Paul Ryan, science, money, television

From ScienceInsider’s summary of Paul Ryan’s approach to the federal spending on science:

“Instead of using its resources to fight life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS and cancer, the CDC has instead spent money on needless luxury items and nongovernment functions,” Ryan said in introducing his amendment to a spending bill. CDC had spent “over $1.7 million on a ‘Hollywood liaison’ to advise TV shows like ‘E.R.’ and ‘House’ on medical information included in their programming, clearly an expense that should have been covered by the successful for-profit television shows, not by our hard-earned tax dollars. … In a time when we are facing increasing risk of bioterrorism and disease, these are hardly the best use of taxpayer dollars.”

“E.R” and “House” are surely seen by vastly more Americans than all federal science education programming put together.  Doesn’t $1.7m  sound pretty cheap for ensuring that the medical information coming through those giant megaphones is correct?  In Ryan’s world, what’s the mechanism under which TV producers would spend their own money doing this?  Their own goodwill?  Or will scientifically sloppy doctor shows inevitably be rejected by the wise aggregate consumer, so that the market does the job for free?

I also think it’s not fair to ask that every US-funded program be the best use of taxpayer dollars.  I mean, do we really want a federal government that consists entirely of my NSF grant?

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4 thoughts on “Paul Ryan, science, money, television

  1. Rob H. says:

    One of my biggest problems with these “deficit hawks” is that they are all so happy with successful businesses. They surely know that all successful businesses “waste” money left and right and that leads to their success. One actually wastes a lot of resources (money and people’s time) ensuring that one is not “wasting” money. But I guess if you claim you’ll be able to slash the deficit by nebulously cutting “waste”, you need to back that up with (bogus) cuts.

    Also, what if this was a $1.7M tax break for shows that hire capable medical consultants? I bet Ryan would be all for that. And the $1.7M wouldn’t go as far…

  2. Jayadev says:

    surely you mean *my* NSF grant.

  3. JSE says:

    Not with my hard-earned tax dollars you don’t!

  4. Harrison says:

    One could make the argument that they aren’t doing a particularly *good job* of ensuring that the medical or scientific information is correct, but I somehow doubt this is what Ryan had in mind. (And besides, it doesn’t need to be exactly correct, it just needs to be “enough more correct” to justify a $1.7M investment.)

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