Cutting NIH Today Is a “Hard Power” Cut Tomorrow

It’s hard to imagine a more pound foolish ounce wise fiscal policy than a cut to medical research. 

A week after Paul Ryan proposed taking health-care coverage away from the poor, making it unaffordable for older people, and eliminating the Public Health Prevention Fund, President Trump is proposing a whopping $5.8 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which would amount to 20 percent of its budget. This is a double whammy. The Republican health-care policy, according to the Congressional Budget Office, already makes health-care premiums go up, cost sharing go up, and reverts us back to levels of uninsured citizens not seen since the Great Recession. Deep cuts to NIH spending will also increase the future burden of disease, make new treatments take longer, and lead to even higher future health-care costs.

It is, in some ways, puzzling that Trump would propose cuts to NIH because investments in biomedical research have the potential to create a large return on investment (ROI). NIH funding is the seed capital for new therapies. By funding the highest-risk, earliest-stage science, NIH funding enables a multiplicative cycle of private sector follow-on investment, job creation, and ultimately new treatments. This is the best kind of government investment, since it fills a gap in funding where private capital cannot afford to play.

- Democracy Journal

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