the epidemic. He called Obama “nuts,” a “hypocrite,” and a “delusional failure,” and criticized him for playing golf during the outbreak (Trump, despite promising to never play golf during his presidency, has hit the course almost every weekend since his inauguration). He advocated for a visa ban and even speculated that Obama should resign.

But now — as the NIH is in the midst of developing an Ebola vaccine — Trump appears to be much less concerned.

Trump’s budget proposal for next year proposes slashing $5.8 billion of the NIH’s funding, 20 percent of the agency’s budget. His proposal would also eliminate the NIH’s Fogarty International Center, which supports research on global health and facilitates international health research partnerships. The Fogarty Center’s research touches on a wide variety of global health struggles — including modeling of global pandemics like Zika and Ebola to help policymakers figure out the best ways to combat them, and working on responses in the countries where the pandemics take root.

And that’s not all. On Tuesday, multiple outlets reported that Trump is proposing to cut $1.2 billion from the NIH’s budget this year, too — funding that would have to be taken from programs already in action.

According to STAT news, the cuts would take $50 million from grants designed to help spread biomedical research throughout the U.S., and swipe the rest of the money from research grant funding.

Trump is also proposing to cut the CDC’s budget by $314 million by slashing occupational safety and public health preparedness grants and HIV and AIDs programs. According to NBC, his proposal also eliminates the $72 million Global Health Security fund at the State Department, and cuts other global health and family planning funds.

Trump’s initial budget did call for the establishment of a Federal Emergency Response Fund for unexpected public health disasters like Ebola and Zika, which is something that health experts have long advocated for.

It didn’t go into detail, however, as to where that money would be coming from. And by drastically cutting existing agencies and federal funding to university researchers who monitor diseases and perform basic biomedical research, Trump’s budget priorities would undercut the basis on which any emergency response would build.

Congress ultimately decides on funding levels, and Trump’s drastic cuts to science are unlikely to be included in full. But his budget is a statement of priorities — one which massively cuts American science.

If Trump’s budget actually went into effect, scientists say it would result in a lost generation in American scientific progress — research that protects us from global health pandemics and helps us respond, but which also provides millions of high-paying jobs and sets the foundation for the next generation of advancement, both scientific and economic.

“One of our most valuable natural resources is our science infrastructure and culture of discovery,” said Joy Hirsch, a professor of psychiatry and neurobiology at the Yale School of Medicine told The Atlantic about Trump’s budget proposal. “It takes only one savage blow to halt our dreams of curing diseases such as cancer, dementia, heart failure, developmental disorders, blindness, deafness, addictions—this list goes on and on.”