Thursday, December 22, 2016

Director of Office of Management and Budget

As of Dec. 20, 2016, Mick Mulvaney is President-Elect Trump's choice for Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. The Management side of the OMB is concisely stated on its website:

OMB oversees agency management of programs and resources to achieve legislative goals and Administration policy. (

Their website has a much longer, but thorough description of the Budget by policy objectives. These objectives range from creating a climate-smart economy, protecting and increasing water supply, crop insurance, preserving and protecting public lands and oceans, revitalizing manufacturing, biomedical research, civil space, agriculture,  education, protecting workers, tax reform, health and safety, justice system, immigration, border security, terrorism, Russian aggression, humanitarian needs.... (

This is just a sample of topics and subtopics in the 2017 budget document, and it illustrates a broad range of policy being managed and budgeted, a lot of responsibility on one's pick for OMB Director.

In the downloadable, complete budget I found ever finer details of responsibility, such as this under "Advancing Global Health":

"The Administration continues to be vigilant on Ebola and to prepare to respond to future outbreaks....The Budget increases support for programs to advance the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) at USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and continues support for DOD to improve disease surveillance, laboratory capacity, and biosecurity in support of the GHSA." (,

Ebola. That was scary for all of us. Considering Mulvaney will be the man to over-see budget plans should another outbreak occur, I looked at the Congressman's website for a better understanding of him (  Here is a passage from one of two press releases regarding the women's health program Planned Parenthood:

"Today, Congressman Mick Mulvaney, along with 17 other Members, sent a letter to House Republican Leadership requesting that Planned Parenthood be defunded through every available measure in the wake of reports that the organization has been selling the tissue of aborted fetuses for profit."July 29, 2015

If I understand this 2015 press release correctly, it tells me two things:

One, Mulvaney opposes abortion. This is understandable. I accept that people can't reconcile abortion with their faith, or for other reasons, empathize with the right to life upon conception.

And two, Mulvaney is easily influenced by dubious media. A video released on July 14, 2015 (two weeks before Mulvaney's press release), claims to expose Planned Parenthood's selling of fetal tissue for profit. However, this video has many inconsistencies calling into question its honesty (  As a media form, video documentary is easy to manipulate to support any accusation.  A more reasonable response within two weeks of the accusations would be a request for an investigation of the allegations against Planned Parenthood, such as that shown by Mulvaney toward the Benghazi embassy incident. This is from a May 30, 2013 press release:

"Mulvaney expressed confidence that the committees investigating the scandals will be to the bottom of them." (

So we have a man that will act with every available measure to defund an organization without the benefit of an investigation. We also have this same man as a candidate to manage the implementation of Executive policies, which by precedent, includes responding to new health emergencies. Does he have the grasp of complicated issues and of science necessary to deal with public health threats?

One can spend a lot of time searching a politician's website, and my selection of a few press releases is not adequate to evaluate Mulvaney's overall performance in office. My goal is to examine an inflexible anti-abortion stance at the Office of Management and Budget in an age of insidious diseases like Zika, which is linked to incidents of micro encephaly in infants. Essentially, I want people in cabinet level positions to be flexible between their ideology and what science can offer.

Recently, Phil Plait, who writes the column Bad Astronomy for Slate, penned this article:  Another Day, Another Anti-Science Trump Pick For Federal Office ( Phil shares a screen capture of an archived Facebook post from Mulvaney commenting on Zika:

" we really need government-funded research at all. And before you inundate me with pictures of children with birth defects, consider this: Brazil's microcephaly epidemic continues to pose a mystery -- if zika is the culprit, why are there no similar epidemics in other countries also hit hard by the virus? "

Phil's article disputes the accuracy of Mulvaney's statements, and I may address them with my own fact checking later. But reasonably evident in this quote is a failure to appreciate that even if Mulvaney is right to say too little is known about Zika, his notion of science and public health should raise a red flag. If we don't understand an outbreak of microcephaly, that's a call for more research by the most influential nation in the world, not less.

I mentioned that I understand the Pro-Life position. But my heart also goes out to women who bear the ultimate responsibility for the life they bring into the world. It's easy to say "once conceived, the unborn have a right to live, so as God is my judge", but the emergence of something as cruel as microcephaly calls to question this dependence on what we imagine our God to want. If He, She, It exists, where does Zika come from?  Are some women, for no reason other than they encountered the wrong mosquito, to live with the guilt of a pregnancy gone wrong?

My hypothesis is that an inflexible stance on abortion, shown by the pending Director of the OMB, will not be compatible with the Executive Branch whose job is to protect all Americans. Will someone like Mulvaney undermine the infrastructure that allows Federal agencies to respond quickly and dispassionately to national and international emergencies? It will be interesting to check the 2018 OMB Budget a year from now.

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