Somtimes, I question my own intentions. Do I really think it's in Americans' interest to pay me to do basic biology research, or do I just like getting paid? Is the NIH anything more than welfare for academics? When such moments strike, I like to turn for advice to a liberal luminary, an advocate of the power of Big Government doing big jobs for the common good. Someone like -- Newt Gingrich?
NIH funding has been flat since 2004, undermining the gains earned through the doubling of the budget and slowing the pace of progress in biomedical research. The Bush administration's proposed fiscal year 2008 budget would cut $329 million from last year's allocation of $28.6 billion. Biomedical inflation significantly compounds the impact of this reduction. This is exactly the wrong course for the country. Investment in the NIH should be expanded, not cut.
The National Institutes of Health Reform Act, approved by Congress in 2006, contained the authorization of an increase of 8 percent for the agency in 2008. The House Appropriations Committee vote on June 7 calling for a 2.6 percent increase for NIH does not go far enough. The House, Senate and the Bush administration should follow the 8 percent increase authorization, and make a choice now to secure longer, healthier lives for Americans with this as the benchmark for future years.
Those paragraphs, emphases mine, are from an op-ed Gingrich co-authored in the June 24 San Francisco Chronicle. As I recently posted, the current Senate and House plans increase the NIH budget by only 3.5%, compared to an inflation rate in the life sciences of 3.7% (detailed numbers here). The current plans also shift funding obligations around within NIH in a way that leaves most Institutes with increases of less than 2.5%, a stunning real dollar cut relative to inflation. At this point, let me stop and ask, what upside-down, ass-backwards planet am I living on when Gingrich advocates government spending on medical research while the Democratic Congress wants to starve it out?