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How Washington D.C. Works (Or Not) Part 3

Monday March 11th, 2013   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 7:02am PDT   •  

We weren’t planning on making “How Washington D.C. Works (Or Not)” into a regular series, but then, we can’t make this stuff up and the politicians keep generating fresh material!

Today’s example of how our federal government works, or doesn’t really, is from March 7th, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden, M.D., was being questioned by Representative Andy Harris, also a medical doctor, before an oversight hearing for the Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (we couldn’t make that committee name up either). The topic is the purported effect of sequester budget cuts on the number of vaccinations available for children:

So, how exactly can a $30 million budget cut from the CDC’s “Section 317” state grant program deprive 2,050 children in Maryland of vaccines as part of the budget sequester, while the President’s proposed $58 million budget cut to the same program not deprive any child anywhere of vaccines? (And did we mention that the President originally proposed the sequester, too?)

If you really want to make your head hurt, the Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler tried to sort out all the numbers and government interagency dynamics as part of his Fact Checker column, in which he notes that the President proposed a number of spending cuts because he didn’t think they would ever happen. We’ll just cut straight to the bottom line and share the results of Kessler’s “Pinocchio Test” as to the Obama administration’s claims of the “harm” from sequester budget cuts:

We remain disturbed at how vague and fuzzy estimates keep getting turned into hard facts by the administration. This is a grant program, meaning that the recipients (which also rely on other funding) might be able to make adjustments to accommodate the shortfall in funds. The initial sequester is only for the remaining seven months of the year, so estimates–apparently based on many of the shots a child would receive in their lifetime–are open to interpretation.

At the same time, we don’t think it is necessarily fair to equate the administration’s request to reduce funding in 2013 with the across-the-board reductions mandated by the sequester. There likely would have been greater flexibility in a non-sequester environment.

Still, even before the sequester, the administration had sought to reduce costs by ending shots for children who have insurance–on the grounds that the president’s own health-care law was creating new avenues to obtaining vaccinations. Many families might have been dissuaded from getting vaccinations because of the higher costs involved. What are those numbers? That’s still unclear.

The administration’s vaccination statistics earn Two Pinocchios.

That the administration only earns two Pinocchios illustrates just how jaded a journalist that Glenn Kessler has become in Washington D.C.

Featured Image:
Source: Library of Congress

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March 2013