# Funding for Science from the 112th Congress

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chiro
Where else in the world has low taxes, and is safe?

I know most people don't want to live on an island in the middle of nowhere, but you can't argue somewhere like Switzerland, Lichtenstein, or Luxembourg.

Also note that many people that have their wealth offshore don't actually live in these safe havens.

russ_watters
Mentor
Further, we need to think hard about how we tax unearned income. It doesn't matter what the top brackets are if people can count their salary as capital gains instead. Its a bit crazy that the third richest man in the world was only taxed at 17.7% in 2007 (while his receptionist was taxed around 30%) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/27/AR2007062700097.html
That's a misleading analysis that includes her social security tax in the calculation. Apparently, Buffett isn't above propagandizing.

That said, a capital gains tax increase is probably inevitable. I go back and forth on it and would like there to be a way to provide an exemption for those using investments to save for retirement vs those using capital gains as regular working income.

That's a misleading analysis that includes her social security tax in the calculation. Apparently, Buffett isn't above propagandizing.

Why shouldn't you include her social security tax in the calculation? Even still, the remarkable thing to me is that Buffet is only paying 17.7%.

Do you honestly think the wealthy would put up with that? They would move either their assets or both themselves and their assets somewhere more "encouraging"

Generally we tax income more than wealth. If people want to be invested in US companies and earn income in the US, they'll pay taxes to the US. We can use that tax revenue to help build the infrastructure that we are unfortunately letting crumble. http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=us-infrastructure-crumbling-2009-01-28 If our infrastructure crumbles, it'll take more than low capital gains to bring investment to US businesses. Businesses need strong infrastructure and well educated employees to thrive.

The valid case to make for the citizens that must pay the bills and at risk for having their savings inflated away by money printing and deficit spending is not that government jobs will be lost, but in the scientific value that comes out of these labs, as compared to the Universities, industry R&D (cf. Bell Labs), etc.
You are completely right about that, it is the most relevant question, and eventually it is a political choice. I can bring up some points for case for the lab I work in, concretely. For the entire country and the other labs, I do not feel competent. There is just so much to tell. Neither will I try to convey that science itself is a valuable enterprise, I mean the actual scientific output of the fundamental research conducted is part of a bigger, universal story which is one of the driving forces behind technical progress, that is improvement in our quality of life. It is just too slow a process for this argument. I just mention that to me this is the most important aspect.

So more concretely.

Every week we have high school students coming in to participate in fun demonstrations of science. I think one the main goal is to stimulate them out of boredom, and let them know that any one of them could become a scientist if they are motivated. Even for the vast majority of them who will not become scientists, it seems valuable to me. In addition, every other month or so, we have science fairs, science contests, public seminars, or just open houses. We meet with the general public and try to get everybody to contribute in those communication efforts. Not only do we hope to have them support our activity, but we hope to raise some interest, some curiosity, fascination. This may seem corny, but imagine that someone shows you a rainbow for the first time in your life, and explains to you how it works, even maybe to such an extent that you can then do it yourself at home, or at least relate this fascinating phenomenon to your daily life. The hope is to get people to share this passion, realize the link with their daily routines and appreciate how important such an understanding is.

Some other concrete facts that they can learn relates to the significant portion of the staff which works in applied research. There are so many activities that it is difficult to summarize. A few examples could include security screening at the border, and I am not referring to TSA, but rather to find ways to screen the innumerable containers making it from boats for instance; recent progress medical imaging devices which have already saved lives; a special laser unique in the world in terms of optical range and power, with vast applications similar to what one can do with synchrotrons; material science, vacuum technology, cryogenics, plasma science, surface analysis... the list goes on and on. They must be efficient enough since they are judged by the number of patents they get.

This applied research center does not exist without the rest of the lab. For one thing, many among its staff obtained their PhD doing fundamental research and then turned to applied research (there are more opportunities). By the same token, every summer dozens of undergraduates come to learn at the lab. The last one I had learnt some physics, but was clear that he wanted to go into biotech from the beginning. He now has rudimentary skills in programming and statistical analysis. Acquiring those in a couple of months was quite efficient. I am convinced they they will be very useful in his future endeavors.

There is of course all the technology that comes out of computer science. From GPUs to the computing Grid, high energy physics is still at the leading edge in driving these progress. That fact dates back to the first computers and goes through the internet protocols for instance.

Many young PhDs who worked with DOE but decide to make money also go into financial analysis and market models.

So I am getting tired, and again it is a political choice. I doubt that a well-informed politician would seriously deny that the national labs under DOE are essential to innovation in this country, in the sense that there would be another cheaper and more efficient way to fulfill their social role.

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Maybe a few of these places -
Although I do not believe he will be successful, I hope Sarkozy's efforts to regulate those to some extent will eventually damp the leaks, which for the US are considerable for instance.

russ_watters
Mentor
Why shouldn't you include her social security tax in the calculation? Even still, the remarkable thing to me is that Buffet is only paying 17.7%.
You shouldn't include her social security tax in the equation because it counts her tax while not counting the benefit she will receive from it (because it hasn't happened yet). The stated purpose of SS is a forced-savings retirement fund, so the money she paid-in is still essentially earmarked for her.

Let me put it another way: when she retires, her "tax burden" will be something like negative 300% (if SS is taxed around 25%) while his will always be positive (because he'll be living off his investments, not his social security). Looking at Buffett's statement with blinders on ignores that reality. Rather than cherry-picking an example who'se logic generates (but ignores) such a lopsided opposing counter-example, it is better to eiminate the issue by not counting the SS tax.

If someone receives food stamps or welfare or other government assistance, that is counted against their tax burden (that's why about half of Americans have zero or negative tax burden). It is disingenuous to ignore benefits she will be receiving just because they haven't happened yet while counting the money she paid-in to receive those benefits.

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Staff Emeritus
Yeah... We'll be dumb as bricks, but we'll have them big guns, so it's all good. :uhh:

Except that more than 90% of K-12 education costs are not paid by the federal government.

Saying "this program is more important than that program" misses the magnitude of the problem.

If you want to balance the budget by raising taxes, you have to raise income taxes by a factor of 2.6. Of course, you can make some people pay more so others can pay less, but the highest tax bracket would be 92%, so there's not much room to increase taxes on people making more than $350K. If you want to balance the budget by cutting spending, you have to cut the entire discretionary budget, plus$300B. "Discretionary" includes most of what we think of as "the government" - the Army, embassies, the FBI, NASA, the national parks, etc. Even science spending. It all has to go, and it still won't be enough.

This is what the arithmetic says when you have $915B in income taxes, a$1.2T discretionary budget and a $1.5T deficit. This bill by Sen. Rand Paul, http://www.randpaul2010.com/2011/01/senator-paul-introduces-500-billion-in-spending-cuts/ [Broken] (links to the bill itself and a summary are in the linked page), is almost surely DOA, but it does reflect some of the thinking in the new 112th Congress. The outlook for funding for science & technology is a bit grim. Just some of the cuts proposed by Paul: NASA: 25% CDC: 28% EPA: 29% USGS: 29% NOAA: 36% NIH: 37% NSF: 62% DOE: 100% SO NASA gets off easy with a mere 25% cut here. Rand's rationale for many of these cuts are IMHO incredibly naive and laughable. Laughing is not the right response, though. I'm more than a bit worried that a reduced version of these draconian proposals will become law. You know, I was just saying the other day how much I missed the good old days of polio and unforcasted tsunamis. I love it... "innovate you fools, and do it like they did panning for gold: with syphilis and by luck and attrition!"... "Btw, we're slashing the mining budget, so take this pan and find a river punk!" I feel ill. Last edited by a moderator: Except that more than 90% of K-12 education costs are not paid by the federal government. Saying "this program is more important than that program" misses the magnitude of the problem. If you want to balance the budget by raising taxes, you have to raise income taxes by a factor of 2.6. Of course, you can make some people pay more so others can pay less, but the highest tax bracket would be 92%, so there's not much room to increase taxes on people making more than$350K.

If you want to balance the budget by cutting spending, you have to cut the entire discretionary budget, plus $300B. "Discretionary" includes most of what we think of as "the government" - the Army, embassies, the FBI, NASA, the national parks, etc. Even science spending. It all has to go, and it still won't be enough. This is what the arithmetic says when you have$915B in income taxes, a $1.2T discretionary budget and a$1.5T deficit.

OR... we could just leave Afghanistan to burn, tax the crap out of people with X+ amount of money/assets. While we're talking about fantasies, we might as well take from the people who have enough already, and not the science or embassy budgets.

We could do a huge number of things... this is just a reflection of the ideology espoused by the same man who thinks he's doing the business of the people by floating ideas like, "Cut all international aid, even to Israel!". DOA.

At some point, it's not legislating, it's... that other word that ends in "ing".

There are plenty of things to cut, including military spending: this is a balance, and Paul shows no balance.

Except that more than 90% of K-12 education costs are not paid by the federal government.
Are you actually saying that you would have no problem with a federal defense budget that is over 40 times the amount allocated for education? Seriously? Cutting education spending by 83% while barely cutting the much larger defense budget seems OK to you?

I'd also like to point out that the current level of K12 education is nothing to be proud of.

Staff Emeritus
Are you actually saying that you would have no problem with a federal defense budget that is over 40 times the amount allocated for education? Seriously?

Sure. Just because something is worth doing doesn't mean it's the federal government's job to do it. Constitutionally, defense is the federal government's job, and education isn't. (And before people jump and say "You tea-partier, you!" let me point out that ED says exactly the same thing on their web page.)

But again, this misses the bigger picture. The federal government is so strapped for cash that it has to borrow more than the entire discretionary program. Reprioritizing within this program won't solve the problem.

Are you actually saying that you would have no problem with a federal defense budget that is over 40 times the amount allocated for education? Seriously? Cutting education spending by 83% while barely cutting the much larger defense budget seems OK to you?

I'd also like to point out that the current level of K12 education is nothing to be proud of.

I agree with your last sentence, and the sentiment of your post, but I'm not sure that it's a fair comparison. Dumping money into education is probably as useful as dumping it into military spending... and frankly it costs a lot more to develop high-end weapons systems compared to even a first rate education.

So... I'm not sure that, "40x" or comparative percentages is a valid way of looking at this issue. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's a bit apple and orangish.

Sure. Just because something is worth doing doesn't mean it's the federal government's job to do it. Constitutionally, defense is the federal government's job, and education isn't. (And before people jump and say "You tea-partier, you!" let me point out that ED says exactly the same thing on their web page.)

But again, this misses the bigger picture. The federal government is so strapped for cash that it has to borrow more than the entire discretionary program. Reprioritizing within this program won't solve the problem.

...And really, we've seen what we get with federally funded education... we all seem to agree on that. We've also seen people get all the money in the world, still fail academically.

As I've quoted elsewhere:

Dana Gould said:
Maybe the government should figure out how I can get on an airplane with my ******* eyedrops before I set them loose on global warming!

It's not that I wouldn't be thrilled to see the fed, or anyone fix all of my problems, but being realistic I think you're right: lets have them focus on what they HAVE to do, and move out from there. Scientific R&D makes no sense to cut however... I like my teflon, corningware, velcro, and ceramics! I'm thrilled that because the government dumped money into NASA, I can have titanium implants. So, why not go with the proven winner (not NASA, but R&D) that corporations recognize as key too?

Reprioritizing within this program won't solve the problem.
But that's exactly what this bill does. The biggest cash sucking program, defense, barely gets a cut.

But that's exactly what this bill does. The biggest cash sucking program, defense, barely gets a cut.

Defense isn't purely discretionary AFAIK, only partly.

Staff Emeritus
While some military-related spending such as pensions for retired military personnel is mandatory, the entirety of the Department of Defense's budget is discretionary. The DoD budget is the subject of the defense appropriations bill. Notice those last two words, appropriations bill. Those programs whose budget is the subject of one of the twelve appropriations bills is what is meant by discretionary spending.

The huge federal deficit, whether you want to call it $1.27 trillion or$1.5 trillion, is not going to be solved by attacking only the 12% sliver of the budget that represents non-defense discretionary spending. Should Congress eliminate this little sliver of the budget the budget shortfall will still be close to one trillion dollars.

The solution to the budget shortfall problem is not going to found in discretionary spending, period. Congress can eliminate all discretionary spending, including the military, and the US government will still have a deficit.

The problem can only be solved if Congress is open to rethinking its mandatory spending. That will require some explicit changes to the underlying laws as opposed to back-room dickering over budgets. It won't be easy. That 12% sliver will still be attacked because it is the easiest part of the budget to attack.

Evo
Mentor
Rand said:
The Department of Education has increasingly meddled with the more traditional idea of education being tailored to
the needs and requirement of communities and states.

National Science Foundation
Agency/Program Funding Decrease 62%

Research in science is best conducted by private industry for economic purposes. States are also best positioned to direct funding in their own K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities.
Without federal government oversight, Kansas will start teaching Young Earth Creationism. When will the book burning begin?

Rand Paul is a lunatic, IMO.

Rand Paul: Controversial Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Isn't So Bad -- It Enhances The Land!

Despite warnings from conservationists that blowing the tops off of mountains to get the precious, precious coal underneath can have a seriously negative impact on the surrounding land, Paul says that when you really stop to think about it, losing those mountain tops is actually a net positive. <snip> Paul believes mountaintop removal just needs a little rebranding. "I think they should name it something better," he says. "The top ends up flatter, but we're not talking about Mount Everest. We're talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here. And I've seen the reclaimed lands. One of them is 800 acres, with a sports complex on it
:uhh:

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/...-removal-mining-enhances-the-land.php?ref=fpi

While some military-related spending such as pensions for retired military personnel is mandatory, the entirety of the Department of Defense's budget is discretionary. The DoD budget is the subject of the defense appropriations bill. Notice those last two words, appropriations bill. Those programs whose budget is the subject of one of the twelve appropriations bills is what is meant by discretionary spending.

The huge federal deficit, whether you want to call it $1.27 trillion or$1.5 trillion, is not going to be solved by attacking only the 12% sliver of the budget that represents non-defense discretionary spending. Should Congress eliminate this little sliver of the budget the budget shortfall will still be close to one trillion dollars.

The solution to the budget shortfall problem is not going to found in discretionary spending, period. Congress can eliminate all discretionary spending, including the military, and the US government will still have a deficit.

The problem can only be solved if Congress is open to rethinking its mandatory spending. That will require some explicit changes to the underlying laws as opposed to back-room dickering over budgets. It won't be easy. That 12% sliver will still be attacked because it is the easiest part of the budget to attack.

I stand corrected. I have to say, what you say (not the fact of the discretionary nature of the budget) after that initial point seems unlikely to ever occur. Personally I would simply eliminate all entitlements, reinvest that money in education and paying the debt. The result will be a lot of people dead, but that's a solution in and of itself as has been proven in the past. If we're not going to bother to educate, feed, or otherwise care for those who can't care for themselves, lets just reduce the numbers through attrition.

You're fighting the debt on both fronts there.

Without federal government oversight, Kansas will start teaching Young Earth Creationism. When will the book burning begin?

Rand Paul is a lunatic, IMO.

:uhh:

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/...-removal-mining-enhances-the-land.php?ref=fpi

AFAIK that's some of his more rational moments!... I don't think he's a lunatic, I think he's just a very ideologically motivated fool who believes what he wants based on painfully limited personal experience. If that's crazy, then the DSM just got a lot fatter.

:rofl: If this thread is an indicator of the debates that will follow - this is a good start. Every program should be put on the table and weighed/measured. Paul is one vote. We elect these people to make decisions - this is nothing but the framework of a conversation.

:rofl: If this thread is an indicator of the debates that will follow - this is a good start. Every program should be put on the table and weighed/measured. Paul is one vote. We elect these people to make decisions - this is nothing but the framework of a conversation.

GOOD! Usually we work the other way and by the time we have a framework, there's no energy left for discussion. This was a well-engineered thread, and there's no reason we shouldn't consider everything: it's not as though we're about to go out and make it happen tonight!

mheslep
Gold Member
Industry doesn't do much fundamental R&D anymore, the focus has shifted much more to applied research. See,for instance, http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_36/b4145036681619.htm
I don't know that I take BW to be the last word here, but assuming they are correct, why do you think that is? See, e.g. crowding out. There's a good argument to be made that while government labs and R&D funding exploded, the private sector decided to step aside and do other things, still leaving the overall government and private R&D spending well up.

Also, the DOE, NSF, etc fund University research, and part of grants to Universities end up in operating budgets.
True, and a lot of DOE, NSF, etc funding ends up nowhere near Universities.

These cuts would not just effect science research, but would have a huge impact on university education.
Huge impact on education? How? That's certainly not true for undergraduate education. Even for graduate education the argument seems weak.

Finally, we could have a discussion of the timing of these cuts- we might be out of the recession, but unemployment is still high. Meanwhile, companies are sitting on record amounts of cash rather than hiring, or expanding (Apple for instance is sitting on upwards of 50 billion http://technog33k.com/post/2822018582/apple-sitting-on-a-cool-59-7-billion-cash [Broken] and has been for nearly a year).
Yes exactly. Why do you think that is? Why are they behaving this way? I suggest again that government interference or threatened intererence in the economy via deficit spending, health care mandates, salary caps, energy taxes all increase risk and crowd out the private sector.

Is it really the best time to put a lot more highly skilled on the job market? Keynes wasn't a complete idiot.
At the moment the summary of stimulus efforts seems to be, "there are no shovel ready projects". If you want to discuss macroeconomics, then consider the well established impact of government tax rates on unemployment, and not just government spending.

Edit: Also, dare I say it, maybe the more responsible thing to do would be to raise revenue? Maybe increase taxes?
As Vanadiam suggests that's not evenly remotely feasible as a solution with these spending levels. Federal revenue http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/...ack=1&size=m&title=&state=US&color=c&local=s"

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mheslep
Gold Member
Code:
DoD		$673.500B$47.581B	6.5%
Education	$16.256B$78.005B	83%

Yeah... We'll be dumb as bricks, but we'll have them big guns, so it's all good. :uhh:
That assumes the US Department of Education actually improves education. Please show how US education is better now with it, than it was some years ago before it.

Finally, we could have a discussion of the timing of these cuts- we might be out of the recession, but unemployment is still high. Meanwhile, companies are sitting on record amounts of cash rather than hiring, or expanding (Apple for instance is sitting on upwards of 50 billion http://technog33k.com/post/2822018582/apple-sitting-on-a-cool-59-7-billion-cash [Broken] and has been for nearly a year). Is it really the best time to put a lot more highly skilled on the job market? Keynes wasn't a complete idiot.

Edit: Also, dare I say it, maybe the more responsible thing to do would be to raise revenue? Maybe increase taxes?

You ask about the timing of cuts in spending - citing the recession - then you suggest an increase in taxes?

Why not provide tax incentives to spur investment in R&D (in the US) - wouldn't that solve both problems?

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