The Future of Science Funding Is a Microcosm of What Happened in This Election

I realize most people probably don't care very much about science funding, but I'll go out on a limb and assume that many readers here do care about science funding (I think many, in the public as a whole, don't even realize how science is paid for). The Republican platform, Pledge to America, boldly declares that all non-military discretionary spending will be reduced to 2008 levels. Here's what this would mean for science funding:

Under that plan, research and development at nonmilitary agencies -- including those that sponsor science and health research -- would fall 12.3 percent, to $57.8 billion, from the Mr. Obama's request of $65.9 billion for fiscal year 2011.

An analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science looked at what would happen if all of the agencies were cut to the 2008 amounts. The National Institutes of Health would lose $2.9 billion, or 9 percent, of its research money. The National Science Foundation would lose more than $1 billion, or almost 19 percent, of its budget, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would lose $324 million, or 34 percent.

Boo! Hiss! Seriously, I'm not sure how laying off scientists helps with the unemployment problem, but I digress. Surely, the Democrats will rise to the occasion? Well:

Mr. Clemins noted that Mr. Obama had already asked federal agencies to prepare for a 5 percent cut in their budgets for 2012.

Oh, I see.

Somehow telling a segment that heavily leans Democratic "vote for us and you won't be screwed quite as bad" isn't very motivational. This, however, is standard operating procedure for Democrats who routinely aid the people who vote against them, while promising 'austerity' to their own supporters. Republicans aren't this stupid: they don't shaft their own--they bring home the boodle (all the while claiming to be against government spending). Matt Yglesias:

Basically the currently elderly, people living in rural areas, and people whose income depends on the military-industrial complex would all be protected from a drive that focuses specifically on domestic discretionary. Not coincidentally, these are many of the people inclined to vote Republican.

I think it's important for progressives to get smarter about the fact that there's really very little evidence for the proposition that there's a debate in America about the merits of "small government." There's a conflict, instead, about whose interests the government should serve--a conflict whose basic contours you can learn a lot about by examining the demographics of each party's core constituency.

I realize it's early days yet, but this isn't the hope and change I voted for. This is a small issue (although not for many around these parts), but you can take virtually any issue and see the same pattern. Democratic 'leaders' might want to do something about that.

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The buildup of our university and research systems in response to Sputnik allowed for America to lead the world in innovation. Now the same people that prattle endlessly about how america is the greatest country on Earth have set their sights on the source of their prosperity.

BTW, I'm a new reader. I love your blog, check it everyday.

But science is an area where the US is a leader. New technology generated in US universities produces new commercial possibilities and ventures. Almost all our grant funds go straight into the US economy. A majority of my grant money goes to pay stipends of grad students, and salaries of post-docs and techs. These people are struggling early career people that immediately spend their paychecks on living expenses. Nearly all our non-salary expenses go to US companies for equipment or services.

Investing in science research is a win-win situation. The American people get more technological and medical advancements, a more educated workforce, and a stimulation of the economy. Furthermore, if I can't get research funds, I'll have no time (and no funds) to teach their kids to do science and to be doctors and researchers and entrepreneurs, because I'll be spending all my time writing grants.

@Joe, Wait! You aren't spending all your time writing grants now?!?! What's your secret, because I have an empty lab, a cramped back, and I think am getting carpal tunnel from all the typing I do now.

research for lrc nov 25