Biden: Critics of NIH Spending ‘Know Nothing About Science’

By Fred Lucas | August 24, 2010 | 5:36 PM EDT

Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the economy and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus law) on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009, at the Brookings Institution in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Washington ( - Vice President Joe Biden praised the National Institutes of Health Tuesday, despite the agency’s record spending of tax dollars to study such topics as teaching Chinese meditation techniques to cocaine addicts and “hookah” smoking among college students in Jordan.

“I love how our opponents have nitpicked some of the research money that we have given to NIH. It reflects that they know nothing about science,” Biden said in announcing a report about the $100 billion from the stimulus package being spent on energy, science and health research.

“In the National Institutes of Health, we have one of the greatest assemblages of doctors and scientists in the world,” Biden said. “Through the Recovery Act, we’re giving them the tools to make the most profound innovation of all: improving and extending health and human life, while bringing down the cost in medicine.” has reported in recent months that the NIH has funded various grants on unusual studies such as $60,000 to study Hookah smoking among Jordanian college students; $314,613 to study a supposed increase in family violence after viewing of NFL games; $1.4 million to study the “social milieu” of male prostitutes in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi; $181,406 to study the sex drive of Japanese quail and $410,624 on the aforementioned study, which involved teaching Chinese meditation to cocaine addicts.

Specific to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, meanwhile, the NIH spent $363,760 to promote the economic stimulus. The NIH paid Palladian Partners Inc., of Silver Spring, Md., to promote the good things being done with stimulus money by the NIH, according to an oversight report issued by the offices of Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

“The project requires Palladian to develop ‘web-based real life stories that underscore job and infrastructure creation and accelerated ARRA research findings,” the senators’ report said. “Indeed, interested citizens can go to the NIH Recovery Act website and learn about the $12.2 million stimulus grant NIH is spending on ‘Facebook for Scientists’ and another story on how ‘Researchers Pull in Big Bucks Under Recovery Act.’”
But Biden talked about efforts by the NIH to research cures for diseases.

“This disease prevention work is happening across the board: in human genome sequencing, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autism,” the vice president said. “Thanks to the Recovery Act, researchers at our National Institutes of Health will complete the sequencing on 50 times as many human genomes as we’ve sequenced to date – not only increasing our understanding of disease, but also bringing down the cost of doing this work and opening the door to a future of personalized medicine. 
“Thanks to Recovery Act funds, NIH will be able to sequence the genes of cancers that affect 10 million Americans – again, with the potential to start winning the war on cancer our nation declared in the early 1970s,” he continued.
Biden also used the speech as an opportunity to rebut House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). Boehner made headlines Tuesday by calling for the ouster of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Obama economic adviser Lawrence Summers, citing the lack of economic recovery.
“After months of promising a look at his party’s agenda and their plans for America, he made what was billed as a major economic address,” Biden said mockingly. “And his chief proposal apparently was that the president should fire his economic team. Very constructive advice, thanks.”

Biden said Republicans will not regain control of the House or Senate in November, and warned if they did it would be a return to what he called the problems of the past. 

“They think the policies they had in place during the Bush years -- the ones Mr. Boehner helped craft and sell -- were the right ones,” Biden said. “Well, let me tell you, there are millions and millions of Americans who saw their paychecks shrink or their jobs, houses, and savings vanish.  Mr. Boehner is nostalgic for those good old days. The American people are not. They don't want to go back. They want to move forward.”
Boehner’s office responded to Biden with a statement that linked to a letter by 100 economists in June calling for major spending cuts.