It turns out that just because Obama won the presidential election, we can not just sit back and rest. The stimulus package from the House was not totally bad, but the one that came out of the Senate mercilessly slashed factors important to an economic stimulus and towards laying the groundwork for long term economic growth. From the Talking Points Memo, we have the details. From the detailed view of the package, we have the following:
Nasa Exploration: Cut 50%
NSF funding: Cut 100%
NOAA funding: Cut 34.94%
Alternative Vehicle Tech Procurement: Cut 100%
DOE Efficiency and Renewable Energy: Cut 38%
DOE Office of Science: Cut 100%
DHS Cyber Security Research: Cut 100%
IDEA (Education): Cut 50%
Title 1 Funding: Cut 50%
Teacher Quality Partnership Grants: Cut 50%
There are other cuts of course, but I see a tendency to focus cutting on science, technology and education. This is unacceptable and irresponsible. It shows that our government still has not worked out what ought to be priorities for a well functioning society, or realized that science funding does help stimulate the economy. More stimulus bang for the buck than tax cuts.
Granted, for funding graduate students or postdocs, one wants a more sustained source than a one shot stimulus deal, but there are all sorts of of ways in which a shot in the arm for science funding will help. Of course there are the obvious long term benefits that furtherance of research and development brings in new and better products, methods, and all that. There are also the money that goes back into the economy as a result of lab equipment, computers, etc. As a graduate student, I would go out all the time in the departmental truck to buy this or that component from Home Depot, or whoever else had whatever it was we needed for the lab. This was NSF money going directly into the local economy (with the side benefit of allowing us to continue pushing research, which had another side benefit to helping us get our degrees). Not to mention the purchases of vacuum gauges, pumps, metals to machine, oscilloscopes, and many other research and infrastructure items.
More discussion on this important issue can be found at Cosmic Variance and following one of the embedded links to here which goes more into why science funding is one of the best deals for economic stimulus.
Just for the record, I do not stand to directly benefit from this as I am not currently in academic research or academia. But I do recognize both the importance of research and development, and how it will help with the economy both in the short term and long term.
A) Science & technology have produced half of the economic growth of the United States since WWII.
B) Spending on basic research is the single greatest economic engine this country has ever known.
C) Funding to federal granting agencies is about as “shovel-ready” a stimulus as you can get. If the granting agencies lower their score thresholds for awards across the board the money will be flowing within months, leading to rapid hiring and increased purchasing from technical service and supply companies that are largely American, and creating thousands of the kinds of high-quality jobs the country needs.
So, your assignment, and you really should accept it, is to email, write, or phone your Senators and complain vociferously about these cuts. Let’s get our priorities back on track and get this economy moving again.