Construction began in 1956 on what would become the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, commonly referred to as the Interstate Highway System. The federal investment of $25 billion provided by the Federal Highway Aid Act of 1956 created the largest public works project of its time. These federal funds built a network of over 47,000 miles of roads, bridges, and tunnels, connecting communities nationwide like never before and providing the foundation for billions of dollars in streamlined interstate commerce over the next half century.
Similarly, federal investments in the biomedical research industry through National Institute of Health (NIH) grants provide the backbone of the scientific and medical research communities in the United States. Across the country, from lab technicians to graduate students and leading researchers, NIH invests more than $31 billion each year in medical research.
The economic benefits created by this medical research investment are incredible. Every dollar in NIH funding brings back more than $2 in local economic growth. The biomedical research industry these grants sustain creates an estimated $90 billion in exports and employs nearly one million people across the country, earning an estimated $84 million. In one instance, the $4 billion federal investment in the Human Genome Project led to an estimated $796 billion in economic growth over the last decade.
NIH research has led to longer lives for Americans and improvements in the quality of life as we age. Babies born today can expect to live to the age of 79, nearly 30 years more than those born a century ago. Through the knowledge gained from NIH funded research projects, chronic disabilities facing the elderly have diminished by a one-third. The health benefits initiated by this federal investment are almost too great to count. NIH research has provided the catalyst for improvements in how we treat all forms of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, hepatitis vaccines, and dramatically improved the prognoses for those diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.
Sequestration has caused a myriad of blind cuts in federal investment dollars, from rolling back funds for supplemental nutrition assistance, furloughing federal workers, and reducing the number of Head Start services. The $1.7 billion cut to NIH, is disrupting research projects across the country, demoralizing some of our leading researcher teams and diminishing the benefits we have all gained from this public investment.
The United States has long been a world leader in scientific innovation and NIH has led the way in biomedical research. This mindless sequester, ideologically driven, is injuring our future leadership and limiting future life saving breakthroughs. Scientists searching for cures to diseases and conditions such as muscular dystrophy, cancer, AIDS, and diabetes are having to turn to online crowd sourcing for funding, even taking out personal loans to avoid shuttering their labs. It’s a sad state of affairs, one unworthy of this great nation, and one we must resolve to bring to an end. The health of millions of Americans depends on investment we make at NIH.