What he said and more (Jon Chait on Rep. Darrell Issa)

Darrell Issa fires another know-nothing salvo at public health research

Jonathan Chait notes that House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa

wants to zero-out federal funding for scientific research that sounds silly to people who watch Fox News.

As shown here in the Wall Street Journal, many of the offending proposals have to do with HIV prevention and substance abuse.

I’ve noted before Issa’s efforts to zero out NIH research regarding HIV prevention among Thai and Chinese sex workers, and among Russian alcoholics. . For those new to the public health field, curbing transmission risk among people who are paid to have sex with strangers is important in curbing the spread of a deadly sexually-transmitted disease. Russia, for its part, houses one of the developed world’s most virulent HIV epidemics.

Chait notes: “You have a party that views scientific research as a boob-bait target.” I only wish that Jonathan would lower his mask of waspish reticence. Issa practices a stupid and damaging brand of know-nothing politics that is costing human lives.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

8 thoughts on “What he said and more (Jon Chait on Rep. Darrell Issa)”

  1. Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wisc) used to go on TV with his “Golden Fleece” awards to attack science research he couldn’t understand.

  2. Although it seems fairly cynical and simplistic to put it this way, one way to view republican/conservative morality and politics in the US is this: If you do things that hurt yourself, maybe cause your death, or just generally make your life worse, it’s your fault, and you’re on your own. Doubly so if your action involves some sort of vice like sex or drugs. Exponentially so if you’re not in the demographic of the conservative voting base. If you do something that hurts other people in the course of making money via legitimate business, that’s just fine, and it’s possibly even commendable. More so if you are bigger, and/or part of the conservative base.

    Hence, when people have sex and get an STD, or get pregnant, and maybe even die from a complicated pregnancy, or you lose you job, it’s your fault, and you’re morally at fault and tough luck while we’re at it, you probably deserve it. However, manufacture tainted food, poison the environment, destroy the global economy, and you’re just going about the business of business,kill an abortion doctor, it’s all good. You are righteous.

  3. It’s the public-health version of the Willie Sutton argument: if you want to study intervention to prevent HIV transmission, you go where the HIV transmission is. That’s going to lead you into some seedy and disreputable places, you’re going to fraternize with life’s victims, some of whom may be hardy to sympathize with, especially for the Fox News demographic – but the key thing is to hold your nose and focus on the fact that you’re trying to figure out how to stop the spread of a horrible disease. It would be more pleasant, and less offensive to Mr. Issa’s delicate sensibilities, to study HIV transmission among comfortable, inoffensive middle-class folks, and even more anodyne to study HIV transmission in an order of Carmelite nuns – but you need a high baseline for the study to work.

  4. I thought Proxmire was an ass then, and said so then and now;
    am I now entitled to opine that Issa is far worse, and belongs in custody?

  5. Proxmire was acting out of ignorance and attempting to pander for popularity. His “golden fleece awards” were not partisan or ideological. Issa, by contrast, is evil.

  6. Thanks for reminding me to do some thinking about this. Interestingly, Issa was one of 6 Rs who voted in favor of ending the federal ban on syringe exchange (2 of whom left the House). It’s an interesting contradiction that may have to do with allowing local control over issues. I appreciate you highlighting this info (and HIV groups have known for some time that he’s rough on research). I think the people who work on these issues ought to spend some more time exploring this issue and getting folks who are his constituents to talk to him (and hopefully not turn him off on syringe exchange). Naturally I figure there’s only so far he’ll go, but figuring out the way to approach him might be helpful. Sad that he’s potentially one of the more approachable Rs on this issue.

  7. lol – Warren, this is how I first read your post:
    “….some of whom may be hardy to sympathize with, *especially the Fox News demographic* – but the key thing is to hold your nose and focus on the fact that you’re trying to figure out how to stop the spread of a horrible disease.”

    Odd phrasing, but it worked for a second! 😉

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