Terry Jeffrey
When George W. Bush was stumping as a "compassionate conservative" in the closing days of the 2000 presidential campaign, he went to Florida and repeated a campaign promise to double the funding for the National Institutes of Health.

"I will lead a medical moon shot to reach far beyond what seems possible today and discover new cures for age-old afflictions," Bush said.

After he won Florida by a famously narrow margin -- and thus was elected president despite losing the nationwide popular vote -- Bush basically made good on his funding promise.

In fiscal 2000, the NIH spent $15.415 billion; in fiscal 2008, it spent $29.847 billion; and in fiscal 2012, it spent $32.781 billion. Even when adjusted for inflation, NIH spending grew from $20.55 billion in constant 2012 dollars in 2000 to $32.781 billion in 2012 -- an increase of about 60 percent.

Now President Obama is complaining that the minor curtailments in anticipated federal spending that he signed into law in 2011 in exchange for a $2.4-trillion increase in the national debt will decimate the NIH's research capabilities.

"Even President Bush's director of the National Institutes of Health says these cuts will set back medical science for a generation," Obama said in his weekly radio address.

Dr. Francis Collins, the current director of NIH, told Congressional Quarterly last week that the sequester requires the agency to cut $1.5 billion from its annual budget -- which would still leave NIH about 50 percent bigger in real terms then it was 12 years ago.

Sequestration at NIH, said Collins, would mean "across-the-board damage to virtually everything."

In fact, Congress needs to pay much closer attention to exactly how the now-bloated NIH is spending borrowed federal dollars.

In 2008, for example, Pete Winn of CNSNews.com did a story about the NIH spending more than $1 million on a project that studied hookah smoking in Syria. In 2009, Edwin Mora of CNSNews.com did a story about the NIH paying $2.6 million for a project that focused on the drinking habits of prostitutes in China.

Most recently, Liz Harrington of CNSNews.com reported that National Cancer Institute-funded researchers at the University of California at San Francisco had discovered that "astroturfing" by the tobacco industry had helped create the tea party movement.

Did America need these studies? No.

As President Obama hypes the impact of the sequester, Congress should begin aggressively investigating and exposing where taxpayers' money has actually been going in recent years. Over the last three presidential terms, the growth in the federal government has been obscene.


Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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