Trump’s budget cuts: Anti-science, anti-America, anti-human

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

Here is a sample of headlines from the March 17th Daily Kos Recommended
* Another Trumpian monster: Tom Price blows off a cancer patient’s concern about losing Medicaid
* Trump budget director: Feeding elderly and children has to end, it’s not ‘showing any results’
* Trump’s budget director: Coal miners’ kids need bombs, not Sesame Street
* Ignorant, unskilled, sick, hungry, cruel and violent—what Trump’s budget would do for America
* Trump’s reward to ’coal country’—kill jobs, training, communities, and education—you’re welcome
* Trump budget slashes heat assistance for struggling families, saying it’s a ‘lower-impact program’
* Gutting the Meals on Wheels program would devastate millions, including 500,000 vets who rely on it
* Trump, Ryan budgets will kill more Americans per year than all Muslim extremist attacks combined

So much for humanism in the Trump administration. But as bad as all those headlines are, my Trumpism4Today is the wholesale slaughter of our agencies that do science and engineering.

The Trump administration thinks research on climate change is a waste of taxpayers’ money. The NY Times reports that Scientists Bristle at Trump Budget’s Cuts to Research and lists the other cuts to basic and applied research and development in medicine and other areas. It is impossible for any reasonable person to view these cuts as reflecting anything but a profound ignorance of the importance of research – or a malicious antipathy toward anything factual.

Wired.com, today, is even more blunt in its assessment: Trump’s budget would break American science, today and tomorrow.

YOU CAN GO ahead and assume President Trump’s proposed federal budget will never be the actual federal budget. Members of Congress from every political persuasion will find a lot to hate about it, and they’re the ones who have to approve it—assuming they can sort out the arcane, procrustean rules for getting any budget passed in Washington.

It’s still worth looking at the budget, though—not as a blueprint for governing but as a map of a government, a philosophy of a state. From that angle it’s a singularly terrifying document, fundamentally nihilistic, that assumes a violent present instead of attempting to build a future of peace, security, and absence of want. By eviscerating federal funding of science, this budget pays for a world where the only infrastructure is megacities connected by Fury Roads.

Here is a short list of some things on the block from the Times.

Climate science

The White House is also proposing to eliminate climate science programs throughout the federal government, including at the Environmental Protection Agency.

“As to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward: We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said at a White House briefing on Thursday. “We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”

Cancer research

The American Society of Clinical Oncology, the leading professional society for cancer specialists, issued a statement warning that the proposed budget “will devastate our nation’s already fragile federal research infrastructure.”

“Now is not the time to slow progress in finding new treatments and cures for patients with cancer,” the group said.

Global health

… The proposed budget would eliminate the Fogarty International Center, an N.I.H. program focused on global health. The center, founded in the 1960s, has worked on H.I.V./AIDS, Ebola, diabetes, dengue, maternal mortality and numerous other health problems, and trains American and foreign doctors and researchers in developing countries.

“The Fogarty Center advances United States national interests in a multitude of ways, and it would be terribly unfortunate for the institution to cease to exist,” said J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a member of the Fogarty Center’s advisory board.

“It has a high reputation outside our borders,” Dr. Morrison said of the center, which has had annual appropriations of about $70 million. “It’s a very tiny institution,” he added, in terms of the overall budget.

Energy technologies

The budget also calls for eliminating some programs that help bridge the divide between basic research and commercialization. Among the most prominent of these is the Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy, known as ARPA-E, the Energy Department office that funds research in innovative energy technologies with a goal of getting products to market. Its annual appropriation of about $300 million would be eliminated.

James J. Greenberger, the executive director of NAATBatt International, a trade group for the advanced battery industry, said ARPA-E had been of enormous benefit to the industry.

“We’re absolutely stunned by it,” Mr. Greenberger said of the agency’s potential elimination, which he announced to industry leaders gathered at his group’s annual conference in Arizona. “I don’t know what’s going through the administration’s head. It’s almost surreal.”

The head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) said this:

“Do they not think that there are advances to be made, improvements to be made, in the human condition?” said Rush D. Holt, a physicist and the chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “The record of scientific research is so good, for so many years — who would want to sell it short? What are they thinking?”

As best as I can determine, they [the crafters of the budget] are following their leader’s know-nothing approach to everything. (Back to the wired.com article …)

By radically reducing the amount of scientific research US scientists can do, the president’s budget willfully ignores 400 years of thinking about innovation and knowledge—and seven decades of the US’ advantage in the world. “It’s like we’ve forgotten we went through a scientific revolution,” says Robbert Dijkgraaf, director of the Institute for Advanced Study. “Facts can be shown with experiments. There’s a systematic way you can learn about the world.”

And that does not square with what Donald the Destroyer has in store for America. For example, again from the Times: ‘Before he became president, Donald J. Trump called climate change a hoax, questioned the safety of vaccines and mocked renewable energy as a plaything of “tree-huggers.”’ In the world dominated by Trumpiness, facts are “so called”, the reports of them are “dishonest”, and we are left to answer the call to enter a realm in which reality is what Donald Trump says it is. You see, facts are a perceived threat to Donald Trump because they show the volumes of falsehoods he speaks. Therefore, in Trump’s scheme eliminating the experiments stops the flow of those inconvenient facts.

If we want to make America truly great again, we would invest more on scientific research, not less.

Wired.com will have the last word for now.

… In 1945 Vannevar Bush wrote a report for President Franklin Roosevelt called Science: The Endless Frontier. In it, Bush laid out the logic and structure for the modern National Science Foundation, and justified the need for federal funding of science. Bush understood that it was science that won World War II—not just atomic bombs but radar and penicillin and synthetic textiles. And he understood that new science meant new technology, which meant new jobs and a bigger economy. “Without scientific progress no amount of achievement in other directions can insure our health, prosperity, and security as a nation in the modern world,” Bush wrote.

[But] Instead of propelling the country toward that gleaming tomorrow, this budget invests in the grimmest possible present. Pollution? Double down; corporations gonna corporation. Climate change? If it was real, the market would be taking care of it. Same for cancer. But guns? Yeah, we only spend as much on that as the next seven countries on the list combined; we better goose that a little because, oh yeah I forgot to mention, we’re cutting diplomacy by 29 percent, too.

Federal spending on research and development has never beat its Cold War peak. In 1976 Federal R&D was just over 1 percent of GDP; today it’s under 0.8 percent, and most of that is defense spending. Cuts of the kind the president is proposing go past the bone and into marrow. Broad research cuts will narrow the pipeline of trained scientists who depend on grants to fund their graduate work. They’ll terminate multi-year studies, reduce the output of university labs with fewer incoming students. You don’t come back from that for a generation. And the worst part is, that’s the only future anyone can predict with confidence. The country won’t be ready for anything—except war.