Sunday, July 31, 2005

Frigin' Frist!

I'm well aware that all politicians must occasionally dance with the devil. It comes with the job no matter how well intentioned and honorable the person may be, but that doesn't mean I can't bitch about it. Dr. Bill Frist may be a nice guy and a principled MD, but he needs a backbone-ectomy.

John McCain lost big when he joined the "Unholy 14" and he may never recover from it. "The base" saw his actions as a traitorous attempt to gain moderate Democrat support at the expense of a critical part of the conservative agenda. Giving Bush the finger instead of support for his judicial nominees wasn't the brightest way to position himself as a possible presidential candidate. Senator Frist is making the same mistake, but I doubt the ramifications will be as severe. The reason is that both sides of the argument are missing the point.

Look at these headlines:

Frist to back repeal of Bush limits on stem cell research - Detroit News

Critics claim the president "doesn't want people to live", "its Bush's fault that Christopher Reeves died", "Bush wouldn't even save his icon Reagan", and more such drivel. They make it seem as if Bush is curtailing research by placing legal boundaries on stem cell lines and the money that may be spent on them. What everyone seems to be happily ignoring is that there is NO RESTRICTION ON PRIVATE RESEARCH! That's right, none whatsoever. Pharmaceutical companies, biotech labs, colleges, etc. are still free to do research on any lines they find, and to get the funding from any source they can get.

This issue has less to do with advancing medical science than it does advancing a political ideology using taxpayer money. This research is going to progress regardless of Federal aid as long as entrepreneurs and scientists feel that it will result in a marketable product. A windfall of Federal dollars is only going to create a power grab by those who will turn the issue into a never ending money pit, and may even hamper the ability of scientists to effectively pursue their research. As long as the studies continue to "provide promises of cures" but don't actually produce anything tangible, the tax money will continue to flow forth.

Frist is betting that this little "lapse" from principled conservative values will engender feel-good support from some of his critics and either go unnoticed by the base or at least won't piss us off too much. I'm pissed. I believe in the free market and that more could be accomplished with deregulation than Federal subsidies.