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1.12.04

NSF Suffers

Congress Trims Money For Science Agency

Congress has cut the budget for the National Science Foundation, an engine for research in science and technology, just two years after endorsing a plan to double the amount given to the agency.

Supporters of scientific research, in government and at universities, noted that the cut came as lawmakers earmarked more money for local projects like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Punxsutawney Weather Museum in Pennsylvania.

... The $388 billion spending bill for the current fiscal year, approved by both houses of Congress on Nov. 20, provides $5.473 billion for the National Science Foundation, which is $105 million less than it got last year and $272 million less than President Bush requested.

-- via TAPPED


Maybe I won't be able to go to Australia after all.

Nick Confessore wonders whether this is just a bit of belt-tightening or whether it's rooted in the GOP's distaste for science. I suspect a little of both. Cutting the NSF budget by a few million dollars doesn't seem like a very productive battle in the war against science, so it doesn't seem like a policy that would be pursued on its own merits. But if you're looking to cut money somewhere, it's no surprise that creationists and climate change skeptics would not place high priority on making sure the NSF is flush with cash.

Confessore also speculates that, if the Democrats are able to get their act together, the various outrages contained in the spending bill would provide good fodder for discrediting the Republicans. In general, I would agree. But it's hard to see how the case of the NSF would contribute much to that rhetorical strategy. Shaving a few million dollars from an agency most Americans have never heard of isn't really going to make the public's blood boil. It would be more likely to reinforce the Al Gore image of Democrats as elite, cold wonkish types.

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