« Happy Fourth Of July | Main | More From Zimbabwe »

July 04, 2008

Comments

But Hilzoy. Really. If we gave our R&D agencies decent funding, they might produce results, and those results might differ from the ones churned out by privately-funded research organizations. Think of the demoralizing effect that would have on our markets. For example, if CDC were given enough cash to do its job, we wouldn't have to award such big contracts to Merck and GlaxoSmithKline. We might even make some of their work unnecessary. We can't have that! Be reasonable, Hilzoy.

Similarly, you fail to consider that the money has to come from somewhere. [FN] You liberals always think the government is made of money. But as you should know, government can only get its money by taxing YOU. Well, not you personally. You, if you're a very large corporation or stockholder. As 90% of us our middle class is, of course. So think of the terrible effect of raising taxes by as much as, say, $10 per capita to fund CDC. Why, billionnaires could be so discouraged by the loss of their $10 that they would cease to produce for hours and hours. Now, when you weigh that loss against the mere possibility that millions of children will die in a resurgent smallpox epidemic, you can see that, um, er...

Ooh, look, gay marriage!

[FN] This discussion of government expenses does not, of course, apply to military expenses, which are appropriately funded by borrowing whatever amounts we may want to spend from the Chinese, because that expenditure will keep Our Homeland safe from foreign interference. I trust this is all clear now.

Happy Fourth of July!

...really, that's all I've got.

I spent a year and a half working at the NIH in a fellowship program before I escaped back to academia. This story does not surprise me AT ALL. The unending levels of bureaucracy there were so bad it sometimes was hard (read: impossible) to carry out my research in any timely fashion. Basic things like ordering reagents can take upwards of weeks. (GS employees get away with virtually whatever they want; hence they don’t do their jobs.)

Renovations to a room where we had all sorts of large incubators (vital to our entire department) took 4 months of planning and 6 months of "construction." What exactly did they do? Well, they tore down one wall (not load bearing) to make room for more incubators! They had to re-route some wires and install one drain in the floor. Then everything was installed wrong and led to flooding on a daily basis. End result: 6 months of construction, $85k, 3 months of "repairs" at an unknown cost, and I don't believe the problem is actually fixed.

Also, there are "temporary buildings" on campus which have been used as labs for 10 years. The renovations that displaced these labs were supposed to be completed around 2000.

The list could go on and on…

It's troubling to see and have to put up with. The bureaucracy is unbelievable. Too many rules, so many regulations, so many offices of this and that to get approval from, tons of time wasted getting bids from contractors, no oversight of the contractor's work, and way too many government employees to deal with.

Sounds like it's time to upgrade "e-coli conservatism" to "ebola conservatism".

Time for me to go off and show my patriotism by blowing stuff up (but only in a socially approved, DHS and my local fire dept. sanctioned way, mind you), by lighting Chinese manufactured explosives which teach my kids the joys of pyromania!

Happy FnuckU-to-King-George-III Day everybody!

Hilzoy, me thinks thou dost protest too much.

Duct tape: the force that holds the universe together. I have dropped 200 foot pits (no shit) with nothing more than duct tape, a carabiner and 7mm of nylon between me and death. I have done a a 73 foot ceiling suck with nothing but duct tape and a soda straw between me and death (OK,... more than a little bit of shit there).

The point is, there is NOTHING that can not be fixed with enough duct tape.

tom

ps: have I ever mentioned the time I stopped a rock the size of a Buick from crushing me with a roll of duct tape????

"If we gave our R&D agencies decent funding, they might produce results, and those results might differ from the ones churned out by privately-funded research organizations."

We give as much funding to public research as anyone. And I don't think smallpox research is typically wholly private.

have I ever mentioned the time I stopped a rock the size of a Buick from crushing me with a roll of duct tape?

Disarming a rock that is carrying a roll of duct tape is certainly a challenge. ;^)

If you guys want to be pundits, it would hlep if you learned how the government worked. The repairs and minor maintenance are funded out of the business operations budget not the Buildings and faciities budget. The Buildings and facilities budget sound like the new construction budget.

Also, minor construction and repair is the domain of the 8A contractor. Under the rules of the government, it is more important that the plumber and dry wall contractor be black or Hispanic than being competent.

Also, facility management is unglamorous and usually low on the priority list. In the government, no one gets promoted for managing current projects. They get promoted for starting up new projects.

And last, the budget people in the government usually fail to realize that building new buildings will require an increase in the operations and maintenance budget.

superdestroyer's comment explains why these sorts of problems have prevented the CDC from ever having an international reputation and why people have only considered a CDC job as a last resort. Not.

The claims and\or assertions by superdestroyer above is a classic example of wingnut whimsy:
1) Chastizes readers for "not knowing how the government works" and then claims that a line item "Buildings and Facilities" "sound(s) like the new construction budget". Pray tell, what do the noised made by bugets sound like? Are they loud? Pleasant to the ear? The author is clearly grasping, has no knowlege of budgets or the construction process, and is just making sh*t up.
2) Impunes the 8(a) program and implies that a minority contractor is simply code for "incompetent" contractor--a dodge worthy of racist slime spread by the dearly departed Jesse Helms. Clearly, the writer is totally ignorant of federal procurement regulations and practices, substituting instead wingnut racist innuendo.
3) Claims that budget writers "fail to realize" that new buildings imply more O&M dollars, an assertion that flies in the face of generally accepted bureaucratic principles of self agrandizement so widely criticised by wingnuts with respect to any other kind of government fiscal behavior.

Wingnuts = shameless liars.

I lived literally down the street from the CDC for four years. We would make jokes sometimes about what would happen if there was a terror attack or some disease got loose...but it was always a joke, because we assumed that in reality they were taking proper safety precautions. I guess I was wrong, though I shouldn't be surprised. Bush is our president.

I'm kind of glad I was blissfully ignorant and naive while I lived there, but I'm now happy that I currently live half way across the country...

"We give as much funding to public research as anyone."

In absolute terms, most likely correct. As a percentage of GDP, not so much--Japan beats us handily on that score. The implications of this rather obvious oversight and egregious lack of context are left to the reader.

Just more of the same from Bush II. Success rates for first-time grant applications are now in the 6-8% range. Current well-established scientists are hanging on by their finger nails. New and younger scientists are SOL. Graduate students and postdocs see their future as an exercise in utter futility are are heading for the exits. But we have do have trolls like Sebastian telling us things like, "And I don't think smallpox research is typically wholly private." Whatever the hell that means. It sure does indicate that he doesn't have much of a grip on how "smallpox" research might be done. Or anything else, for that matter.

"But we have do have trolls like Sebastian telling us things like"

Disagree with Sebastian as you like, I don't think he could be accused of trolling his own blog.

superdestroyer: any cites? I was thinking that when the head of CDC said that zeroing out funds for buildings and facilities meant that "In FY 2009, CDC may not be able to sustain the condition of its existing $2.8 billion owned inventory in accordance with OMB and FRPC guidelines", she probably had some idea of what she was talking about.

redterror: what Gary said. Sebastian is no troll.

Sebastian... a troll?

*brain explodes*

Granted. Total brain cramp on my part, and I apologize. Then maybe he can explain that smallpox research remark? Sure sounds troll-like to me, given that any legitimate "private" smallpox research is inconceivable.

Seb can no doubt speak for himself, but I thought that "And I don't think smallpox research is typically wholly private" was ironic.

Makes sense to me. I surrender. Was this ironic, too? "We give as much funding to public research as anyone." Just wondering, because I no longer have a job due to the collapse in the R01 component of the NIH budget during the past 7+ years and the sub-10% pay lines in biology at NSF. Stuff, happens. I guess. And while I remember the lesson of my freshman sociology professor ("You can't generalize from you own limited experience.") I don't think I'm alone.

Smallpox research like any of the weaponized diseases isn't typically done by the private sector except under government direction and with government money.

Therefore statements like "If we gave our R&D agencies decent funding, they might produce results, and those results might differ from the ones churned out by privately-funded research organizations. Think of the demoralizing effect that would have on our markets." make very little sense in this context because there isn't "privately funded research organizations" to compete with. (I'm not sure it makes sense even if you mistakenly believed that the government allowed private competition in smallpox research.)

The reason why my pointing that fact out was labeled troll-like, while the original statement was unassailed could be an interesting exercise in ideological bias I suppose.

bobbyp

Good nitpick without actually challenging anything.

construction dollars are always different with the government that O&M dollars. Any budget items that gets over 100 million in one fiscal year and none two years later is definitely a construction/new project budget. I guess that CDC will not be ablet o pay the utility bill because the facilities budget is zero.

If the 8A contractor was a reliable, good value company it could compete for the contracts straight up. 8A get above market rates and many times are just front companies where someone else does the work and the government approved minority pockets the difference. If you want to call anything racist, then plese call a government program that has separate and unequal standards based upon race. Anytime a government has money to pay above market rates, it has more than enough money.

Also, if had ever worked with government budget planners, you would realize how poor most of them are. They get no benefit from planning other peoples budgets. Look at how many times the DoD buys something but forgets to buy the repair parts.

Smallpox research like any of the weaponized diseases isn't typically done by the private sector except under government direction and with government money.

It depends on what you mean by "weaponized diseases", and it also assumes that there's a clear bright line between "research that's only good for weapons" and "research that's possibly profitable."

To take the most obvious example (to me): one of the first materials investigated for use in biological warfare was botulinium toxin -- which is now the basis of Botox and a multi-billion dollar industry. Botox itself was developed under the orphan drug program, because it was originally approved for use in a variety of rare conditions, and the poor poor drug companies would never be able to get their money back, would they?

I think it would be an interesting discussion to know where people feel the CDC fits into the realm of medical research and such. To put my cards on the table, I think with the increased travel and risk of things like SARS and Avian flu, we really are putting ourselves and our children in danger when we treat the CDC like an orphan. I also wonder how much progress would have been made against AIDS if the CDC hadn't taken a leading role in dealing with the virus. Also, it seems that a pharma company wouldn't be as interested in prevention until after a condition or illness is widespread.

Dear Mr. Destroyer,

From the CDC's 2009 Budget Request Overview, I quote the following:

"For FY 2009, CDC requests no funding for the Buildings and Facilities Program, a decrease of $55,022,000 from the
FY 2008 Enacted level. In FY 2009, CDC may not be able to sustain the condition of its existing $2.8 billion owned
inventory in accordance with OMB and FRPC guidelines. With available resources, CDC will prioritize its critical
sustainment and improvement activities to best maintain its facilities."

Case closed.

Superdestroyer avers, "If the 8A contractor was a reliable, good value company it could compete for the contracts straight up."

You initially claimed 8(a) contractors were incompetent. You offer no evidence to back up that claim. From personal experience in the public works construction sphere, I call BS.

Their prices may be higher, but that is a good topic for another discussion.

Another destroyer classic: "Look at how many times the DoD buys something but forgets to buy the repair parts."

More demonstrable evidence of your ignorance of the FAR process. So. Just how many times does this happen? Again, more hot air, no evidence.

Also, if had ever worked with government budget planners, you would realize how poor most of them are

I smell bluster here, but I think there's also a point in there as well.

IMVHO, Republican received wisdom for the last 30 years (at least) has been that government sucks.

"I'm from the government and I'm here to help". Katy, bar the door.

There is no respect for, and no value attached to, the responsible operation of public institutions acting in the public interest.

Under Bush this has changed slightly. The institutions of government are once again valued, however their value is now their usefulness in expanding and consolidating political power.

I believe the '08 CDC budget is something like $7B. As best I can discover, the '98 budget was $2.3B. I don't know how that rate of growth compares to other agencies, but it looks like the CDC's money has well more than doubled -- in fact almost tripled -- in ten years.

I don't think money is the problem. I think the problem is the widespread and, in many cases, deliberate undermining of the proper operation of government for the political advantage of the modern Republican party.

For that we can thank George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and their pals. They are turning the US into a banana republic.

The reason CDC lab doors are sealed with duct tape is not because there's no money available. It's because nobody gives a flying you-know-what.

That, in turn, is because the purpose of the CDC is no longer to do fundamental research into public health and disease prevention. The purpose now is whatever will best benefit Bush and his cronies.

As a final note: there is no imaginable universe in which Sebastian is a troll.

Thanks -

So, it's like, the only thing Conservatives don't like about Public Health is the "Public" part, right?

russell: "I believe the '08 CDC budget is something like $7B. As best I can discover, the '98 budget was $2.3B. I don't know how that rate of growth compares to other agencies, but it looks like the CDC's money has well more than doubled -- in fact almost tripled -- in ten years.

I don't think money is the problem. I think the problem is the widespread and, in many cases, deliberate undermining of the proper operation of government for the political advantage of the modern Republican party."

-- I can't find the actual budget figures, annoyingly. (Not for years before 2004, at any rate.) However, as I understand it, what has happened is this:

On the one hand, the CDC's budget has gone up.

On the other hand, the reason for this is that huge amounts of money have been thrown at bioterror and pandemic flu. (And not, as far as I can tell, in any particularly effective ways.) What used to be the core functions of CDC have been cut.

So there isn't a shortage of money period. There is, however, a shortage of money that can be used for building and lab safety, infectious diseases (other than flu and bioterror), etc.

Moreover, as I said, the flu and bioterror money has not been used all that effectively. Best I can tell, part of the problem is that people are looking for Great Big Solutions, and completely neglecting things like: maintaining (let alone upgrading) our surveillance network for public health problems, improving our capacity to respond to health emergencies generally, etc.

The surveillance is key, since if a bioterrorist attack or an avian flu outbreak happens, we will absolutely need to be able to track it in order first to identify it, and then to be able to frame an effective response. Likewise, emergency response generally: we absolutely need to be able to respond to public health threats generally, e.g. by having enough hospital beds, and a plan for how to use them. But it's sort of boring, day-to-day stuff -- the kind of important boring stuff, like bridge maintenance, that people often neglect, to all of our peril.

One would think that, oh, Six Sigma kinds of analysis would be among the undergraduate level engineering processes the top brains at the CDC's would be familiar with.

I know this administration refuses to test its assumptions against reality - ever. Take its Star Wars missile defense [sic] system, which it's implementing and forcing East European states to host, when it knows that it doesn't work yet. Or take Iraq. And GWOT and torture.

But failing to test a building meant to house the most dangerous biological organisms on the planet before using it? I guess Shrub thinks that because he'll relocate to Dallas/Ft. Worth instead of Atlanta, he'll be safe whatever happens.

Perhaps Miss Laura could take a break from Pooh and read Shrub a little Stephen King at bedtime. The Stand, for instance.

EoH,

Some contracting office has to sing off on the work in order to pay the original CDC contractor. The first failure was probably that the work was approved without testing.

The second failure was starting teh work to get the system repair. It could have gone over a fiscal year and really slowed up the contract. The project managers could have moved on and caused other problems.

The third failure was probably the approval system for biosafety.

hilzoy -

Thanks for unpacking the numbers.

And I think this is right on:

part of the problem is that people are looking for Great Big Solutions

We (the US) tend to look for dramatic technological solutions to problems. The obvious, low hanging fruit stuff goes begging.

Thanks -

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad