Trump’s budget cuts in science

June 8, 2017 • 12:00 pm

This is from an email that research administrators at my University sent to our faculty, academic appointees, and staff a short while ago; I offer it to show you what the Trump administration is doing to research in this country (emphasis is mine):

On May 23, the Trump Administration released its detailed budget proposal for FY18. Though Congress has the ultimate authority for federal funding decisions, the administration’s proposal points to potential impending challenges for research funding.  The proposal includes cuts to a number of areas relevant to the University’s academic programs and the science programs of our affiliated laboratories, including NIH (21% proposed cut from FY17), NSF (11% proposed cut), NEA and NEH (both proposed for elimination), the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (17% proposed cut), and Medicaid funding under the ACA (over $800 billion proposed cut over 10 years).  This detailed budget was a follow-up to the “skinny” budget released in March, which included only a basic overview of proposed spending for major agencies.

These are draconian cuts: 21% in the National Institutes of Health, 11% in the National Science Foundation, and 17% in the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Many investigators will be unable to do their research, and graduate student funding has already been cut, with NSF Dissertation Improvement Grants just eliminated entirely.

And let us not forget the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which are being cut completely. That’s also a disaster for artists and my colleagues in the humanities?

Where will the money go? Defense, of course, and that infernal WALL. . .

For a detailed explanation of these and other cuts, see this article in the Washington Post.

54 thoughts on “Trump’s budget cuts in science

  1. Like most aspects of Trump’s budget, these cuts will result long-term in job cuts, not JOBS, JOBS, JOBS.

    The military will be needed to soak up some of the unemployed and quell civil unrest. And there’s always the option of starting a war to bring the country together.

    1. Don’t worry, he’s gonna give huge tax cuts to the wealth creators and we’ll all get jobs from that. Somehow.

      1. Ah yes, like most on the right he hasn’t caught up with the fact that trickle-down economics has been debunked. :-/

        Or maybe he’s just greedy and short-sighted.

        1. I loved the comic who remarked (one of the previous times trickle-down came to the fore), “…and remember, a rising tide lifts all boats. Now, for those of you without boats…”

    2. I don’t think a war, especially if we start it, will bring the country together. If Trump starts a war, it will tear the country apart further. Sure, his followers will love it, but they are the minority, and the majority will take it to the streets and the ballot box.

      1. You’re right of course – a war would rend the country apart at its already weak seams.

        However, I’m not sure Trump understands that. He’s nostalgically saying MAGA while thinking of WWII and the 1950s.

        Then there’s the added complication of Bannon, with hus screwy beliefs about cycles and a catastrophe due being back in favour. (He got his way over Ivanka, Jared, and the generals re the Paris Agreement.)

          1. Oh, that one doesn’t count! /snark

            Our longest war by far, and almost no one ever thinks of it…except for the families of the fallen, of course.

    3. Right, a purpose of the military is to preserve the financial interests of private corporate tyrannies.

  2. I could get behind an across-the-board cut if we really needed it. It’s true that the debt and deficit are out of control. But to increase military spending when it’s already insane compared to the rest of the world, and give yet more tax cuts to the rich? That shows that that don’t really cares about the debt or deficit. The military should be the first thing we cut. Maybe if it was cut by 80% it might actually be “defense” spending then. As it is, the Department of Defense should go back to being called the Department of War.

    1. Economics doesn’t work at national scales the same way as it does at personal scales. Personal debt is generally a bad thing, but no economy (at least in the modern West) can function without governmental debt.

      And history has shown us that the best way to boost the economy, especially to escape economic doldrums, is to increase government spending, without concern for debt…so long as that spending is on infrastructure and similar long-lasting forms of capital.

      It was largely the WPA that lifted America out of the Depression and propelled us on the economic success story that’s lasted since…but those bridges and buildings and what-not we built with the WPA are long past their expected lifetimes and are rapidly crumbling. The best path forward from here is to repair them — especially if we also lay similarly forward-looking infrastructure such as a nation-spanning bullet train network. And / or turn lots of sand into solar panels, and so on.



      1. actually it was ww2 that got us out of the depression. it was the military need to move large numbers of people and supplies across country that made the national highway system. it was DARPA that created the arpanet that became the internet. advances under military budgets are responsible for most of our high technology and aerospace industrys.

        1. As Chomsky says (and it seems legitimate regardless of ones opinion of Chomsky), “the socialization of risk and the privatization of profit.”

    2. Im not from the US but I suspect a large majority of Trump voters think all information other than what they get on Fox news and Facebook and ilk – is fake. Likewise they can’t distinguish technology from its connection to science.

      And even most of the blue collar amongst them – have the mentality that they can’t stand their tax dollar going to anyone who might benefit besides them unless its the military.

      1. Except they get talked into the idea that the wealthy need even more money and the lower incomes should give up what they have. Both for the good of the country. Those failed ideas have been tried now for 30 years and have not produced the claimed results yet. They are again being trotted out. Will the people buy the same story again? Hugs

      1. Hello Douglas. When and where I was in the military the people of the countries were less than impressed with our swagger and display. I doubt it has changed. It maybe we need to try a different way to make mates. Hugs

        1. Scottie – totally agree. Tangential, but it is quite remarkable how many of our ‘leaders’ have not given two years of their lives to non-voluntary service to this country; or spent much time living in another country/culture. And totally unrelated – your ‘like’ of my comment showed up in my inbox, and yet I do not see any method for doing such – how did you pull that off?? Visited your page – interesting stuff.

          1. I get a wordpress notification in a column I can open on my blog. It has a like button on the bottom of people’s comments even if their blog or the blog we were on doesn’t have one. Thank you about my blog. I don’t have much of a blog theme except I am progressive, but not regressive. I think too many things have been taken way too far in the extreme. So I try to fight for the way I hope things can be while trying to stay in balance with reality. Hugs

          2. Thanks for the insights Scottie – and – I just noticed a bell icon on the upper right next to my image; and voila, a click shows the comments, the ‘like’ icon and a place to reply. A whole new world 🙂

    1. The relevant committee also seems to have embraced the need for increased NIH funding. We will see I guess.

      NEA and NEH budgets are already so small that they are essentially a rounding error – cutting them doesn’t save money in meaningful amounts, it’s just an act of spite. Big surprise!

    1. Sadly not the requirements for impeachment; now obstruction of justice….not very likely. My money is on a Trump resignation with the expected excuses – everyone out to get him, no way he could fix everything like he could with so much resistance, ad nauseum.

      1. I guess he can’t really say that he wants to spend more time with his family, given that most of them are in the office anyhow

  3. Only a little of these cuts will go to military spending. The cuts will partially finance gigantic tax cuts on corporations and the rich. The rest will be offset by increased deficit spending. There will be a BS supply-side explanation of how this will make everything super.

    1. Yes I have to agree. AIUI the military is gaining about 1/10 what the country is losing if you take into account the cuts to taxes, discretionary spending, nondiscretionary spending, loans, payments, etc… The main handout is to the wealthy in the form of tax breaks, not the military.

  4. But the oligarchs need more money and with more money, the 1% will trickle down all their wealth and even the poor will soon be able to buy a yacht. Sounds so good even 40 years of failed attempts to prove the economic “theory” correct won’t change the mind of republicans. What is wrong with the mind of republicans?

    Though in Kansas, republicans stopped the governor from continuing his draconian tax cuts…perhaps a glimmer of hope?

    1. This is the exact thing on my mind, now that I live in Kansas. This was a big deal folks and the Republican brains got smashed here in Kansas. The type of cuts that Trump and his clan are up to is exactly what Brownback, gov. of Kansas, has been doing here for 5 years. He is now done. They will now begin taxing people and attempting to recover from his madness.

      Remember, this is just a budget and it is not yet law or past. Maybe, somehow, much of this stupidity will get removed from the budget. When they almost are having to close the schools and stop critical services in Kansas, the people eventually wake up.

      1. Maybe, somehow, much of this stupidity will get removed from the budget.

        Republican House members and Senators will be much less supportive of cuts to the services to their constituents than Trump or the administration. Especially the House members, since all 435 of them have to run for re-election in 2018. So I have no doubt they will make it somewhat less bad.

        However, it will still probably be bad. And as a general rule, any year in which we have to rely on Congress to be ‘the voice of reason in the room’ is a bad year. 🙂

  5. This is just laziness and greed. There are many aspects of government that are in need of reform but Trump would rather just defund an entire program rather than do the hard work it takes to make it function better.

    Unfortunately, this laziness seems to be common in both political parties because Democrats don’t seem to be interested in improving government either, they just write a bigger check.

    1. I wonder if Trump washes his own socks and drawers, if only once a year, as an expression of humility.

  6. > Where will the money go? Defense, of course…

    The military, not “defense”. I can’t recall the last time the United States military was used for defense.

    1. The last time would probably be when we went to Afghanistan back in 2002 and nearly got Bin Laden. After that first 3 or 4 months in Afghanistan I would say again a few years ago when we went to Pakistan and killed Ben Laden. You might not want to call that defense but that is what you do when attacked. Everything else has been a huge mistake and an awful waste of people and money.

      1. I’ve wondered if the American public would have accepted the neutralization of one human, bin Laden, as sufficient recompense for the carnage of 9/11.

  7. President Trump can hardly be confident of getting this budget through unchanged since Americas traditional “pork barrel”system is still operating well I imagine in both Houses.
    Also there is always the possibility of the whole lot being sent to an oblivion committee just to humiliate a President neither Party really wanted

  8. This is, of course, exactly what we all expected, as it basically everything Trump does now. He is hewing as close as possible to the line of the base that will support him no matter what and, in turn, the congresspeople who will support him no matter what. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a President refuse to take a stand against his base on any issue (I will kind of give him credit for doing so on gay marriage during the general campaign, technically making him the first person to ever successfully run for President while saying they were OK with gay marriage, but by that point, even most conservatives had accepted it).

    The truth is, I don’t think he cares about any of this. I don’t think he cares about policy, the Presidency as a role and its attendant responsibilities, or anything but himself and blowing his own ego. He just wants to keep a significant portion of people supporting him so he can revel in it. After all, this was a man who purported to be a lifelong Democrat and hold the opposite of nearly every view he now espouses until he decided he was going to run for President as a Republican.

  9. Yes, I think that the cuts in research funding (and EPA) is the stupidest thing the US can do if it wants to remain ‘great’, and will hurt it’s citizens most in the long run (well, in the short run too).
    Way more stupid than, say, getting out of Paris, getting involved with Russia, immigration bans or walls.
    This is what is -sorry to repeat- going to hurt the US most of all.

  10. My younger brother (and his wife) are both scientists who have been affected by this. In my last discussion with him, he felt that the situation is dire enough that scientists should start thinking of running for political office to get into positions of responsibility, rather than continually taking it on the chin.

    What do you scientists out there think?

    1. Unfortunately, a large number of scientists are not “people persons”, and worse, have interests that a lot of people find incomprehensible. So I think the best to do is support candidates who are on the better sides of things and work to improve local understanding.

      (I’m not a scientist, but I support the work of others professionally – I’m in computing and personally [CFI, etc.])

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