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.