As the federal government’s own health officials warn that the novel coronavirus outbreak is bound to get worse, the Trump administration is refusing to amend its 2021 budget request, which seeks to slash Health and Human Services’ funding by $9.5 billion. The proposed cuts include a 15 percent ($1.2 billion) reduction in the CDC’s budget and a $35 million cut to the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund.
At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought was asked about the cuts.
“The question I have is, are we prepared to fight pandemics if we cut from programs that are specifically designed to prepare for them, including the coronavirus?” [Rep. Matt] Cartwright asked.
Vought responded by saying Trump signed into law the $8.3 billion emergency supplemental package Congress approved last week.
That funding, a significant increase over the $2.5 billion emergency request the White House sent over, would be spread out over several years. The funding in question at the hearing was for next year's spending. Cartwright pressed Vought as to whether he would amend the request.
“The question is today, as we sit here and we know about coronavirus and the impact it’s taking on the people of the world and the economies of the world and the stock market and everything, as you sit here today, are you ready to take that back?” he pressed.
Vought confirmed that the administration was sticking to its request.
Well, it’s nice to know the Trump administration adheres to its principles, no matter how stupid they are. But is this a hill worth dying on — so to speak?
Psst, Vought. The optics on this aren’t so good. Or maybe the budget request itself is kind of dumb. Or maybe … uh, you should look into another line of work?
But who cares, as long as Trump and his sycophant squad can rebrand this the Wuhan virus or the China virus or General Tso’s Bat Soup Virus or whatever the fuck they’re planning next. Because everyone knows the real crisis is that Donald Trump might get blamed for something. We can’t have that.
So cut to your heart’s content. Sure. If we undermine our health care infrastructure, the next president will inherit the headache anyway. Crisis averted. Whew.
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