February 05, 2008
Bush Medical Research Freeze Means Cut After Inflation

Bush's freeze on the funding of the National Institutes of Health research budget turns into a budget cut of a few percent once inflation is factored in.

In his FY 2009 budget, released this morning, President George W. Bush calls to freeze the National Institutes of Health's budget at last year's level of about $29 billion while shaving more than $370 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2008 budget.

The president's budget also suggests decreasing research funding at the US Department of Agriculture by more than $350 million, but proposes increasing the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) budget by 5.7 percent over last year, giving the agency $2.4 billion in FY 2009.

A slow down in medical research increases our chances of getting killed by the diseases which pose far far larger threats to our lives than terrorists do. This spending cut comes in a context where the United States is burning $3 billion a week in Iraq toward a goal that will not substantially reduce our risk of death from terrorism.

The Bush defense budget increase is bigger than the total NIH budget. That $515.4 billion does not include the Iraq or Afghanistan war spending.

Bush on Monday proposed a $515.4 billion budget for the Defense Department's 2009 fiscal year, up 7.5 percent from this year and setting a record in dollar terms.

If your goal is to stop and reverse aging then take a hard look at the many government programs that spend in areas that could be cut back without pauperizing anyone. Social programs that allows healthy people to retire while they still could work diverts money away from medical research spending that could lengthen lives. Military spending on a pointless war similarly diverts money away from research spending that could lengthen heathy productive lives.

More generally, anyone who recognizes that aging is a curable condition should reevaluate the priorities they assign to various government spending programs. Is the government really spending on what will do the most to protect and extend your life as a free and independent person? Think about it.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 February 05 09:24 PM  Policy Science

Wolf-Dog said at February 6, 2008 4:53 AM:

The U.S. military budget is responsible for the employment of more than 10 % of the population. If the U.S. military budget were similar to other countries, then the unemployment in the U.S. would be like 15 % or more.

But this kind of keynesian stimulation of the economy is actually worse than simply giving free money to people to spend, because of the fact that some of the best talent and resources are being diverted to economically useless activities.

To put things in perspective, the article I am pasting below, says that the Department of Energy budget for 2009 will be only 26 % for all the research and development activities related to energy and vehicles. Only a small portion of the Iraq and Afghanistan war money would be enough to DOUBLE the DOE budget.


aa2 said at February 6, 2008 8:46 AM:

Also the government spends about 1 trillion on heatlhcare. Mainly through medicare/medicaid, but also the VA health system, and then a big one is the payed for healthcare of the federal employees and their families.

Here is the most important thing though. The United States can become the pre-eminent center for rejuvination treatments in the world. I believe it will be the biggest business there ever was, as people are willing to pay anything to be young again. America can't compete against NE Asian nations in manufacturing or engineering on a broad level. But America can compete and win in biology. Those nations aren't very strong compared to America in biology. America has masses of scientists including phd people, the best university system for private-public collaboration and the best venture capital system.

Countries are realizing what you do is fund heavily the early stage research through grants and universities.. Then you let the people involved spin off corporations and keep the patents and commercialize the results. If you think the pharma industry is big and it is.. imagine being able to sell 100 different treatments that every human on earth needs. As I believe rejuvination won't be a magic bullet, but instead many smaller interventions that together rejuvinate the person. But each intervention by itself would only have a small, but still important benefit. For example imagine extracting bone marrow stem cells, selecting the healthiest ones with the highest genetic integrity.. breeding hundreds of millions of copies, then injecting those stem cells into the person. To rejuvinate that aspect of their immune system. By itself obviously the person will not be young again, but at the same time having a more youthful and stronger immune system is signficant by itself for many elderly people.

For the corporations who get the early patents, then build the expertise in how best to do the treatments it will be a liscence to print money like the world has never seen. If needs be elderly people would sell their million dollar homes and cash out their retirement money to be made young again. And that is true whether they are in Japan, Europe or America.. so these can be sold worldwide.

Jake said at February 6, 2008 11:21 AM:

I am glad to see that less money will be spent in government sponsored research. That means we will have more scientific achievements and at a faster pace.

Not only is government research money wasted, it keeps private companies from entering a field dominated by government money. A perfect example of this is HIV. The government has spent billions and billions on HIV research and has accomplished nothing. And private companies who would have found a cure are forced out of the field.

If government money flows to anti-aging medicine, the field will be frozen in its tracks. Government research money is not needed, there is over $80 billion of venture capital available for any needed scientific research.

Fly said at February 6, 2008 11:43 AM:

From my perspective most production is wasted. Large homes with lawns and gardens, luxury vehicles, expensive schools, appliances and gadgets, clothing, expensive meals, silly entertainment such as football games or music concerts...so much that could be used for research and development.

However, it isn't clear that more money and more workers would significantly speed up research. There is a limited supply of talented researchers. There is only so much new information that can be absorbed and turned into new scientific models and new research programs. I suspect that research in genetics, molecular biology, and stem cells is already moving about as fast as possible. Likewise for IT, AI, and nanotechnology.

Wolf-Dog said at February 6, 2008 12:05 PM:

"There is a limited supply of talented researchers. "

Many of the most talented people study useless things, and many of them went to hedge funds, etc. If these people had studied science and had dedicated themselves to R & D for the benefit of the world, then the supply of talented researchers would increase many times. A very high percentage of talented people failed to become talented researchers in science and technology because they do their "research" in useless areas like Hollywood, Wall Street, etc.

Paul F. Dietz said at February 6, 2008 3:25 PM:

The U.S. military budget is responsible for the employment of more than 10 % of the population. If the U.S. military budget were similar to other countries, then the unemployment in the U.S. would be like 15 % or more.

You've given an example of Bastiat's broken window fallacy. If these people were not employed by the military, they would be in the civilian economy producing goods and services that consumers really want. Diverting them to the military denies the economy this real wealth they would otherwise have produced.

KM Pollard, PhD said at February 6, 2008 4:46 PM:

Jake wrote "I am glad to see that less money will be spent in government sponsored research. That means we will have more scientific achievements and at a faster pace."

I'd love to see the evidence for this or for any of the comments Jake has made. NIH funding, whether intramural or extramural, does not limit biotech or big pharma from investing in research. If anything it stimulates industry based research via a number of mechanisms. For example NIH funding contributes significantly to research at the NIH, universities and non-profit research organizations which not only leads to discoveries, but allows training at both the pre- and post-doctoral levels, supplying well trained scientists for industry. Also biotech or big pharma often have agreements with government funded institutions for first right of refusal for discoveries made at the institution; Bayh-Dole Act allows institutions to retain ownership of federally funded inventions. If such research is passed on by industry there is adequate opportunity for investigators to find funding from venture capital. Here in San Diego numerous small biotech companies have begun in this way.

While many of us are envious of the funding available for HIV research, the failure to find the magic bullet for HIV cannot be placed at the feet of NIH funding. The biology of the virus, especially its ability to mutate, makes HIV a very difficult problem to solve. Even so, what we know about HIV we owe largely to the NIH. Effective treatments do exist and allow those infected to lead productive lies.

If government funding has limited biotech and big pharma it has been via failures at the FDA. The lack of funding of the FDA over the last 20 years has reduced its ability to meet its current and future regulatory responsibilities; numerous agencies have reached this conclusion including The Subcommittee on Science and Technology (Nov 2007).

The failure of the current administration to fund science has been a very risky strategy. The failure to increase funding of the NIH has reduced the success rate of fundable applications and this has serious own stream effects. Discoveries are delayed (or possibly not made at all), training of scientists is adversely affected, and established investigators close their labs or move overseas where research prospects are better. It is quite possible that this lack of foresight by the current administration will have far more significant effects on the global success of the USA than the hundreds of billions spent on defense.

Wolf-Dog said at February 7, 2008 7:49 AM:

Paul Dietz: You've given an example of Bastiat's broken window fallacy. If these people were not employed by the military, they would be in the civilian economy producing goods and services that consumers really want. Diverting them to the military denies the economy this real wealth they would otherwise have produced.

That's actually what I meant, IF these highly talented people working in the military were employed in civilian jobs, they would be far more productive. What I was trying to say is the fact that more than 10 % of the economy is doing unproductive things (although I am not saying that we should dismantle the military.)

TTT said at February 8, 2008 12:28 PM:


You can't simultaneously complain about deficits while also complaining about spending restraint. Most adults recognize that you cannot have it both ways.

And as for Iraq 'not reducing our risk of terrorism', that is ignorant, particularly given that we have not had an attack for 6.5 years. In fact, Iraq/terrorism is no longer the biggest issue even facing the country, as per election polls.

Thirdly, as far as 'burning $3B/week in Iraq', that is dead wrong too, as most of this cost is the salaries of military personnel. Unless you advocate both pulling out AND laying them off so that we shrink the military, your number is wrong.

An intellectually bankrupt article on many levels.

Randall Parker said at February 8, 2008 9:56 PM:


1) I argue we can increase funding of medical research by cutting back in other areas. Most adults recognize I'm not trying to have it both ways. The logic is pretty simple to follow: Cut back in some areas to free up money for other purposes. We could use a small fraction of the Iraq war money to double the NIH budget and still have lots left over for deficit reduction.

2) The lack of terrorist attacks is not due to the war in Iraq. Saddam was not behind 9/11. The Al Qaeda guys who worry intelligence agencies are the ones streaming into Pakistan's tribal territories for training from Western countries, not the insurgents in Iraq. We haven't had attacks because the FBI, CIA, Treasury, and other groups of intelligence and law enforcement agents woke up.

3) No, my number isn't wrong. Look at the size of the supplemental appropriations for the Iraq war. That's money that Bush asks from Congress that is above the regular DOD budget. Also, the $3 billion per week understates the costs because it leaves out long term medical care and assorted opportunity costs such as disabled vets becoming unable to work. Plus, the supplemental appropriations don't pay for a lot of the increased rate of equipment aging. Economists who have estimated the total Iraq war cost a few years ago came up with numbers in the range of $1 trillion to $2 trillion. Those costs are much higher now.

An intellectually bankrupt response on so many levels.

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