Email #72, Subject: “sanity”?

You expressed your support of President Trump’s choice of Congressman Mick Mulvaney to serve as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Other Republicans have recently spoken against him, and his confirmation vote appears to be up in the air this week.

While I certainly agree with you that “bringing fiscal sanity to Washington” sounds like a good thing, I’m seeing the opposite with the Congressman. Does your “applauding” Mulvaney mean that you also think we don’t “really need government-funded research at all?” In response to major scientific questions about the Zika virus, he argued that eliminating scientific research was the most sensible choice.

When I first read about this, I assumed some liberal media group was spinning his words out of context to give a misleading impression. So I went to his actual statement and read it in full. It’s true. Mulvaney cites the deadly Zika epidemic as a reason to end federally funded research—exactly the opposite of a sane choice. We need more research not less to understand and control the disease. He argues that, because some Zika studies have produced different findings, all Zika studies are a waste of money. This suggests that Mr. Mulvaney does not understand the most basic tenets of scientific research. It would of course be more cost-effective if a single study could provide all of the information needed on a given topic, but, as I’m sure you are aware, scientific progress is far far more complex. And when the topic is a deadly virus, different findings is a reason to increase not eliminate research.

This seems so self-evident that I find it difficult to believe Mr. Mulvaney was speaking sincerely. But the alternate interpretation, that he was intentionally misrepresenting the basic nature of scientific research, is even more disturbing. If Mulvaney uses Zika an excuse to defund government, what other kinds of “sanity” will he bring to Washington? Were you just cheerleading a fellow party member, or will you actually vote to strip life-saving scientific research from the budget too?

Chris Gavaler

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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