Here's an idea that would enrage many skeptics of the federal government: Let's pay the U.S. Navy to invent a matchmaking formula.
To be more precise, let's use federal funds to develop an algorithm to find "stable" matches: that is, to ensure that each person in a population is matched with the best possible mate who will also accept him or her.
The idea sounds wasteful, even silly, doesn't it? Yet in 1962, supported by federal funding from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, Lloyd Shapley and David Gale created just such an algorithm. Their research may have seemed frivolous at the time, but history has proven otherwise. Their equations are now used to match donated kidneys with ailing patients at hospitals across the country.
Put more simply, their federally funded research has saved many lives.
They aren't alone. Thomas Brock and Hudson Freeze worked together with federal support in Yellowstone National Park to study bacteria that survived the extreme conditions in the park's geysers. Inadvertently, they discovered enzymes that helped make possible the genomics revolution.
Another researcher, John Eng, conducted federally sponsored research on the poisonous venom of the Gila Monster -- and in the process helped create a drug that combats the complications of diabetes.
To me, these stories show two things: that scientific research often produces huge payoffs -- and that those payoffs are often serendipitous. We rarely know exactly how a seemingly esoteric line of scientific inquiry will produce practical results, but centuries of experience show that, on the whole, the scientific endeavor dramatically improves our lives and our economy.
I recently helped honor the scientists behind these breakthroughs at the annual Golden Goose Awards. My hope is that their example will encourage our country to continue making much-needed investments in scientific research and development.
An Oil Spill By Any Other Name
Last week I found myself testifying, yet again, at a House committee hearing about the misguided and dangerous Keystone XL pipeline project. The hearing served no particular legislative purpose; rather, it was convened by the House majority as an opportunity to showboat and to repeat long-debunked boasts about the pipeline's supposed impact.
If built, Keystone XL would transport up to 830,000 barrels per day of tar sands product -- one of the dirtiest energy sources on the planet. I refer to it as "tar sands product" rather than "oil" because it is, unbelievably, not considered oil under the law that requires oil companies to pay into a trust fund that covers the costs of cleaning up oil spills. That is, if and when a spill occurs, taxpayers -- not the Keystone XL operators -- will be liable for the clean-up costs.
I've made efforts to close this loophole by proposing amendments to Keystone XL legislation, but unfortunately those attempts have been rejected by the majority.
Continuing to Serve You
As I noted to you last week, unless Congress acts in the next few days, the U.S. federal government will shut down at the end of the day on Monday.
While many federal agencies are preparing to reduce staff and services in the event of a shutdown, I and my staff in my New Jersey and Washington, D.C. offices will be available to answer your questions or concerns or if you need any assistance. Please do not hesitate to e-mail or call me at 1-87-RUSH-HOLT.
In the meantime, I will continue to work through the weekend and beyond to prevent a government shutdown, which would cause needless pain to millions of vulnerable Americans.
Member of Congress