The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. government's biggest group of scientists, hospitals and research labs, have just been ordered by President Bush to take 145 million dollars away from this year's research on important diseases like AIDS, which has killed over 25 million people and spend it on buying and testing an experimental anthrax vaccine -- a disease that has killed perhaps 5 people.
This is not the fault of the Congress. It's entirely the result of Bush's obsession with keeping the country focused on terrorism, a focus he thinks he needs to keep his political popularity. Even many members of Bush's own party are concerned with the President's poorly thought through actions.
In his budget for 2003, Bush asked Congress for money to buy a new anthrax vaccine.
The Republican led Congress said no. They understood it is bad for the country to have politicians setting medical research agendas.
To get around the Congress, Bush instructed AIDS researchers to find the funds by cutting back on important medical research, an "unprecedented" action according to Dr. Anthony Fauci one of the U.S. governments top doctors and researchers (and he's a Reagan appointed Republican).
Bush also wants the NIH to take another $131 million from next year's budget for the anthrax vaccine.
No one thinks this is a good idea except the growing anti-terrorism agencies that want more power, money and the center of the political stage.
In the case of anthrax, it is shortsighted and dangerous.
Anthrax already has a good vaccine although, as with most vaccines, it doesn't work so well in babies and the very old. And most scientists believe the new anthrax vaccine Bush wants will not work in babies or the elderly either.
A number of AIDS researchers say their work is already being affected by the cuts and activists say this could be the start of a trend whereby funds for medical research are diverted to bio-defense.
It's obvious, if we want an AIDS vaccine and better medicines, the best presidential campaign slogan will be: "Someone Else in 2004."