DJT’s Proposed Budget is Bad for Science and Bad for America

By: Jamie Tijerina, with Kevin Davis and Eddie Isaacs

The current president of the US ran for office on a promise to “Make America Great Again.” He claimed that he would bring back jobs and put people back to work.

But his budget proposal tells a different story. Words are cheap, and while we know that the president has said many unsavory things over the years, the truth is that ultimately, actions speak louder than words.

The president’s proposed budget includes an increase in military spending of 10%, while also cutting funding to the EPA by 31%, and cutting funding to the NIH by 20% (about $6 billion). According to the New York Times, cuts to the EPA alone could cost as many as 3,200 people their jobs. NIH funding cuts could result in large numbers of labs shutting down and jobs being lost across the country. During his inauguration speech, DJT said he would “bring back our jobs”— taking away 3,200 jobs at the EPA and threatening even more jobs elsewhere is a broken promise.

Even more recently, there has been an immediate call by the president to cut NIH’s budget by an additional $1.2 billion. Other smaller independent agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting also find themselves on the chopping block. Meanwhile, Republicans estimate that the proposed wall along the US-Mexico border could cost $20 billion.

As it stands, many scientists and scientists in training, especially those who remain in academia, work long hours, struggling to make ends meet in increasingly expensive markets and struggling to find funding for their important research. They are often paid below the market rate for their work based on hours and education levels. This was highlighted by the proposed change to overtime pay rule that would have raised the threshold from $23,660 to $47,476-- many researchers’ wages were not enough to reach the new threshold to remain exempt.

Outside of the scientific community, these hardships are not as widely known, but the effects reverberate far beyond. Prior to Trump’s election, the scientific community had been suffering consequences arising from inadequate funding stemming from the time of the Great Recession. Stalled research, lost jobs, and the slow exodus of a generation of great minds resulting from a lack of employment opportunities. Cutting funding to science and the arts as indicated in the proposed budget embodies the acceptance of American anti-intellectualism.

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Inadequately funding scientific research is dangerous for our country’s future. Federally funded science has resulted in important life-saving advances in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, various forms of cancer, and many other conditions. It has enabled us to respond to the emergence of viruses such as Zika and Ebola. It has taught us more about our world’s climate and ways that we as individuals can protect our environment. It has allowed us to see beyond Earth, to land on the moon and even Mars. To take away funding would ensure that the United States will fall behind in scientific innovation and would leave us vulnerable to disease, natural disaster, and even biological attacks by foreign powers.

Scientific research and innovation are a significant part of what makes America great. Actions speak louder than words, and our proposed budget should reflect the “greatness” that the president promised when he ran for office. That means it should reflect a respect for culture, education, scientific innovation and research, and artistic enrichment. If we increase our military spending by siphoning taxpayer funds toward the construction of a wall to keep people out, and away from science, the arts, the pursuit of knowledge, and agencies that contribute to our American culture of innovation, what will be left for our military to protect?