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A budget is a statement of ethics

Fri, Mar 3rd, 2006
Posted in Commentary

The Union of Concerned Scientists asked its’ members to write to the local papers concerning the Bush administrations perverse use of scientific research, the muzzling of scientists, and use of political litmus tests for hiring and appointment to review panels.

I was trying to digest the “State of the Union”, the proposed budget, the “budget reconciliation bill”, the five year projections and Bush’s sudden epiphany that we may become subservient to small oil rich nations if we don’t change our ways.

Bush’s sudden epiphany indicated a new interest in renewable energy. But his budget proposal would fund renewable energy initiatives only to the level they were in 2000.

The week after the state of the union the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) prepared to lay off staff due to budget cuts. This was reported in the press. The Department of Energy scraped up about 15% of the budget cuts to keep staff on and avoid embarrassment. Adjusted for inflation the Bush budget for solar energy is less than when Carter was president. Federal budget requests for solar energy research of 148 million are dwarfed by the state of California’s 3 billion for this year.

Bush also stated “Our government has the responsibility to help provide health care for the poor and the elderly. And we are meeting that responsibility”. They are not. The budget calls for 11 billion from Medicare and Medicaid. There are 45 million elderly and poor without health insurance.

Trumping science with ideology and politics is not new. This administration has brought it to a new art form. The Union of Concerned scientists presented a petition to the administration signed by 49 Nobel Laureates, 63 National Medal of Science recipients, and 171 members of the National Academies asking them to cease using political litmus tests and suppressing research. I can document no response by the government.

James E. Hansen, Ph.D. director of the Goddard Institute of NASA was reprimanded by a 24 year old Bush appointed public relations person, George Deutsch. Dr. Hansen had spoken about his views on global warming. Hansen was told there would be dire results if he continued to share his views.

Another egregious case involves the proposed regulation for particulate matter (PM). PM causes premature heart attacks, strokes, lung disease and other health effects. After years of work the EPA staff and a blue ribbon review panel recommended certain controls. After the White House Office of Management and Budget sent unsigned comments mimicking industry comments the Bush appointed commissioner ignored the scientific panel and recommended much weaker controls.

There are many lessons in researching the budget and policy decisions. Most of all watch what they are doing and ignore what they are saying. There was a suggestion congress was responsible for cutting the Science to Achieve Results Program. This budget proposal is 2 million dollars less than congress authorized last year. This budget proposal cuts funds for all federal Science endeavors except nuclear energy.

Currently the world is struggling with the possibility Iran may use its’ nuclear energy plants to produce isotopes capable of use in war heads. This budget proposal asks for 250 million dollars to form a “Global Nuclear Energy Partnership” to encourage developing nations to build nuclear power plants. This is ludicrous. Iraq was our ally/friend during the Iran-Iraq war. Iran was our ally under the Shah. Bin Laden was our ally fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan during the cold war. Encouraging nations that some day may not be as friendly as at present to acquire nuclear capabilities is idiotic.

The Bush budget does not match his rhetoric. Kids are not going to be persuaded to become scientists and mathematicians by a government that does not allow facts and data to get in the way of beliefs and ideology. Student loan funds are cut again in this budget request.

If you explore where the administration would like to spend your tax money you will find the disconnect between what they say and what they do. You will wonder if the patients are running the asylum.

Dr. Robert Sauer lives in Preston.

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