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Should the U.S. boost federal funding to cure Alzheimer’s by 2025?

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From the pages of In Business magazine.

Welcome to "Political Posturing," featuring opposing views on current issues important to Wisconsin's business community. In this column, Wisconsin Business Alliance Board President Brad Werntz and conservative columnist David Blaska offer their opinions from the left and the right, respectively.

Yes — investment in research stimulates the economy.

Alzheimer's is a terrible disease that robs you of your memories, the people you love, and even your own sense of self. Eventually, Alzheimer’s kills you. Today, it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

The disease not only afflicts those who are diagnosed, it also takes a toll on friends and family who become long-term caregivers. It’s also expensive because we spend more than $200 billion per year on Alzheimer’s care and by 2050 the total cost may exceed $1 trillion per year.

As our population ages, more are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. More than 5.1 million people in the U.S. — two-thirds of them women — have Alzheimer’s right now, and by 2025 this figure will increase by 40%, to 7.1 million. By 2050, projections are that 13.8 million U.S. residents will have Alzheimer’s — if we don’t first find a cure.

This is why Hillary Clinton has proposed that we do just that by 2025. Aside from the human impact of the disease, there are several good reasons to support this proposal.

First, as a population we’re healthier and we’re living longer, and people are working more frequently into old age. Alzheimer’s takes otherwise healthy and experienced people out of the workforce, limits their caregivers’ productivity, and makes them dependent on others and on the government.

Second, investment in research stimulates the economy. University Research Park is a good example of this, generating $15 billion for Wisconsin annually.

Third, it’s a good return on investment. Clinton wants the federal government to invest $2 billion per year to cure a disease on which we spend more than $200 billion a year overall, with costs rising. That makes good financial sense.

Lastly, it’s well within the scope of government to solve problems that are too large for the private sector. Alzheimer’s is a giant problem that, if left alone, is going to get even more gigantic. Let’s cure it first.

Brad Werntz is a small business owner and the executive director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Business Alliance, wisconsinbusinessalliance.com.

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