Earmarks And Ignorance

Ken AshfordElection 2008, Health CareLeave a Comment

I get tired of Republicans slamming earmarks, i.e. out-of-control government spending on pet projects and the like.

Granted, a lot of government spending is ridiculous, and it certainly could do better about tightening its belt.  Maybe spend money on one war at a time (Just a suggestion…)

But some of this earmark spending is actually worthy of consideration, and before one blithely mocks all earmark spending, one should look into it a little deeper.

Care in point?  Sarah Palin.

Key segment:

"Where does a lot of that earmark money end up anyway? […] You've heard about some of these pet projects they really don't make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not."

What puts me off is the breathtaking ignorance behind this.  No, not "ignorance"….. lack of intellectual curiosity.

Yes, fruit fly research does sound like a rather silly thing for our government to spend money on, at first blush.  But did Sarah, or anyone in the upper schelons of the McCain campaign (who wrote or at least approved of this speech), bother to think about what that fruit fly research is about?

Fruit flies are used to study genetic research.  In fact

About 75% of known human disease genes have a recognizable match in the genetic code of fruit flies (Reiter et al (2001) Genome Research: 11(6):1114-25), and 50% of fly protein sequences have mammalian analogues. An online database called Homophila is available to search for human disease gene homologues in flies and vice versa. Drosophila is being used as a genetic model for several human diseases including the neurodegenerative disorders Parkinson's, Huntington's, spinocerebellar ataxia and Alzheimer's disease. The fly is also being used to study mechanisms underlying aging and oxidative stress, immunity, diabetes, and cancer, as well as drug abuse.

Fruit fly research has also been instrumental in discovering the source of autism.

There's a HUGE irony to Sarah's speech, which she gave two days ago.  It was her first policy speech ever, and she used that occasion to urge the federal government to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), “a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation.”  She even mentioned autism, by saying: "Early identification of a cognitive or other disorder, especially autism, can make a life-changing difference."

And then she proceeded to bash  government spending "that didn't make a whole lot of sense".

Like fruit fly research.

Which is being used to discover the source of autism.