Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

A friend from Wisconsin sometimes sends me clippings from his local papers that he thinks I will find interesting. The most recent was a perfect example of so much that’s wrong with our policymaking today: it told of a researcher at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who had been studying strains of the Ebola virus.

Just as his research was beginning to show promise–just as he and his team had created a potential vaccine– his funding was terminated. As the paper reported

The experiments demonstrated the vaccine, when administered in two doses, is effective even against the most deadly Ebola strains. That’s when the money ran out…Kawaoka could not proceed with tests to determine whether the vaccine regimen might work with humans.

I’m sure that those parceling out the ever-shrinking resources available for such studies figured Ebola was too abstract an issue–that scarce funds needed to be directed to research with more immediate application.


Researchers in all areas, including but certainly not limited to the sciences, have raised concerns over the dwindling of government resources for research and development. This lack of concern for investing in our continued progress, like our disinclination to maintain and improve our basic infrastructure, signals a country on the decline.

Who was it who said “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit”? Whether that is the meaning of individual lives may be up for debate–but concern for the long term and the willingness to invest in it absolutely must be a central precept for any nation that wishes to be–or remain–great.


  1. The government has been run with an accountant mentality since Reagan proclaimed that government was the problem, not the solution. Someone told me that an accountant was a person who knew the cost of everything, but the value of nothing. As long as voters demand that our government continue to operate in a vacuum the results will be the same. Where is a leader who can make the compelling case that money spent on ourselves in a good invetsment? Where are the voters who would support him/her?

  2. Conservative mentality, that is scarcity, is the antithesis of growth, expansion, progress. Why they use “progress” as an epithet.

    They will drag us down in business and government unless we drag them up.

    Life is full of problems but humans are full of solutions if we work together.

    No wonder every man for himself has such a lousy track record.

  3. Sorry, daleb, but there is nothing of the accountant in the Reagan ideology. And there is none now. It is a matter of ‘privatizing’ and putting your buddies in contact with government procurement. It is a matter of dumping all the money in pensions, retirement, and healthcare into private coffers. AND just because arrogant thieves like Mitch Daniels proclaim what geniuses they are at ‘making government turn a profit’ one only has to look at the trail of bodies in his wake–a run down, bankrupt toll road, logged out state forests, power plants bankrupting Indiana rate payers, next to highest infant and maternal mortality. BTW, he should be getting his ‘atta boy’ bonus from Purdue any day now…..

  4. I believe this is the third year that Public Employees Retirement Fund (PERF) has not received a COLA; this adminisration are short-changing their own former loyal, hard working employees. Are they saving it for future use – THEIR future? If the government is being run by accountants, they need to register in a refresher math course. Or are they using the new mathematics (Core something?) which takes several steps and an entire page to reach the same answer that 1-2 steps finds in a few lines?

  5. Thanks prof K. Here is another example:
    The IRS collection division brings in 100 dollars for every dollar it spends.
    THIS is a department the Tea party folks wanted to reduce funding for.
    ???? Really ??? And they are concerned about finance issues? Not really.

  6. patmcc I don’t get your logic. Seems like you’re complaining that ATM’s operate at a loss because they never collect? Of course the IRS makes more than it loses.. So does the Dept of Treasury. How can you lose when you print the money? Or simply collect it?

    We need to remember that the 1% not only invest highly in government, they participate also. No, not through their individual input, but rather through a personal investment toward their own interest. Dems laughed when Rove’s picks fared poorly after millions of Koch dollars. But they are still there and will give millions more this November. More clearly viewed, one can see that they didn’t lose. Why? Simply because the nation has inched more to the right while led by one who is out of his depth. Think of it: The future of this nation now hangs on the votes of 6 people. And these 6 will be again decided, by a dumber electorate, this November.

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