Tuesday, April 04, 2017


The New York Times reports that a Trump administration proposal to make drastic cuts in federal grants for scientific research is facing serious opposition:
A proposal by President Trump to cut federal spending for biomedical research by 18 percent — just months after Congress approved bipartisan legislation to increase such spending — has run into a buzz saw on Capitol Hill, with Republicans and Democrats calling it misguided.

“I’m extremely concerned about the potential impact of the 18 percent cut,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma and chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the National Institutes of Health. “This committee and certainly me, personally, will be very hesitant” to go along with the proposal, he added....

Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said the proposed cuts could have “catastrophic results” for patients and researchers.
I'm not sure why Republicans oppose these cuts -- probably because large corporations benefit from government-sponsored research -- but I'm pleased that the proposal might not survive in Congress.

But the administration insists that cuts of this magnitude should have no effect whatsoever on research:
Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, said the government could achieve huge savings next year without harming lifesaving research by paring back payments to universities for overhead — the “indirect costs” of research financed by the health institutes.

These include the cost of utilities, internet service, data storage, the construction and upkeep of laboratories, disposal of hazardous waste and compliance with federal rules protecting human subjects of clinical research.

“About 30 percent of the grant money that goes out is used for indirect expenses, which, as you know, means that that money goes for something other than the research that’s being done,” Mr. Price said.

But researchers said the remark showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the way biomedical research is conducted.

“Indirect costs are very real costs,” said Dr. Landon S. King, the executive vice dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “There is not another source to pay for them. The kinds of cuts that are being suggested would almost certainly harm our ability to conduct this research.”
Please note how the Times presents this debate -- in effect, "White House, Researchers Disagree on Need for Electricity and Infrastructure in Conducting Research," as if lighting, heating, the Internet, waste disposal, and the construction and maintenance of laboratory facilities are add-ons for researchers rather than necessities. We're told that "researchers said the remark" by Secretary Price "showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the way biomedical research is conducted." The sentence should have made clear that the researchers were making a plain statement of indisputable fact.

This proposal comes from a White House that's spending massively on its own overhead -- $3 million every time the president goes to Mar-A-Lago for the weekend, by one estimate. Why shouldn't taxpayers refuse to pay this "indirect cost" of governing? Hell, why should we even pay for the White House? Trump's a rich guy. He has plenty of places to stay. Why not just pay for the core costs of government and let Trump pick up the incidentals himself? Isn't that what True Patriots should support? Why are taxpaying footing the bill for all this "big government"?

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