The Associated Press

Sen. Warren: Boost Spending On Medical Research

BOSTON — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for a doubling of spending on biomedical research through the National Institutes of Health on Monday, arguing that the country is in danger of losing its status as a world leader in the development of new medicines.

The Massachusetts Democrat said funding for research should be better protected from annual budget battles to help encourage scientists to push ahead for the next big medical breakthroughs — work that often takes years to complete.

Warren told a breakfast forum of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Monday that government support for basic medical research benefits everyone through the development of new drugs and treatments. She said that’s particularly important for the economy in a state like Massachusetts which acts as an incubator for biomedical research.

She also said greater spending on medical research makes economic sense, calling the refusal to invest “the budgetary equivalent of cutting off your feet to save money on shoes.”

The NIH has been hit by the across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration. Warren said the cuts have forced layoffs and stalled critical research – a situation made worse by the recent 16-day partial government shutdown, which froze grants and sent thousands of researchers home.

The sequestration cuts have translated into a loss of $128 million in medical and scientific funding in Massachusetts, she said.

Warren argued that Private investors, who unlike the government face the pressure of having to turn immediate profits for shareholders, aren’t able to fill the gap.

She also warned that other countries are ready to pick up the slack if the U.S. continues to back away from support of biomedical research. She said China is dramatically investing in that area and that South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan are following suit.

“We are the world leader in this work only so long as we are willing to commit the resources that a world leader must commit,” she said.

The NIH’s budget is about $30 billion while the annual budget for the National Science Foundation is about $7 billion.

Warren said one way to increase their budgets while reducing the nation’s deficit is to trim billions in subsidies to oil, gas and agribusiness.

She also argued that money spent on biomedical research can reduce long-term government spending by lowering health care costs. She said a drug that could delay the onset of the most serious effects of Alzheimer’s disease by five years could save the economy hundreds of millions over the next several decades.

Asked how her proposal to double those budgets might fare in a divided Washington where many Republican lawmakers are skeptical of additional government spending, Warren said that support for medical research has typically won bipartisan backing.

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  • X-Ray

    No parochial interest here. LOL

  • Thinkfreeer

    She’s wrong, as usual. She is right about one thing – that we should trim (I would say eliminate) subsidies to oil, gas, and agribusiness. Unfortunately she believes that the US government should meddle with the economy and support research with public money. This is best left to private interests. There can be no successful prediction of the future with or without such “investment.”

    • Steve Jon

      You are so incredibly wrong and I want you to know that. This is what is wrong right now, the general public just doesn’t understand how biomedical research works. You wont be convinced otherwise because you clearly have an ideology blocking your sense, but let me give you an analogy. A hurricane hits the east coast…would you say “don’t give money through charity, let private interests take care of it”? No because they would do things that would be best for generating profit, not for what is best for the people. Just let that sink in when you talk about ‘for-profit’ biomedical research.

      • Thinkfreeer

        Gee that’s funny, I still don’t know that, “my friend.”

      • b1006250

        Like many people, you have the common fallacy that “public good” and profit seeking are mutually exclusive categories. The are not. Is Walmart against the public good because they seek profit? Every company works for the consumer, or else they go out of business.

        Only consumers decide which industries to give money too through purchasing their products. People would save and invest in research according to the market. The government (even the most smartest person in the world) cannot know what to invest in because it does not have perfect knowledge of consumer demand.

        • AntonioD

          Exactly and that is why private R&D is fatally flawed. There needs to be some kind of public investment in development that would be too risky for– or unforeseen by– private interests. Corporate boards are legally obligated to act in the best interest of the shareholders, which means raising value of the stock. This means risk averse investment in R&D.

          See my comment above. Many key inventions come from random discoveries. Corporations are adapting and learning to participate in public investment but a form of public “government” is unavoidable.

          I.e. you are forgetting the other side of the coin; government can instigate economic growth

          • b1006250

            You are correct, government can instigate economic growth, but you are blinded by good intentions. The government only gets this money through taxation (or the printing of money, which is indirect taxation, or borrowing, which is delayed taxation). This money is money taken from consumers. Therefore, consumers are not allowed to fully express their desires in the marketplace. Instead, this money is invested somewhere else. Since only consumers can act to maximize their own satisfaction, government investment can only decrease overall consumer satisfaction. Since everyone is a consumer, this decreases overall human happiness.

          • MIKEL0NG

            Let me guess, Tea Party values are a bit too liberal for you, right?

        • Jay PBaker

          Perfectly competitive markets assume perfect information, which certainly is not the case regarding any sort of research. Please keep in mind that researchers aim to discover ‘new’ information about novel compounds, ideas, etc and it is impossible for the market to effectively take into account, when making decisions as to where to allocate capital and labor, the unknown ‘information’ regarding the costs and benefits of potential research.

          Additionally, technological advancement does not proceed linearly, the benefits of a certain discovery are unknown to consumers, let alone other researchers, until further research is performed. Again, assuming markets are not perfectly competitive due to a lack of perfect information, it is best for the government to play a large part.

          For-profit ‘rational’ decision making is not applicable in this scenario.. and in this case, the government steps in since it is willing to take risks that for-profit firms are unwilling to.

          • b1006250

            Perfect competition and perfect monopoly are theoretical constructs that don’t exist in reality. In the unhampered market, prices reflect consumer desire and determine where it is most profitable to invest capital. The market does, and has always, taken this into account.

            You are correct in saying technological advancement does not proceed in a linear fashion. People are careful with their money and will only invest if there is a higher return on their investment. They have the incentive to do vast amounts of research in order to determine where they should put their money, and the government will be much more inefficient in this regard because the loss of a return on their investment is not their primary concern.

            The two options are as follows: a politician (or politician appointed bureaucrat) decides or individuals decide. The only way to increase human welfare overall is to invest where there will be the highest profitability, since people can only benefit themselves through society. The politician is not primarily concerned with profitability, hence he is not concerned about human welfare. He is concerned about who gives them the most money in order to get re-elected.

    • AntonioD

      Unfortunately, your simplistic understanding of economics has lead you to a flawed understanding of what the government “should” do. Yes, the *development* of my commercial-grade products is best left to the private sector, but, unfortunately, what we’ve seen with time is that the private sector is actually somewhat inefficient at innovation.

      What happens with big-time, commercial R+D is that the R+D is dependent on generating return for investors. This mandates risk aversion. Risk aversion is counter to the sort of “random,” broad research that is invited by public investment. An example of a similar phenomenon is visible in the movie industry: as budgets get bigger and bigger for AAA movies, investors want more and more risk aversion (to match the stakes). What we end up with are really expensive “safe” movies that all seem the same because they are; they are intended to maximize return relative to the risk (the investments).

      However, companies sometimes do conduct “random,” broad research, but who do they usually team up with? Ta-da!; the government. Google and their self-driving cars, commercial space-flight development….the INTERNET.

      Government can be useful my friend; but you have to put it to work.

      • Thinkfreeer

        Anybody who uses “my friend” when addressing me means no such thing. You know it, and I know it. So stop it.

        • AntonioD

          No. It’s a rhetorical device and I like using it, so I will say it where I see fit to do so, thank you very much.

          Good to see you found a way to avoid responding to my comments though. Good for you.

      • b1006250

        The movie industry also puts out many “unsafe” movies, which renders your point invalid.

        The government initiated many technologies, like the internet, but the private sector expanded them beyond anything the government would ever do. Companies team up with the government because they can; its free money. You cannot know what would happen if the government did not give out this money. To imply that innovation would cease is unlikely and frankly naive.

      • X-Ray

        And the government is efficient at development? I don’t think you have been learning the lesson. BTW, rational institutions take risk if it is proportional to the expected (considering the probability of success) return.

    • OrdinaryDude

      Too bad you don’t understand government and it’s involvement in research. If private business were doing research, it certainly would not be for the “public good” and for profit only. Stick to MySpace for your commentary. You are out of your league here.

      • b1006250

        “public good” and profit seeking are not mutually exclusive categories.

    • thinkcomplex

      Sure…. that is how we accomplished our standing as a science super power in the last century, right? Probably the NSF, the NIH, NASA, DARPA or any other of the multiple STEM/ S&T components of the federal government were just acronymic decorations in the governmental christmas tree….geeez…

  • BillAlphonso

    She also supported the Chamber, Koch, Norquist, and Murdoch’s push to have unlimited immigration.

  • Thinkfreeer

    No, it’s precisely because their interest is profits – that’s free enterprise at work. Why invest in a loser? The government has no business picking and choosing winners and losers in the business marketplace, despite what they keep doing, which is wrong.

  • Thinkfreeer

    No

  • Thinkfreeer

    I think we know who the troll is

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