The Lancet last week released a sweeping and much vaunted report on "public health and policy in the Trump era." Its first key finding is that Donald Trump "politicised" science, which "posed a uniquely urgent threat to health."
The report, "Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era," offers a host of "science-led" proposals it claims would mitigate that threat, from the implementation of the Green New Deal and a complete ban on coal mining to higher taxes, cuts to defense spending, and Medicare for All. The list goes on: Repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion, would also improve public health, as would an "explicitly anti-racist" agenda to eliminate gaps between minorities and "non-Latinx white people." Reparations for blacks, Native Americans, and Puerto Ricans should be part of that agenda, the authors say.
The report, which received funding from George Soros's Open Society Foundation, was trumpeted in outlets from the Guardian to Forbes and illustrates the way scientific institutions can be hijacked for partisan ends—even as the hijackers decry the politicization of science. It also raises the question of whether Trump's fusillades against experts or the experts themselves have done more harm to scientific credibility.
This report is evidence for the latter, with critics arguing that the influential medical journal has replaced rigorous research with politics, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The Lancet‘s editorial agenda during the pandemic has been a bespoke gift wrapped up in a lovely bow to every crank who wants to dismiss expert advice as no more than a thin veneer for the pet cultural obsessions of terminally online progressives," said Ari Schulman, the editor in chief of the New Atlantis, a journal of politics and science. "A mad scientist working in a lab to give [those cranks] cultural power could hardly do better than this Lancet report. It's an impressive feat."