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Dear Research Advocate:
Yesterday, I joined Diane Rehm and other guests on her nationally syndicated radio program to discuss how sequestration impacts “ordinary Americans.” I was struck by how deep and distressing the damage is, in so many sectors, including but not limited to our own. Yet somehow the pain is not acute enough to force action.
What strikes me is how low our collective expectations have sunk when it comes to reinvigorating U.S. economic growth and prosperity. Our nation can do better; why don’t we maintain high expectations and hold our elected officials accountable for setting the policy stage to accomplish them? Policy makers should protect discretionary spending, make hard tax and entitlement reform decisions, and commit to policies that foster economic growth and societal (including health) progress. Part of that equation is ample, stable federal funding for medical research and policies that spur private sector medical innovation.
A glimmer of hope for policies creating such an environment can be seen in the Senate agricultural appropriations bill, which provides the FDA an increase of $96 million above FY13 and full access to collected user fees, previously subject to sequestration. The House also provides a modest increase for FDA. But don’t jump for joy; these increases still leave FDA worse off than FY12 and grossly underfunded. That we think of this as an increase is another example of lowered expectations. Meanwhile, the Senate 302(b) allocation levels for FY14 appropriations were adopted today. As expected, the Labor/H budget is significantly higher than the House’s. The Senate and House numbers are so far apart that reconciliation seems unlikely; the odds are still on flat funding minus sequestration. This is a low-expectation, low-outcome scenario, to be sure, and we should all fight against it. If we don’t, “ordinary Americans” will continue to suffer. Continue reading →