Saturday, June 17, 2006

Our Tax Dollars At Work?

Saturday's 06/17/06 Detroit News has a report titled "U-M Gets $70M for study on aging" by Marisa Schultz. It starts with:

"The University of Michigan is on the verge of receiving a $70 million grant -- the largest research award in the university's history -- to study America's aging population.

Funded by the federal National Institute on Aging, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, the study will provide information on what Americans are spending their money on and how they're saving and living longer, said U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, who is expected to formally announce the grant Monday."

I have never been in favor of using taxpayer money to study aging or anything else. What seniors are spending their money on is info that should be paid for by private companies like Sears or Wal-Mart, not taxpayers.

Besides, all this is doing is providing politicians and policy makers with information on which way to vote on specific issues regarding seniors. In other words, how to win the senior vote on any given issue. This is of crucial importance of course because millions of baby boomers will start to retire in about 4 years and politicians like Rep. Dingell need to know how to buy their votes.

Philosophically, this is an admission that our government makes no decisions by reference to wider principles (i.g. individual rights) but bases them on concrete-bound, range-of-the-moment polls, surveys and studies, like studying a herd of cows without the knowledge of what is a cow and what is its nature.

The article then gives a little overview of U.M.s research programs:

"The huge gift comes at time when academic institutions are in fierce competition for limited federal research dollars, especially for social science survey research grants, according to the university. Typically, research at U-M's Institute for Social Research accounts for just 12 percent of all research expenditures at U-M, with the medical school bringing in the bulk of the grant money.

University officials had little to say Friday about the grant, although people familiar with Monday's announcement confirmed the amount of the award.

The university institute is among the world's oldest survey research organizations. It produces some of the most widely-cited studies, such as the Survey of Consumer Attitudes and the National Election Studies. Established in 1948, the institute produces nationally recognized research on diverse topics such as poverty, drug use, income and aging."

While the above may sound almost impressive, I still don't think taxpayer money should fund it. There are lots of private organizations that deal with the elderly who could fund this kind of research. Besides, we seem to be getting into a paradigm of research for research's sake which can lead to this:

"Earlier this month, it (the university institute-ME) released a widely publicized index measuring how fast the happiness level of hurricane victims rebounded." !!!!

Hmmmm. I'd like to see a study of how fast the happiness level of government funded researchers rebound when all their grant money is cut off. I'd pay for that. Oh well, there is one piece of certainty that came out of this award:

"Meanwhile, the U-M regents reappointed President Mary Sue Coleman, a strong advocate for research and development, to a second five-year term."

Mission accomplished.
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