Cutting science already?

Read this: wherever Obama has proposed stimulus spending for science, conservative senators propose chopping back massively. The increase in support for NSF? Gone completely. NASA’s boost? Cut in half. And on and on.

These cuts have not passed yet, but they will soon if you don’t howl at your senators.


  1. says

    After the last 8 years, the Republican party should be required to sit down and shut the fuck up. I can’t believe (yet, somehow I can) that they are being such obstructionist pricks.

    How anybody can associate themselves with that party is a complete mystery to me. They and the GOP should be ashamed!!

  2. says

    I’ll email my senators. However, since they’re Bernie Sanders and Pat Leahy, I’d be willing to bet they’d be supporting science over more tax cuts for the wealthy.

  3. schism says

    These cuts have not passed yet, but they will soon if you don’t howl at your senators.

    One of my senators is apparently eying the Texas governor’s seat and the other is John fucking Cornyn. You might as well be asking that I convince a falling rock to change directions.

  4. Marc Abian says

    Clarify something for me. Do the democrats have a majority? If so, how can the conservatives affect anything?

  5. says

    I note with shame that one of the speardickheads of this effort, Susan Collins, was just reelected owing in part to the considerable assistance of my own senator, former Democrat Joseph I. LIEberman. Sadly, there’s no expression of contempt that LIEberman has not already heard and discounted.

    Only 4 more years ’til we get to flush him out of the Senate… [sigh]

  6. BeamStalk says

    @schism – could be worse my senator is a YEC. Yes, James Inhofe what a fucking embarrassment to Oklahoma and the country as a whole.

  7. Eric says

    The aim of the bill is to stimulate the economy. I don’t see what’s wrong with paring it down to focus solely on that effort. The funding for the NSF and NASA should be appropriated in different bill.

  8. says

    My senator can’t be seated until my former senator stops wasting the states money trying to get his old job back.

  9. says

    I’m hoping that at least one of my Senators will be sympathetic; Udall might possibly listen to reason, but I’m not holding out hope for the new one whose name escapes me.

    Marc #4: Yes, the Dems have a slight majority. However, they don’t have a 60-seat majority, which would make things like a filibuster impossible. Which means that the Republicans can still drag their heels and make life, um, suck.

  10. Horse-Pheathers says

    Eric @7 —

    Science funding _is_ economic stimulus, in more ways than one. First, it puts money in the hands of people that will spend it, directly stimulating the economy. Moreover, they are likely to spend a chunk of it on very specific areas — lab equipment, computers, and so on — that help America keep technologically competitive, industries that might otherwise not see a lot from the economic stimulus package. Third, scientific research helps American remain competitive over the long term.

    I’m also under the impression that a lot of the science funding is earmarked specificly toward alternative energy research, which also will help the country over the long term by helping us move toward energy independence.

    The science funding should stay.

  11. says

    From an email that sent:

    1. WHAT TO DO: call and email your two U.S. senators. Contact from a constituent on a wonky issue like this will have enormous influence. Calling is better than email, but do both if you can.

    Go here to find your Senator, and select your state in the drop down box in the upper right hand corner:

    Tell them in your own words to reject the reduction
    effort in the stimulus bill led by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) when it comes to science.

    Note that most Senator’s web pages contain a form (e.g. – CONTACT ME) that you can fill out to contact the Senator. Also, use your own words since identical
    messages get rejected by the Senators’ staff. You can adapt language from my previous email or from below, but be sure to personalize it.


    A) Science & technology have produced half of the economic growth of the United States since WWII.

    B) Spending on basic research is the single greatest economic engine this country has ever known.

    C) Funding to federal granting agencies is about as “shovel-ready” a stimulus as you can get. If the granting agencies lower their score thresholds for awards across the board the money will be flowing within months, leading to rapid hiring and increased purchasing from technical service and supply companies that are largely American, and creating thousands of the kinds of high-quality jobs the country needs.

  12. J-Dog says

    Being from IL, I could ask Durban and Burris to reach across the aisle and pop the Repubs in the nose.

    It’s times like this that make me wish it was PLAXICO Burris we had for Senator. I know he comes equipped with a large caliber “Bipartisanship Special Stimulator”.

  13. Eric says

    Horse-Pheathers @10–

    If there’s one thing regarding politics we can all agree on, I think it’s that government makes poor decisions despite often-times good intentions. How can we trust the congress to pick the right ‘winner’ when it comes to scientific research. Which causes are worthy from a top-down perspective like that.

    The marketplace of ideas is where such things should be decided. If a research lab can convince enough investors that what they’re doing is profitable, then it will succeed. Otherwise, it should fail. I don’t trust a bunch of god-fearing, pandering nitwits to decide where tax dollars should be invested.

    Since they’re hell-bent on burning so much cash already, I’d rather they just stick to things that can be demonstrably shown to either create jobs or give taxpayers some of their money back.

  14. says

    Also, according to President Obama, *the* go to governmental agency for developing policies aimed at reducing the number of abortions is…wait for it…the faith-based outreach office.

    People appointed by President Obama to advise the faith office, headed by Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal, on policy include several high-profile evangelicals — the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of a Florida megachurch, and the Rev. Frank S. Page, president emeritus of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    Right. I’m willing to purchase a hat and eat it if any of the people involved with this fiasco — from the President to Mr. DuBois — can produce any data that faith-based public policy has ever led to an effective decrease in the number of abortions. [And, no, banning a safe and effective medical procedure and forcing patients to resort to illegal terminations does not count as an effective public health policy.]

  15. Benjamin Geiger says

    I’m not surprised Lieberman is a problem: he’s a DINOSAUR (Democrat In Name Only, Sorry-Ass Undercover Republican).

  16. Knockgoats says

    If a research lab can convince enough investors that what they’re doing is profitable, then it will succeed. – Eric

    Don’t know much about science, do you Eric? Did you ever hear the phrase “basic science”? That is, science that is not going to have short-term profitable applications. You know, the kind of worthless crap Crick and Watson were piddling about with on public money, or the guys who discovered that CFCs were destroying the ozone layer.

  17. IST says

    Emailed both of my senators… since I live in NC, I should probably have simply beaten my head into the wall until I fell over, but I gave it a shot. Perhaps Kay Hagan can show some rationality despite her campaign tactics.

  18. says

    @Eric #13: Yes, let’s take science funding out of the hands of Congress and put it into the vastly more objective and capable hands of Wall Street. After all, basic research should only be performed if it can turn a profit next quarter, and let’s face it, those guys have been doing a fine job of deciding where the best investments are.

  19. Scott from Oregon says

    The whole notion of “stimulating” a broken system in order to perpetuate its existence does not make rational sense.

    The problems with the US economy are structural.

    Read that “structural”.

    Not psychological or simply part of a natural economic cycle.

    The argument should not be on where money gets spent, but on whether it should be spent at all.

    The US government doesn’t HAVE ANY MONEY. It can only print money or borrow it or tax for it. If it prints too much of it, it destroys the value of the dollar. If it borrows too much, it inflicts the US taxpayer with an enormous tax burden.

    WHERE is the “stimulus” money coming from? Answer– It will be printed. What happens when you over-supply money? You steal value from poor people on fixed incomes by inflating.

    The world used to trust the US to maintain a stable dollar, and in return, it would buy our debt as a hedge against their unstable currencies. That structure (and the belief in it) is now crumbling. Putin is calling for a different reserve currency. China is looking at its practice of selling goods to the US in exchange for paper, Japan is having troubles enough to stop it from buying US debt…

    Watching people argue over where “stimulus” should be spent is like watching a family of four argue over where they should stop for lunch while their car is headed over a precipice…

    It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

    The mind boggles.

  20. Helene says

    On a similar topic:
    I hope people could support French scientists!

    French universities are on a permanent strike.

    The French system of universities is public, with teachings and research
    of high quality. It has always enjoyed independence, liberty and
    recognition. But, within the past few months, the government has
    decided, brutally and without any concertation, to end this system and
    replace it by some sort of marketplace model of research where arbitrary
    decisions and instability prevail.

    – The previous statute of the academics has ended and their teaching
    duties are now decided on face value.
    – Permanent positions are being cut dramatically and being replaced by
    temporary, insecure and dependent positions.
    – PhD students can now be fired without any justification during the
    first six months of their PhD, and are now made available to private
    industries without any recognition of their rights.
    – The training of teachers is in distress.
    – Universities are autonomous (but in fact, they compete with each other
    under a reinforced government control) and without sufficient funding,
    they will soon have to put in place tuition fees and put themselves
    under the influence of local funding sources
    – The CNRS is suppressed and changed into a funding agency managed by
    – Academic researches are evaluated by inadequate and inept
    “quantitative means” rejected by all scholar societies

    We, academics and researches from all around the world, assert that
    these decisions are bureaucratic, financially motivated and dangerous.
    Similar decisions were or are imposed in other institutions of many
    countries. As such, we support the French academics in their fight. If,
    the education and the research of the country of the Encyclopédie, of
    Voltaire and Rousseau, and of the Declaration of Human Rights, are now
    reduced to market laws and under the influence of the political powers,
    then it is the freedom of the whole world that is under threat.

    The powers that are imposing this new deal are organizing themselves. To
    defend our common values, we need to organize ourselves better and in
    greater number. Therefore, we call for all academics of all political
    sides, of all beliefs and of all creeds to join to oppose these changes
    that no humanist scientists of any time ever supported.

  21. KI says

    I thought the farce-based office was going to be scaled down, not increased. Did you hear the crap the Pres said yesterday about “no gods promote hate”? Yeah like Kali and the Aztec heart-eating gods. What malarky.

  22. Fred Mounts says

    I sent the following to both of Ohio’s senators, Sherrod Brown (D), and George Voinovich (R):

    I am writing, for the first time, no less, due to concern over proposed changes to the economic stimulus package. This country has historically been a beacon for scientists from all over the world, but the proposed cuts in science funding appear to be continuing the shameful aspersion cast upon science that was disastrously exhibited during the eight years of anti-intellectualism known as the Bush administration. Science is essential for economic innovation and growth, and rather than progress being made by massive leaps, progress is accomplished by incremental steps in seemingly unpragmatic discoveries. The 1960s saw a significant growth in science funding, and a commensurate growth in pride concerning America leading the charge into the future. Now we are being laughed at, and we should be ashamed. For example, in a recent ranking of countries based on acceptance of evolution, America is 33rd out of 34, ranking only above Turkey (Science 11 August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5788, pp. 765 – 766). There is currently an insidious attack on science being led by fundamentalist Christians that would love for America to become a theocracy; I would hate to think that you are being held to ransom by the short-sightedness of the extreme right of American politics. The populace is more than willing to spend billions of dollars on military concerns, sometimes nearing 50% of the world’s total expenditures, but science funding is denigrated, even to the point of presidential candidates attacking science as useless in order to sway the uneducated. I’m calling on you to protect America’s scientific foundation and to allow our scientists to pave the road for America to remain a leader in the future of global innovation.

    Respectfully, and with hope,
    Fred Mounts

  23. Coriolis says

    You know Eric, answer this simple question for yourself:

    What’s the market value for Maxwell’s equations?

    If you’re too ignorant to know, they explain how electric and magnetic fields behave. In other words, if somebody hadn’t figured them out, every electric piece of equipment, every tool, your computer, damn near anything you’ve ever used in your life wouldn’t exist.

    Now you explain to me how your magic market was supposed to evaluate the results of that research and appropriately reward Maxwell for his discovery back in the 19th century.

    Goddamn market idiots.

  24. Eric says

    Coriolis @24 —

    Are you suggesting that without government funding good ideas would cease to exist? The question ought to be how do we adjudicate which ideas are good and which are bad? And by extension, which ideas should recieve funding and which shouldn’t.

    Some people, I’d wager yourslef included, think bureaucrats can decide most effectively which scientific ideas are worthy of tax payer dollars. Others, myself included, think the almighty consumer dollar is the divining rod that hints at worthwhile spending.

    So while you might be fine with someone wholly unqualifed spending your money, I’m not. I’d much rather have some say in it.

  25. dinogami says

    ‘Twould appear that the Republicans are angling for their very own American Cultural Revolution, apparently modeled after the old Chinese one in which “intellectualism” and science had to be sacrificed in favor of manual labor as the only kinds of (worthwhile) jobs. I guess they’ll be advocating dictatorial communism next.

  26. Schmeer says

    I emailed both of my senators, but I’m guessing that Kennedy and Kerry already opposed these proposed spending cuts.

  27. Joel says

    So while you might be fine with someone wholly unqualifed spending your money, I’m not. I’d much rather have some say in it.

    Since some of that money is mine, I’d rather you not have anything to say about it.

  28. Jadehawk says

    Basic research is basically poking around in stuff to see what happens. That is never purposefully profitable and would stop existing if it were to be decided by the market.

    and why in hell do you think YOU would have a say in how Big Business funds science? The large corporations create the demand for what they’re peddling. Your measily self doesn’t get any say in this, especially since Big Business has no requirements for transparency.

  29. cactusren says

    Eric @25: Actually, there already is a body that decides what ideas are worth funding. It’s called the NSF (National Science Foundation). Scientists submit incredibly detailed proposals to them, laying out what they propose to research, what equipment they’ll need, how many grad students they’ll need (and actually, many grad students’ and post-docs salaries come directly from these grants). The NSF has several boards in different scientific areas that sift through all these proposals and give money to those they think are best. If they had more money, they could fund more projects. This would DIRECTLY stimulate the economy by providing jobs for grad students, post-docs, and “soft-money” faculty (who are not paid by universities, but must bring in a salary through grants). NASA has a similar system. So stop whining about how funding the NSF and NASA would not stimulate the economy–it would. And stop claiming that there is no good system for determining what projects to fund, because there is.

  30. Jadehawk says

    also: while Basic Research isn’t in-and-of itself immediately profitable, it DOES create jobs, and supports students, which would be useful, so that the US won’t end up a blue-collar-only nation. some of that stimulus is long-term, and investing in intellectual infrastructure is just as, if not more, important than fixing roads and bridges.

  31. Coriolis says

    In the words of Einstein:

    “If we knew what we were looking for, it wouldn’t be research.”

    Your whole argument is based on knowing what you’re supposed to get – and the whole point of doing truly ground breaking research is that you don’t know what you’ll find. If you think somebody in the 19th century was imagining what EM was going to do for us you’re out of your mind.

    And I don’t know why you’re whining about bureaucrats – we have peer review of proposals for a reason. Scientists are the ultimate deciding factor for whether research is worthwhile or not, and while they are far from perfect there isn’t anyone better qualified to make these judgments.

  32. Eric says

    Look, all I’m saying is that research should be done on the researcher’s dime. And, of course, that researcher would get all the profits from his/her discovery. That certain discoveries aren’t or never will be profitable is unfortunate, but I and no one else should be coerced to support it.

    And while my comments in this thread are mostly of a devil’s advocacy in nature, the principle I’m arguing is something that should be considered as well. Read Atlas Shrugged goddamn it.

  33. Jadehawk says

    Look, all I’m saying is that research should be done on the researcher’s dime. And, of course, that researcher would get all the profits from his/her discovery. That certain discoveries aren’t or never will be profitable is unfortunate, but I and no one else should be coerced to support it.

    we already tried that approach. that period is now affectionately referred to as the Dark Ages.

  34. CSP says

    #32 cactusren..

    Agreed wholeheartedly…. but dont forget that as much as 60% of the grant money goes to “indirect costs”, which also provides funding for support staff…secretaries, janitors, administrators, facilities, etc. Also funded research requires supplies…i.e jobs for manufacurers, sales reps, etc…this is real “trickle down” economics!

  35. cactusren says

    Eric @35: While I see where you’re coming from, the problem is that so much basic research isn’t immediately profitable. So in the system you’re proposing, very little basic research would get done (at least in the US). This means the US would fall behind other countries in science and technology. Students from other countries would no longer come here to study; US-born scientists would move elsewhere so they could get funding. Then the US would no longer be an innovator, and would have to borrow new technologies from other countries. Is that the direction you want us to go?

  36. Coyote says


    Ah, so you’re an OBJECTIVIST idiot. Now things make sense.

    As a libertarian who nonetheless sees the necessity of some funding for pure research, you’re a damned fool if you think the folderol Rand shit out makes sense.

  37. says

    Read Atlas Shrugged goddamn it.

    I don’t know about Coriolis in particular, but you might be surprised to learn that a great many people here have in fact read Atlas Shrugged as well as other Ayn Rand screeds. To apply the label “fantasy” to Rand’s blitherings is a base insult to many great works of fiction that fit within that genre, but unfortunately it’s appropriate. The narcissistic revenge fantasies of Ayn Rand would be merely embarrassing if they weren’t so capriciously destructive.

  38. says

    I’m from Illinois, so I’m imagining that if my senators have any sense, they’re fully in line with whatever Obama wants to do.

    I still e-mailed them, though. Feel free to nick my mail if you’re feeling lazy:

    “I read about Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) proposed cuts to the stimulus/spending package, cuts that would affect science programs:

    * *NSF* 100% cut ($1,402,000,000)
    * *NASA exploration* 50% cut ($750,000,000)
    * *NOAA* 34.94% cut ($427,000,000)
    * *NIST* 37.91% cut ($218,000,000)
    * *DOE energy efficiency & renewable energy* 38% cut ($1,000,000,000)
    * *DOE office of science* 100% cut ($100,000,000)

    I think this is a poor idea. Math and science spending are obvious investments in our future. While it’s true that the US has moved from a manufacturing economy to one more service-based, why cut us out of whatever the “next big thing” is going to be? Imagine if the US was the world leader in some sort of revolutionary energy technology, or in the creation of affordable de-salination technology– these are the sorts of things that could radically benefit our nation, through our own use, and for trade. I’d appreciate if you’d consider this, and vote against making these sorts of cuts.

    Thank you,


  39. Feshy says

    Others, myself included, think the almighty consumer dollar is the divining rod that hints at worthwhile spending.

    People spending “the almighty dollar” are not informed, nor qualified. This is widely recognized as one of the biggest failings of market economics; it’s built on a false premise. That doesn’t make it useless; but remember it is one tool in the toolbox.

    Also, remember that many places have a RoI timeline on the order of six months. This is only exasperated by the current economic situation. Who would invest research with a ten-year payoff? Almost no one. Who would invest in medicine that was cheap and therefore less profitable? Almost no one. Who would invest in basic, un-patentable research? Almost no one. Yet, we would all benefit from these types of research.

  40. says

    I’d write but I’m stuck with Lindsey Graham and Jim DeNitwit….Not much use!

    No shit.

    Me too. Graham is bad, but it’s hard to touch the extreme asshattery of DeMint.

  41. Eric says

    Thank you, cactusren, for at least having a constructive dialogue. I would not want the country to head in that direction, you’re right.

    I hope, though, it can be recognized that government spending is inefficient and wasteful by its very nature. And while corporate or private funding of research might not be the cureall I’ve made it out to be, at least it cuts down on waste.

  42. Cylux says

    The only thing of worth that Atlas Shrugged has added to world was the game Bioshock. And its a rebuttal as well!

  43. Jadehawk says

    And while corporate or private funding of research might not be the cureall I’ve made it out to be, at least it cuts down on waste.

    you consider what just happened on wall street “cutting down on waste”?
    you consider short-term-investment-only “cutting down on waste”?
    you consider multi-million dollar salaries “cutting down on waste”?

    you’re weird (to put it nicely)

  44. Knockgoats says

    I hope, though, it can be recognized that government spending is inefficient and wasteful by its very nature. – Eric

    No, it can’t be “recognised”, because it’s false: some government spending is wasteful and inefficient, some is useful and efficient – just like private spending. The longest sustained period of rapid economic growth both in the world and in the USA occurred between 1945 and the 1960s, when top tax rates, public ownership, and government support for science and technology were at historic highs. You provide absolutely no evidence or argument for your crass, stupid dogmatism, and yet you expect it to be taken seriously. Why?

  45. MissyAnne Thrope says


    As someone who has worked on both the public and the private dime, it always gives me a chuckle when ‘free-market’ mouseketeers get all dewy-eyed about how private enterprise is always and in every circumstance soooo much less wasteful than those silly government projects that just throw money out of windows.

    In my experience, the public programs I’ve worked for have always been much more careful and much more frugal with their cash than any private company I’ve been associated with – mostly because there is so much less money in publicly funded programs to get your basic mission accomplished. You can’t waste a lot of cash and still get your damn job done.

  46. says

    I hope, though, it can be recognized that government spending is inefficient and wasteful by its very nature.

    Long asserted, never demonstrated. No one denies that there has been waste in government spending, but history does not show it to be inherently inferior to the private sector.

    And while corporate or private funding of research might not be the cureall I’ve made it out to be, at least it cuts down on waste.

    Another baseless assertion. The private sector, in which I have worked my whole adult life, wastes prodigiously. The less oversight and accountability (typically defined and enforced by the government) it must answer to, the more wasteful it is. This can be clearly seen across the board, from health care to military contracting to the financial sector to information technology. There is nothing to indicate that “research” would be any different.

  47. Eric says

    What’s inefficient is sending all our money to washington DC so that it can be debated over endlessely and used to create unecessary institutions all so it can be divied up and sent back home with a certain percentage skimmed of the top for adminstrative costs. I can’t believe so many of you are arguing for indentured servitude. If you want to fund basic science, donate! I would gladly do so if a third of my income wasn’t taken away every paycheck.

  48. guthrie says

    I’ve only ever worked in the private sector, and in my mere 7 years in British industry I’ve witnessed millions of pounds spent on white elephants, poor employee relations, giving of contracts to favoured friends, etc etc etc. The gvt and private companies are very similar in their institutional problems which lead to wasteage and stupidity.

  49. Scott from Oregon says

    Simply stated, scientific research is a side benefit of the market. There is a very real reason the US led the way last century, AFTER it began manufacturing and producing wealth at the end of WW2.

    Scientific inquiry may be fueled by curiosity, but it is funded by commerce.

    Kill the market, you kill the side benefits of the market.

  50. Eric says

    To guthrie @52 —

    There’s one really big, key difference, though. The privately funded companies will be punished for their wasteage and stupidity. Smarter, more efficiently managed companies will do better and succeed. Government funding, on the other hand, takes away this crucial punishment. If industries aren’t allowed to fail they won’t change.

  51. Jadehawk says

    I can’t believe so many of you are arguing for indentured servitude.

    silly rhetoric will not get you taken seriously on this blog.

  52. Jadehawk says

    The privately funded companies will be punished for their wasteage and stupidity. Smarter, more efficiently managed companies will do better and succeed.

    theoretically correct; factually not so much.

  53. says

    There is a very real reason the US led the way last century, AFTER it began manufacturing and producing wealth at the end of WW2.

    Yes, there is; because it was clear how much rapid technological advancement aided us in winning the war where lack of same crippled our opponents. So the government wisely threw massive amounts of taxpayer dollars into both scientific and technological R&D projects in a deliberately scattershot approach that they figured would produce a lot of misses but some huge and important hits. They were proven right, and everybody benefited in innumerable ways as a result. Next?

  54. Eric says

    I retract the indentured servitude comment. @Jadehawk regargin post #56, factually it’s rarely given a chance. Factually, the government bails businesses out and prevents the very necessary corrective measure from ever taking place.

  55. Wisaakah says


    I can recognize that some government spending is inefficient – usually this is attributable to general incompetence on whoever is in charge, or sometimes just inertia (i.e., we’ve always done it this way, no need to change it now!).

    Starting from there, however, it takes a huge leap to get to: “government spending is inefficient and wasteful by its very nature”. Incompetence, lack of foresight, etc… These happen in the private sector too. In fact, that’s the entire reason that the economy imploded in the first place. Intelligent, knowledgeable people can become complacent and/or greedy, and sometimes intelligent, knowledgeable people make the best choice based on the best information available – and still guess wrong. Hindsight is 20/20.

    To return to the topic of research, basic research takes a long time. And by a long time, I mean several years to decades. Grants are awarded based on detailed proposals, which are chosen by intelligent, knowledgeable people in the field. We chose to invest in research that is soundly based in good scientific reasoning. And sometimes, the best decision at the time turns out to be the wrong one. We simply can’t know for certain what will end up being groundbreaking 5, 10, 20 years from now. The entire reason we do research in the first place is that we don’t know – we don’t know how this system works, we don’t know what causes this disease, we don’t know to treat autoimmune diseases without leaving people susceptible to infection.

    The benefits of this research are 1) long-term, and 2) not necessarily concrete. A 6-year project will not turn profits next quarter, but may give a pharmaceutical company a new drug target. If basic research halted, these pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t have anything left to work with. Or that 6-year project may tell us something about a different, related disease or system, and lead to novel projects. Or, it may not. We can chose the projects that are most likely to be fruitful, but we can’t know for certain. This is actually a really good place for government investment, because government investment isn’t focused on immediate profit. It’s designed to fuel innovation that private enterprises can later use, or to improve the quality of life of its citizens (which is not profitable in the short-term, but a nation of healthy people in a healthy environment is essential for social and economic progress).

    Finally, I just want to emphasize that it is not politicians that determine who gets the money. NSF provides a venue for careful evaluation for experts in the field. I also want to emphasize that, unlike the wall-street execs, we certainly aren’t raking in tons of dough.

  56. Eric Paulsen says

    My senators are Levin and Stabeow, both Democrats, and given their records they will both be on the side of science. However I will be emailing both of them just to let them know someone IS out ther watching.

  57. rob says

    i would like to howl at my senators. unfortunately, the plural does not apply to minnesota. we only have one senator. and one jerk who is preventing the other elected senator from starting his term.


  58. Matt says

    anyone here think the original highway system was a nice subsidy to the auto and gas companies?

    anyone here think over-reliance on the automobile got us into our current woe of oil-dependence from bad places, suburbs extending dozens of miles from cities, soul shredding traffic, creeping climate change, and so forth?

    then why are we re-investing in the highway system?

  59. Falyne says

    Ok, I read the thread, and was getting all ready to counter libertarian silliness. Then I refreshed to see if I was missing anything. Then I saw Matt@63, threw my hands in the air, followed up with a facepalm, and am now off to bang my head into the nearest wall.

    (Hint: figure out how much of our nation’s economy depends on goods getting from point A to point B by truck, for example)

  60. Matt says

    The original qualifications for the stimulus package, as opposed to just a regular budget bill, were that the items should be immediate, temporary, and targeted.

    Science funding is something we can do in any spending bill. While perhaps it would get spent immediately, its not temporary and its not targeted. It does not qualify for emergency stimulus spending.

  61. Jadehawk says

    Here’s a study that shows just what happens when government is left out of research. You’ll find that basic science flourishes:

    aside from the fact that the Cato Institute isn’t exactly the most unbiased source, it also lists Oil and Pharma Companies as its examples.

    if we let those two decide which Basic Science to fund, we’d still not know there’s such a thing as global warming. the article also doesn’t list what kind of basic research those companies funded. also the story shows what happens when everybody is invested in science, not when “government gets out of the way”.

    why is it that when it comes to society, everyone thinks there’s one panacea/tool for all problems, when every mechanic will tell you that any given job requires a multitude of tools, each specific to each problem?

  62. RayB says

    At one time we had a “private” company that invested enormous sums in basic research without undue emphasis on short term return. That was AT&T’s Bell Labs. Because AT&T was regulated monopoly, any patents granted to Bell Labs had to be licensed to anyone who wanted to use the technology (for $1!). Although all research was supposed to have some connection to telecomunications, Bell Lab Fellows had wide discretion in the projects they persued. The accomplishments of Bell Labs are legion: developing transistors, masers, and lasers, time share computing, voice synthesis, and the discovery of the cosmic background radiation, to name a few.

    The breakup of the AT&T monopoly was good for competition and for consumers, but Bell Labs was spun off as Lucent Technologies. Without the AT&T bankroll it became more focused on short term returns and rapidly declined. Which is why we need federal support for scientific research with long term payouts.

  63. Matt says

    Falyne, where do you stand on GW? Whats your opinion on the oil/terror/war nexus?

    I agree completely spending on highways will increase automobile based economics. Doesnt that contradict some common wisdom on the above issues though?

  64. Jadehawk says

    matt, the infrastructure part of the bill should focus on repair and public transport, but most rural states submitted nothing but road construction proposals, unfortunately

  65. 'Tis Himself says


    You think that we’ll be persuaded by a Cato Institute study? The Cato* Institute cannot be considered in any way to be unbiased when discussing the government vs. private enterprise.

    *I’ve never understood why a bunch of libertarians would want to celebrate Marcus Porcius Cato. This was a guy who insisted on strict public morality. He was almost the sole supporter of the Oppian Law, restricting women doing such things as driving a carriage more than a mile from Rome or wearing garments of several colors. The guy was named “the Censor” for a reason.

  66. Falyne says

    Letting the roads go to shit won’t solve our energy dependence and GW problems. For starters, much more in the way of emissions comes from industrial stuff than cars emit, and it’s not like folks who need to get from point A to point B will stop using the roads because they’re shitty. I’m a fan of biofuels (done properly, without as much influence from the corn lobby), personally, which would still use the same roads.

    But letting the roads go to shit WILL make commerce less efficient, make the goods transported more expensive, cause more accidents (ranging from hit-a-pothole to sinkhole to bridge-collapse severity, with an increased number of deaths), and generally send our distribution system to hell precisely when we can’t withstand any more economic hits.

  67. Matt says

    tis himself,

    If its written by a human its biased. There are ideas and other ideas. Cato is one such trove of ideas, the Brookings is another. There are other biased sources of ideas too. Lets argue about them and make up our minds as best we can.

    Perhaps Im wrong about this and you can give me the approved list of unbiased sources of information.

  68. Matt says


    the key words in your post are “should” and “unfortunately”. Cant help but notice they have a way of repeating themselves in the analysis of all spending bills. They do serve a nice function in bracketing lists of waste the foolish libertarians keep bringing up.

  69. Matt says

    >>>For starters, much more in the way of emissions comes from industrial stuff than cars emit

    you mean the industrial stuff we’re trying to stimulate more economic growth of?

  70. tony says

    Eric I would gladly do so if a third of my income wasn’t taken away every paycheck.

    You must earn a shit-load of money, boyo! I just did my federal & state tax returns – according to the data, the MEDIAN tax-rate actually paid in the US was less than 15% (and the average has stayed below 16% since the 40’s)

    I do, however, contribute significantly more in local real estate and sales taxes. But those do not go to the federal government.

    I also pay out a lot for healthcare and life insurance premia, as well as for FICA/FUTA. I’d much prefer that my healthcare was federalized – that way my premium’s value would not be diluted by a fat-ass corporate ‘healthcare’ exec adding zero value but a heck of a lot of cost.

    Just keep talking out of your ass, why doncha?

  71. Eric says

    To Tis Himself @70 —

    Tsk Tsk, you should know better than to smear a study based on a very loose connection to a less-than-desirable historic figure. Isn’t that what creationists do when they try to link atheists to hitler and stalin? Refute the ideas presented in the study and not a distant, tenuous connection that has no bearing on their worth.

  72. katkinkate says

    Eric, you can’t predict where a really good idea or useful fact is going to be discovered. Most of the really useful discoveries have been serendipitous, ie. unexpected. If you choose to fund only those areas that look like they are profitable now, you will miss out on the new discoveries that could be major money-earners in 10-20 years (or next century).

  73. Falyne says


    He’s not smearing the study based on a less-than-desirable historic figure. He’s smearing the study because the institute that conducted it is batfuck insane. The connection to the historical figure is presented as a reason to ridicule them, but it is by no means the only one.

  74. Eric says

    Are you kidding me, Tony #75? You’re going to pick something like that to discuss out of everything else in the thread? Like most of us here, I’m in the 25% Federal tax bracket. Add in Social Secuirty and Medicare and you better believe it’s a third of my income. Not all of us are in college.

  75. Falyne says

    >>>For starters, much more in the way of emissions comes from industrial stuff than cars emit

    you mean the industrial stuff we’re trying to stimulate more economic growth of?

    Or at least stop the catastrophic decline of, yes. Unless you think our industrial sector should be killed off…?

    We need to work on a solution to solving global warming. Not all solutions are good. An Ebola pandemic or other extreme population-reducing event would probably solve global warming pretty good; doesn’t mean we should advocate it.

  76. 'Tis Himself says

    Perhaps Im wrong about this and you can give me the approved list of unbiased sources of information.


    When a libertarian gives a Cato Institute paper as a source for something slamming the government I’m going to take the paper with a couple of tons of salt. Sorry if this doesn’t meet with your high standards of objectivity.

  77. says

    Eric: You’re a goddamned idiot, and so was Ayn Rand, and so is the entire staff of the Cato Institute.

    Well-run, rule-of-law government is about pooling resources in such a way as to make access to them fair to all. That includes keeping the free market free (deregulation cannot do that and actually works against freedom by encouraging turf wars, kleptocracies, and pockets of feudalism) and finding beneficial projects that cannot find a profit-driven justification within the “free market” to operate. Requiring a profit motive for everything insures that progress in any given field will be incremental at best and nonexistent at worst, as research slows to a crawl and entire fields of study go wanting because no one can figure out how to productize a supercollider or a nature preserve.

    The fact is, no one knows where basic science will lead in terms of future benefits; that is why it’s basic science. Free-market fundamentalists such as yourself either don’t know this or don’t care. The rest of us would rather fix the machine than throw it out.

  78. Eric says

    Brian X, you’re the goddamn idiot if you think deregulation works against freedom. This isn’t Mad Max. Letting companies and individuals do what they want with their money won’t lead to total chaos and anarchy as you seem to suggest. We have a judicial branch to ensure rights are protected. We have a constitution that enumerates said rights. If we tried following it once in our nation’s history it might prove productive.

  79. Matt says

    >>>Sorry if this doesn’t meet with your high standards of objectivity.

    uhhh, what? I just said everything is biased. We need to be able to argue ideas on their merits, not on who wrote them. Knowing bias tells us how people will lean and react to a certain situation. Pointing this out is not an argument against an particular idea, unless of course you have no other argument.

  80. tony says


    I run an IT consulting practice – so you better believe my salary is likely higher than yours. I know exactly what I paid in federal taxes as a percentage of my income. Your tax bracket is a meaningless number. The US tax code has room for so many deductions, allowances, and exclusions that taxable income (AGI) is rarely close to actual gross. My taxable income (AGI) this year was significantly less than 50% of my gross income – and I am incredibly cautious and conservative (small c) in my deductions. My accountant advises me that I could easily reduce my AGI by at least another 10% without increasing the risk of a negative IRS audit! But I don’t because I try hard to stay honest. And I wish to ‘pay my way’.

    In this past year, with the dismal market performance, there are even more ‘deductions’ available to a huge swathe of the population.

    And to finally address your point – why attack you on taxes? You chose to use taxes as a tenet of your argument: “I’m paying a third of my income to the govmint”. I’d like to say that you are as full of shit in that regard, as your other commentary on this thread has been.

    Others are taking care of your asinine thoughts on the stimulus package. I chose to take care of the area unaddressed.

  81. Flex says

    Eric wrote, “Like most of us here, I’m in the 25% Federal tax bracket.”

    Now you hit one of my buttons. Like many people in America today you appear to be unaware of how tax brackets work. Maybe you do, and are just spouting off after doing the calculation of how much of your income is taken for federal taxes. I suspect however, based on your already demonstrated cluelessness, that you don’t.

    If you do pay 25% of your income in federal income taxes, you are making about $170,000/yr.

    Here is the information from the IRS for single filers in the 25% bracket: For incomes between $31,850 and $77,100, you pay $4,386.25 plus 25% of the amount over $31,850.

    So, if you make $31,850, you pay $4,386.25 or 13.8%
    If you make $77,100, you pay ($77,100 – $31,850)*0.25 + $4,386.25. Which equals $15,698.75, or 20.4%.

    Being in the 25% tax bracket doesn’t mean you pay 25% of your income in federal taxes. You pay somewhere between 13.8% and 20.6% of your income in federal taxes, depending on how much money you make. That’s what progressive taxation does.

    IRS Source:,,id=164272,00.html

    These table can also be found in the back of your 1040 booklet.

  82. Flex says

    Oh, and a Tony said above, these calculations are based on AGI, not take home pay. So you can reduce your percentages even further by accounting for that delta.

  83. tony says


    On another point: unrestrained free market policies have gotten us to the point where the entire fucking world’s economies are threatened. This is not a corner store getting run out of business by a more efficient competitor.

    It’s. the. entire. fucking. world!

    So maybe it’s time to allow government to intervene in the country to ensure some stability.

    Did I like the original bailout? Fuck no! I personally thought that most of those assholes should have gone to the wall!

    BUT! If they had, we’d be in even deeper shit, the downward spiral would have been even sharper and deeper, and you would be happy to have a soup kitchen, let alone a job.

    HOWEVER! That intervention is not without a price. Those previous recipients – and the conservative nutjobs who still support them and their free market perspective – need to get the fuck out of the way and let the grown-ups take charge for a while. It’s time to allow some reality into government, and some reality into management, instead of ideology and spin.

    We as a country need to make some real investment in people and infrastructure. That includes supporting basic research, and includes creating jobs that require intellect, not just brawn.

  84. Jadehawk says


    the key words in your post are “should” and “unfortunately”. Cant help but notice they have a way of repeating themselves in the analysis of all spending bills. They do serve a nice function in bracketing lists of waste the foolish libertarians keep bringing up.

    and big business is any more accessible and transparent?

    this is a problem with too little Direct Democracy, not too much government.

    It doesn’t matter whether the unaccessible rulers sit in in the Capitol or on Wall Street, as long as they are unassailable. however, we have rules on how to make politicians more responsive. nothing is going to make a ginormous multinational corporation more responsive to an average person’s concerns however.

  85. Eric says

    All you tax experts out there are clueless. Did you forget to factor in SS and Medicare? Social Security is roughly 6% of your wages paid by you and 6% paid by your employer. Medicare is another 3% split by you and your employer. Add that to your figures above and you’ve got a third less of your income than you would have otherwise. My salary would be a lot higher if I didn’t have to pay these taxes. Shouldn’t I be allowed to invest and save for my retirement and medical expenses any way I want?

  86. Eric says

    Tony you are delusional or in denial if you think free markets even existed! before this financial collapse. A few minutes of research will show you quite quickly how the Fed has cause one bubble after another and how it keeps pushing the inevitable collapse further and further out until it hits a wall. Well, it finally hit a wall. We can’t tinker with interest rates to get out of this mess any more. But don’t kid yourslef into thinking that free market ideas are the cause of this disaster. The incessant need to protect everyone from the tiniest recession is what caused this debacle.

  87. Jadehawk says

    [insert massive joke about the fact that I got back more taxes than I paid this year]

    I’m one of those people eric and matt hate so much

    *listens to them grumble something about those worthless, parasitic artists…*

  88. Matt says

    >>>Shouldn’t I be allowed to invest and save for my retirement and medical expenses any way I want?

    No Eric, these folks are smarter than you, more gooder in their hearts, and will make better investments in your best interest for you, better than you could ever hope to do, you Cato blinded idiot.

    Do you think you were… free?

  89. Matt says


    I like art. Have a few original pieces on my walls. Hit me with your website, I might just buy something. It’d make your taxes go up of course, so consider my request rationally, it might make more sense not to sell anything.

  90. tony says

    Just in case you are entirely clueless, eric, here are some representative numbers on tax

    income $200,000.00
    AGI $100,000.00 (after deductions and allowances)
    Tax(1) $8,962.50 (from schedule Y-1 for 2008)
    Tax(2) $8,725.00 (25% of the amount over 65,100)

    Net Tax $17,687.50 (tax 1 + tax 2)

    Tax rate 8.84%

    Note: That is in the 25% bracket, but less than 10% actual tax. This past year, deductions of almost 50% are not unheard of (average deductions are around 35% to 40% of gross)

  91. Eric says

    Well, Tony, the issue wasn’t you said about your taxes. It was what I said about mine. I’m glad your AGI is half of your gross. It’s not like that for me and it’s not like that for my wife. In fact, our AGI is about 80% of our gross. I’m glad you’re ok with losing even as little as 8.84% of your income. I still wouldn’t be ok with it. That’s how it is for people of principle.

  92. Jadehawk says

    matt, unless you’re an advertiser or web designer in need of graphics, I’ve got nothing for you right now.

    but hey, if you wanna spend upwards of $2000* on watercolors, I’m sure I can oblige! ;-)

    *that being the amount that would actually get me to the point of having to pay any taxes at all.

  93. tony says

    Eric – and even YOU can see that 9 + 6 + 3 is significantly less then 33!

    Again – what was your point about paying a third to the gubmint? I’m sure a good libertarian is going to be even more scrupulous than I about identifying deductions. Right?

  94. says

    Jeez, all we need now is Walton and africangenesis to show up and start fellating each other…

    @Eric #83-
    you’re the goddamn idiot if you think deregulation works against freedom.

    The whole point of deregulation is that it allows previously regulated entities to evade accountability. Period. That’s why corporations praise it and why its advocates in the media and the blogosphere demonize anyone who point out what a bad idea it is.

    Letting companies and individuals do what they want with their money won’t lead to total chaos and anarchy as you seem to suggest.

    Every time we have deregulation for corporations and tax cuts for the rich we have less investment in modern civilization. What gradually creeps in to replace modern civilization is something alarmingly like feudalism; the last eight years in particular have done much to advance that state.

    We have a judicial branch to ensure rights are protected.

    When the judicial agenda is set by right-wing idealogues our rights burn away like the paper they’re enumerated on. Case in point: The Bush Administration.

    We have a constitution that enumerates said rights.

    See above.

    If we tried following it once in our nation’s history it might prove productive.

    Oh, we’ve followed it far more than once. It’s been pummeled a few times, none worse than the last eight years, but the fact that a Constitutional amendment to disregard or condemn Jefferson’s warning “to guard against the excesses of the monied interests” has not been adopted is in no way a failure to follow the Constitution.

  95. Eric says

    Tony, stick to IT. You obviously can’t handle arithmetic. Redo the math with an 80% AGI of gross instead of 50%. You’ll see that your taxes are much higher. You think your little example means that everyone only paid 9% in taxes? Try more like 18% + 12% + 3% = 33%. You think I just shit out this number whenever it’s convenient? It’s an issue that’s close to my heart and one I’ve followed at great lenght. I’ve already crunched the numbers. You forgot to add in the lost wages you would earn because your employer has to match SS and Medicare. And your pathetic attempts to make fun of me make you look like an asshole. I somehow doubt that a debate that started out urbane would have been perverted to this childish back-and-forth asshattery would have occured had this discussion occured in person. I’m ashamed to have stooped to your level by even dignifying your vitriol with subsequent responses.

  96. Matt says

    and Jadehawk, FTR, I dont hate people who get back more than they pay. I think, if we’re going to have some form of socialism, that direct transfer of some wealth is preferable to the government deciding what gets spent where.

    Social Security, same deal. extremely low overhead for a government program, and does what it sets out to do. takes money from the working to the retired. The retired get to spend it as they see fit, which is far better in my view than the Feds spending it for them.

  97. tony says

    Eric –

    I’m glad you’re ok with losing even as little as 8.84% of your income. I still wouldn’t be ok with it. That’s how it is for people of principle.

    Principle? I think I pay too little in taxes! I think that my tax rate is obscenely low in comparison to others who have significantly less ‘margin’ that I to live on!

    I would gladly pay more – so long as it was spent on social programs to support the less well off. Sign me up for universal healthcare. Sign me up for universal education through college for tax paying residents.

    But while I’m at it – sign me up to ensure that 50% of the federal budget does not go to military spending

  98. Eric says

    Don’t you see, Tony, that when you keep your money you can do whatever you want with it! That means donate it to whatever causes you desire. It can even stay closer to home if you want. But maybe you wouldn’t donate to worthy causes at all unless the government coerced you to do so.

  99. Marc Abian says

    What’s inefficient is sending all our money to washington DC… If you want to fund basic science, donate!

    You’re terribly naive if you think that the same amount of research is going to be funded by donaters in lieu of the government. There’s also the matter of vital research not being supported by anyone whose looking to make a quick profit and the improbablity of individual donaters identifying proper targets of research.

  100. Jadehawk says

    someone needs to explain to me how one can “donate” to having universal health care…

  101. tony says


    Funny how it’s always the people making shit up complaining about assholery…
    You forgot to add in the lost wages you would earn because your employer has to match SS and Medicare


    I PAY wages to my staff. If I could get out of paying employer side FICA/FUTA I would – reduce my fee structure to compete better – I would NOT be changing my salary structures!

    Maybe you should think before opening your mouth, or typing.

    Your 6% SS does not magically become 12% because you now choose to include your employer’s portion. Did you also include in your gross salary ALL of the employer side costs. If you are a typical US employee, your fringe will be about 50% of your base salary. That means if you earn $100k, you actually cost your employer $150k in DIRECT COSTS (benefits, etc). That does not include indirect costs (office space, etc).

    On that basis your 36% (you forgot the employer side medicare) becomes 24% – since you should now base your taxes on your total earnings (including fringe). Or do you just want to make some more shit up?

    So fuck off and stick to assholery – you are really good at that.

    Using YOUR numbers – you really pay 18+6+3 which is…ohh, let me see… 27. Still less than a third! ($500 a month less than a third, if you ‘earn’ $100k)

    You need to get a better accountant, or poorer investments, or a bigger mortgage.

  102. Coyote says


    Accept the fact that you have no idea what you are talking about. As a rational libertarian, I’m sick of people like you making libertarians look like complete fucking kooks.

    Yes, I think that keeping the government out of my personal affairs is a good idea. Yes, I think the government should interfere minimally, if at all, in business. Yes, I think that private health care is better than universal.

    But science, particularly basic research, needs something to run it that ISN’T purely motivated by profit. Why? Because science isn’t always profitable, but it is always necessary.

    Your continued stupidity is doing nothing but giving us a bad name. Go home and masturbate over Ayn Rand’s corpse some more.

  103. tony says


    I’d be interested in a rational discourse about healthcare. ‘kooks’ like Eric rant about government having their hooks too deeply embedded, and so on. That often infects and derails any discussion about universal anything.

    Universal healthcare is a demonstrable fact, and has been shown to work, in a number of countries around the world (most notably – most of Europe, and Canada). What are your rational objections – especially ranked against the primary rationale for universal heathcare: improved access to primary ‘preventative’ care improves outcomes and reduces catastrophic health burdens?

    Now many point to problems (such the the National Health Service in the UK) and say ‘Hah!” it’s not working! There are waiting lists!. To which I say – There is chronic and systemic underfunding! There is widespread ‘theft’ of resources from the public health system to the parallel ‘private’ system.
    [rant]: the private system in the UK isn’t! It is a parasite that ‘leverages’ NHS resources such as staff and facilities, and generally only provides non catastrophic services – i.e. high value, high profit – leaving everything else to the underfunded public sector[/rant]

    So yes – I would appreciate rational discourse on healthcare – or on any other ‘universal’ funding that I believe should be the domain of government, and that most libertarians seem to think should be left to the ‘sweat of one’s own brow’.

  104. Julie Stahlhut says

    Look, all I’m saying is that research should be done on the researcher’s dime. And, of course, that researcher would get all the profits from his/her discovery. That certain discoveries aren’t or never will be profitable is unfortunate, but I and no one else should be coerced to support it.

    Eric, do you have the slightest idea what it costs to equip even a very basic molecular biology lab? Or how a young person who loves science is supposed to get started on a research career without any kind of public infrastructure available for education and training? Or how the people who do research in the private sector — presuming that their employers haven’t completely shut down R&D to save a few bucks — acquire the expertise they need in order to do their jobs?

    Then again, I suppose you believe that scientific discoveries are made by lone heroes who do it all from scratch without so much as consulting a piece of previously published research. (This is like believing that a businessperson can get rich without having either investors or customers.)

    The stupid is burning very, very badly today.

  105. says


    You are an ignorant, blinkered idiot who puts principle and greed over experience and practicality. You follow “philosophers” and “economists” with worthless and antiquated ideas and buy hook, line, and sinker into the thought-stopping cliches that pass for libertarian political beliefs. You have contributed nothing to this conversation except fuel for a flamewar.

  106. Coyote says


    Universal health care does work. No one is debating that, that is empirical fact. My objections are based on the fact that it doesn’t work well enough for the money put into it, which is also the same objection I have to the absurd military budget and the just plain stupid bailouts. Government spending and control is inherently inefficient. The reason I don’t object to it for things like science and education is because I feel those are inherently inefficient activities that are completely necessary to the continued functioning of US as a workable country, and because those require (supposedly) impartial oversight for proper allocation, things that the private sector is horrible at providing.

    Universal health care also limits flexibility and choice for patients. Would the system pay for cosmetic surgery? Abortions? How would malpractice work? Everyone complains about the DMV: Now imagine how mad you’d be if your inability to get, say, breast reduction surgery because you have chronic back pain was dependent on a similar bureaucracy. Yes, the insurance companies have a pretty bad one, but government ones are just plain worse, especially since you don’t have any real leverage against them. What’re you gonna do, take your business elsewhere?

    The same phenomenon would reduce the number of competent doctors available. Why bother being the best of the best when there’s no other options? Not to mention the likely loss of money, since with the majority of people under its wing the government could cut the amount it pays per visit and doctors would have little recourse, since a smaller amount is better than a loss of most of their patients.

    One final objection I have (I’ll stop here, to prevent this post from getting inordinately long) is that universal health care leads to the people who should be rewarded, people who stay healthy and don’t go begging for antibiotics at the first sign of a cough, paying for the people who malnourish themselves, refuse to get vaccinated, and drug themselves silly over stupid, unnecessary things.

  107. bigjohn756 says

    Are you serious? Are you trying to tell me that you actually believe what Obama says/said? Time to wake up and smell the coffee, boys and girls. He’s just another smarmy, smooth talking, bald faced liar just like all of the other politicians.

  108. Jadehawk says

    coyote, those are valid enough concerns, but the problem is that a private health-care system doesn’t actually solve any of them!

    1)I always found my choice of doctors/treatments far more limited in the U.S. than in Germany, because either I had insurance and could only go to the few doctors that accepted that one, or I didn’t have insurance and had to rely on free clinics and PP. This experience seems to be mirrored by others.

    2)The US pays more on average for health Care than countries that have Universal Health care, so the waste is worse, with fewer results

    3)The healthy and smart still have to pick up the tab for those middle class lazy asses who won’t buy insurance and then get majorly ill (as well as those who can’t afford insurance or are uninsurable) and declare bancrupcy

    4)Preventive care is a much bigger thing in Universal Systems than it is in the American system, the doctors even sometimes get bonuses for getting their patients to shape up. That beats the drugging and treatment based medicine practiced in the U.S.

    5)Bureaucracy is already idiotically huge in the current system (the local hospital has 3 separate billing departments), mostly caused by the ridiculous amount of different insurances, people without insurance, people who need to be chased down by creditors, people who have filed bankrupcy etc. ad nauseam. A single-payer system would cut down on that red tape immensely.

    I’ve got a few more reasons which I consider a plus, but something tells me you wouldn’t like mandatory vaccinations ;-)

  109. Jadehawk says

    oh I forgot one more, about what’s covered and what isn’t. Private Insurance gets to be a lot more flaky about that, and it’s not unknown that they just make up shit to not have to pay. at the very least, that’s as bad as bureaucrats arguing about shit.

    though I’ll grant that in this country the politics are so utterly fucked up that I’d rather not have a health-care system ruled by the theocrats. but then, they’re already fucking with my healthcare (I’m willing to bet half the American doctors here are creotards; I have higher hope for the foreigners)

  110. Coyote says

    Actually, I’m utterly in favor of mandatory vaccinations. Sometimes individual rights must be trumped by not being fucking retarded. (The recognition of that fact, by the way, is the difference between libertarianism and dumb, e.g. Eric.)

    As for your other points, I’m presently too busy to make a properly reasoned response. Family emergency. Sorry!

    Gotta dash,

  111. David Barton says

    OK, I love this blog but hardly ever comment. But as a working scientist, it is clear to me from the comments that there are some serious misconceptions about how basic research is funded in the U.S.

    So here’s how it works for most of us. I have an idea about something and I think it would be useful to perform some research on this idea. I prepare a proposal, describing what I want to do, why it’s important, how I’m going to approach the problem and I provide a plan for reaching my goals. I include a budget that probably supports a postdoctoral researcher or a graduate student to participate in the research. I send this proposal to the National Science Foundation (or NASA or DOE or Dept. of Agriculture or whoever is appropriate).

    The decision is NOT made by some faceless bureaucrat. The proposal is sent out to a number of scientists to be reviewed. These scientists may be in industry, in academia, even in other countries. They are experts in the field of my proposed research. They write their reviews and return them to the funding agency. The funding agency looks at all the proposals it receives and tries to fund the best of the lot – based on the independent reviews of qualified scientists. The final recommendations for which proposals are to be funded are made by scientists employed by the government to go over all the reviews and make the tough decisions about what is the most worthy research to be funded.

    Do mistakes get made? Of course. Sometimes really great ideas get passed over. Sometimes really bad ideas get funded. But on the whole, the system works remarkably well, as can be seen by the success of U.S. science research in generating Nobel prizes and economic benefits.

  112. says

    But David, the NSF can’t fund any basic research if it doesn’t have any money in the first place! (But maybe I’m misunderstanding you?)

    In any case, I have been seriously remiss. I moved to Washington a few months ago, and never bothered to check in to who the senators are until now. Two Democrats, and two women? Aren’t there only a handful of women in the Senate?

    I fired off some e-mails. From what I can tell both of them are probably already opposed to the cuts, but you never know what might help.

  113. says

    Oops, that should have been “Two Democrats, and two women!”

    Maybe I’m a bit overly concerned over a single punctuation mark, but I don’t want to be misconstrued as saying, “Two women? What’s this state coming to?!”

  114. Max says

    Sorry for the double-post.
    Anyway Susan Collins is the senator from my state! Sortof. I’m Canadian, living as a temporary resident in ME.
    I’m a (theoretical) Democrat (NDP back home) but I had to say she looked like the better candidate compared to Tom Allen.
    But here she is proposing these cuts!
    I will totally write an actual, physical letter to her.

  115. Jadehawk says

    Christopher, I think David posted to inform our more clueless Libertarians about the fact that it’s not bureaucrats who decide which specific research project gets funded, but scientists working at those large scientist-groups (NASA, NSF, etc.).

  116. Aquaria says

    What is it about Pharyngula that draws in the libertarian fuckwits?

    They seem to live in this dream world that the “market” can solve everything.

    It can’t. See: Depression. See: How bad a depression we’d have now if all the regulations were cut out.

    And since when could government do less than corporations?

    Are you people completely mental?

    Corporations are made of the same thing that government is: People. They’re just as prone to waste and inefficiency as any other entity. They have fuckups and sheer incompetence–in droves. And how about the ultimate waste of CEOs making 400 times what their average employee makes? Yeah, like that’s not a fucking waste of resources that could have been better spent, or could have resulted in lower prices for consumers.

    Good grief, I’ve never worked at any private corp where I could get a stapler in a timely manner. Or where there weren’t backordered items, pissed off vendors, pissed off customers from a batch of bad product, etc.

    FUCK THE MARKET. It’s made of people who are fallible. It’s no better than government, and at least government is answerable to ALL of us, not to some fat cat megalomaniac corporation that only cares about lining the pocket of itself and the people who can afford to invest in it.

  117. Stefan says

    A platform of conservatives is, or at least was, being against tax money to going to such things. Its not anti-science, conservative just think that those sorts of things should be handled in the private sector. That being said a number Republicains are anti-science.

  118. dan says

    this thread devolved somewhat.

    I think that the original question was; should the stimulous bill include scientific research?
    According to the
    libertarians, the answer is no.
    Your concern is noted.
    According to the Republicans, the answer is also no, unless the project is in their home state. My Republican reps are all about wastefull govment spending when its a local project, then, it isn’t wastefull spending, it’s job creation.

    Well, govment is good at doing big projects; that is what government is FOR; the promotion of the common good.
    So the economy needs a boost (arguments about Kenseyian policy aside), and the government is the only entity up to the job. Well the boost should come in spending on projects that give long-term benefits as well as short-term ones such as jobs and equipment purchases.
    thats all i have to say, since I’m typing one-handed, I will shut up now and go back to scrolling and snarking.


  119. nothing's sacred says

    Its not anti-science, conservative just think that those sorts of things should be handled in the private sector.

    Since when is “I just think …” a justification for anything?

    Conservatives are ignoramuses and fools; being anti-science is just one manifestation of that.

  120. nothing's sacred says

    Government spending and control is inherently inefficient.

    Congratulations, Coyote, on making the same moronic, baseless, false claim as Eric did back @45.

    the difference between libertarianism and dumb, e.g. Eric

    No, there is none.

  121. says

    Despite being a libertarian, I agree with Coyote that there is a sound argument in favour of some government funding for science, particularly medical research (in which, for example, researching cures for a particularly rare disease probably wouldn’t be profitable, but could end up saving many lives).

    However, we should also encourage private sector research and development. In the end, we need both. Thomas Edison couldn’t have invented the lightbulb without building on the work of the scientists who discovered electricity and its properties; but it took Edison, an entrepreneur, to make it into a viable product which was sold to the masses and has greatly enhanced our quality of life. Likewise, the Model T Ford would never have come about without scientific research into combustion; but it was Henry Ford who made cars affordable for ordinary people.

    This is, in fact, part of why I oppose certain forms of government intervention in healthcare, and particularly in the prescription drug industry. Here in the UK, and in most other Western countries, prescription drugs are price-controlled, and companies bargain with the government rather than charging a market rate – this being partly why drug prices are so high in the US, since the companies need to recoup their losses somewhere. If the US were to introduce a government-controlled system with price controls and centralised negotiation of prices, the drug companies would lose out – meaning that they’d have far less incentive to pour money into R&D, and so new medicines wouldn’t be developed, leading to many lives being lost unnecessarily.

  122. Knockgoats says

    You do know that US pharmaceutical companies spent more on promoting their products than on R&D, I assume (despite lies from the industry to the contrary)? See The Cost of Pushing Pills: A New Estimate of Pharmaceutical Promotion Expenditures in the United States. Also, of course, even in their R&D, pharmaceutical companies act to maximise their profits, not to improve public health. That means concentrating on drugs that have to be used for life, rather than cure, let alone prevention; suppressing the publication of unfavourable research; spending additional money on patent wars; and corrupting doctors with freebies.

  123. Knockgoats says

    Oh, and of course competing companies duplicating research, and concealing advances in drug discovery methods in order to steal a march on the competition. All these inefficiencies follow from the fact that corporations compete and aim to maximise profit. In some areas market competition by profit-seeking corporations can indeed improve efficiency; scientific research is not one of them.

  124. Knockgoats says

    When University of Pennsylvania economist Edwin Mansfield studied the 1960-70 behavior of 16 major American oil and chemical companies, he found that all 16 invested in pure science. The more a firm invested in basic science, the more its productivity grew.

    Zvi Griliches of Harvard University, in a study of 911 large American companies, discovered that the companies that engaged in basic research consistently outperformed those that neglected it.

    – From the CATO Institute “study” that Eric@63 links to (demonstrating that he doesn’t know what a “study” is, of course: this is a 1-page article, not peer reviewed, no references). One obvious flaw here is that there is no attempt to determine the direction of causation: do companies do well because they fund scientiifc research, or does doing well mean they have money to spare? Whichever, and this is certainly an area where genuine studies would be welcome, research is one of the first things to be cut when times are hard, or when an asset-stripping predator takes the company over, aborting projects and dispersing productive research teams.

    The article also notes that some rich businesspeople give money for pure research. Good for them – but why should the whims of a few give better results than the decisions of public research bodies?

    The article says that the USA overtook Britain as the world’s reichest country in 1890, without government support for science. Could this possibly have anything to do with having half a continent’s worth of natural resources to exploit? IIRC, government support for science was also tiny in Britain at the time. Where it was considerably greater was in Germany, which led the “second industrial revolution” based on electricity and chemicals. The US eventually benefitted greatly from this, when Hitler drove many of the most productive German and other European scientists to flee – and it is from this point that American scientific predominance dates. As a non-American, I want US government funding of science to continue because it can greatly benefit the world as a whole, and much would be lost if it stopped – but if it does, I’m sure China, India, Japan and Europe will not be following suit – none of these places suffer from the attentions of any significant number of “libertarian” idiots.

  125. Knockgoats says

    I’m glad you’re ok with losing even as little as 8.84% of your income. I still wouldn’t be ok with it. That’s how it is for people of principle. -Eric

    Dontcha just love the way “libertarians” present their greed and selfishness as “principle”. Eric, you have benefited greatly from past government spending both in the USA and elsewhere – to give just one example, you appear to use the internet and the WWW for example – the internet developed using US government money, the key innovations for the web developed at CERN. Why the hell shouldn’t you give something back, you selfish shit?

    Don’t you see, Tony, that when you keep your money you can do whatever you want with it! That means donate it to whatever causes you desire. It can even stay closer to home if you want. But maybe you wouldn’t donate to worthy causes at all unless the government coerced you to do so.

    That (the last sentence) is the whole fucking point of collective, tax-funded welfare, science, etc. If I, or anyone except the extremely rich, were to devote all my surplus income to helping the poor, or funding science, it would make almost no difference (I do in fact give regularly to charity, but I recognise that what I give is a drop in the ocean of need). I am quite willing to devote a proportion of my income to the welfare state, public education, foreign aid and science – indeed, I’d support an increase in tax rates on those above median income, like me – but only if everyone else does too – both because that’s the only way of collecting suffiicent resources, and because it’s roughly fair. We allbenefit from these things – why should we let scumbags like you parasitise the rest of us?

    Universal health care also limits flexibility and choice for patients. Would the system pay for cosmetic surgery? Abortions? How would malpractice work? – Coyote

    Why not try looking at countries with universal health care and see how they work? Believe it or not, the USA is not the whole world. Of course universal health care systems have problems, but they – and particularly the most effective ones, produce greater life expectancy and lower infant mortality (for example) than the USA, at considerably lower cost.

  126. 'Tis Himself says

    Kmockgoats #133

    The article says that the USA overtook Britain as the world’s reichest country in 1890, without government support for science.

    Historian Correlli Barnett claims that the British Empire was a drag on Britain’s economy. From 1850 to 1914 about 2,000 educated Britons per year went out to “govern” the empire. This was out of only 10,000 university graduates per year. Barnett argues that if those graduates had stayed at home then Britain would have retained the industrial and economic vigor of the first part of the 18th Century.

  127. Coyote says

    @nothing’s sacred

    Now that was just uncalled for. Libertarianism is a legitimate political position that happens to be infested with crazies. Unfortunately, it’s them that everyone seems to listen to. Thanks, guys. I swear, if I could shoot people over the internet…

    As for your other point.
    Government control tends toward inefficiency. Why? Because the people working in it have no strong motivation to work hard, and the people running are often too busy trying to score political points to run things effectively. The government tends to waste money and time, especially in the larger departments.
    For example, Medicare pays significantly more for the same equipment than the smaller and less clogged Department of Veterans Affairs:
    (Before you dismiss this because of the source, note that is raw data, without bias)

    And more recently, Medicare has been accused of persistently overpaying its vendors and overcharging its recipients:

    And that’s not even getting into the Department of Defense.

    @everyone who is still talking about universal health care.

    Please stop assuming I haven’t looked at the figures and the facts. I have and I don’t like what I see. On the other hand, I don’t particularly like what I see in the US either. So color me indecisive, perhaps. On the one hand, I don’t think universal health care is a viable option in the United States. On the other hand, the current system isn’t really any better, which I tend to blame on the difficultly of competing in the insurance field.

  128. JasonTD says

    This is supposed to be an emergency stimulus bill. As worthy as some of these programs may or may not be, it should be limited to things that are the most likely to provide an quick economic stimulus. The new Congress has barely been in session for one month. This one bill will spend more than the total of non-defense discretionary spending for a given year. It will cause us to run a deficit that absolutely dwarfs any seen since probably WWII. We will be paying interest on this debt for many years to come. There is no free lunch.

  129. 'Tis Himself says

    Government control tends toward inefficiency. Why? Because the people working in it have no strong motivation to work hard, and the people running are often too busy trying to score political points to run things effectively.

    One of the great looneytarian myths. Dem dum burrocrats ain’t got no insentive ta work hard ’cause I don’ think they work hard. The only people who believe this crap are the looneytarians who push it. Why do they push it? Because Government bad! Corporation good!. There you have it, folks. Absolute proof that the same action performed both government and business will fail totally if done by government and will reap untold riches and prosperity if done by corporations.

  130. 'Tis Himself says

    I will now killfile Coyote because he’s another looneytarian. Not quite as wacko as Eric or pedantic as Walton or as strident as africagenesis, but just as full of fantasies as any of them.

  131. Matt says

    >>>>I will now killfile Coyote because he’s another looneytarian.

    Block out any challenges to your sacred beliefs, great way to stay stupid.

  132. Coyote says

    Oh hooray. I’ve been killfiled. That’ll show me the error of my ways! Let’s all censor the shit out of political beliefs we disagree with, that’s a great way to act on a blog that promotes an idea many people despise. Yep. No hypocrisy here.

  133. Coyote says

    oh, and a note @GrahamGirl

    I was against the war in Iraq from the beginning and I think that the spending on it was pointless and out of control. Please take a damn moment to think before you generalize.

  134. Flex says

    Coyote opined, “Government control tends toward inefficiency. Why? Because the people working in it have no strong motivation to work hard, and the people running are often too busy trying to score political points to run things effectively. The government tends to waste money and time, especially in the larger departments.”

    And what bogey are you using to compare waste of government to that of private industry?

    There are, in fact, very few studies of the level of corporate waste for the very simple reason that corporations do not allow researchers access to their detailed accounts.

    Government spending, aside from a very few areas, is legally required to have all the details public.

    The result is that we can identify waste in government spending, but people make the assumption that corporations, because they are driven by the profit motive, are effective at eliminating waste.

    In the absence of data, that assumption should be challenged. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that private industry is at least as wasteful as the spending from the public purse. But the data is very difficult ro get to, allowing people like you to make the claim that government spending is inherently wasteful with the implication that private industry is less wasteful.

    Government spending is (mainly) transparent while corporate spending is hidden. It’s impossible to make a valid comparison between the two when the information available is unequal.

    The bottom line is that there are clearly some areas where spending of public monies is more efficient than relying on private investment. And there are areas where relying on private investment produces a better result. And there are grey areas in between.

  135. Coyote says

    Um, in case you forgot, that’s essentially what I said. I do believe there are areas where government spending is, if not necessarily more efficient, at least more effective than private spending, for example education, scientific research, and defense.

    You make a valid point that efficiency data is hard to get for companies. However, in the absence of data, assumptions must be made. Since government spending has provable waste, and non-government spending has non-provable waste, I assume the later to be more efficient until proven otherwise. I’m well aware that there is waste in the private sector. I’m an industrial engineering student: My studies are all about finding and removing said waste. But since there is data in either direction, both my position and your position are equally valid. Unlike atheism and religion, there is no null hypothesis that is usable. Well, I suppose you could say “The government wastes some, and so does the private sector,” but then you would be a moderate, and thus just another political position to be argued about. So really there isn’t a “safe” opinion to hold.

  136. Flex says

    Coyote, I certainly acknowledge that you previously said that there are areas where government spending is more effective than private sector spending.

    The difficulty I have with your postition that you are using your assumption that private industry is less wasteful an a point in your argument against universal health care.

    It is your claim (up in #113) that because government spending is more wasteful than private sector spending, there shouldn’t be a government-run national health care system.

    Since you admit that you can’t prove that government spending is more wasteful than private sector spending, you should abandon that reason to oppose nationalized health care. You may have other reasons to oppose a government-run national health care system. But government waste shouldn’t be one of them.

    Our positions are not equally valid; I am not making a suggestion for public policy based on unavailable data.

    BTW, I happen to be both an engineer and a politician, I’ve seen the waste in both private and public spending. After you graduate from your studies (and good luck in them) and spend a few years in the corporate world, I encourage you to get involved in your local government. You will find it an eye-opening experiance.

  137. Coyote says

    But in that case both the people arguing for universal health care and I are both making public policy arguments from a lack of data. However, I see and understand your point. I withdraw that objection to universal health care, though many others still stand.

    A side note: Thank you for remaining civil.

  138. Flex says

    Coyote wrote, “But in that case both the people arguing for universal health care and I are both making public policy arguments from a lack of data.”

    Well, yes. There are good arguments to be made for both sides of that debate.

    And there are poor arguments being presented by both sides as well.

    The comparision of wasted resources between the public and private sectors is poor argument because of the lack of data. However, you would be surprised how often it shows up in a wide variety of discussions over public policy.

    The inefficiency of government spending has become so ingrained in our societal consciousness that even most liberals will concede this point. Which is a shame because so many of the arguments against government in general are built on this point.

  139. Coyote says

    It is rather sad, in a way. In all honesty, I became libertarian more due to the social stance than the economic stance, though I agree with many of the tenets of the latter as well. I felt I had to comment on that stance here because of the absurd tendency of commenters here to assume that every libertarian is an insane, nearly-anarchist corporate whore.

  140. Flex says

    @ Coyote,#151,

    Actually, that is one of the reasons I suggested you get involved in local politics. When you get the time, of course.

    You’ll find that many of the libertarian social ideas, the ideals of personal responsibility and freedom, are shared by progressive liberalism (as well as other political groups). However, these ideals are tempered by the realization that our current US society does not play on a level field, and you know what rolls downhill.

    The basic idea of progressive liberalism, as I see it, is to increase individual freedom be reducing the burdens every individual bears to meet the basic needs of existance. By necessity this means that poorer people will benefit the most from progressive policies, they need it the most.

    Progressive thought says that we should agree, as a society, that a minimum level of food, housing, clothing, health care, and access to opportunities to improve, like education, is necessary. By ensuring all of these are available to all citizens, the citizens themselves will be better able to make a choice about the direction they wish to go in life.

    Placing the burden of meeting all these needs on each individual citizen means that the inequalities created by inherited (or other) wealth create a disproportionate effect on opportunities.

    (As an aside, I’ve horrified some libertarians here at work by suggesting they should support a 100% estate tax. After all, if everyone in society should rely only on their abilities to succeed (like many libertarians claim) then they shouldn’t be getting help by inheriting a wad of dough. Needless to say, that’s not what they really wanted.)

    Freedom isn’t measured by your gross income, but by your discretionary income; the money which is left over after all your bills are paid.

    Progressive liberalism isn’t about making everyone equal, we acknowledge that there are inequalities in ability and ambition. Instead, we feel that everyone should have opportunities equal to their abilities and desires.

    As for the economic side of libertarian thought, a completely free market (laissez-faire) will, solely through market forces, coagulate into a limited number of corporates. A free market destroys itself. It’s the regulation which allows a free market to exist in perpetuity.