WUSTL

‘Fiscal cliff’ would have major consequences, WUSTL leaders warn

Drastic cuts would imperil nation’s leadership in education and research

By Susan Killenberg McGinn

If Congress and President Obama do not reach a compromise before the end of the year to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff,’ it will have major consequences on Washington University in St. Louis as well as other universities and colleges across the country, say WUSTL administrators.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and other Washington University administrators have been actively working to impress upon the country’s leaders and the public what billions of dollars in looming tax increases and spending cuts in 2013 would mean to Americans’ health and to the economy.

Wrighton recently sent a letter to Missouri’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, as well as Illinois U.S. Senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk, expressing his concern if a compromise isn’t reached by the start of 2013.

In the letter, Wrighton wrote that “elements of the ‘fiscal cliff’ could impact our nation’s ability to educate the next generation of students, to provide life-saving cures and treatments to those in need, and to conduct the ground-breaking research necessary to maintain the nation’s continued leadership in science, scholarship, and innovation.”

Meanwhile, in an op-ed appearing in yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the Washington University School of Medicine, wrote that cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would be “devastating.”

“Some $600 billion of the planned cuts will come from non-defense programs, which will have dire consequences for our health and our economy,” Shapiro wrote. “That is because the cuts indiscriminately slash federal investment in medical research.

“This short-sighted solution to the nation’s deficit problem would significantly delay new, life-saving medical treatments. But what many people don’t realize is that the massive cuts also would put a chokehold on the creation of high-tech jobs and threaten U.S. global competitiveness.”

Evan D. Kharasch, MD, PhD, vice chancellor for research and the Russell D. and Mary B. Shelden Professor of Anesthesiology, has formed a Research Leadership Working Group to help maximize the continued success of research at Washington University.

The team is tracking broad institutional and national research issues and assessing their potential impact on the schools, faculty and research at Washington University.

The group also is developing communications about issues critical to the research community, such as the ongoing fiscal cliff discussions in Washington, D.C.

Kharasch recently sent to the research faculty on the Medical and Danforth campuses the first in a series of communications on federal funding issues.

In the newsletter, Kharasch encouraged WUSTL scientists to let their elected officials know their feelings about sequestration – large cuts to discretionary spending – which would have the most immediate impact on federal research.

In Wrighton’s letter to Missouri and Illinois elected officials, he reiterated his concern about the impact potential spending cuts would have on research, medical care and financial aid.

“While it is important to take a comprehensive approach to addressing this fiscal morass,” he wrote, “it is vital that any solution protect those core investments and tax provisions that help educate students, provide quality healthcare, and promote research and development — all of which enable enhanced national security, increased entrepreneurship and private investment, and economic competitiveness.”

MEDIA CONTACTS
Susan Killenberg McGinn
Executive Director of University News Service
(314) 935-5254; (314) 603-6008 (cell)
smcginn@wustl.edu
EXPERTS @ WUSTL
Mark Wrighton
Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis and Professor of Chemistry
(314) 935-5100
wrighton@wustl.edu