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Not ‘America First’

Today, approximately 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Those with the misfortune of seeing a friend or family member succumb to a neurodegenerative disease know not only the emotional toll it takes, but the financial one as well. As medical advances prolong the average life expectancy, neurodegenerative diseases will become increasingly prevalent, and an increasing burden on the already expensive American healthcare system.

It is for this reason that President Trump’s proposed 22% and 11% slashes to the NIH and NSF, respectively, are not only uncompassionate, but financially irresponsible. Proposing such drastic cuts for the sake of immediate savings is a short-term fix that results in a long-term cost. Such a cut would hinder our ability to fund breakthrough medical advances. It will handcuff young researchers who bring fresh ideas to the table, but have no established funding pipeline yet.

One may expect that private funding sources will be able to pick up the slack in a much more effective and directed way. However, the funding of basic science (science directed towards fundamental understanding of the nature and behavior of systems) is essential for private industries to have any measure of success. While private industry is exceptional at moving basic research and findings to the market, it lacks the commitment to longer term projects that seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

Almost every major breakthrough can be traced back to basic science, often stumbled upon by scientists who didn’t even realize what they were uncovering. The gene editing system was discovered by researchers investigating bacterial immune systems. It has revolutionized the biotechnology field, and led to recent FDA-approved clinical trials. Computers, GPS’s, and MRI machines all can be traced back to basic science.

Funding of basic science has historically enjoyed bipartisan support and made the U.S. a titan in virtually every field of science. Unfortunately, if this budget is carried out, our spot as the world leader is now in danger of regression. It is anything but “America First.”

Tyler Smith

Hughesville

Submitted by E-Mail

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