Lawmaker Math - Texas Scorecard

You might recall a few weeks ago I noted that the Legislature’s new $3 billion-over-10-year cancer fund was probably not going to accomplish much more than spend a lot of your money. Not my opinion, but that of scientists actually in the field.  “(T)he question is how to get the best bang for your buck. I don’t think that’s done by politicizing diseases and putting them on the ballot,” said the chief of staff at Ben Taub Hospital.

Billions of dollars are spent annually on various cancer treatment and research efforts. The state’s few hundred million per year for a decade amounts to a rounding error.

Two Republican members of the Legislature took umbrage at the suggestion lawmakers could have spent the money more effectively primarily by leaving it in the private sector. But legislators are, as they tell us repeatedly, smarter than the rest of us in all matters fiscal, scientific and social.

In a letter to me dated August 14, these lawmakers proudly noted that by spending $3 billion  taxpayers can expect to see “outside investments of approximately $1.5 billion flow into the state’s research centers and universities. And that is how we’ll cure cancer. Ah, good plan.

So we spend $3 billion to attract $1.5 billion? A typical government investment strategy. If your stockbroker recommends such plan, he might be qualified to be legislator. Move your money away from him; quickly

If you are determined to spend this money, it could be better used focused on one type of cancer (such as cervical), or on prevention (not getting cancer is better than having to be cured, and nearly 75% of cancer is preventable). Neither is sexy, but at least marginally more prudent.

Finally, because they are financing this “initiative” with bonds, it’s going to be even more expensive due to debt-service. Nothing like using the taxpayer credit card to pay for projects that make politicians feel good, but have no real chance of producing tangible results.