The Centers for Disease Control have been in the news a lot lately, begging Congress for money to address the spread of the Zika virus. Well, it’s funny how an agency doesn’t have the money to fund what used to be its one job (that it was fairly good at) given that its mission has crept into studying pretty much any non-disease thing you can imagine. Let’s take a look at five of the hundreds of things the CDC’s billions in spending are flowing to instead of the maybe sort of important task of coordinating the response to a potential epidemic.
The War on Smoking
The CDC has been notoriously closely involved in the war on things we consume for fun, from junk food to alcohol to tobacco. But banning tobacco has been a particular priority issue within the CDC for decades. The Office on Smoking in Health, a CDC sub-department, boasts that it is the “lead federal agency for comprehensive tobacco prevention and control.” And while the CDC would claim that it is just a research agency that studies the health impacts of tobacco use, its clear conclusion for years has been to recommend that, “establishing a 100% smokefree environment is the only effective way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke.” Now that smoking is declining, after CDC studies and recommendations empowered the government to make cigarettes ridiculously expensive, many people have moved on to vapor pens for their nicotine instead. And, naturally, the CDC has already been caught releasing misleading data that is being used to clamor for regulations on vaping, too.
To be fair, the CDC doesn’t spend much money on research to affirm that the government should take away all your guns. Anymore. Because Congress had to specifically ban them from doing that in 1997, after the Center got caught using taxpayer dollars to produce anti-2nd Amendment propaganda that directly lobbied for gun control legislation. Chastened by the wrist-slapping from Congress, the CDC’s efforts on gun grabbing have been relegated to oblique studies on the risks associated with certain populations of people having access to guns. Still, President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request included $10 million to “support research into the causes and prevention of gun violence,” guided by a study that calls for examination of “the risks and benefits of firearm ownership.” It’s doubtful that request will be granted, though, and certainly the CDC’s safety guidelines would warn Obama about the dangers of taking a shot in the dark.
No nanny state is complete without actually trying to be a nanny. And sure enough, the CDC funds all manner of studies on parenting. This would make sense if they were giving advice on recognizing chicken pox or avoiding measles, but their parenting guidance runs the gamut. From disciplining your children to dealing with bullying to recognizing “sexual minority youth” (for when your 7-year-old decides he *really* likes other boys), the CDC’s website has articles and studies on just about anything to do with raising your kid. Then again, given the snot-producing little disease receptacles that children tend to be, it’s a miracle that the CDC doesn’t lobby to just ban them, too.
Workplace Safety Initiatives
There’s no vaccine for falling off a ladder or getting splatted by a texting driver, but maybe the CDC will fix that. Wandering even further afield from the treatment of diseases, the CDC spends a few hundred million dollars per year on the “National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.” Certain aspects of the NIOSH portfolio make sense for the CDC, such as guidance on preventing the spread of diseases in the workplace — a useful way to blunt the spread of an epidemic. But many of NIOSH’s studies are on safety, such as preventing falls, driver safety, and even stress management and workplace violence. Never you mind that there is already an entire other agency called… the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). No word yet on whether going postal is contagious.
Climate Change Research
Especially under the Obama Administration, it seems like no agency is complete without a niche program on addressing global climate change, or global warming, or global climate disruption, or whatever you’re supposed to call it these days. Sure enough, the CDC funds studies on how climate change can impact your health. Naturally, the “Climate and Health” section on the CDC’s site includes materials on how global warming increases disease-spreading insects, so you can probably count the days until there’s a CDC-funded study concluding that to cure Zika we have to eliminate coal.
This article originally appeared on Conservative Review.