An Innovative Plan to Help Offset Budget Cuts at NASA and at the NIH - 2012

ABSTRACT: The Obama administration recently released its proposed, federal budget for 2013, which calls for funding cuts at NASA and at the NIH. The article discusses a possible, bi-partisan method for staving off these spending cuts.

President Obama's administration recently released its proposed federal budget for 2013, and the news is not encouraging for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which will realize a 0.3 percent decrease in year over year funding per USA Today. Employees at the National Institutes of Health are not cheering either. According to California Healthline, the NIH's budget will be frozen at current year levels (effectively a funding cut, since the inflation rate is greater than 0 percent). Congress may decide to cut spending for these two agencies even further when it sends the final budget to the President for his approval later this year. Regardless of who wins in November, the federal government will find it difficult if not impossible to boost funding for either NASA or the NIH anytime soon. The next Congress will have to deal with a debt load that, according to the Wall Street Journal, was approximately $15.194 trillion dollars in January 2012 and is growing larger with every passing day.

NIH Building 10 (1)
Some people might not worry about the cuts to NASA and to the NIH. However, it is important to remember that these agencies perform vital functions. NASA funded research not only expands our nation's knowledge of the universe, it also (per the agency's website) helps to foster the development of new, consumer technologies like the computer mouse. The NIH plays an even more vital role in our society. It oversees basic research on diseases and other healthcare issues that private companies will not perform for cost-benefit reasons. Any cuts to the NIH budget will imperil these studies.

With one change to IRS tax forms, the federal government might be able to increase funding to both of these agencies without having to raise new taxes or cut budgets for other programs. If nothing else, it would let the American people decide whether or not the work of NASA and the NIH is of value to them. Simply put, Congress and the President could authorize the IRS to include two donation boxes on its tax forms allowing people to contribute to one or both of the agencies. The opt-in process would not force anyone to give money; however, it would offer them an easy opportunity to donate if they so choose. In short, this legislation would provide Americans with a democratic method for voicing their support for (or disapproval of) NASA and the NIH.

Legislation authorizing the use of a donation box on an IRS form would break new ground, but the idea of voluntarily contributing money to the federal government is not new. In fact, a Wall Street Journal article notes that " Americans made gifts totaling $10 million over the past five years to the U.S. Treasury." Per their websites, both NASA and the NIH accept donations from private citizens. Further, the government could take precautions to make sure that neither the IRS nor any other government agency actively solicited the public for donations, thereby limiting any commingling of private and public interests.

While it is true that Congress and the President would have to overcome a number of potential obstacles to pass this legislation; they should nonetheless give the idea some thought. It is a bipartisan funding strategy that might appeal to constituents of both parties as well as to independents; a rare accomplishment in this age of divided politics.

1. Author: Chris Spielmann
    Date: July 2002
    Title/Description: A side view of Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center (Building 10) at the National 
                               Institutes of Health (NIH).
     Location/Permission: Wikimedia Commons - Author's note on the site (see the title/link for more info.).

-- Anthony Hopper

#NASA #space #NIH #health #healthcare #space #astronomy #stars #politics #taxes #donations

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