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Thursday, July 21, 2011

What Has Government Ever Done For Us?

July 21st, 2011

Trickle down economics are back, baby. This is, of course, insane. And yet, the proven failure of the scheme has not stopped the yo-yos who have conquered the Republican Party from doubling or even tripling down on it. Grover Norquist's dream of starving government down to the size where Republicans can "drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub" seems very nearly within reach.

The modern republican not only argues that government spending is inefficient but that it generates no real economic activity in the private sector. What's more, they seem to genuinely believe that government jobs aren't even real jobs. Take, for example, the Tea Party's contribution to the conservative-manufactured debt crisis, the "Cut, Cap and Balance" bill. As the CBPP noted in its analysis, this little gem would "would require cuts totaling $111 billion immediately, in the fiscal year that starts 75 days from now, despite a 9.2 percent unemployment rate. These cuts would equal 0.7 percent of the projected Gross Domestic Product in fiscal year 2012 and would thus cause the loss of roughly 700,000 jobs in the current weak economy, relative to what the number of jobs otherwise would be."

The intentional removal of 700,000 Americans from the demand side of the economy in a climate of nearly zero job growth is almost surreal. To support something so arch requires an opposition to practical reality. It's time we all began taking a more targeted approach to pushing back against this neo-Feudal nonsense. We need to deal in specifics.

Robert Creamer did just this earlier in the month with an examination that focused on the National Institute of Health, an entity that the Republicans have very much targeted for major cuts. Via BuzzFlash:

"The Republicans believe that investment by government - by definition - does not produce economic growth. Next time they ride to work on a street or subway, or pick their child up from a public school, or rely on inspections by the Food and Drug Administration when they buy a product - they should close their eyes and pretend that government does not have a massive impact on all economic activity.

Or they should look at economic impact of the NIH. The NIH's project that mapped the human genome cost $3 billion and to date has produced over $700 billion of economic benefit. According to NIH Director Collins, since the NIH was founded, it is estimated to have generated $70 trillion of economic activity.

Take the example of monoclonal antibodies. This technology lies at the root of many of the most innovative therapies in modern medicine. The FDA has approved twenty monoclonal antibody therapies, and hundreds more in are clinical trials. In 2010, five out of the top twenty bestselling drugs were monoclonal therapies and generated annual revenues of $35 billion.

Antibodies allow the immune system to latch onto specific targets - or invaders - in the blood stream like bacteria and viruses that cause disease. Monoclonal antibodies are produced when an antibody-producing B-cell is fused with a cancer cell, creating an immortal line of cells that can produce a single form of very pure antibody.

The technique for developing monoclonal antibodies was developed by Drs. Georges Kohler and Cesar Milstein, using a mouse tumor line developed by NIH. They won the Nobel Prize for their work in 1984. Since that time the NIH has played an enormous role in converting this promising technique into life-saving therapies and diagnostic tools.

The recently approved breakthrough therapy for melanoma, Ipilimumab, is a monoclonal antibody.

A study authored by United for Medical Research concludes that in 2010, NIH investment led to the creation of 487,900 quality jobs, produced $68 billion in new economic activity across the country, and increased job growth by at least 10,000 in 16 states."

Yeah. That sure was some wasteful spending. It clearly needs to be stopped. Good thing we have this new breed of "patriot" fighting to return us to the time of our "founders..."

And things like polio. And scurvy. Or something.

1 comment:

  1. I am a former scientist - so if you don't mind - I will elaborate for a minute.

    When a host launches and immune response to an antigen (such as an invading bacterium) many different types of antibodies are produced against the target. These are polyclonal antibodies - meaning that they are different and target the invading pathogen at different points. That's great as far as it goes -but to use them as a form of treatment is throwing hand grenades at the patient because you don't know exactly what you are giving them. Many of these antibodies may "cross-react" (attack) the patient's own tissues.

    Production of monoclonals means the specificity can be controlled. Only one specific antibody is given and that antibody has a specific target. It can be screened against cross-reactivity. That also means you can hit the "target" harder with less chance of side effects. The methodology is commonly used today. We don't think about it much anymore - but the technique had major implications - as you outlined.

    However, it is a discovery that NO DRUG COMPANY would have ever wanted to finance. Way too chancy - way too long term. That's the problem - you need public institutions to do the basic research while industry exploits the technology created further down the pipeline.