Diabetes lobbying and my own Fiscal Confusion
If you’ve been paying attention to the big diabetes advocacy and lobbying groups, you know that Congress passed the Special Diabetes Program, also known as the SDP. This program allocates $150 million of federal funds towards diabetes research.
If you’ve been paying attention to my state Governor, you know that he openly chastised the House of Representatives, specifically one of his own political party leaders, for delaying a vote on the $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. “There’s only one group to blame,” he said, “for the continued suffering of these innocent victims.”
If you’ve been tuned into any television, video, or online media as 2012 came to a close, you know about the metaphorical financial precipice from which the United States was about to tumble. I don’t know all the details, but early morning on January First, we were caught in the middle of a free-fall and temporarily brought us back to relative safety.
I don’t know a whole lot about how our government works, how they put budgets together, or how they fund various special interests. Quite honestly, I’m not that interested. It confuses me, it bores me, and it angers me. So for the most part, I stay away from that news and am resigned to the fact that whatever will be, will be. Que sera, sera.
But sometimes I can’t tune them out. Especially considering the volume of emails I received in November from JDRF, ADA, and others encouraging me to call or write my elected officials to urge them to continue to fund the program. To tell the truth, I never even heard of the SDP until just recently. But when I got those emails, I was torn. Sure, I want to support “The Cause”, when The Cause is diabetes-focused research and aid. Why wouldn’t I? It affects me personally and profoundly, as does it affect many of my friends. But, in fairness, should I be asking our broke government to fund diabetes research?
What right do I have to say that funding for diabetes research is more important than finding cancer research? Or Angelman Syndrome research? Or epilepsy research (November is also National Epilepsy Awareness Month, and a friend of mine whose son has a very rare but very serious form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome reminded me of that)? Or any other of the multitude of diseases out there?
Or those whose lives were devastated by natural disasters?
I sat on those emails for a long time. They made it so easy for me to ask the government for support. I could call without dialing a phone. I could email without typing a letter. And what better way for a lobbying organization to get public support than to make it so easy for them? But I didn’t respond to those emails, not for weeks.
This isn’t the first time I was asked to pressure our government into promoting “The Cause”. A year earlier in September, a campaign was organized called “O is for Outrage”. You may remember it. Those in the New York area could descend on the city to be seen and heard, and those from elsewhere in the country could send postcards to demand the President speak to other world leaders at the United Nations about the need for insulin to be made accessible to all people in the world. Of course I would like to see insulin be made available to everyone across the world who needs it, just as I would like to see all medications made available to those who need it, but I didn’t think that this specific cause merited action by the President of the United States. It was the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. and for the President to go to Midtown Manhattan to talk about non-communicable disease while there was still a hole in the ground Downtown, while the communications failures of 2001 hadn’t been corrected, and while airport security efforts had become laughable, would seem a little disingenuous considering other, larger issues that the world, the country, and the city were facing. The President had more important things to do. While I would have loved to go to the rally to meet other PWD’s, my conscience told me this wasn’t the right thing to do, so I decided to sit out.
Please don’t hate me, and please don’t think I’m being insensitive. It was, for me, a really tough call to make.
Likewise, when it comes to the SDP, I was very close to doing nothing. But eventually, because it was for a renewal of a program and not the establishment of a program, and because the dollar amount was relatively small at $150 million, I reconsidered. Because I know that abruptly ending a program would effectively nullify the research done to date, I took action. I clicked the link and sent emails to my two Senators and my one House Representative. For the record, the two Senators responded rather quickly with form letters of their own, stating the importance of the SDP and emphasizing their past and future support. The House Representativesent a delayed response stating his understanding of the SDP and that he “will remember [my] support for this program as Congress considers its reauthorization.”
In the end, the SDP funding passed. It was part of that behemoth Congressional Budget, as a tiny strip of bacon in the much larger barrel of pork attached to the bill. To say it is “relatively insignificant” in the scope of the whole thing is an understatement.
Still, I wonder. Should the government, which is already drowning in debt, be funding diabetes research causes, and should I be encouraging them to do so? Is it an investment in a healthier future, or is it just financial irresponsibility? Maybe all this dough was destined to be cast into the wind anyway, and the diabetes community is just a lucky pigeon which managed to scoop up a few crumbs. I do know that if it were my own house teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, I wouldn’t be so generous.
I don’t have the answer, and I don’t know what I’ll do the next time I have the opportunity to ask my politicians to support “The Cause”.
It’s why I try to avoid fiscal politics. It confuses me, it bores me, and it angers me.
But all I want is to do the right thing.