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Let President-Elect Obama know that NCCAM should be defunded!

As you may or may not know, Change.gov is being used by Obama’s team to solicit policy ideas. Americans submit ideas, along with supporting rationale, and people “vote up” or vote down” the proposals. “Up” votes increase the score of the proposals, and “down” votes decrease the score. It is described thusly on the Change.gov website:

Share your ideas on any issue facing the new administration, then rate or comment on other ideas. The best rated ideas will rise to the top — and be gathered into a Citizen’s Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he is sworn in.

A couple of days ago, P.Z. Myers let me know about an excellent proposal over at the Citizen’s Briefing Book: Defund the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine:

Here’s a way to increase the available funding to NIH without increasing the NIH budget: halt funding to NCCAM, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This Center was created not by scientists, who never thought it was a good idea, but by Congress, and specifically by just two Congressmen in the 1990′s who believed in particular “alternative” (but scientifically dubious) treatments. Defunding NCCAM would save at least $225 million, possibly more.

Defunding NCCAM would also provide a direct societal benefit. Practitioners of so-called “alternative” medicines constantly refer to NIH’s support as a way of validating their practices and beliefs, most of which are not supported by evidence. The fact is that after >10 years, NCCAM has not yet found a single piece of positive evidence for any of these methods, which include acupuncture, “qi”, homoepathy, magnet therapy, and other treatments.

Any legitimate, promising medical treatment can be funded by one of the existing NIH Institutes. There’s no need for a separate center for “alternative” therapies – but what has happened is that NCCAM has become a last refuge for poorly designed, unscientific studies that couldn’t get funded through the normal peer-reviewed process.

He even cited our co-blogger’s (in)famous article Why the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Should Be Defunded. Maybe he should take a gander at my post The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): Your tax dollars hard at work, as well.

It is correct that the federal government spends close to a quarter of a billion dollars a year on on unscientific and dubious studies of therapies mostly based on prescientific understanding (i.e., the vast majority of CAM or “integrative medicine” research other than the study of natural products, which NCCAM has managed to ghettoize with the association to all the woo also being studied under the “CAM” rubric) What’s incorrect about the proposal is where all that money comes from. In actuality, NCCAM’s budget will be around $121 million a year in FY 2009, which is about what it has been for the last three or four years. The other money going to fund woo comes from from an office in the National Cancer Institute known as the Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, whose budget is also around $121 million a year. Together, that’s nearly a quarter of a billion scarce taxpayer dollars spent on woo. Both NCCAM and OCCAM would have to be defunded to realize that savings, to be shifted to more useful programs. Also, remember that the entire NIH budget is currently just under $30 billion. Removing OCCAM and NCCAM would thus only be less than 1% of the NIH budget.

But getting rid of NCCAM at least and probably OCCAM would at least be a start in shoring up the NIH, which has suffered grievously during the last four years. It may not do any good to vote on this; we may be completely outnumbered by those who want the government to promote pseudoscience (witness this idea for “health freedom” and “freedom from chemtrails” if you don’t believe me, particularly how it’s much higher scored than the “defund NCCAM” idea), but it’s still worth a try to emphasize to the new administration that there is support for eliminating a useless entity whose functions could be better done folded back into the NIH.

The power of SBM may be small compared to the power of the Pharynguloid hordes, but, please, head on over to Change.gov, register, and vote up this proposal. The more votes, the higher it goes on the priority list. You know the Deepak Chopra and his minions will be trying to vote it down.

Posted in: Politics and Regulation, Public Health, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (19) ↓

19 thoughts on “Let President-Elect Obama know that NCCAM should be defunded!

  1. weing says:

    Thanks for the heads up. They should also bring back the OTA.

  2. tarran says:

    Hmm,

    I think it would be better to defund NCCAM and not spend the money anywhere else; The U.S. government should be slashing spending right now, not merely preserving it at current levels, let alone the massive expansions of spending Bush has spearheaded and Obama called for.

    Generally governments have three ways to get money:
    1) Taxes
    2) Borrowing from people with money
    3) Printing the money

    Taxes are, the most immediately painful method and probably the least destructive in the long term. Under a regime of taxation, people have trouble saving, which means that structure of the economy becomes biased towards producing goods for consumption and away from creation of higher order capital goods. This bias is, of course, compared to production structure that would exist in the absence of the taxation.

    Borrowing is easier in that people who loan money to the government do so willingly (we will lump forced borrowing schmes such as Federal laws mandating that people buy bonds with their paychecks in World War II under taxation). Thus, the politicians face less of a backlash. However, the borrowing merely timeshifts the payments into the future (unless the investors are not interested in being repaid that is). Additionally, the government has to come up with interest payments. Generally, governments will borrow until they can barely afford to make interest payments. Then they are faced with finding alternate ways of getting money, either through increased taxes or from inflation.

    Printing money is the easiest short term course. The price rises that follow the introduction of new money lag the actual creation of the money by some time. In the end it is the most destructive course of raising money. The Great Depression had several root causes, the most important of which was the use of the printing press by the British and U.S. governments to pay for World War I (In fact, all the countries in that war used the printing press, all of them suffered economic ruin to a greater or lesser degree). As the money becomes increasingly worthless, people seek to do business with alternate forms of money. The government reacts with harsher legal tender laws and attempts to criminalize the use of non-approved currencies. The worse the inflation, themore repressively the government acts in order to keep people from abandoning the currency.

    The U.S. government is unusual in that the Central Bank is not an organ of the government, but a hybrid entity that is partially controlled by the government and partially controlled by major banks. As such, the U.S. government does not really have the option of printing money directly. Rather, it borrows the money it needs on the bond market, and it is only when the Federal Reserve purchases those bonds that the new money is created.

    The U.S. government has been on a borrowing binge ever since the first term of Ronald Reagan. This has been especially bad since George Bush got into office and lost his veto pen, and looks to be getting worse with the incoming administration. The U.S. government has had several bond auctions where the bonds went unsold. The end result is that absent a cut in spending, the U.S. government will start pressuring the Fed to purchase these bonds. The Fed, when pressured in the past, has always crumbled, they fear that if they should not please Congress and the President, the Federal Reserve Act will be modified to give the U.S. government explicit control over their actions. As a result, the unusual situation in the U.S. will not prevent hyperinflation. The political incentives that push powerfully for the government to fund its operations through currency debasement remain in force. See this article I penned in August of 2007 for a better, more complete explanation: Curing Alcoholism with Free Whiskey.

    The purpose of this long discourse (for which I apologize) is to explain why for the economic health of the United States, the U.S. government needs to cut spending drastically. Let people who want scientific (or pseudo-scientific for that matter) fund it out of their own pockets instead of commandeering the savings of other people who are interested in other things. The U.S. government should be looking for every chance it can to slash spending.

  3. Joe says:

    A friend who is a political activist suggests that 5 letters on a subject(snail-mail to 200 Pennsylvania Ave.) get more attention than 1,000 electronic transmissions. I intend to follow that advice. Sure, it is a new administration with different sensibilities; but, I suspect that they will learn that the people who go to the trouble of crafting and sending letters are more thoughtful, and more likely to vote.

  4. Fifi says:

    tarran – Good post about the economy and just how unsustainable the current economic philosophy is. The biggest scandal really though is how much money is being channeled to those who already have at the expense of those who are losing everything. It’s almost like the super rich NEED to collapse the economy to impoverish the majority while consolidating power/wealth for a very small minority. I’m sure all the big commercial banks buying each other and forming monopolies will really, really help the average person (pay more user fees and so on, that is…user fees, incidentally, were created to cover all the money lent to South American nations and lost when they defaulted on loans…strange as it may sound to those 30 and under, there once was a time when you MADE money when you left it in the bank, it accummulated this thing called “interest” that was used as an incentive for you and me to give banks our money to play with so that they could make more money for themselves using our money – the “interest” was our cut of the action! Wacky but true!)

  5. tarran says:

    Fifi, you are haring off on the wrong track.

    1) The politically connected don’t want the economy to collapse, but rather are trying to hold onto their special privilege and rents at all costs, even if that cost is the wreck of the rest of the economy.

    2) A large number of people who are very influential are using very bad theory to guide their actions. Bernanke, is so convinced that central bank inflation is a good idea that he famously promised to dump newly printed bills out of helicopters if that was what was required to stimulate the economy. Imagine being in a car accident and waking up in the ER of a hospital whose doctors believe that illness is caused by imbalances of the four humours.

    3) I am persuaded that the Austrian school of economics has properly identified the cause of the boom-bust cycle in modern economies. They have, at their heart, the false signals generated by fractional reserve banks making loans to entrepeneurs. Thus, even the good old days were not so good.

    I would recommend the following reading for people trying to get a handle on what is presently occuring:
    1) The Importance of Capital Theory by Robert P. Murphy

    2) What Has Government Done to Our Money? by Murray N. Rothbard

    Enjoy!

  6. Fifi says:

    tarran – I’m not sure I agree with you about the politically connected (and by that I mean the Rove/Cheney/Bush/Reagan NeoCon axis of greed who have been behind the boom bust cycles since the recession in the 1970s). Remember, the Bush’s are a banking family as well as an oil one. There’s more than just a retarded faith in the free market at work behind all the deregulation, very profitable warmongering and various other abuses of government to line the pockets of the behind the scenes players (those who profit from the corporations who get the money). That hands not “holding on”, it’s grabbing the last of the cash out of the system before abandoning it entirely. It’s worth remembering that the really wealthy (not doctors and upper-middle class “wealth” but multi-billionaires who are the real players and wealthy) are international not national (nationalism is something to be used to direct the masses, otherwise all those corporations who dodge paying taxes who have their hands out would actually keep jobs in the US and pay taxes).

  7. Fifi says:

    Joe – Yes, snail mail letters and real paper petitions often tend to have more credibility/impact than online campaigns.

  8. tarran says:

    Fifi,

    First of all, the guys you are referring to are not free marketeers. They lie midway between the continuum that lies with mercantilism on one end and fascism of the economic variety on the other. People forget that Adam Smith ( wrote the Wealth of Nations as a rebuttal to the mercantilism, which is the economic policy that the Republican Party has promoted for most of its history (Until a little over a hundred years ago the Democratic party was the party of free markets). Recently, the Republican Party adopted Bismarck’s notion of the right-wing welfare state, which has been the driving theme of the Bush presidency.

    To oversimplify, the goals of the activist wings of the Republican Party were neoconservative ones. If you trace the neo-conservative to its roots, it actually was founded by followers of Leon Trotsky, who abandoned the Communist portion of their mentor’s goals in favor of a right wing support of traditional society (again, remember, the Right has historically opposed free markets as they tend to upend the traditional heirarchy of society). They kept, however, their mentor’s belief in a simultaneous world-wide revolution. In order to mute opposition to their plan to foment revolutions wherever possible, they bought off the opposition by offering giant welfare programs and government support for big business. Karl Rove did not predict his permanent Republican majority idly. He thought by offerring government favors to everybody, he could buy off any meaningful opposition. They paid for this largesse by running the printing presses, until they became concerned that the resultant rise in prices would threaten their popularity. When they eased up on the printing presses, the housing bubble, which depended on newly printed money for its sustenance, burst, and we found ourselves here.

    George Bush’s claim that he promoted free markets while in office is about as truthful as his claim to have brought freedom to Iraq.

    I strongly encourage you to read the Murray Rothbard book I linked to earlier. The narrative that the politicians and the mass media are peddling are manipulative caricatures that barely scratch the surface.

  9. mamapadawan says:

    I would suggest that everyone search for “alternative medicine” and vote down the suggestions regarding supporting alternative medicine. So far, I’ve found “Support Health Freedom” that requests socialized medicine pay for alternative therapies like chelation therapy, herbs, vitamins, etc.
    There are dozens of others: there’s a request to change the current evidence-based standards for an effective treatment (I hope everyone votes that tripe down!); a request to support acupuncture for our wounded veterans; a request to mandate that our insurance companies cover alternative therapies. On and on – it’s downright depressing.

  10. wertys says:

    I tell you what, reading the comments in the Health Freedom proposal really makes you realise how far we have to go. For every reasoned and rational posting, there are a dozen raving, drooling knuckleheads shouting for a great leap backwards. Must be all the fluoride in the Kool-Aid…

  11. Fifi says:

    I’d suggest checking out who’s behind the whole “health freedom” meme and promoting it most aggressively. Am I the only one who finds it weird and creepy that it’s some ex-military guy (who’s still involved in developing stuff for the army) and his psychiatrist wife? Rima Laibow seems to be using her credentials to lend all this scientific/medical legitimacy and obviously Stubblebine is not naive to the ways of propaganda, mass persuasion and mind control (having developed torture techniques that are still used).

    http://www.healthfreedomusa.com

    Major General Albert “Bert” N. Stubblebine III was the commanding general of the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command from 1981 to 1984, when he retired from the Army. He is known for his interest in parapsychology and was a strong supporter of the Stargate Project.
    Stubblebine appeared in the 2006 documentary “One Nation Under Siege”[1] where he states that a Boeing 757 airplane could not have crashed into The Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
    Stubblebine and his wife, psychiatrist Rima E. Laibow, M.D., founded the Natural Solutions Foundation (NSF), “a non-profit corporation devoted to protecting and promoting health freedom”. They claim to expose dangerous prescription drugs and vaccines etc. promoted by large pharmaceutical companies, along with food contaminated by drugs. A large part of what NSF does is to lobby against Codex Alimentarius and for DSHEA.

  12. Fifi says:

    Here’s an interesting blog defending “health freedom USA” and Natural Solutions Foundation. It’s worth understanding where a message comes from originally and the “health freedom” meme comes straight from some very, very strange people with a strange history and military connections. They are behind a concerted effort to influence policy through Obama’s website – know thine enemy and bring them into the light people!

    http://vitaminlawyerhealthfreedom.blogspot.com/2008/12/truth-is-our-defense-internet-attacks.html

  13. RickK says:

    The CAM people found this one, and the votes have rapidly been going down while the pro-woo commentary has taken over completely.

  14. Ex-drone says:

    Fifi,

    Thanks for the background info on Health Freedom USA and the Natural Solutions Foundation. Ottawa Skeptics skirmishes with the StopC51 mob on Canadian blogs, and they re-use a lot of the deregulation and anti-Codex arguments from those organizations. This will help our fight to hold NHP manufacturers and CAM practitioners accountable for their efficacy claims and to prevent them from deregulating NHPs.

  15. Fifi says:

    Ex-drone – You’re welcome. They’re interesting since they seem to be the primary source of this meme yet even people within CAM (who aren’t supplement manufacturers) have become suspicious of what they’re up to. Stubblebine also influence peddles and lobbies Ottawa so he’s interested in pushing for deregulation on SCAM here too (and attempting to get into the public health system by hook or by crook).

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/9338018/Codex-Meeting-in-Ottawa

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