Is Trump trying to kill Americans? The hyperbole sounds straight out of Fox News’ copywriter who proclaimed the wars on Christians and Christmas, but based on the action of this administration—and many of the politicians supporting it—the supposition needs consideration because it’s becoming scarily clear that Americans’ health is a secondary concern to Americans’ wealth.
For starters, in the name of revitalizing coal, the administration’s put our nation’s health at risk. The dismantling of the EPA, which is supposed to protect American air and water, will literally kill Americans. A 2012 MIT study concluded Clean Air Act alone has saved $22 trillion in healthcare costs during its four-decade lifespan. What about the administration’s destruction of the Clean Power Plan, which, according to the EPA, would have been responsible for 3,600 fewer premature deaths, 1,700 fewer heart attacks, and 90,000 fewer asthma attacks?
This also doesn’t factor in the President’s dangerous anti-vaccination statements.
Nor does it take into account the damages inflicted by Trump’s HB-1 visa policies, which not only see America’s research community in disarray but also the medical community, which is already dangerously low on talent. Research last April out of the Association of American Medical Colleges concluded that the United States will face a shortage of physicians over the next decade, with projections indicating a shortage of 94,700 doctors by 2025. More than 8,400 doctors working in the U.S. are from two of the “banned” countries—Syria and Iran—according to data from the American Medical Association, and that’s not including another 15,000 doctors from Pakistan (another Muslim-majority country) and 50,000 doctors from India (which has 172 million Muslims).
As if that’s not enough, the latest threat to Americans are the cuts to the National Institute of Health (NIH), an institute invested in finding, curing, and eradicating the diseases inflicting the populace.
“A $6 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health is unacceptable to the scientific community, and should be unacceptable to the American public as well,” said Benjamin Corb, Director of Public Affairs at the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, in a statement to Ars Technica.
And it’s a bigger threat to Americans than any terrorist attack or war will likely ever be.
A September 2016 study out of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank found that, since 1975, 3,024 Americans have died due to foreign-born terrorism, a number that includes the 9/11 attacks in which 2,983 people perished. That’s an average of 74 people a year. In 2016 alone, nearly 600,000 Americans died from cancer.
Which battle’s more important to fight?
The NIH is among the real heroes of the medical community. The department does everything from fund medical research like finding cures for cancer to combatting public health outbreaks like Ebola or Zika. It’s because of the NIH that antidepressants were developed. It’s because of the NIH that survival from the most common childhood leukemia is now 90-percent. It’s because of the NIH that vaccines have saved millions of lives in the U.S. and throughout the world. And it’s largely because of the NIH that America is the global leader in biomedical research.
And what happens when it’s gone? A 20-percent decrease—roughly $6.1 billion—in the NIH’s 2018 budget “would not just reduce the amount of science done by U.S. scientists?—?it would harm our scientific workforce and infrastructure in ways that would take years, if not decades, to recover from,” wrote Michael White, an assistant professor of genetics at the Washington University in St. Louis, “If an incoming generation of researchers can’t do their work, or even keep their jobs, America’s leading role in science will inevitably be diminished. If that happens, more than prestige is at stake: Our economy will lag, and our nation’s health will suffer.”
White’s sentiments are echoed by Dr. Clifford Hudis, CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, who told NBC News, “[Medical research] is a fundamental driver of American economic strength and it is being compromised here… It’s a jobs program,” he added, “Cutting the funding in this way will have devastating and generation-long effects.”
It’s the “generation-long” effects that seems to worry scientists the most. Speaking about the rising problem of heart disease, American Heart Association President Steven Houser remarked, “I thought we were, all of us, interested in improving the health of all Americans. We need to give more, not less…You can save $6 billion today and spend $1 trillion down the road.”
What’s worse is that this isn’t even a partisan issue. It’s a Trump administration issue.
Charles Kieffer, Democratic staff director on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told a panel at the Bipartisan Policy Center that Trump’s “focus is on cutting science programs. They are forcing these rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul decisions that will have consequences for a generation.”
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt and Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole, both Republicans, mind you, chair committees responsible for the funding levels for the NIH, and, unlike Trump’s proposal, the two hope to increase the institute’s annual $32 billion budget by at least $20 billion over 10 years.
“I just don’t think you want to argue that we’re doing X — almost no matter what X is — as opposed to cancer research or Alzheimer’s research,” Cole told McClatchy DC Bureau.
This proposal isn’t just undercutting economic growth. It’s not just cutting critical advances in medical research. It’s not just gnawing away the hope of millions of patients fighting for their lives. It’s killing Americans.
Top photo by Wonderlane CC BY 2.0
Tom Burson is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.