# Funding for Science from the 112th Congress

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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.

I'm not sure how you measure that... jobs? Literacy? Individual quality of life? I think a lot of people believe the USDE is ancient... when really it's just Carter's '79 pet. AFAIK literacy in the USA has been a steady 99% 15 and over according to the CIA World Factbook.

So... I don't know... are there any good studies that aren't a partisan mess?

I'm not sure how you measure that... jobs? Literacy? Individual quality of life? I think a lot of people believe the USDE is ancient... when really it's just Carter's '79 pet. AFAIK literacy in the USA has been a steady 99% 15 and over according to the CIA World Factbook.

So... I don't know... are there any good studies that aren't a partisan mess?

Didn't the President indicate in his State of the Union speech a few days ago that US graduate schools are filled with foreign students - that return to their home countries upon graduation? This indicates that US students are not competitive with foreign students - doesn't it?

Didn't the President indicate in his State of the Union speech a few days ago that US graduate schools are filled with foreign students - that return to their home countries upon graduation? This indicates that US students are not competitive with foreign students - doesn't it?

It SEEMS to, but it may be that economic and social factors are the issue, not an issue with USDE funding...

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

I side with economists in the idea that direct spending by the government is a much larger stimulus to the economy than tax cuts. Hence, if you are worried about the deficit, but also worried about the economy, raising taxes is more responsible than cutting spending. Obviously, some mixture of both needs to be done, eventually. Also, the supply-side idea that tax rates are the driving factors of the economy is nonsense.

As Vanadiam suggests that's not evenly remotely feasible as a solution with these spending levels. Federal revenue in 2010 was ~2.1 trillion, spending was about $1.4 more. But we are also coming out of a recession, and have high unemployment. Getting people back to work, and the economy back on its feet will raise the revenue side of things. 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. US federal spending on scientific research as a percentage of GDP peaked before the 70s. And its not that industry stopped doing R&D, they simply pushed more to short term applied research, which is part of the larger pattern of maximizing short-term profits that characterizes this era of business. Huge impact on education? How? That's certainly not true for undergraduate education. Even for graduate education the argument seems weak. Liberal arts colleges will be fine, however a non-trivial percentage of university operating costs is taken from grants their professors receive. Given that many state universities are already seeing cuts from the state government, a further assault on their operating budget would be extremely painful. 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. I'd suggest the more likely reason is more simple, low demand. If they needed to increase capacity to meet demand, they would. They do not. mheslep Gold Member Thats a pretty naive analysis. First, we SHOULD raise taxes across the board. The iron law of wages suggests that lower and lower-middle class workers will see their salaries rise to offset the costs anyway. If they don't lose their job outright, and an across the board tax hike unambiguously suggests more would. However, we should also add higher tax brackets. The highest bracket right now is something like 375,000, and something like 35%? Why not add a bracket at 50% for 450,000, 60% for 550,000, maybe up to 90% for making over a million. I can find no source close at hand for how much money that would raise, but it may be non-trivial (of course, it may be trivial, if anyone has good numbers, post them!) . The revenue from allowing the Bush era tax cuts to expire, that is raise taxes, on incomes from$250,000 all the way up to Bill Gates, was estimated to be $30 billion in 2011, and an average of$70 billion per year over the next ten years. Balance that increase against the $1500 billion deficit. White House econ advisor Romer said: While the Office of Management and Budget estimates the high-income tax cuts would cost about$30 billion in 2011, the yearly cost is expected to grow as the economy recovers. Extending them permanently would add about $700 billion to the ten-year deficit. http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/07/28/extending-high-income-tax-cuts-wrong-answer-recovery It is also worth noting here that federal revenue as a percentage of GDP never exceed 20% even when top bracket tax rates exceeded 90% back in the 60s and 70s. High earners apparently can just stop earning, shelter their earnings, http://reason.com/blog/2010/11/01/keith-richards-we-left-england" [Broken] Last edited by a moderator: f you want to discuss macroeconomics, then consider the well established impact of government tax rates on unemployment, and not just government spending. I'm not sure this is as well established as you think it is. http://www.presimetrics.com/blog/?p=162 [Broken] Didn't the President indicate in his State of the Union speech a few days ago that US graduate schools are filled with foreign students - that return to their home countries upon graduation? This indicates that US students are not competitive with foreign students - doesn't it? Actually, I think it speaks to the difficulty of making a reasonable living in science. There are other threads about this. Job prospects in many areas of science are fairly weak (overall, we train twice as many scientists as jobs), and while these jobs represent increased opportunity for many foreign students, they represent decreased opportunity for many US citizens. Last edited by a moderator: I side with economists in the idea that direct spending by the government is a much larger stimulus to the economy than tax cuts. Hence, if you are worried about the deficit, but also worried about the economy, raising taxes is more responsible than cutting spending. Obviously, some mixture of both needs to be done, eventually. Also, the supply-side idea that tax rates are the driving factors of the economy is nonsense. How responsible is borrowing 40% of the money spent? my bold http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41272983/ns/politics-more_politics/ "The eye-popping numbers mean the government will continue to borrow 40 cents for every dollar it spends. The new Congressional Budget Office estimates will add fuel to a raging debate over cutting spending and looming legislation that's required to allow the government to borrow more money as the national debt nears the$14.3 trillion cap set by law. Republicans controlling the House say there's no way they'll raise the limit without significant cuts in spending, starting with a government funding bill that will advance next month. "

Also, care to elaborate on the "nonsense" remark?

Actually, I think it speaks to the difficulty of making a reasonable living in science. There are other threads about this. Job prospects in many areas of science are fairly weak (overall, we train twice as many scientists as jobs), and while these jobs represent increased opportunity for many foreign students, they represent decreased opportunity for many US citizens.

You think the US graduate programs are full of foreign students because of a lack of domestic science jobs? You don't think the foreign students are better prepared?

You think the US graduate programs are full of foreign students because of a lack of domestic science jobs? You don't think the foreign students are better prepared?

OR...

... there are a lot more people in the entire world MINUS school-age Americans, and those places are prized and so you are now competing with the world, and not just your own fixed house?

Maybe what's changing isn't the USA, it's just the rest of the world. That wouldn't be the first time, but if something isn't done soon it may be the last. Too many big fish out there, and too much around water and energy is at stake to just wonder why everyone else is running to catch up while we get fat?

OR...

... there are a lot more people in the entire world MINUS school-age Americans, and those places are prized and so you are now competing with the world, and not just your own fixed house?

Maybe what's changing isn't the USA, it's just the rest of the world. That wouldn't be the first time, but if something isn't done soon it may be the last. Too many big fish out there, and too much around water and energy is at stake to just wonder why everyone else is running to catch up while we get fat?

I'm talking about the competition for seats in the US graduate schools - not jobs.

mheslep
Gold Member
I side with economists in the idea that direct spending by the government is a much larger stimulus to the economy than tax cuts.
I side with http://www.cato.org/special/stimulus09/alternate_version.html" [Broken]. Given the dismal results of the over one trillion spent on US stimulus, and two trillion more of monetary stimulus, the similar amounts by percentage spent in Japan in prior decades also to no effect, I think siding with the spending crowd is odd.
Hence, if you are worried about the deficit, but also worried about the economy, raising taxes is more responsible than cutting spending. Obviously, some mixture of both needs to be done, eventually. Also, the supply-side idea that tax rates are the driving factors of the economy is nonsense.
The idea that government spending is the driving factor in the economy is nonsense. Now where does that get us? No Keynes didn't unambiguously say spending works nor is he the last word on government fiscal stimulus. Friedman wasn't an idiot either.
But we are also coming out of a recession, and have high unemployment. Getting people back to work, and the economy back on its feet will raise the revenue side of things.
I agree, I'm sure we all agree. The question is how best to do that.

US federal spending on scientific research as a percentage of GDP peaked before the 70s.
http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/databrf/sdb99357.pdf" [Broken], compared to all of Europe's one quarter. The cuts on the table here are not more than a percent or two of that.

And its not that industry stopped doing R&D, they simply pushed more to short term applied research, which is part of the larger pattern of maximizing short-term profits that characterizes this era of business.
As a percentage of GDP? If it simply kept pace with GDP it would be growing significantly year by year, and I see no good reason why growth in absolute terms would not be sufficient. I imagine a good portion of that R&D back in the cold war era must have been spent on the cold war - neutron bombs, star wars and the like. With those gone it doesn't necessarily mean we've seen reduction, even in percentage terms, of other kinds of beneficial pure R&D.
http://i.bnet.com/blogs/battelle-rd-global-spending-2010.png?tag=content;col1

Liberal arts colleges will be fine, however a non-trivial percentage of university operating costs is taken from grants their professors receive. Given that many state universities are already seeing cuts from the state government, a further assault on their operating budget would be extremely painful.
To some of their grant based research maybe (its not clear that industry would not simply pick up the slack), not to education, your original claim, which should be their primary role.

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I'm talking about the competition for seats in the US graduate schools - not jobs.

Me too.

You think the US graduate programs are full of foreign students because of a lack of domestic science jobs? You don't think the foreign students are better prepared?

Consider the very top programs have a much higher percentage of US graduate students- why? Because the top programs provide the must likely avenues to one of the handful of good science jobs. The percentage of foreign students increases dramatically as you move down the rankings.

If we want to increase the percentage of US citizens in science, we need to increase the number of lucrative jobs in science. Anecdotally, the best phd science students I've known have all left their respective fields in favor of increased opportunity and better salaries outside of science. This is after spending 6+ years of their life earning the phd.

Also, care to elaborate on the "nonsense" remark?

The US saw its largest economic expansion during the post world war 2 period when its tax rates were highest (paying off the war). Admittedly the growth was largely due to the fact that the US was the only major player that didn't see its infrastructure damaged or destroyed by the war. However, these facts solidly refute the idea that tax rates alone dictate economic growth.

Keep in mind, economies grow, so revenue is always increasing, so the question is, after a tax cut, is revenue moving along the same trend? Also, the secondary effects of cutting taxes are complex, including (perhaps) better compliance, faster GDP growth, etc. However, no large tax cuts have ever seen the revenue return completely to the trend in revenue before the cuts were made. The Reagan tax cuts come close, but do not see a return to trend. The Bush cuts permanently diminished revenue. http://modeledbehavior.com/2010/07/...es-bush-tax-cuts-permanently-lowered-revenue/

mheslep
Gold Member
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?
If I may: education spending in the United States is funded primarily from property taxes (local) and state governments. Federal spending is relatively speaking an afterthought. If the Education Department left the planet tomorrow total US education spending would be little changed. Combined education spending, not including private education, http://www.usgovernmentspending.com...=a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_a_b_b"

I'd also like to point out that the current level of K12 education is nothing to be proud of.
Why do you expect the Federal Ed Dept, around now for three decades, will improve matters, as opposed to making them worse as has been happening?

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mheslep
Gold Member
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.
Such as? Your OP listed Sen. Paul's explicit cuts in federal departments and percentages. Which entitlements to US citizens in particular do you suggest be cut and by what percent, to avoid the discretionary cuts originally labeled as "laughable" and "naive"?

Evo
Mentor
One of the main problems I cited earlier with Paul's desire to dump everyting onto the states and have no Federal obligations is his statement that forest fire control should be solely a state's problem. California is known for it's forest fires and California is on the brink of bankruptcy.

Isn't one of the benefits of being part of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA is that we pool resources and come to the aid of each other? Paul would have us believe that the belief in a United States should be done away with, that we should break up and each state is now on it's own.

Is that what we want, no more United States, we no longer act as a country? We should just break up into states? And then what?

One of the main problems I cited earlier with Paul's desire to dump everyting onto the states and have no Federal obligations is his statement that forest fire control should be solely a state's problem. California is known for it's forest fires and California is on the brink of bankruptcy.

Isn't one of the benefits of being part of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA is that we pool resources and come to the aid of each other? Paul would have us believe that the belief in a United States should be done away with, that we should break up and each state is now on it's own.

Is that what we want, no more United States, we no longer act as a country? We should just break up into states? And then what?

...Then the people who believe they're superior (of which I think many politicians are a member) think they'll achieve some kind of natural dominance instead of chaos.

Get it? Everyone gets a gun, and absolute freedom... for the aristocratic class that emerges. There have always been people who call themselves conservative, liberal, or libertarian, but really just want to dial the clock back. I think Paul is such a man; he can't think in terms of future solutions, so he looks only to the past for some kind of quasi-mystical guidance.

Besides, he's a horse's ***.

Consider the very top programs have a much higher percentage of US graduate students- why? Because the top programs provide the must likely avenues to one of the handful of good science jobs. The percentage of foreign students increases dramatically as you move down the rankings.
This is a completely naive and ridiculous view of the science job market.

I don't know how things are in grad school now, but back then (couple of decades prior), graduate programs were starving for students. The majority of US college degrees were not interested in grad school at all. That's why the foreign/US raio is (or was) so high.

If we want to increase the percentage of US citizens in science, we need to increase the number of lucrative jobs in science. Anecdotally, the best phd science students I've known have all left their respective fields in favor of increased opportunity and better salaries outside of science. This is after spending 6+ years of their life earning the phd.
You keep saying this over and over. This may be true in your field, but there are plenty of fields in science, including in physics, where you will work in the same field. I know I do and plenty of people I know also do.

I won't disagree with the statement that jobs in science need to be increased, but that's pretty much the case for everything right now. Unemployment is huge for everybody, not just science.

One of the main problems I cited earlier with Paul's desire to dump everyting onto the states and have no Federal obligations is his statement that forest fire control should be solely a state's problem. California is known for it's forest fires and California is on the brink of bankruptcy.

I am not agreeing with Paul at all, but I do think that the state/federal tax ratio should be higher. It seems to me that a lot of the federal budget is sent back to the states, so why not keep some of the money in the states to begin with? I know a couple of countries in which this the case, and it sort of makes more sense. But it should definitely not be everything.

Without federal government oversight, Kansas will start teaching Young Earth Creationism. When will the book burning begin?
Exactly. The federal government should ensure that there are common standards amongst all states.

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This is a completely naive and ridiculous view of the science job market.

Then please, give me some numbers. Every study I've seen of the scientific job market suggests a phd glut (and these studies were done PRE recession) across practically all fields. Saying that you have a job, or people you know have jobs, that is anecdotal (just as me saying that the best people I know left physics).

I don't know how things are in grad school now, but back then (couple of decades prior), graduate programs were starving for students. The majority of US college degrees were not interested in grad school at all. That's why the foreign/US raio is (or was) so high.

I agree, the majority of college degree graduates have no interest in graduate school. I'm suggesting that this is BECAUSE there are so few job opportunities. If scientists made as much as medical doctors, we'd have a lot more US degree recipients lining up. My point is not to focus on supply, its to focus on demand.

Unfortunately, universities need graduate students as cheap labor, and so the supply of phds is not tied to the demand for them.

You keep saying this over and over. This may be true in your field, but there are plenty of fields in science, including in physics, where you will work in the same field. I know I do and plenty of people I know also do.

I'm sure there are plenty of fields where there are some good jobs. However, consider that PRE-RECESSION, we created half as many jobs in physics as we did scientists. Look at this state of the job market report from 1995. http://www.aps.org/programs/education/chairs/1995/upload/market.pdf.

We are reaching the point where maybe half of science phds will work in their field- after putting in the time to get the phd.

Add to this the fact that the majority of phd graduates (at least in physics) do at least one postdoc, and you are looking at 9-12 years after undergraduate in which you are making equal to or less than someone without a college degree. Thats not exactly appealing to a majority of US citizens- even if you land that job in science, you've forgone a lot of wages, and you've made it much harder to develop the stability you need to raise a family.

Gokul43201
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Just to be clear who supports what in this proposal, who here thinks that a 100% cut in DOE spending is a good or okay idea? And likewise with other specific items?

I personally think disbanding the DOE and expecting the DOD (with no corresponding increase in their budget) or Industry to take up the slack is just plain ignorant. I might have found a bit more merit to an argument that the DOE be disbanded (and NSF slashed to a third) and it's too bad that science and higher education will suffer, but that's a price we must pay, over the argument that fantasizes that Industry and DOD are more than (willing and) capable of filling those shoes.

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Just to be clear who supports what in this proposal, who here thinks that a 100% cut in DOE spending is a good or okay idea? And likewise with other specific items?

I personally think disbanding the DOE and expecting the DOD (with no corresponding increase in their budget) or Industry to take up the slack is just plain ignorant. I might have found a bit more merit to an argument that the DOE be disbanded (and NSF slashed to a third) and it's too bad that science and higher education will suffer, but that's a price we must pay, over the argument that fantasizes that Industry and DOD are more than (willing and) capable of filling those shoes.

From a negotiations perspective, it makes sense to propose more than is realistic - you can always accept less. I think that's what happened with a lot of the legislation last year - they threw everything imaginable in the Bills and pushed hard - unfortunately, most of it got pushed through.

I don't see anything wrong with a comprehensive review of all spending - it's long overdue.

Then please, give me some numbers. Every study I've seen of the scientific job market suggests a phd glut (and these studies were done PRE recession) across practically all fields. Saying that you have a job, or people you know have jobs, that is anecdotal (just as me saying that the best people I know left physics).
I was referring to your comment about top programs. Nobody in industry really cares, or even knows which program is at the top. And the implication that foreign grad students are somehow inferior is misplaced.
I agree, the majority of college degree graduates have no interest in graduate school. I'm suggesting that this is BECAUSE there are so few job opportunities. If scientists made as much as medical doctors, we'd have a lot more US degree recipients lining up.
I think it was more that college graduates could find good jobs without having a PhD, so why bother? And do you have have any idea what life medical doctors lead? I'll keep my "measly" scientist salary, thank you. With more money comes more responsibility. After a certain point, too much money is not really that good.

Anyway, this is getting a little off topic.

I was referring to your comment about top programs. Nobody in industry really cares, or even knows which program is at the top. And the implication that foreign grad students are somehow inferior is misplaced.

I am in no way suggesting that foreign graduates are inferior. I'm suggesting that US citizens who can't get into the best programs don't bother attending graduate school. People respond to incentives- if the end goal of a phd is academic work, then its much better to go to a Princeton or a Berkeley. If the goal is to get admitted to the US in order to have access to increased opportunity, than choice of program doesn't matter as much. Since the US citizens already have access to the opportunities living in the US entails, a phd from Podunk U isn't all that appealing. The incentive structure is different.

Also, if industry doesn't know which programs are on top, why do you see much more recruiting going on at better ranked programs?

I think it was more that college graduates could find good jobs without having a PhD, so why bother?

Except the same doesn't apply to medical and law schools- US citizens sign up in abundance. Why? Because they see good career opportunities. A phd represents a lifetime decrease in earnings, and people respond to incentives.

And do you have have any idea what life medical doctors lead?

Yes, my sister is a medical doctor. In the time it took me to get my phd, my sister finished medical school and residency (admittedly, her three year residency was an insane amount of work). Two years after finishing residency, she had fully paid off her loans (so if we had started at the same time, I'd be finishing a postdoc). She now works 3 days a week, 13 hours, for which she gets paid extremely well. As far as economic gain from a training program, MD beats phd hands down. Which is why there is no shortage of US students fighting to get into medical schools.

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Also, if industry doesn't know which programs are on top, why do you see much more recruiting going on at better ranked programs?
If you mean recruiting events, that's probably because Princeton et al have a better alumni service and more money. If you mean actual hiring, I haven't seen it from experience. Maybe these top programs matter to the [strike]morons[/strike] very nice people in HR, but to the people who actually hire PhDs, it means pretty much squat. Let me put it this way, I've never been on a post-interview meeting that went like this: "OK, candidate A is very good, he knows his stuff and seems easygoing, but he's from PodunkU. Cadidate B is a dufus, a jerk, and smells really bad, but he's from Princeton, so he is clearly the best choice." If you look at industry resumes, you'll always see education listed last, on the bottom of the second page. That's how much it matters.

As far as economic gain from a training program, MD beats phd hands down.
That's a personal opinion. Grad school didn't cost me a penny (except maybe some dignity), so my economic return is infinite. Do MD students get paid to do the research that gets them a degree? I don't think so. Also, not everybody goes into a PhD purely for economic gain. I didn't, did you? You're understandably bitter now because you're stuck in the middle of 2 worlds (academia and industry). But objectively, would you have made it through law school for example? I know I wouldn't have.

This keeps getting more and more off topic. People are going to tell us to get a room pretty soon.

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Just to be clear who supports what in this proposal, who here thinks that a 100% cut in DOE spending is a good or okay idea? And likewise with other specific items?

I personally think disbanding the DOE and expecting the DOD (with no corresponding increase in their budget) or Industry to take up the slack is just plain ignorant. I might have found a bit more merit to an argument that the DOE be disbanded (and NSF slashed to a third) and it's too bad that science and higher education will suffer, but that's a price we must pay, over the argument that fantasizes that Industry and DOD are more than (willing and) capable of filling those shoes.

You have no idea how upsetting it is hearing that kind of analysis coming from you... who seems to often be the voice of reason. No offense, but this time I hope you're really wrong, even if I wouldn't put money against you.