Maybe it's because I happen to have a dog in this fight, but I am quite (and I hope reasonably) frightened of the fall-out were the sequester to actually take place. I've read here at the DK (here and here) that the Left should be using the sequester as leverage. In that the effects of the sequester would be less harmful to the Left than to the Right. There is evidential reasoning, namely in that defense cuts will be relatively higher (compared to non-defense cuts) under the sequester than any other proposal that could come to pass. Also, the sequester protects certain entitlements such as the two big Ms, food assistance, and some student aid. However, I am writing this diary to highlight some of the dangerous elements of the sequester, which stymie biomedical researchers, particularly in novel and cutting-edge fields.
Federal funding for biomedical research has already been handcuffed for the past few years due to the lack of budget. Since Congress has not passed a new budget, and instead has operated off of a continuing appropriations resolution (or CR; see: our Congress is dysfunctional), the ability of funding agencies to issue new awards has been severely limited. This is because when a budget cut comes to the NIH (or NSF, or AHRQ, or ...), many of their future dollars have already been encumbered from previous awards. These agencies cannot very well go to previously awarded investigators (who have already acquired students and are often paying technicians, post-docs, and consultants) and tell them that their funding is being stripped. So as a result, the VAST MAJORITY of spending cuts impact new awards. Which types of applications are up for new awards? Well, it almost goes without saying: novel research! This includes cutting-edge medical procedures, experimental drugs, novel biomaterials, improved equipment, etc. And furthermore, when funding for new awards is restricted, the agencies tend to go with applications which are more conservative, thus insuring that their limited dollars will be fruitful. But often-times the applications with the most reward are those with the most risk, thus further reducing the genesis of highly novel biomedical research.
I'd like to garnish this important notion with some relevant facts below the orange twist.
* The sequester would cut $3.9B (or 8.2%) from biomedical research.
* In the NIH alone, this would result in 33,000 jobs and an economic decline of $4.5B (yes, biomedical research is a productive industry, meaning more value is created than is put into it).
* In the NSF (alone), 20,000+ jobs would be cut - these are primarily researchers, students, biomedical engineers, and technicians.
* Cancer research would be cut by $2.5B+
* The CDC (the folks that track health epidemics, issue alerts, stockpile medical supplies) would be cut by $0.5B
* The FDA (the folks that monitor the food you eat, the medicines you take, and the devices your doctors use) would have their budget cut $0.3B
* New awards at the NIH would be decimated by more than 25%, thus stifling novel biomedical research
* Many clinical trials (including those that are partnered with industry) will come to a halt, thus preventing new treatments from coming to market
Please, tell your congressperson (and liberal friends), "We need cures, not cuts!"