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FDR Needed

By PAM BERNS
Every child in America should feel wanted and valued. Yet we have given children living in shelters or homes where their parents cannot earn enough to pay all the bills the message that their well-being is not important to us. Forty-five percent of recipients of food stamps are children. We have given them the message that going to bed hungry is their lot in life. How dare we cut food stamps to these children? There is no justification for making children pay for our inane politics. Children’s brains will not develop without proper nutrition. We are better than this, America.
   
December is the time of the year when we can explore opportunities to help others and alleviate suffering wherever we can.
   
American exceptionalism has not been apparent in our recent past. It is shocking that a handful of freshman representatives could bring us to the brink of shutting down the government. This system is wrought in disfunction. We look amiss at Greece and Italy, countries that have been pressured to get their spending under control. We have shown the world that we considered stiffing our creditors. Like many of you, I am appalled at the close-to-the-cliff agreement to extend the debt ceiling. Our reputation in the world has been damaged. How interested will other countries and businesses be in the future when they see the lack of responsibility many in Congress showed when it came to paying for goods and services others already provided to us? World commerce could not function with such irresponsibility at the core if every country operated like this.
   
And the sequester has been a terrible way to get our spending under control. But what we have done has impacted everyone, and it has doled out hardship on those less able to provide for their families.
    
There is something at work here that appears to be an effort to punish those who can’t seem to succeed on their own. Lack of education has stood in the way for some. Statistics bear out that those on the lowest rung on the ladder are not able to work their way out of dire situations. It is impossible for many being paid minimum wage to feed their families and pay the rent. In 2010, 4.7 percent of our workforce held down two jobs to make ends meet; yet most cannot succeed without help. How can those working against the odds spend time with their children? Time is a premium. But when you are forced to hold down two jobs to make ends meet, getting sleep and nurturing a family are low on the totem pole. How can we build a better society when people are struggling, even with two jobs?
   
So, we have cut food stamps. Why do we need to punish those less able to provide for themselves? How do we help these families get on their feet? That is the question; not, how can we punish them? The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a helping hand until those without a ticket to a better life can succeed. If we really wanted to get the unemployed back to work, we need to provide assistance with a jobs program. These inequities demand creativity. We need FDR today to help solve our many social problems. He did it then; we can do it now.

The NIH Shutdown
   
The shutdown of the National Institutes of Health in October was a blow to our leadership in biomedical research. The training of future scientific leaders is at risk. When the federal shutdown happened, scientists literally had a few hours to close their labs before being forced to leave the premises. Is this any way for our government to operate? We all should be outraged.
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Before the shutdown, the sequester forced a 5.1 percent cut on NIH funding, and this was after nine years of flat NIH funding. The NIH is made up of 27 institutes and  centers. The largest is in Bethesda, Maryland, where 6,000 scientists are dedicated to clinical research. Eighty percent of the NIH budget goes to 300,000 research personnel. How dare our representatives toy with this research?
  
Important research was interrupted by the shutdown. The $24 billion cost of the shutdown cannot be comprehended in lost science aimed at curing diseases that medical research was addressing. It is time to prioritize. Alleviating human suffering is the most important thing we can do as a people and as a nation.
   
Medical breakthroughs are now on the brink of discovery. For instance, Scientific American has provided more information on how pesticides cause Parkinson’s. This disease affects a million Americans. A pesticide called benomyl which was banned in the United States in 2001 still lingers in the environment today. The chemical prevents the brain from disposing of its toxic waste. With this important finding, Parkinson’s disease research should be on top of funding priorities. Another finding this month has implicated mold in causing Parkinson’s symptoms.
   
In fact, a cure for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may have just been found by researchers from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden together with the Polish Wroclaw University of Technology. They have discovered that a multi-photon laser can be directed to attack abnormal amyloid aggregations of proteins in patients’ brains without using surgery or chemicals.
   
NIH funding has never been more important. President Obama requested $31 billion for NIH funding in 2014 and the Senate Spending Panel approved the request. Imagine if the House of Representatives hadn’t blown $24 billion on the shutdown and those funds had gone to research.
    
In this issue we have our annual Philanthropy Guide which lists many of our community’s not-for-profits. If you are looking to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable Chicagoans or those around the world, read what others are doing. We have listed many. Also in this issue is our education feature on page 24. It illustrates how important our support is in offering every child in our city a chance to learn and to succeed.

Published: December 07, 2013
Issue: 2013 Philanthropy Guide