Friday, March 1, 2013

A sequester thought

I don't really have much to say on the sequester that hasn't been said elsewhere, so I'll keep this short. Let's just say that there are probably a lot better ways of going about budget-cutting, and there's no doubt that there will be a drop in GDP growth because of this. That's bad.

Former NIH director Elias Zerhouni's comment to the Washington Post:
The second area is vibrant human capital, which is the part that I’m most concerned about. If we don’t offer the young bright minds a career that is predictable, then we lose them. We have, like, 17,000 scholarships that we give to people to stay in science.
I suspect that most readers of this blog hold federal funding of graduate students and postdocs at arms' length, in that it's partially responsible for the excess of scientists. But this sort of near-random cutting is not ideal and there are undoubtedly lots of graduate students, postdocs and assistant professors who will be permanently and negatively affected.

Best wishes to them, and to all of us. 

5 comments:

  1. Yup. And the tenured professors in their 50's and 60's that dont have active labs, dont have grant money, make 6 figs a year, and wont retire wont be touched.

    I really hope the sequester and NIH budget cutting does something to the tenure system---like ends it.

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  2. As much as this sucks for science jobs in the short term, serious budget cuts have to be done sooner than later, and this seems like a sufficiently neutral plan. Certainly there may be better ways of budget-cutting... but what are they? And could they pass both the House and the Senate?

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    1. But we DON'T have to make (any more) serious short-term budget cuts sooner rather than later, or at least we didn't until this stupid process was set in motion. In the medium- to long-term, yes, we need to address especially health care costs and increase tax revenues. But neither of these is part of this ridiculous "sequestration". Unemployment is still high, and taking money out of the economy is likely counterproductive even regarding the deficit due to depressing growth. The fact that almost everyone ignores our immediate problems and focuses instead on the deficit represents a massive failure on the part of political leadership and the worthless media and pundit class.

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    2. Actually, Samuel71, we don't have to make any cuts AT ALL. We have the sixth lowest non-defense spending of the 34 OECD nations, the second highest defense spending, and the fourth lowest overall taxes (all relative to GDP). It looks pretty clear to me that all of our problem lies in the defense department and the waves of failed tax cuts that we have been passing since the 1980s. Outside of DoD, there probably a few nickle-and-dime things that ought to be cut, but for each of those, there are five where spending ought to be increased.

      In the short term, however, we shouldn't be making any net cuts at all. Cutting when you are in a liquidity trap is simply counter-productive, as the private sector does not pick up the slack.

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  3. "If we don’t offer the young bright minds a career that is predictable, then we lose them."
    I know this quote was intended to mean that people want a career with reliable odds of being employed long term at a living wage and viable pathways for advancement. But the wording of the quote is terrible- it sounds like bright people lack curiosity. Scientific research is never PREDICTABLE.

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