Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, March 01, 2013

I'm not really getting this scandal

That would be the horse meat thing. If you're perfectly happy to eat cattle, pigs, and sheep, why is it shocking and horrifying to eat horses? Especially since the whole premise of the story is that consumers couldn't tell the difference -- it takes DNA testing to discover it. The corporate media are covering the discovery of horse meat in some European prepared foods as if it's some sort of public health catastrophe. It also turns out that it is currently illegal in the U.S. to slaughter horses for human consumption. So we ship them to Canada or Mexico so they can meet that fate elsewhere.

I'm sorry but this is just bizarre. For the record, I personally don't eat any of the above. But I am not seeing the issue here, sorry.

On to more substantive issues. We're experiencing a major freakout here at the public health research shop. Whole research programs, Ph.D.s, post-doctoral fellowships,  and oh yeah, my job, are premised on the assumption that the federal investment in health research will be reasonably stable. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to grant degrees, do post-doctoral training, and launch people on careers if there isn't going to be any way to sustain them next year. But that's the position in which we now find ourselves.

You may not think that an 8% cut in federal support for scientific research sounds all that catastrophic. So let me enlighten you. The National Institutes of Health commits the vast majority of its extramural funding to multi-year projects, typically 3 to 5 years. Some major longitudinal studies are considerably longer. Ergo, an 8% budget cut means essentially no new grants this year, at all. Or very close to none. Therefore, all of us who are completing funded projects and are ready to go on to the next funding cycle are going to be left high and dry. Our work will lurch to a halt. We'll be laying off staff and maybe ourselves.

This may sound like self-pleading. Sure, I want to keep my job and do the work that is important to me. But this is about you too. What we're trying to do is make health care more effective, and yep, cheaper -- more affordable to the taxpayers. We're trying to find better treatments and cures for the ills that plague us. We're trying to make the health care system meet your needs better, be more equitable, more humane, and more directed toward the outcomes that patients want. And, overwhelmingly, the public supports that. The people want us to keep doing what we do.

So what I'm not getting is, what is the constituency for this? How do Republicans think they can win elections by screwing the people? Explain it to me.


Daniel said...

Here's my attempt to explain it:

It could be argued that the Republicans haven't won a national election since 1988, although maybe they did in 2004 (Ohio??).

But in regional elections they seem to be holding their own. There is a strong bias against the Federal gov't that they tap into in many of these regions. There is an Evangelical activism that supports them too, and an endless supply of money. And as their policies create more social illness they can tap into our fears of crime and social disintegration promising to bring back an America that their policies crippled.

At some point, not too far down the road, there will be a reckoning. But, if they can soften their antagonism to people with browner skin tones than theirs, they might pull this off for several more years.

kathy a. said...

about food -- i eat meat and am trying to cut down. but i do not eat peter cottontail, elk, bambi, flicka, lamb, the buffalo, fido, fluffy, alligator, etc. -- just cannot handle it viscerally. and yet, i'm not strong enough to go total veg.

i think the cuts for scientific research sound devastating - -to ongoing research, to new projects, to the employment of people who would otherwise be finding the next big breakthrough. and that has huge effects. you can't drop something that takes years, then pick it back up again in a while.

we're already behind on collecting public health data -- like on guns, i'd like to see more of that.

kathy a. said...

i actually think that particular cuts are hugely unpopular. the GOP is hiding behind their mantra that everything is obama's fault; they don't want to look their voters in the eye and say, "yeah, i don't care about your family. get lost."

Anonymous said...

The horsemeat is just the tip of the iceberg of Big Argi Transformation Industry.

Most if not all pre-prep frozen, canned, etc. isn’t made up of what one might want them to be or what the label says.

All the industries (many..) involved want to keep the scandal contained, so they love the horse meat hoopla. They can eliminate it and then sell collagen and fish meal made from bones, the left overs from pig farms, and even sawdust - as it isn’t Horse!


Anonymous said...

The US no longer has any interest in keeping its citizens healthy (if it ever did.)

It no longer wants to spend money on poor cancer patients, so called welfare queens, teens who can’t read or write, accident victims, single mothers of two, the disabled who can’t work, or anything like that.

Those ppl should just stay home and be quiet and die silently or if they are a tad violent or oppositional go to prison.

For its international reputation it will maintain a few labs and research progs with great fanfare at minimal cost.