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Zeroing out the long term economic stimulus
February 6, 2009 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Science & technology funding has an enormous long term impact on the economy, a fact that has not escaped China. Yet, Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have proposed cutting all National Science Foundation and Department of Energy Office of Science funding from the Senate American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, along with almost all other proposed funding of the sciences and technological development, as a part of a $77.9B reduction effort. Why? Well, you'll notice that Nebraska & Maine don't contribute much to science & technology in the United States, nor win many grants, and hence no bacon for Nelson and Collins.

The proposed cuts include :

50% of NASA exploration for $750M
100% of NSF for $1,402M
35% of NOAA for $427M
38% of NIST for $218M
38% of DOE energy efficiency & renewable energy for $1,000M
100% of DOE office of science for $100M
posted by jeffburdges (86 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
You should see the corn and maple syrup contributions they're trying to put in there, though.
posted by inigo2 at 11:46 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I heard Nebraska just got electricity.

As you said, they will still have money for roads! Just the sort of technological innovation we need in the 21st century.
posted by johannahdeschanel at 11:47 AM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


EditorializingFilter?
posted by zippy at 11:50 AM on February 6, 2009


"No bacon" posts aren't going to sit well with the MeFi crowd.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:51 AM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Guess I made a mistake in applying for my PhD as a form of job security, then.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:51 AM on February 6, 2009


What does China have to do with this?
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:53 AM on February 6, 2009


Upsetting, yes, but a little axe-grindy. It's "Senators Gone Retarded, Vol. MCMXLIVIL"
posted by GuyZero at 11:54 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's the point of this? If you made an FPP any time any of the 535 members of Congress even proposed some dumb thing, we'd drown in the electrons.

Unless and until this gets incorporated into the committee bill or otherwise put into a position where it might soon happen, it's firmly in the same realm of So Fucking What as bills to impeach Bush were.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:55 AM on February 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


You know what would solve this mess? Tax cuts. Now go in there and kick some ass.

Sincerely,
Joe the Plumber.
posted by billysumday at 11:55 AM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


What does China have to do with this?

You see, we research all the technology and then China steals it. So if we're not doing the work, how will China's military and economy continue to grow? And then how will they feed their children??
posted by fusinski at 11:56 AM on February 6, 2009


To the poster's credit, these aren't some random Senators. The passage of the final stimulus package is going to come down to around 5-6 Senators, and these are two of them.
posted by billysumday at 11:56 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The "stimulus packages", with their commitments to "shovel-ready infrastructure projects" being developed or adopted by many G7 nations are really, really troubling. I suppose you are keeping a lot of hardhats working, but at the expense of investing in innovation and productivity, just the sorts of things needed to move our economy to a more sustainable model.

And while we're at it, can I also complain about American trade protectionism? Doesn't everyone understand that "bringing back manufacturing jobs" to American means helping people find work in plastic shower curtain factories or assembling shoes? The problem with factory jobs is that they are not actually all that productive and don't pay well. Unless you're an autoworker, when no one wants your product anyway.

It will be interesting to see if this is really a return to a command economy. Instead of Ladas, we'll be coerced into buying Chevy Escalades.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:58 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah they want to cut a lot of stuff. It's completely idiotic, there's no ryme or reason for the specific cuts, not analysis how how "stimulative" the stuff is, it's all based on the personal view of the senators in the "gang of 18 or so" (the number keeps changing). They also want to cut Aide to states, which is in there specifically to prevent state governments from laying people off. It's madness up there.

But hey, it gives those two a lot of personal power and sway and makes them look good to the beltway circlejerkers up there.
posted by delmoi at 11:59 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


A question, since I don't know as much as I should about American politics:

What's the commonly expected behaviour for a Senator? Roughly, is it that they should A) be working for the betterment of the nation? Or is it that they should B) be working for that of their state, followed by the nation? Or I guess an idealized A with everyone understanding that B is the reality?

Please to the giving no "they're looking out for themselves corporate mouthpieces" answers, because although perhaps true is not really the point.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:02 PM on February 6, 2009


NIH, fortunately, still has a $10B allocation in the stimulus bill.

On of the beautiful things about funding federal science agencies is that the money must be spent within a given timeframe (eg by the end of the FY), thus generating exactly the economic activity that the stimulus bill is intended to achieve. If the $10B NIH allocation sticks, it's win-win; scientists (both at the NIH and those at institutes which get NIH grants) will have more money to do their research, and the money will get pumped back into the economy in the process when they buy reagents/equipment and hire additional staff.

The same could be true for DOE/NSF/LMNOP if Nelson and Collins don't get their way.
posted by Westringia F. at 12:12 PM on February 6, 2009


What's the commonly expected behaviour for a Senator? Roughly, is it that they should A) be working for the betterment of the nation? Or is it that they should B) be working for that of their state, followed by the nation?

Well, there are competing interests, and we elect our representatives to balance those interests. The position of Senator was originally conceived as a sort of senior representative from the state to the Federal government. Since the early days of the republic, however, the states have become less distinct and Senators have gone from indirectly elected to directly elected. As such, "the interests of their state" has become subsumed by "the will of their constituents".
posted by mr_roboto at 12:12 PM on February 6, 2009


To be fair, what possible use could science or education do us when we have boondoogle military projects to fund?
posted by DU at 12:13 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


America's economy doesn't need vaporous notions like real scientific industry to support it, we just need to get back to spending our asses off. Let some other sucker invest in green technologies and stem cell research and we'll just buy it off them.
posted by docpops at 12:13 PM on February 6, 2009


six-or-six-thirty, A PhD program is still a lovely way to spend the recession, if you can get accepted, but I'm seeing more & more westerners do postdocs & such in Asia.

In fact, I've been seeing advertisements for academic posts in the sciences for Chinese universities almost daily. I'm not sure this continues year round, but China is spending amazing amounts trying to catch up. I've also heard rather surprising estimates about the total levels of migration of scientists & engineers towards Asia. It'd be a very bad idea to fall behind.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:14 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


As elected representatives of their state, it is expected that their duty is foremost to their state. That said, as members of a select legislative body that works to better the nation as a whole, the better senators take a long-term view of "best for their state" by acknowledging that what is best for the nation as a whole is often best for their state. For instance, a boon to neighboring New Hampshire could definitely be good to Maine.

So yeah, it's mostly "idealized A with everyone understanding B is the reality," especially since the most nation-first senators and congressmen often get tapped for other duties such as presidential cabinet positions, while pork-barrel champions like Ted Stevens stay in the Capitol for 40+ years.
posted by explosion at 12:14 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, the poster's description of these Senators' behavior as in the interest of their states contains a considerable degree of interpretation, and is certainly subject to argument. They would probably say that their acting in the interest of the country in minimizing government debt.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:15 PM on February 6, 2009


It's bipartisan, so how could it be bad? <vomits in mouth a little bit />
posted by blue_beetle at 12:15 PM on February 6, 2009



What's the commonly expected behaviour for a Senator? Roughly, is it that they should A) be working for the betterment of the nation? Or is it that they should B) be working for that of their state


B. They represent their states and their constituents, namely those people who voted them into office. The entire government is structured around the idea that the states do not all have the same interests.

It is surprising that people are surprised by this. This isn't anti-science. Ag science is science, and these senators have support expenditures in those directions for years. And taking it out isn't pork, including it is pork. How does NSF funding constitute stimulus? How the hell is half a billion to NOAA supposed to stimulate the economy? I thought the purpose of this plan was to provide for stimulus in the short-term, not the long term.

If those things are needed, they should be in a separate bill that isn't promoted as the solution to the current economic ills of the country.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:17 PM on February 6, 2009


I freaked out about this until my economist friend pointed out that NASA was fucked from jump. I just hope Obama keeps his promise to push for more actual funding in the actual budget instead.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:18 PM on February 6, 2009


Maybe the hope is that "hardhat" jobs will push us up and out of this downturn, and then next year we can get on with the life we had last year.

The problem is, regardless of the constituents, people are generally short-sighted. Gains for today often outweigh future gains, even when the future gains might be greater if current gains are lessened. With that, research and science lose.

If the public sees science and research as valuable and exciting, people will be willing to fund it. But if it's all theoretical application and and possible future scenarios, people tend to lose interest.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:21 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


How does NSF funding constitute stimulus? How the hell is half a billion to NOAA supposed to stimulate the economy? I thought the purpose of this plan was to provide for stimulus in the short-term, not the long term.

They don't lock the money up in a safe. They're not doing experiment on the actual money. Trust me--I'm an expert at this--scientists spend money. On goods, services and employees. The people from whom they purchase the goods use it in turn to pay their suppliers and employees, who in turn pay their suppliers and employees, etc. As for their employees and the people from whom they purchase services, they spend it on rent, food, entertainment, transportation, consumer electronics, clothing, travel, etc. You're probably familiar with this part of it.

And that's how an economy works!
posted by mr_roboto at 12:23 PM on February 6, 2009 [20 favorites]


Also pastabagel is right in theory but many of the agency's budgets have been slashed and funding is falling from lack of donations and corporate partnerships. So if they don't get help either here or in a budget, they're fucked, especially the National Science Foundation, one of the leading supporters of research and science education, which of course is totally useless when it comes to helping our economy grow. Who should I make the check out to, Ford or Chevy?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:26 PM on February 6, 2009


As an interesting alternative, since I make heavy use of both technology and energy, is there any chance I can convince them to throw some of that money at me? I promise to use it only minimally for the purchase of bacon.
posted by quin at 12:27 PM on February 6, 2009


And Jesus fucking Christ, I can see a random guy on the internet like Pastabagel not knowing about aggregate supply and aggregate demand (no offense, not everyone has taken a macroeconomics class), but every single Republican member of congress? The poverty of economic sophistication in their rhetoric is breathtaking. I'm going to assume that their just being disingenuous, because the alternative is too frightening.

Also pastabagel is right in theory

Actually, he's profoundly wrong in theory.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:28 PM on February 6, 2009


And fuck a duck I just can't get their and they're right today!!!!
posted by mr_roboto at 12:30 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


How does NSF funding constitute stimulus?

Does it involve paying people money?

Then it's stimulus. Duh.

The standard republican talking point, over the past week or so has been to point out random projects and then ask, rather idiotically, "How is that stimulus". Note they don't actually try to make an argument as to why it's not stimulative, they simply ask the question as if asking it was an argument.

But there is a very simple answer, if it involves helping people keep their jobs then it's stimulative. If it involves creating new jobs for people then it's stimulus. One of the most obvious, and frankly you'd have be brain damaged not to understand this, one of the most obvious ways to create jobs is to hire people to do things like build roads, repair schools, retrofit buildings to make them more energy, or do scientific research.

I mean how can people be that stupid? When you hire someone, you create a job. DUH

I thought the purpose of this plan was to provide for stimulus in the short-term, not the long term.

The economic slump is expected to last about 4 years, so stimulus will be useful over that time frame. As a practical matter, there is no way you can have stimulus in the economy in the next month or whatever, except perhaps for pre-existing jobs that would otherwise be cut.

Basic rule of thumb: Anytime anyone asks "how is that stimulative" they're an idiot or being disingenuous. If they have an argument why something wouldn't be stimulative, then they may not be. Lots of people say that tax cuts are not as stimulative because people will mostly save, rather then mostly spend the money. That's an specific argument and you can go back and forth on it. But simply asking "how is that stimulative" is idiotic, and it presumes that the person they're asking is as stupid as they are.
posted by delmoi at 12:30 PM on February 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


To be fair, what possible use could science or education do us when we have boondoogle military projects to fund?
posted by DU at 3:13 PM on February 6


1 in 5 aeronautical engineers work in the defense industry. The DOD employs more Ph.Ds than google can shake a stick at. Nearly all of the advancement in communications, satellite technology, materials, and propulsion occurs in the defense industry.

Compare the robots built for Nasa, and those built for DOD.

You want long-term economic stimulus? Tell your kids to study math and science.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:32 PM on February 6, 2009


Pastabagel, they are a short-term stimulus. The allocation to science agencies would be spent immediately on equipment and personnel to carry the research forward. They'd prevent the loss of scientific jobs (like the kind that Fermilab was faced with just last year) and create new ones for researchers & technicians, as well as those working for companies that supply research labs with materials & services. These cuts wouldn't only impact long-term, technology-driven economic growth; they impact short-term economic activity as well.

On preview: what mr_roboto & delmoi said.
posted by Westringia F. at 12:33 PM on February 6, 2009


A mid-term impact of cutting science funding is more laid-off smart people waste the recession just scrapping by when they could be earning a masters or doctorate, and then contributing more to society in the mid and long term.

In the very short term, it also means people with PhDs in computer science who would be happy making only $50k-65k doing 2nd postdocs will instead apply & outclass you for even higher paying developer & information technology jobs.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:34 PM on February 6, 2009


Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have proposed cutting all National Science Foundation and Department of Energy Office of Science funding from the Senate American Reinvestment and Recovery Act

Cutting science funding is hazardous to national security and to long-term prosperity. It kicks our best and brightest kids in the backs of the knees, and the ones left standing leave to countries that value progress.

So can we arrest these two idiots for treason and be done with it? Because the alternative is to watch as these criminals take our country apart brick by brick.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:43 PM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is this just gamesmanship or do these people really not understand the central role of science and technology in this economy?
posted by Mister_A at 12:57 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


If senators were charged with treason more frequently, it would be a better deterrent to people who try to swindle their country.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 1:00 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


And while we're at it, can I also complain about American trade protectionism? Doesn't everyone understand that "bringing back manufacturing jobs" to American means helping people find work in plastic shower curtain factories or assembling shoes?

KokoRyu: As someone who comes from a family that once enjoyed the benefits of gainful employment in paper mills and other manufacturing related jobs that have since disappeared in the US and moved abroad to exploit lower wages and more relaxed safety and environmental standards, I can say that, yes, a lot of us do understand exactly what kinds of jobs we're talking about bringing back to the US, and no, that doesn't make us any less inclined to want them here.

Manufacturing jobs in this country, in the days when the unions still had some bargaining clout, often offered much better pay and benefits than the jobs that have since replaced them, and that contributed to positive wage growth across the entire domestic labor market. By moving those kinds of jobs to china or indonesia or wherever, we didn't eliminate the jobs, we just gave them to people in different countries, making far less money and working much longer hours. And what did we replace those jobs with? Nothing--or worse than nothing: restaurant jobs and a neutered labor movement. /protectionism derail

posted by saulgoodman at 1:02 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's a good post by Matt Yglesias on bogus anti-stimulus arguments
posted by delmoi at 1:09 PM on February 6, 2009


Good post by Brian Beutler on Yglesias' blog
But now it seems the stimulus won’t pass unless it’s first cut by $100 billion. That number is, of course, totally arbitrary–arrived at, once again without the input of any of Brooks’ so-called moderate economists. The opening bid, then, was crafted by Larry Summers, et al. The counter bid was designed by cranks from the Heritage Foundation. In between is a version of the Summers bid after a bunch of amateurs hacked at it blindly with a machete. These would appear to be the three options. To a group of 535 sane people, the choice would be obvious, but, as John Cole notes, one of the parties (200 or so members of Congress) are not sane, so the obvious choice is out of the running.
posted by delmoi at 1:11 PM on February 6, 2009


Man. I always wondered when Bible Belt creationism would start fiddling with NSF grants, but I never imagined they'd torch the whole affair.
posted by pwnguin at 1:17 PM on February 6, 2009


Yeah, this mystifies me. Even if science didn't pay off, a stimulus means spending, and science is a form of spending.

But science does pay off, and unless we want to try selling our labor cheaper than Vietnam or China, its out only hope for national prosperity. (We've tried empire by force of arms; that didn't work.)

Why these "wise" men and women think that eating our seed corn will mean a better harvest, I just can't begin to guess.

Right now, thanks to funding begun in the Clinton years, we actually have a surplus of science post-grads compared to jobs for them. In other words, we have the trained minds to start our journey back to world leadership in sciece, we have them right now. Cuttig funding just means blowing that investment away as those trained minds take jobs at Wal*Mart.

Congress is being criminally stupid, and all to save a small fraction of what we've spend on millionaire bailouts and destroying and rebuilding Iraq.
posted by orthogonality at 1:21 PM on February 6, 2009


Hold on...I'm confused here. The cut proposed is in the stimulus bill, right?
It has nothing to do with the 2009 budget (which I think grew from 2008 budget for NASA anyway)

In which case, though I do think it's a shame not to put more money in the sciences, I don't understand the full extent of the anger here.
posted by 7life at 1:35 PM on February 6, 2009


But simply asking "how is that stimulative" is idiotic, and it presumes that the person they're asking is as stupid as they are.
posted by delmoi at 3:30 PM on February 6


And that's how an economy works!
posted by mr_roboto at 3:23 PM on February 6


Oh for fuck's sake, people. Of course I know that spending money on a NOAA scientist has some non-zero stimulative effect on the economy. The point is to maximize that effect. You do not maximize economic stimulus by spending money on government scientists, which you would know if you actually read the wikipedia page on Keynes you linked, or better yet, if you actually read his goddamn book.

Specifically, mr. roboto, is spending a dollar at NOAA as stimulative over the next few years as spending it on a public rail system, a bridge, etc.? The answer is certainly NO. It may be more stimulative (not a single person has argued this), I believe very strongly that it is less, but it is by no means the same.

You're the expert, so what's the multiplier effect of a dollar spent on a NOAA scientist or NSF grant compared to a dollar spent on a building contractor, infrastructure developer, defense contractor, or banker?

On of the reasons it was so important to bail out the banks last fall instead of letting them go under is that for every Wall Street Job that's lost, three other jobs in the NYC metro area are lost. Is the multiplier effect for a government scientist even greater than one?

Furthermore, there is the not-so-trivial issue that every dollar the government spends today may require $5 to ultimately pay back. The economy is not better off if four years from now the economy is the same size it was in 2007 but the national debt is doubled.

You want to argue with me, fine. But do not be insulting.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:37 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder. Evidence is that when there are times of recession, people tend to go back to school. So you see, these Senators are looking out for our1 long-term scientific interests!2

1. I say our because let's be honest, Canada's strongly coupled to you guys.
2. Clearly.

posted by Lemurrhea at 1:55 PM on February 6, 2009


If you didn't want to be insulted, you shouldn't have played dumb. Sorry.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:56 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I agree with Pastabagel. Our resources to battle this issue is limited. We need to maximize the effects of our efforts. Saying that simply giving people money is stimulus is not enough.

To maximize the effect, it needs to get the biggest bang for the buck. And since our economy is 70% consumer driven, I assume the most effective one would be the one that is closest to the consumers. Science, for all of its wonderful qualities, is not.
There is a trickle down effect before it is felt by the general public.

And no...I'm not anti-science. I am in the camp that the more money for science the better. But I don't think it's fair for some people to attack Pastabagel they way they did.
posted by 7life at 1:59 PM on February 6, 2009


But there is a very simple answer, if it involves helping people keep their jobs then it's stimulative. If it involves creating new jobs for people then it's stimulus. One of the most obvious, and frankly you'd have be brain damaged not to understand this, one of the most obvious ways to create jobs is to hire people to do things like build roads, repair schools, retrofit buildings to make them more energy, or do scientific research.

Even the most transparent government boondoggles can have a positive effect on the economy, as John Maynard Keynes demonstrated with a thought experiment:

But there is a very simple answer, if it involves helping people keep their jobs then it's stimulative. If it involves creating new jobs for people then it's stimulus. One of the most obvious, and frankly you'd have be brain damaged not to understand this, one of the most obvious ways to create jobs is to hire people to do things like build roads, repair schools, retrofit buildings to make them more energy, or do scientific research.

Even throwing money down a rathole and paying people money to retrieve it can have a stimulative effect if the economy is in a depressed enough state. When you consider that we just posted the largest one-month job loss since the Watergate era at a time when interest rates in most of the G7 countries are below 1 percent, I think we've reached the point where a massive cash infusion into the economy is not only a good thing, but absolutely necessary for the long-term economic survival of the United States. It's the absolute size of the stimulus that matters for the economy. Nit-picking over this or that tiny fraction of the stimulus is counterproductive at this point.
posted by jonp72 at 2:00 PM on February 6, 2009


Pastabagel,

As a PhD-candidate in a major NYC research university, a little stimulus to scientists wouldn't hurt. Major labs are contracting/not hiring because grants have frozen up. There's a post-doc in my lab with a Nature paper and two second-tier nature publications who's shitting himself that he might not get a job because most universities are in a hiring freeze.

In terms of secondary effect, I have invitrogen and VWR calling me, a grad student, with huge deals (50% off) on a weekly basis on the off chance I might convince my boss to spend some money because they're hurting. We've definitely stopped spending money as loosely and we're a ridiculously well-funded lab for the next 5 years.

I don't know if it's as stimulating as roads (I'd much rather see big investments in high speed rail myself, but then I think it's a giant pain in the ass to fly) but it's not throwing money down a well
posted by slapshot57 at 2:01 PM on February 6, 2009


There's a post-doc in my lab with a Nature paper and two second-tier nature publications who's shitting himself that he might not get a job because most universities are in a hiring freeze.

Let me ask you something. Would your post-doc take a job digging ditches? Because there is a recently laid-off father of four out there with a wife and mortgage to support who would take that job in a second and would work a double shift if they let him. I'm suggesting that we all recalibrate our priorities and our expectations.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:20 PM on February 6, 2009


The parallels between the hole that America is busy digging itself into, and the hole that Japan is, 15-20 years later, still trying to dig itself out of, are staggering. While I firmly believe that the US needs to shore up its roads, bridges, and tunnels, that the infrastructure is pretty much falling apart, I also pay taxes in a country where useless public works are the norm, so much so that the folks in charge want to raise the consumption tax rather than cut back on the government handouts to construction firms. Without the government porkjects in Japan, the construction industry would likely collapse (as it's been trying to do for years).

Seriously, crushing national and personal debt, interest rate near zero (unable to cut rates further to stimulate the economy, unable to raise rates without crippling it), and politicians fucking around with special interests that are, essentially, of interest to them and the people who paid to get them elected, and no one else.

Are Americans ready for a "lost generation?" Japan went from lifetime employment as a societal norm to most young people unable to find full-time employment in the last 20 years. America, in the same time, has jetisoned most of it's manufacturing and blue collar work already. What will it be like ten years from now?

I really, really hope that Obama can provide the leadership needed to get out of this mess. Maybe that's the key difference. Japan has had no leadership whatsoever for the past 15 years (outside of Koizumi, who might have done more harm than good), which has left the economy in a shambles.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:24 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's quite simple Pastabagel : Science & technology will have more impact both mid & long term, while being equally useful economically short term. If you want "bad fake stimulus", look towards the plans that give money to rich people, like the Wall St. bailout.

I'd also point out that many only support the stimulus package only because Obama promised more advanced technology for the electric grid, health care, energy, etc. and this cuts exactly the development end of those programs (except NIH). Sure, I care about bridges that might fall down. But why should I care about your agree business subsidies?

As I said up thread, our best & brightest can & will take your job if they can't get their underpaid university dream job.

Also, Obama's science advisors are being careful about negative yo-yo effect on science spending. I think these number have already been moderated by longer term increases to science spending, concerns about over employing people who we can't retain, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:31 PM on February 6, 2009


Let me ask you something. Would your post-doc take a job digging ditches? Because there is a recently laid-off father of four out there with a wife and mortgage to support who would take that job in a second and would work a double shift if they let him. I'm suggesting that we all recalibrate our priorities and our expectations.

Dude, shut up. Seriously.

The US is the world's richest country (still) and the need for well trained, highly intelligent people will never go away here, unless we think that moving backward and only creating high school educated jobs is necessary. The Times ran a great article today about Japan having WAY too many bridges and roads because during its dance with Depression last decade, government officials thought just like you and only created minimum education jobs.

There is room in a $1,000,000,000,000 stimulus package for basic (as opposed to applied) research jobs. This stimulus is not simply to get the country humming again so we can spend ourselves into another Depression. This stimulus is necessary to get the country on the correct track, by focusing on science and math (both in the form of educational and occupational) and getting our workforce to be competitive again. We need innovation; if you spend all your money building bridges and roads, you fail to think about what happens after all that infrastructure is built.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 2:37 PM on February 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


here's the list of stuff the centrists want to eliminate from the stimulus package
Head Start, Education for the Disadvantaged, School improvement, Child Nutrition, Firefighters, Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard, Prisons, COPS Hiring, Violence Against Women, NASA, NSF, Western Area Power Administration, CDC, Food Stamps
Fun times.

They also want to cut school construction by 60 billion.
posted by delmoi at 2:38 PM on February 6, 2009


And BTW Pastabagel, your anti-American bend can't be more obvious (or blind) when you take this comment you made last March into context:

And globalization won't fail. The European and Chinese middle class do not have the sense of entitlement that the American middle class does, for example. They will continue to trade and thrive. It's only we who'll be left out. ~ link

I wouldn't care about your view, except that you exhibit the epitome of hypocrisy. On the one hand, you want to blame Americans for being stupid, selfish, and out of touch with the rest of the world, and then you disapprove of science and tech funding in favor of more infrastructure (the very tonic this country needs to become competitive again).

You can't have it both ways. (Not to mention that your decoupling theory just went to hell.)
posted by SeizeTheDay at 2:47 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


How does NSF funding constitute stimulus?
It provides most State Universities (and many private Universities) with a significant percentage of the money needed to keep faculty on the payroll (through research grants that subsidize faculty lines). Tuition fees constitute a very small part of a University's operating income. Endowment income has imploded with investment returns. NSF funding is a direct and merit-based source of work. It directly funds places on PhD programs (stipends and tuition) and leads to the development of technologies that drive economic growth. The evidence is provided by an NSF study, but what the hey ... :-)

Evidence is that when there are times of recession, people tend to go back to school.
If funding is cut, they soon won't be able to. The majority of State Universities are suffering from the fall in State tax-income and the freefall of state investment funds. Their only recourse is to cut teaching jobs, student financial aid, and PhD stipends.

I'm with Paul Krugman. For those interested, here is Krugman's Introduction to The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, by John Maynard Keynes. This explains the Keynsian approach to economic recovery a lot better than the distortions of US Senators who obviously don't have a clue what it means. As Obama said, the whole point of a stimulus is to spend money in order to create work. People who complain about unnecessary spending are talking out of their hats ...
posted by Susurration at 2:53 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


How does NSF funding constitute stimulus

I can say, as an academic scientist, that >2/3 of any grant I've gotten is spent on student/postdoc/technician salaries. If the DOE turns around and hands me a big grant next year, the first thing I'd have to do is go out and hire people to perform the work that was in the proposal. That have the same multiplier effect that highway worker salaries have, and a larger one than Wall street worker salaries have (people with lower incomes spend more of their money, natch).

Most of the rest, btw, is capitol equipment purchases. So almost all of grant spending is is stimulatory in the same way that highway spending is, but you get the added bonus afterwords of nifty things like cures for cancer and cheap solar energy.
posted by overhauser at 2:57 PM on February 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


I had not consider this until I read overhauser comment, but NSF grants might actually benifit the economy more than construction. A construction project has significant profit & graft going towards people who won't respend the money. A university lab employing mostly graduate students & lab techs will see all those salaries being turned around into immediate spending on the level that supports more immediate spending. I'm not sure how well the university tuition remission component of graduate student costs will get respent, but the university will spend it. A postdoc or professor will respend more than your construction company's bosses, but I'm not sure by how much.

Any real economists feel like working out some model for university vs. construction stimulus based upon socio-economic level & such?
posted by jeffburdges at 3:12 PM on February 6, 2009


How does NSF funding constitute stimulus

On say a $1,000,000 4-year grant in a social science area:

50% overhead (not unusual) = $500,000 to the university to pay employees (many of who are not highly paid)

Of the rest, it's not unusual to parcel out say 300k (75k/year) to grad student RAs as stipend and/or tuition

Some support, fringe benefits, etc. for PI and any co-PIs (say 150k; = 30k/year for everyone)

Some equipment, and miscellaneous contributions to the airline and hotel industry, account for the rest.

So (as overhauser says) most of goes to workers with relatively low rates of pay, who then go out and spend it (because they are too poor to save). The idea that grant-funded profs are sitting on huge vats of cash to study obscure subjects is a myth.
posted by carter at 4:19 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]



These fuckers want to fund *defense contractors* instead of education and science. I mean, the poor defense contractors, they really have been hurt over the last few fucking years.

How can your call yourself a moderate and want to fund that instead of Head Start and Early Head Start-- which will employ lots of people (daycare is labor intensive and "shovel ready") while simultaneously helping poor kids be ready for school and poor parents be able to work?

Oh, and down the road save lots and lots of money in terms of juvenile justice, welfare, prison, etc-- and there's data to support all of this, particularly the really early childhood stuff.

We really are living in a world run by idiots.
posted by Maias at 5:03 PM on February 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Consider is that your typical postdoc has spent around ten years in public-funded educational institutions as a student, and several additional years as a (low) paid researcher, most likely entirely supported by public funds. The public has already made massive investments in educating and supporting every postdoc. To suggest that he/she turn around and become a ditch-digger represents a collosal waste that can only be described as stupid.

Plus: look at the numbers. In governent terms, that's peanuts. What kind of lunatic looks at todays budget and says, "we're spending far too much money on basic research!" Cut it ALL out and it won't do a damned thing to the deficit.
posted by Humanzee at 5:10 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


My two cents, as a science grad student I spend 100% of the money I get. That's a full +1 to the multiplier effect from us.

But why is my effect on the multiplier worth more than a construction worker or banker? Because research and development (aka technological growth) are the only real ways to increase productivity and continue growth in the long term. This is basic macro-economics. Building a house won't. We've seen this before, that's what Japan did in their lost decade. At the end of all their make work projects the jobs created due to stimulus funding were cut because there was no more demand, there was no real demand in the first place anyway- which is the problem we have now!

However, how about if someone gets a grant and goes and develops google or the laser (which was developed by an astrophysicist for measurement purposes), which have all sorts of new applications and entire industries develop around them (compact discs?)

Removing something because it is 'pork' from a bill that is essentially one giant pork barrel is ludicrous. Even if Nebraska or Maine don't gain directly from it the externalities of research funding will reach them, and if we're going to do a state by state breakdown, my guess is that they wouldn't get much of the stimulus anyway.

You want long-term economic stimulus? Tell your kids to study math and science.
I agree with that too. Also, I'll bet you every teacher in America would spend any money you threw at them as part of the stimulus, which is why it's so shameful that they're trying to cut back on the education stimulii too (although k-12 education funding in this country is shameful anyway).

Seriously, the numbers quoted up at top are 5 billion in an almost trillion dollar proposal. We just waisted like 50 billion in the last bailout.
posted by Large Marge at 5:42 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


An additional datapoint:

As an employee of overhauser, I can say that my salary is fairly low, I work fairly hard for it and since I get very little, I spend most of it, cycling it back into the economy as he suggests.

Now I'd better get back to reading that paper before my boss figures out that I'm screwing around on this site.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:59 PM on February 6, 2009


How the hell is half a billion to NOAA supposed to stimulate the economy?

I used to work for a company that did lots of work for NOAA, which might be why I'm a little more worked up over your comment than I should be, but you don't appear to realize just how far government money goes.

In the case of the company I worked for, NOAA money goes towards developing software used for mapping the ocean floor, which translates to ten full-time software engineers plus managers, IT, and other support personnel. It goes towards putting ships out on the water to gather their data, which means hiring a ship and crew, and buying fuel and food. It goes towards processing the collected data too, which means supporting additional data analysts and more managers and IT guys and buying a ton of equipment. Oh, and it also paid for all of that to be done on extremely short notice after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans so clear and undamaged portions of the shipping channels could be mapped out which allowed aid ships to be safely piloted in.

Their money pays for scientific and humanitarian advancement and directly and indirectly benefits hundreds of people in dozens of careers and industries. And that's just from what they spend on this one office. Basically, of all the federal agencies you could have complained about, you managed to pick the one least likely to bolster your argument.

Just because you know nothing about a certain area doesn't mean that it's completely unimportant to everyone else and deserves to be thrown on the shitpile. That makes you no better than the Senators in question here.

on preview: that also goes for the folks complaining about defense contractors. Not everyone who gets military money spends it on new and exciting ways to blow shit up.
posted by xbonesgt at 6:23 PM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


They succeeded. They still have to resolve Senate-House versions though.
posted by cogneuro at 6:35 PM on February 6, 2009


I'm not complaining about defense contractors in general-- I'm complaining about funding them *while cutting* early childhood education.

If you want to make a case for why it's better to fund companies that have repeatedly proved they are masters at wasting money instead of funding programs that have been shown to make children readier for school, less likely to commit crime, more likely to be employed, more likely to graduate high school and college and to reduce welfare, justice and unemployment costs by about $5 for every dollar spent and that will employ tens of thousands of people rapidly, I suspect you won't win.
posted by Maias at 6:36 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


NASA's exploration idea, last time presented here, was a debate between a moon base and a Martian outpost, within its own ranks. There was no clear reason to do either in the first place. As for exploration, NASA seems bent on letting everyone else in the universe know where to find fresh human meat. The Japanese, however, are trying to build a space elevator and take the lead in nano cable production and high altitude construction, with the hope of building a functional project for immediate use in disposing toxic waste.
posted by Brian B. at 7:14 PM on February 6, 2009


the hope of building a functional project for immediate use in disposing toxic waste.

by disposing it into the upper atmosphere or into near-earth orbit? really? that's what a good idea looks like?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:22 PM on February 6, 2009


(sorry. ignore the derail, it's just... oh, never mind.)
posted by saulgoodman at 7:24 PM on February 6, 2009


by disposing it into the upper atmosphere or into near-earth orbit? really? that's what a good idea looks like?

First base is 22,000 miles away, outside the exosphere. Assuming it would be too expensive or even illegal to hoist all that waste up the cable above Japan's seas, my plan would have space tourists stuff the waste in their trouser legs and furtively drop them on the decks of the station out of site of the space cadets.
posted by Brian B. at 7:53 PM on February 6, 2009


Yeah it will be great when this happens while your space elevator is lifting a ton of plutonium.
posted by delmoi at 8:31 PM on February 6, 2009


I suggest having one ~/Politics directory where you leave notes for yourself about the exceptionally asinine political stunts, like obviously this one. I put the notes into files for the year when the politicians involved are next up for election, so 2012 for Nelson and 2014 for Collins. So you will just read the 2012 file in 2012, weigh the various factors, and then give money to the opponents of the worst offenders.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:56 PM on February 6, 2009


Yeah it will be great when this happens while your space elevator is lifting a ton of plutonium.

That's the 3/4 length break. The same animation that breaks at the ground anchor has the cable leaving the earth entirely. Ironically, the illustration itself is broken (the first link) so we'll just need to imagine the emergency release system doing its job, as usual.
posted by Brian B. at 9:01 PM on February 6, 2009


America became great because it innovated and made itself a harbor for innovators and free-thinkers in spheres of politics as well as science and technology. America remains great when we attract the best and the brightest, the most eager and hardworking and the sharpest people, people who would leave everything they know and love behind them for the opportunity to come and learn and work here. We ought to make it our absolute central goal to understand clearly what it is that maximizes this kind of transformative immigrant experience in the minds of those who are standing on the shore and considering their options, and in doing it. America should be about something other than a shared language or cuisine or a set of holidays. A good deal of that has to do with innovation.

Japan, and a lot of other countries, dribble away a considerable amount of money on wasteful science and research projects (I'm looking at you, 5th Gen Computing Program!) But I believe that that happens a good deal less here, because the caliber of people we attract are so good, and people are more invested in what they are doing.

A dollar invested in basic research is going to pay off hugely more, down the stretch, than a dollar spent in bridge-fixing. Bridges are great, and I hate to see even one fail. But, it's monumentally short-sighted to kick those things off of the stimulus package that are most likely to give us an edge in the long term.

And it's not a zero sum game. Some guy out of somewhere comes up with a clever idea (a mass-market camera, say) and creates a whole industry that didn't exist before. We want, as much as possible, to create the conditions that make that more likely to happen here than anywhere else. We've basically starved places like NIH and NSF for years.

And NASA - read Zuprin's book THE CASE FOR MARS. America always defined itself as being at the edge of a frontier. Just like the Louisiana Purchase, lots of unforseen new industries, discoveries, possibilities are going to come out of exploring beyond our own planet (though I would argue it would be wise to do as much of it as possible with robots).
posted by newdaddy at 9:27 PM on February 6, 2009


When I toured the NASA facility on the Florida coast it nearly brought me to tears. There were three more Saturn V rockets, three more explorations planned, and the project was cancelled. We have never been even close to going back.

People died to make space exploration possible, and just when it was getting good, it was stopped. What a waste. Had it continued, we'd have a permanent colony on the moon. Be getting ready to inhabit Mars. Planning to save our sorry species from the ecological doom we've wrought upon ourselves.

The Rocket Garden is quickly becoming the rust garden. One rocket is missing; I guess it had become a hazard. Some of the most important human history is falling apart. And all over the working facilities, as we drove past them in the tour bus, we could see that maintenance has stopped. Concrete stairs that are crumbling away. Things needing painting. Buildings starting to rot out. Weeds growing up through concrete. Rust.

The history of the early days of the space program is awe-inspiring and humbling. Our recent history is embarassing and depressing. NASA was one of the greatest things ever, and now it seems pretty much destroyed by idiot politicians who'd rather spend bazillions nuking Iraqis than advancing our sciences.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:28 PM on February 6, 2009


Would your post-doc take a job digging ditches?

But, hey, it'd be stupid to bring manufacturing back home, amirite?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:44 PM on February 6, 2009


Thoughts about levels of condescension aside, the post-doc digging ditches scenario seemingly assumes that there are an infinite number of jobs, that the ditch would otherwise go un-dug.

Okay, yes, post-doc digs ditches... and the person who would otherwise dig that ditch would... what?

At some point the answer is more likely to be "live on the street" or "live on the street and be that much more of an operational, financial burden on society because of medical treatment and any number of necessities he (and his family) can't afford" or "steal from the post-doc digging ditches or any number of other people."

Anyone can feel free to relate that the last example creates a justification for increased spending on police and prisons.

Thoughts about condescensions not aside, I'd go more with asinine and trollish. To tie it back into Nelson and Collins, there are times when it's not clear if people believe what they say; if they know better, but have an agenda; or which is worse.
posted by ambient2 at 12:20 AM on February 7, 2009


Oh for fuck's sake, people. Of course I know that spending money on a NOAA scientist has some non-zero stimulative effect on the economy. The point is to maximize that effect. You do not maximize economic stimulus by spending money on government scientists, which you would know if you actually read the wikipedia page on Keynes you linked, or better yet, if you actually read his goddamn book.

Well, no one is proposing to replace NOAA funding with something else, they're proposing to cut that stimulus entirely. Ben Nelson is now saying the bill has to be less then 800 billion because "there has to be some kind of limit." He's a complete idiot. They're hacking away at everything they can in order to get under that arbitrary limit.

Secondly, road and rail construction are great, but you can only do so much at once, and so much over the next few years. We literally can't spend all the money on roads right away, but it's likely that there are scientific projects ready to go immediately if they got the funding.

And let's not forget funding cuts for all the other crap, including aide to states.

And I agree with Pastabagel. Our resources to battle this issue is limited.

What do you think that limit is and why? Simply stating that "our resources are limited" isn't realistic unless you can actually say what that limit is.

We need to maximize the effects of our efforts. Saying that simply giving people money is stimulus is not enough.

Of course, that's the republican position: Give people money through tax cuts. The stimulus bill is now something like 40% Tax cuts. Madness. But anyway, it is absolutely true that giving people money is stimulus, although it's effectiveness depends on how much they save. If they save it all, it won't be very simulative at all (but they theoretically could spend that money if they lost their jobs)

But they key issue here is jobs. The government can print as much money as it wants, although obviously that leads to problems, particularly inflation. But the problem here is that as banks and whatnot de-leverage the money available to the economic system goes down. That's why prices for things are getting cheaper. Money is disappearing as people hoard cash because the 'wealth' they thought they had has disappeared. Whether that was equity in a home or a Credit Default swap. Cash is becoming more valuable. Normally the fed would fight deflation by lowering interest rates but interest rates are at zero

On the other hand "stuff" isn't disappearing, but jobs are. And without those jobs, "stuff" won't get made. So 10 years out, if there's no stimulus we'll have less stuff then we otherwise would.

Frankly, I don't see what the problem what that is. Don't we have enough crap already? I think we do, but there is a social cost in having so many people out of work. So the real problem is neither cash nor stuff. It's jobs And if you hadn't noticed we just lost 600,000 of those this month.

And that's the problem with the economy. There are lots of quality workers out there with nothing to do. They could be out there producing "stuff" or we could give them jobs so that they can go out and buy "stuff" which would cause the stuff makers to hire more people and so on. In other words without stimulus the economy wastes labor.
Let me ask you something. Would your post-doc take a job digging ditches? Because there is a recently laid-off father of four out there with a wife and mortgage to support who would take that job in a second and would work a double shift if they let him. I'm suggesting that we all recalibrate our priorities and our expectations.
Says the guy who claimed to make a quarter million a year. How come "Shared sacrifice" always means poor people sacrificing so rich people can keep their tax cuts. What a fucking joke.

Now is not the time to waste labor, nor waste skilled labor doing construction work when they could be using their skills more effectively.
posted by delmoi at 1:09 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


They succeeded. They still have to resolve Senate-House versions though.

.
posted by Westringia F. at 3:39 AM on February 7, 2009


I'm hearing their success wasn't absolute, the debate preserved $1.2B of NSF and $1B of DOE funding, but there are still deep cuts in other science programs. I'm not sure how school construction faired, $60B of the $77B cut was school construction, so I'm guessing they succeeded there. I also don't know if the final bill cut the increases for defense contractors.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:05 AM on February 7, 2009


How does NSF funding constitute stimulus?
How does any scientific funding constitute stimulus? Well, let me give an example using NIH funding and the company I work for. NIH grants awarded to my company allowed us to hire a new project manager, three more scientists/assistants, develop two new products in the past two years, hire more developers, hire another technical writer, sell over $10,000,000 in hardware and software in the US and overseas. Just from NIH grants totaling under $7,500,000.

So the taxpayer is getting good value from the funding.
posted by paddbear at 7:35 AM on February 7, 2009


As a faculty member doing research, I spend every dollar of grant/contract money I get (I can't bank it). I spend it on a few things, but the dominant categories by far are: (1) salaries for graduate students (who spend that money themselves and will late go on to have longer-term stimulative effects on the economy, and (2) equipment, mostly manufactured in the US and frequently by small businesses since it's specialty equipment. In addition to spending this money, my research (hopefully) produces innovations which improve America's long-term competitiveness. This is especially true since much of my research is focused on energy technologies, improving the long term prognosis for the US economy.

Finally, as a relatively new Assistant Professor, I can tell you I spend a large fraction of my time writing grants for money which I likely won't get (NSF, for example, often has <10% funding rates), which is (in a macroscopic sense) the least productive way I can be spending my time; this takes away from teaching and actual research. If you increase funding for the science so good ideas get funded regularly (rather than based on luck or the mood of program managers/panels), it's short-term stimulative (in terms of spending), medium-term stimulative (in terms of innovations which can be commercialized, etc.), and long-term stimulative (in terms of the students, who are the future innovators).
posted by JMOZ at 12:10 PM on February 7, 2009


Just to add to the chorus, I also work in a lab funded almost entirely off of money from NSF, EPA, and DOE. Half of our grants immediately go to overhead, which indirectly pays our PI's salary as well as the secretarial, janitorial, and computer support people plus being used by the university to pay for electricity and water and things like that. The other half of the money pays salaries for 4 grad students, 3 full-time techs, and 2 post-docs (none of us make very much and all pretty much spend whatever we get right back into the local economy). We also pay work-study money to about 10 undergrads, enabling them to stay in college and eat pizza.

All of the money not going to salary goes to research supplies and equipment--to VWR, Fisher, Cole-Parmer, Waters, Dionex, Shimadzu, YSI, ISCO, Carolina Biological, Forestry Suppliers, and many other companies that make and sell things necessary to research, not to mention Apple, Dell, and Lenovo, as well as the folks who sell us gas to get to our field sites and Home Depot for endless supplies of cable ties, duct tape, and rebar. If we were to ever have any money leftover, we would return it to the federal government. We never do.

And because of the nature of our work, our discoveries have the potential to change the way tax money is spent on land and water management, to better understand and possibly mitigate some effects of global climate change, and maybe even make your local body of water less gross.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:03 PM on February 7, 2009


Paul Krugman saysthe bipartisan senate version will cost about 600,000 Jobs. A small price to pay to sooth a few D.C. egos, I guess.

Does anyone know if bills that come out of conference can be re-filibustered in the senate?
posted by delmoi at 3:25 PM on February 7, 2009


I'm suggesting that we all recalibrate our priorities and our expectations.

Says the guy who claimed to make a quarter million a year. How come "Shared sacrifice" always means poor people sacrificing so rich people can keep their tax cuts. What a fucking joke.

Now is not the time to waste labor, nor waste skilled labor doing construction work when they could be using their skills more effectively.
posted by delmoi at 4:09 AM on February 7


Wow, it's amazing. Forget "missing the point." You aren't even within a light year of the point.

Someone complains that a friend of theirs may not be able to get the precise job they want as evidence of how desperate things are. I counter with someone who had a job, lost it, and now no longer has the luxury of waiting around for the job he wants because people depend on him for money and it doesn't really make a difference where the money comes from.

This is what I'm talking about when I talk about recalibrating priorities and expectations. The grad student's expectations and priorities were set in a completely artificial, almost fanciful world where money was cheap and plentiful. That situation was not normal, it was insane. We knew it was insane then. If you set your expectations in an insane period, it stands to reason that those expectations are no longer valid as we return to sanity.

In other words, the last ten years were not "normal." They were abnormal. We have yet to even pass normal on our down way into the abyss that the next four years will bring. And we are heading into that abyss whether you spend $800 billion, $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion.

Why? Because people like that grad student, and you delmoi, still don't get it. You think you do because you and people around you are feeling some of the effects. But it doesn't seem as though you haven't internalized the reality into your day-to-day financial behavior. That grad student should have assumed that his job was going to disappear in September, and plan accordingly. Hope for the best, assume the worst. But Jesus Christ, it's fucking February and the unwinding started in August six months ago. What the holy hell is everyone waiting for? A goddamn memo? Whatever else, it is certainly the height of irresponsibility to hope that your job will be saved if only the President of the United States could pass a $1 trillion package instead of a $0.8 trillion package.

The ignorance in this thread is staggering. Thee ditch digger question was framed to gauge people's personal attitudes. I can't believe the response. God forbid I suggest that someone take whatever job they can just to make money, when the alternative is no job and no money. This is what happens in a recession. Some percentage of people become unemployed, and a large percentage of people become underemployed. Better to be in the latter category than the former. God forbid I suggest that government scientists don't actually contribute as much to the economy as people who take raw materials, apply their skill to them, build things, and add value in the process. Again, yes, I know that spending on science adds some money to the system, but so does spending on beekeeping, knitting, and pornography. No one appears to be suggesting we stimulate those parts of the economy.

The stimulus could be $0 or $200 trillion. It won't matter. We got here because of a lack of rigor in people's personal and collective financial thinking. People are dumb, they continue to want to be dumb, and no amount of money or mandatory education can change that. They confuse the things they like with the things that objectively should be supported. You like NOAA so you want to spend the money there. You don't like defense, for example, so you don't want to spend the money there. How about somebody check the fucking data to determine objectively whether the latter is more stimulate than the former? How about we sit down and very carefully and methodically check the numbers a few thousand times before we throw down a $1 trillion. If the data says a dollar spent on NIST is more stimulative than another dollar spent on roads or killer robots or tax cuts, then I will admit I'm wrong and wholeheartedly support it. My educated guess is that the data won't come down that way.

But this subjectivity in collective economic decision making isn't new, and it is quite bipartisan. On a personal level, during the good times of 2005, the American people spent money they didn't have on crap they didn't need. Now that times are bad, the American people haven't really changed. They want to borrow money they don't have and spend it on stuff they don't need. Now the stupidity is applied collectively instead of individually.

Whatever. Good luck.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:12 PM on February 7, 2009


No, actually most academics are quite happy being poorly paid while finding some compromise between the research society wants done and their interests, witness the nuclear program. So no "precise job" issues here.

Our point is that academia makes a very good way to keep lots of smart people doing useful stuff, accumulating degrees, etc. during the recession, all without paying them much. You'll otherwise see those people competing for less skilled technical jobs with people who have families & mortgages, meaning more unemployment, more mortgages default, salaries decline, etc.

Obama's stimulus program differs from past neo-conservative stimulus efforts because he's trying to buy useful stuff, not just give everyone $300 or give banks $1T. Yes, sure, it'd be great if economists worked out what stimulus is most effective, but it's much too late now for the slow processes of sorting the real economics from the religion.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:51 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


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