Newt Gingrich was the keynote speaker at last night’s BioMed Upstate conference hosted by the Foundation for Healthy Living. The moderately well-attended (but overly long) conference focused on the barriers our state imposes on the Life Sciences economy and solutions to overcoming those barriers to accelerate growth in Life Sciences.
The sessions drifted off-topic to the various ways the New York stifles economic growth in general and to the great divide between Upstate and Downstate, to which the attendees agreed “Change is needed“. As to what that meant and who should take responsibility for leading it, those answers were not so clear. Not so clear at all. And the conference was pretty dry – academic in nature, almost dispassionate really, and IMHO was very poorly attended by industry representatives who are ultimately the ones who create jobs and/or leave the state. Numerous academics and government officials were in attendance, but the one group that could really make a difference was way under-represented.
Anyway, Newt was pretty interesting. He made a point about how poorly the Federal Government doesn’t understand the difference between investment and expense. He cited that the Baby Boomer generation alone will cost the U.S. $1.6 trillion in health care costs just for treatment of Alzheimer’s patients. But if treatments could be found that delayed the onset of severe symptoms for just 5 years, the costs would drop $600 billion. Then he challenged the audience: If you could save $600 billion over the next 20 years, how much would you spend today? Newt’s implication was that far too often the government won’t budget for that kind of savings – they won’t make the investment – because today it’s just an expense with no short-term benefit.
Conferences like these raise important questions but rarely do the spawn that passionate white knight who can lead the charge to a new way of thinking, and actually persist long enough to stimulate real change. How do we convince our political leaders to reach beyond the policies of the past 50 years to something that bears future fruit? At the conference, we were at a loss to answer that question.