Conservatives agree: proposed Republican budget cuts for NIH are mindless

UPDATE: Judy Woodruff just posted an interesting piece on the budget battle for NIH. You can read it here.

We have had a welcome surprise of late: conservatives are telling Republicans (yes, you read that right) not to cut the NIH budget.

The federal government has been running on a string of continuing resolutions (CRs) that temporarily fund the government and don’t serve much purpose other than preventing the government from shutting down entirely.  This is not that unusual for Congress, but this year the stakes are as high or higher than ever before, particularly for science as the current Republican-controlled Congress has proposed a 5% cut to NIH. If you care about research including stem cell research, you should be worried as such a cut would have drastic effects.

Interestingly, a growing chorus of conservatives is collectively arguing that the cuts to NIH proposed by the Republicans are a really bad idea, kind of like shooting ourselves in the foot. Keep in mind, these are highly conservative people telling the Republicans not to cut NIH.

We have an article in Bloomberg, a fiscally conservative venue, arguing against the NIH cuts and the focus of the article is on none other than Newt Gingrich, who is opposed to the NIH cuts. Keep in mind that people don’t get much more conservative to Newt and he may even be a Republican candidate for president in 2012.

In the article is a quote from former GOP Congressman John Porter calling the proposed cuts to NIH: “mindless”.

Also quoted is Mark McClellan, a former Medicare administrator in the G.W. Bush administration calling the Republican approach to budget cutting, including the NIH cuts, as cutting with a “blunt instrument”.

Perhaps getting the ball rolling was conservative columnist George Will, who wrote a January 2011 column in the Washington Post (read it here) that argued that America is “eating its seed corn” meaning we are not investing in our future because we are failing to invest properly in research.  Will did not mention NIH specifically, but the column was written as a message to new GOP Representatives and clearly opposed cuts to scientific research.

The bottom line is that these conservatives are right: America needs research to maintain its leadership. Appropriate funding for NIH is actually a net gain for America, producing far more money from the research it consumes.

2 Comments


  1. So.

    With a 14 trillion dollar debt load and a 1.7 trillion dollar deficit for this year how are we not going to cut something everywhere (including NIH) to bring our spending under control.

    Of course the primary cost drivers to the budget deficit are Obamacare, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But reigning in discretionary spending will need to be part of the solution as well.

    Where should we cut? The miliatary? Fine, give them a haircut too along with everyone else. It won’t be enough.

    Tax the rich more? They already pay the majority of the tax in this country.

    There is no solution to fixing our mess of a balance sheet except for cutting something from everything.


  2. Hi Greg,
    I disagree with you. I think NIH funding should not be cut. Here’s why. If you are running a business that needs to cut back on spending, you don’t cut across the board. If some units of your business are money makers (like NIH is for the U.S.) you don’t cut them because that is like shooting yourself in the foot. You cut or restructure the money losers/wasters in your business. Even Newt Gingrich has said to the Republicans (just quoted a few days ago) “Don’t cut NIH in your 2011 budget”
    Paul

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