Dear Research Advocate:
After 16 costly, wasteful days, the government has been funded through January 15 at post-sequestration, FY13 levels — hardly adequate for providing the solutions the American public awaits. A bicameral, bipartisan budget committee has been charged to develop a long-term deficit reduction plan by December 13. If these marching orders sound familiar, they should: We’ve been down this road before, only this time sequestration isn’t the threat at the end, it’s embedded in the negotiations. As tempting as it is to give in to brinksmanship fatigue and just tune out the process, advocates must seize the opportunity to make sure our issue remains front and center, that it becomes impossible for lawmakers to ignore. Sequestration must go; research and innovation must be an immutable national priority, supported at the level of scientific opportunity that will allow us to overcome health challenges and continue to drive the economy.
We are pursuing every opportunity to make the case on behalf of our alliance. Yesterday, I was privileged to join an impressive group of speakers, including Leon Panetta, at a “stop the madness and do your job” press conference sponsored by the Campaign to Fix the Debt. Among the strong points emphasized by former Secretary Panetta, who also served as White House chief of staff, congressman and OMB director, was a call for long-term — he suggested five years — thinking and budgeting for non-defense discretionary spending.
Secretary Panetta emphasized that a sense of security is what’s needed right now, not stop-and-start government by crisis. When my turn came, I spoke about the damage to medical progress wrought by sequestration and the government shutdown, and also about the need for smart tax and entitlement reform. I spoke about polling revealing that the public would even support a tax increase if that money were to go to medical research, and I emphasized that while tax and entitlement reform are clearly necessary, both sets of reforms must be smart — not simply expedient — or our nation will pay dearly. I cited proposed cuts to prescription drug reimbursement as an example of seriously misguided entitlement reform. You can view C-SPAN’s coverage of the press conference and my remarks, at the 33-minute mark, here.
Now is the time — as policy makers engage in tax and entitlement reform negotiations — to urge elected officials to foster, rather than squander, medical innovation. Sequestration could seem like a walk in the park compared to the blows our ecosystem could take if we don’t speak out. And if we truly are a medical and health research ecosystem, it is in our best interest to band together and speak with one voice to prevent those blows.
This certainly isn’t the time for candy-coating; it’s time for plain talk about the impact of current policy making — or the lack of it. In that vein, a hard-hitting Huffington Post op-ed by Trish Vradenburg and an equally crystal-clear op-ed by Research!America Board member Dr. Betsy Nabel are must-reads. Policy makers and the public need to hear the real scoop on the effects of the surreal budget situation in Washington, and that’s what these leaders deliver.
Click here to contact your Members of Congress and tell them that enough is enough. It’s time to take American priorities seriously and start making smart decisions that will foster our nation’s future health and prosperity.