Dear Research Advocate,
Since I wrote with a note of optimism last week, Speaker Boehner was unable to hold his caucus, and both houses of Congress summarily recessed. As of today they remain at a virtual standoff, with the House calling for passage of a bill to extend all tax cuts and the Senate calling for passage of a bill to let rates expire on families making more than $250,000 per year. The current 112th Congress and the White House are unlikely to come to terms on a deal this year. And now the rhetoric has changed to describing a fiscal cliff effect that isn’t irreparable (thus “bungee jumping,” per a Bank of America economist), with the Administration using damage-delay maneuvers until the new Congress springs into action in the first weeks of 2013. Or maybe things will drag on for months, again? Clearly, “deadlines” have lost their meaning; politics trumps all. Perhaps the markets will force action as they did over TARP. For all of us, stakeholders in research — patients and caregivers, researchers, universities, and industry — the message is that elected officials continue to ignore our interests.
On a positive note, increased media attention to the impact of the fiscal cliff has provided opportunities for researchers to describe the very real consequences of deep spending cuts. In response to an interview request from CBS News, we asked Dr. Kerri Mowen of the Scripps Research Institute to describe how medical research would be affected by the fiscal cliff for a segment that aired on the CBS Evening News on Christmas Eve. Stories like this are crucial for maintaining the drumbeat on the consequences of budget cuts from both a health and economic standpoint. Fewer grants mean fewer discoveries and massive job losses at research facilities and industries nationwide. “Cliff diving” will rupture the drug discovery pipeline and hinder medical progress, an outcome most Americans fear and dread, according to our polls.
We must start the new year with a renewed focus on personalizing the reasons research should be prioritized. The health and well-being of Americans is at stake. Make one of your New Year’s resolutions a pledge to do more to engage lawmakers and the general public. We can help; call on us early and often!