publication date: Mar. 17, 2017

“Duplicity” at NIH?
White House spokesman Sean Spicer says the cut isn’t really a cut

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the cuts proposed by the administration will help eliminate inefficiency and duplication at NIH. At a White House press briefing March 16, Spicer was asked to justify his boss’s proposal to gut biomedical research funding:

 

Reporter:

I want to ask you about the decision to cut the National Institutes of Health budget by 19 percent. As you know, it’s a very important part of the government funding medical research.

Sean Spicer:

Yup.

 

Reporter:

Budget Director [Mick] Mulvaney yesterday acknowledged that the private sector can’t fill that gap. When there are rare diseases, we do need a robust government presence. The president invited a rare disease patient to his speech to Congress to talk about medical innovation and new cures. How do you square those things when you are cutting NIH by 19 percent? And many conservatives actually want to increase the budget.

SS:

I think director Mulvaney…somebody asked him during the Q&A period the same question, and…

 

Reporter:

My outtake from listening to him yesterday was that it wouldn’t be cut.

SS:

But then again, there’s this assumption in Washington, that if you get less money, it’s a cut, and I think the reality is, is that in a lot of these, there’s efficiencies [sic], duplicity [sic], ways to spend money better. And I think if you’re wasting a lot of money, that’s not a true dollar spent.

And I think when you look at Director Mulvaney and the president’s approach to this budget, it was, “Can we ask, can we get more with the same dollar? Can we find duplicity?

“Can we find efficiencies? Can we combine facilities in some cases at NIH to enhance a better experience whereby we actually have an outcome that reduces savings?”

But to assume that because you spend a ton of dollars, you’re going to get a better outcome? I mean, with all due respect, you look at the District of Columbia, they spend, by far, more per capita than any other city in the country on education.

And I think they have tremendous issues that are constantly being dealt with in our education system. So to assume that just because you throw money at a problem, it’s somehow magically solved is a very Washington way of looking at a budget problem.

 

Reporter:

…a fifth of the NIH budget…

SS:

I understand.

 

Reporter:

…is a lot…

SS:

I think part of the issue is that we’re working, as the director outlined a couple of weeks ago during the passback process, is to work with them, to talk to each of these agencies and departments about how to walk through their budget in a way that ensures that they can continue to do their core functions if they want, while finding ways to reduce ways, get rid of … enhance efficiencies, and get rid of duplicity.

But that is a very Washington way of looking at a problem when you say, “Let’s just look at how much we spend as a measure of how much we care or how much we’re going to get done.”

And I think that the president’s been very clear as to what his priorities on this budget are, and the outcomes that we expect from every dollar that we spend.

So, for being in office for 55 days, or 50-some days, whatever it has been, we’ve had a unique ability to go far, to go forward so far and make a very strong commitment to enhancing our national security to protect the country and keep America safe and its citizens safe, while at the same time making sure that we don’t ask for people to work harder to send more to Washington, that gets ultimately wasted.

I just don’t see how that’s showing respect to the American people or the American taxpayer, especially when so many people are working two, sometimes three, jobs, or both parents are working just to get by, pay the mortgage, and we’re saying, “Hey, don’t worry, keep sending more money to Washington, and we’re not going to take the time.”

But there should be a review of all these agencies. Director Mulvaney was pointing out how many unauthorized agencies and departments and programs we have throughout
the government.

If we’re going to do that, at some point there should be a debate on whether or not these agencies and programs are achieving their mission. And if they are, then great, fund them. But if they’re not, we shouldn’t be asking hardworking American taxpayers to send more money to Washington to fund things that don’t further
those goals.

Copyright (c) 2017 The Cancer Letter Inc.