Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said Congress would never balance the federal budget without increasing federal research and development funding.
Gingrich, who called for doubling the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget, said more research funding might be the “most fiscally responsible step” Congress could take at this time.
“I want to emphasize this for a second. It’s probably one of the places where I do bring a little bit of a unique background, we balanced the federal budget for four straight years, the only time in your lifetime the federal budget has been balanced for four straight years, we did it while doubling the NIH budget because we set priorities but I want to make a deeper point about the future,” Gingrich, a former presidential candidate, said on Capitol Hill.
“With the baby boomers aging, if we do not find a research-based solution we will never balance the federal budget because we will never impose the level of regulatory pain that it would take to balance the budget which really means people not getting treated, people being in miserable circumstances and remember that with Alzheimer’s, caretakers are twice as likely to be sick as non-caretakers.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who sponsored the “”Middle Class Prosperity Project” forum, invited Gingrich to the event.
“The good news is curing Alzheimer’s and other major diseases appears more doable today than in any time in history thanks in no small part to basic research and development funded by the federal government. We’re in a period of extraordinary breakthroughs in biology, genetics, computation and materials,” he said.
“To allow research funding to languish at a time of historic opportunity when we could be saving lives sand saving money takes a special kind of stupidity that is reserved for this city,” he added.
Gingrich endorsed research bonds for large expensive projects, which he said have the potential to generate huge savings if they work.
“It’s worth exploring. Issuing bonds to finance the research then pay out some fraction of the savings. This would have the benefit of taking important projects off budget and raising much larger sums of money than the federal government is likely to appropriate,” he said.
Gingrich also said he supports more federal research prizes.
“Taxpayers don’t pay a thing unless and until the goal is actually achieved and they never pay more than the prize amount. Second, you get lots of competing strategies for solving the problem when you have multiple groups working independently to get the prize,” he said, emphasizing the need to shift the government’s efforts in space around prizes to accelerate competition.
Warren praised Gingrich for working to double the NIH budget while he was speaker of the House.
“Despite the deep divides, why was it that members of both parties decided that NIH funding was so important in the late 1990s?” Warren asked.
“As Hillary Clinton has said on the campaign trail, her husband and I had a technique where we could fight all morning and negotiate all evening and I think it’s really important in the sense – not that you get to a nonpartisan perfect world, but you have to place the country above whatever your fights are,” Gingrich responded.