Donald Trump’s recent “skinny budget” includes a devastating cut to the National Institute of Health (NIH) budget, amounting to $6 billion, which is 20 percent of the entire $31 billion budget. According to the Forbes, “This is colossally short-sighted, stupid and even cruel.” It’s “stupid” when you consider the fact that the NIH budget is only 0.75 percent of the total US Budget and the proposed cut would only reduce expenditures by 0.15 percent. The budget cut also appears unnecessarily violent in that it forces NIH to make incredibly difficult decisions regarding the 265 diseases they are currently researching.
The Many Benefits of NIH
The budget proposal also seems “short sighted” in that it ignores the fact that NIH is actually a good investment. A nonpartisan study put out in 2000 found that “Publicly funded research generates high rates of return to the economy, averaging 25% to 40% a year.” The same study noted that NIH saves billions of dollars in healthcare costs and produces thousands of jobs throughout the country. Texas, alone, gains 21,000 jobs and $1 billion in funding through NIH and in 2015, NIH grants created 350,000 jobs, nationwide.
Beyond the fiscal benefits, the study observed that of the 21 most important drugs synthesized between 1965 and 1992, 15 emerged out of federally funded programs and seven came specifically from NIH research pertaining to cancer, AIDS, hypertension, depression, herpes, and anemia. What’s more is that NIH research has majorly helped decrease mortality rates resulting from heart disease and strokes.
What Will Congress Do?
NIH has enjoyed bipartisan backing for the past two years. Agency Director, Francis Collins, said in an interview last year, he hoped for “a trend to get us back on a stable, predictable, upward trajectory.” Though Congress hasn’t finalized a budget, most legislators have planned for an NIH budget increase of $2 billion, according to The Atlantic. But with the skinny budget laying out massive cuts, the question emerges: will congressional Republicans allow the President’s budget proposal to influence their own budgetary decisions?
Representative Tom Cole, who presides over the House funding panel in charge of the NIH budget, said that President’s proposal will be given due consideration, but at the end of the day Congress will make all final decisions regarding “what will get cut and what will be increased.” With vague answers such as this, it is difficult to know precisely what Congress will do when the time comes to write the budget.
The President’s proposal to cut 20 percent of NIH should not be taken lightly. According to Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, “It is possible that the next cure for some cancer is sitting there waiting to be discovered, and it won’t get to the table.” And paradoxically, in Trump’s own words to Congress: we need to discover “cures to the illnesses that have always plagued us.” And to really hammer home the importance of this program, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriation subcommittee, said, “A medical research breakthrough at the NIH saves not just one life but potentially millions of lives over generations.” Finally, according to George Vradenburg of the nonprofit UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, this budget proposal threatens to negate years of research into Alzheimer’s.
How does Trump’s budget affect the lives of everyday people? In this case, the proposal to significantly reduce the NIH budget can only quicken the mortality rate in this country.