Clipboard: Automatic federal cuts could cost 1,700 health research jobs in Massachusetts

Health care leaders in Massachusetts are once again warning that automatic federal budget cuts could undermine their ability to do cutting-edge research.

The “sequestration” would eliminate $85 billion from this year’s budget for defense and domestic spending unless Congress comes up with a better plan by March 1.

Cuts to the National Institutes of Health research budget could cost the state about 1,700 jobs, Bryan Marquard reports in today’s Globe. That’s about 5 percent of Massachusetts jobs funded by NIH grants. Massachusetts politicians joined in the the call for action this week:

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“The sequester is incredibly stupid for a thousand reasons,” said US Representative Michael E. Capuano of Somerville, who joined Mayor Thomas M. Menino and US Senator Elizabeth Warren in criticizing the impending cuts as senseless and destructive.

Flanked by the health care administrators and scientists, the three Democrats held a news conference Monday morning in the Boston Medical Center pavilion named for Menino.

The research funding cuts could affect the local economy through easy to quantify job losses, they said, and potentially have a long-term impact on the federal budget by curtailing would-be advances.

All told, the state could lose 60,000 jobs because of the federal cuts, with many coming from the defense industry, the Globe reported last week.

President Obama on Tuesday morning criticized the “meat cleaver approach” to budget-cutting, the Zachary A. Goldfarb of the Washington Post reports. Goldfarb writes:

In prepared remarks released by the White House earlier, Obama said the jobs of emergency personnel who would appear at Tuesday’s event could be in jeopardy if the sequester takes effect.

“If these cuts go into effect, hundreds of thousands of jobs could be lost and middle class families all across the nation will feel the devastating impact,” the statement said.

He added that Republicans would be blamed for the economic damage from the sequester. “With less than two weeks before these cuts hit, the president will challenge Republicans to make a very simple choice,” the statement said. “[D]o they protect investments in education, health care and national defense or do they continue to prioritize and protect tax loopholes that benefit the very few at the expense of middle and working class Americans?”

Uncertainty in funding could hurt important research underway in Massachusetts, such as the quest to find a way to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, Senator Elizabeth Warren said at the Monday press conference. She urged scientists and others who would be affected by the cuts to get involved in the efforts to stop them by sharing information with lawmakers and the public about their work.