News Beginning of the end for government-funded scientific research [in America]?

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Often when some group of people want something from the government (ie change laws to suit them, monetary benefits, business deals with government etc), they get a powerful lobby group to lobby for their cause.
That's how the game is played.

Big business do it, maybe the scientists could do it to.
Scientists do it it. Scientists are an extremely powerful lobby, because if you can get a group of physicists to say "look if you do X, I can't guarantee that the US will still be able to make nuclear bombs that work", then people will listen to you.

Scientists also have very powerful allies among big business and the military. If you get a dozen physicists to say "this is just going to kill your profits" then CEO's start to listen.

The only problem here is crying wolf, but the wolf is coming this time.

Only shortcoming I see (and it is a big one), is that you need money (money talks) and maybe connections to do it.
You don't need a huge amount of money to play politics, and as far as connections, physicists have them.

Also if you are interested then do what the letter says.
 
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It's not just basic research anymore. Now even targeted research is being shifted to universities, although there is some funding to go with it (from corporations). Since government funding is getting sparse, universities take this gladly, but there is often friction. Universities want to publish (obviously), but companies want to keep the results to themselves (also fairly understandable since they paid for it). So lawyers have to get involved (sigh).
You are preaching to the choir, but sometimes it just feels good to talk to someone that agrees with you.

All of this makes things even more inefficient. You have lots of lawyers trying to figure out who owns what, and because funding is so low, you have scientists spending most of their time working on grant proposals rather than doing any real research. Because you can't fund everything, you end up with huge meetings and political fights deciding where the tiny bits of funding go.

I completely agree with you, but unfortunately it is the loudest voice (aka the irrational screamers) and special interest groups that usually "win", not necessarily the majority voice.
Then scream loudly and form a special interest group. The majority doesn't care, so loud minorities beat a silent majority. This fact helps scientists since scientists tend to be passionate.

And very often, electing someone who claims to be for science ends up not doing anything or just going against it.
That's why you have to have lobbyists talking to and monitoring people. The good news is that scientists aren't babes in the woods when it comes to politics.

Also right now we are in damage control mode. The cuts are going to wreck US science, and I don't see how this is going to be avoided. The goal right now is to minimize the damage so that in a few years when China starts kicking rear end, that the US will be able to reverse the damage.
 
I'm thinking these politicians spent way too much targeting the small time and letting the worst offending programs off with a free pass. A 2-3% defense spending cut from Obama's proposal is pure BS when budget deficits are like this.

The worst part about the bickering that's going to occur between the house republicans and the Obama administration is that neither group seems ready to address the elephants in the room, defense, social security, medicare, and medicaid. Just as an example, social security will spend $56 billion more than it takes in the current fiscal year(p5 of the summary tables from gpoaccess.gov). Medicare is even worse.

I've heard a columnist recently mention that "when you're in a hole, you don't keep digging and you can't borrow your way out. You have to grow your way out." I agree with that. Along those lines, I'm not sure the republicans here have done anyone a service suggesting so many mindless cuts while ignoring the chance to tackle some big issues. After all, if the biggest line items don't get addressed, what's the point?
 

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This isn't China. Big government projects should exist only when necessary and desired, not for any other reason.
So what is more desirable (both to corporations and the nation)- a strong infrastructure and low unemployment, or a balanced budget? The US has been letting our infrastructure (including basic research) slide for decades.

As a tax payer, I prefer roads, a solid power grid, the amtrak, and the innovation that comes out of research.

Do you know what a balanced budget is?
Are you familiar with the fact that the US runs a huge trade deficit (largely because the dollar is the world reserve currency, because of Bretton-Woods and the aftermath)? Twin deficits tell us that this deficit has to be held somewhere, since private debt is dropping right now, public debt will go up. Contracting spending now without addressing the trade deficit will just create a downward spiral of less GDP -> less revenue -> less spending -> less GDP.

Government debt is not the same as household debt. Right now, the US dollar still tenuously holds a privileged place amongst the world's currency. We can exploit it to our advantage, or ignore it to our peril.
 

chiro

Science Advisor
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I think the worst part about the bickering that's going to occur between the house republicans and the Obama administration is that neither group seems ready to address the elephant in the room, social security, medicare, and medicaid. By the summary tables I found at gpoaccess.gov, social security will spend $56 billion more than it takes in the current fiscal year(p5 of the tables). Medicare is even worse.

I've heard a columnist recently mention that "when you're in a hole, you don't keep digging and you can't borrow your way out. You have to grow your way out." I agree with that. I'm not sure the republicans here have done anyone a service suggesting so many mindless cuts while ignoring the chance to tackle some big issues. After all, if the biggest line items don't get addressed, what's the point?

All in all, I think our politicians here have missed a real opportunity to be leaders because they're afraid it will lose them votes.
All in all, who do you think is responsible for the mess that has been created?

When the financial collapse happened, in my view, the people that made the bad bets should have gone under. If a mom and pop operation or some other small business did what these other people did, then they would have filed for bankruptcy.

If I was a mortgage broker and I found some family living on welfare and I knowingly gave them a loan that given their current situation and common credit history for the average person in their current situation, no matter what excuse or how stupid I am, I would know that the loan would never be paid off with the deal that I had made with them (ie teaser interest and then ridiculous interest soon thereafter).

What surprises me though is that (as far as I know) there was no regulation to stop this kind of thing happening. You don't have to be a financial analyst or a PhD in a mathematical discipline to know what the end result is.

If people are allowed to act like this (ie financial institutions) and play the "casino game" and not fail, then you really have to ask why.
 
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When the financial collapse happened, in my view, the people that made the bad bets should have gone under. If a mom and pop operation or some other small business did what these other people did, then they would have filed for bankruptcy.
The problem is that they were making bad bets with your money. If you had let the banks collapse, your checking and savings accounts would have evaporated. You got bailed out big time.

In a normal bankruptcy, the creditors get soaked, but that would not have worked sense you are a creditor to the bank.


If I was a mortgage broker and I found some family living on welfare and I knowingly gave them a loan that given their current situation and common credit history for the average person in their current situation, no matter what excuse or how stupid I am, I would know that the loan would never be paid off with the deal that I had made with them (ie teaser interest and then ridiculous interest soon thereafter).
True. However, one thing that made it easy for him to be stupid was that he wasn't lending his own money. He was lending yours. Once that money evaporates, then he doesn't take the lose. Absent a bailout, you take the loss when your bank account evaporates. What's worse, once people realize this, everyone goes to the bank and start withdrawing all of their money, and then things really start falling apart.

If people are allowed to act like this (ie financial institutions) and play the "casino game" and not fail, then you really have to ask why.
Because they the people whose money they are using (i.e. yours) are unaware that about what is going on.
 
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After all, if the biggest line items don't get addressed, what's the point?
The point is that the reason that defense, social security, medicare, and medicaid are off the table is because you have millions of people scream like hell when their turkey is on the table. If you shut up when your turkey is on the table, then you are the one that is going to be sliced.

It's not fair. It's not rational. The only good thing about the system is that no one has thought of a better one. But if you are in a representative democracy and you don't organize to protect your special interests, then you are going to get steam-rollered by people that do.
 

chiro

Science Advisor
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twofish since we're on the subject could you comment (since you are in finance) about the reserve requirements for banks? I've read that they are either ridiculously low or non-existent.

Your comment with withdrawing is valid and I wouldn't expect a bank to have 100% reserve requirements, but the fact is most banks have hardly any reserves.

If a bank run did happen I agree there would be chaos, but I'm wondering what your viewpoint on the matter of reserves is (ie do you agree/disagree with reserve requirements?)
 
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twofish since we're on the subject could you comment (since you are in finance) about the reserve requirements for banks? I've read that they are either ridiculously low or non-existent.
Usually around 10% cash.

If a bank run did happen I agree there would be chaos, but I'm wondering what your viewpoint on the matter of reserves is (ie do you agree/disagree with reserve requirements?)
In US banking they were mostly irrelevant for the crash, since most the money goes through the securities markets. One thing that you have remember about the banking system is that it's a system. If the US has tight regulation of banks, and Germany doesn't, then German banks will pay more interest, the money will move there, and when everything blows up in Germany, it's still going to pull you down. It turned out that Germany will let you put risky assets into bank reserves, as long as those assets are insured, which is fine, until the insurance company that insures those deposits nearly goes under......

Your typical bank has 50% loans, 40% mortgage securities and 10% cash. When they run low on cash, they sell loans and securities on the open market. That totally broke down during the crash, so the banks had to sell loans and securities straight to the Federal Reserve.

One problem with money is that money is a collective illusion. If everyone thinks that a bar of gold is worthless then a bar of gold becomes worthless. That's sort of what happened in the crash. Everyone got scared and then suddenly all of the loans and securities that the banks had were worthless. The only thing that kept the system from totally unraveling was that the central banks came in were willing to buy up loans and securities at reasonable prices until people stopped panicking.

Bank reserves are like kitchen fire extinguishers. If you have a fire in your kitchen, then they can save your rear end. If you happen to be in the middle of a raging forest fire because someone else didn't have their extinguisher, they aren't going to help much.
 
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fss

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Unfortunately/fortunately, there isn't. In the past, you could route science spending through DOD, but that's not working any more.
"It's not working" ? DARPA produces plenty of useful things for the military and intelligence community. You just don't (and won't) see it in your living room for 20 years.

The other problem is that most of the graduate students that do the grunt work of science research are Chinese which leads to some interesting conversations.
Citation needed.

Taxpayers. I'm one of the taxpayers. Are you?
Last I checked (early November, 2011), a great many taxpayers voted to cut spending. So yes, taxpayers ultimately do decide how the government dollar is divided up.

We should take the time to wade through its expenditures and cull what's unnecessary.
You can't keep espousing the point of view that things are "unnecessary" or "necessary"- arbitrary terms that leave you wide open to criticism. In government, these matters are subjective. Montana's constituency doesn't need to keep developing a second engine for the F-35, but John Boehner's constituency in Ohio does. Average Joe Yahoo in rural Oklahoma doesn't need DOE to maintain funding levels for High Energy Physics, but the Boston HE Consortium does. It's all relative.
 
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The point is that the reason that defense, social security, medicare, and medicaid are off the table is because you have millions of people scream like hell when their turkey is on the table. If you shut up when your turkey is on the table, then you are the one that is going to be sliced.
Case in point: Not all that long ago, Sec of Defense Gates recommended eliminating one of the many, duplicative fighter jet programs currently being built. (Every service needs their own very specific fighter, you see, because it is the color of the pilot's uniform, not the mission required, that's REALLY important to DoD). The savings were not enough to really matter, but they were there.

Who screamed the loudest? Your members of Congress! This fighter had to be built because blah . . .blah . . .blah, and, oh yes, it had jobs in their states. This is why defense is sacrosanct: some congressperson might lose votes because he did something, although fitting and proper, adversely affecting his district. Never forget that our elected officials dont give a fig for our desires; their sole desire is to be re-elected.

Granted, jobs are important. So let's recoup them from Pakistan, Mexico, and all the other slave labor countries big business has outsourced to in order to increase their profits and their CEO's and Board's annual bonuses, and return them here. Then, maybe, we could address true Government cuts without all the whining.
 
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You can't keep espousing the point of view that things are "unnecessary" or "necessary"- arbitrary terms that leave you wide open to criticism. In government, these matters are subjective. Montana's constituency doesn't need to keep developing a second engine for the F-35, but John Boehner's constituency in Ohio does. Average Joe Yahoo in rural Oklahoma doesn't need DOE to maintain funding levels for High Energy Physics, but the Boston HE Consortium does. It's all relative.
They are not arbitrary terms and they are not subjective. The federal government has clearly-delineated powers in its Constitutional framework. The Founding Fathers intentionally put constraints on the federal government because they knew it would grow out of control like it has.

You bring up defense spending. The federal government is responsible for defense and national security. How best to achieve those goals and the details are certainly up for debate. It is also the job of the federal government to balance the special interests in the country so that one or a few do not exert a disproportionate amount of influence or control in government. I'm not certain of the details, but I've been told a story of how in the 70s/80s the Northeast was experiencing a pretty deep recession. Congress was also working on a budget for a new jet fighter program. They decided to land the program and funding in the Northeast to help stave off a near-depression. I'm not sure of why they were in a recession in the first place, though.
 
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Late last night, I got an email from the APS news thing (American Physical Society I believe). I'm a member, so no doubt those of you who are also members got this email. For those that didn't, here it is:



Just to give an overview if you didn't read it all, there are some major cuts being made by the Republicans in Congress to NSF and DOE, something like reducing it by 10%. That's huge. What does this mean to science being done in the US? I was just reading the NASA thread, two-fish made a relevant comment that it may happen that the US cuts funding now, which stunts our economic growth, which in turn requires Congress to cut more funding and so on.

Basically, are we screwed? Your thoughts.
From you post:

(my bold)
"DETAILS: The Continuing Resolution under which the federal government
has been operating since October 1, 2010 and which is set to expire
on March 4 contains approximately $530 billion for civilian programs
out of a total budget of $3.54 trillion. With only 7 months of the
fiscal year remaining, the $100 billion House reduction would be
taken from unexpended balances totaling about $300 billion
. The
legislation, H.R. 1, prepared by the House Republican leadership
at the behest of extreme fiscal conservatives, would have the effect
of slashing the remaining balances of the NSF and NIH budgets by
almost 10 percent and the DOE Office of Science and NIST by more
than 30 percent. Applied science programs would be hit even harder.
Program reductions are summarized in the links provided on the
Website of the House Appropriations Committee:

http://appropriations.house.gov/inde...Release_id=261."[/I] [Broken]

Basically, $100 billion of $300 billion that hasn't been spent is being taken back?
 
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