Response (canned) and reply to an open letter about science funding

In response to my open letter (emailed directly to my congressional representatives), Pat Toomey replied with this, seemingly, canned response:


Dear Steven,

Thank you for contacting me about scientific research funding. I appreciate hearing from you.

I value your input on scientific research funding and the role it plays in driving innovation and economic competitiveness. I also understand your support for increased federal funding for this issue. That said, our nation is facing a $1 trillion deficit, and the President’s latest budget proposal continues this unsustainable path for years to come. All areas of government spending must be carefully examined so that we can put our nation on a path toward fiscal solvency. Inevitably, tough choices will have to be made, and making such choices is something that I have promised to the people of Pennsylvania.

Now that the Fiscal Year 2013 budget process is completed, please be assured that I will keep your views about federal funding for basic scientific research in mind. Your input is helpful as Congress begins focusing on the Fiscal Year 2014 budget and how we can correct our fiscal path, help foster job creation, and improve the economy for all Americans.

Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.



Pat Toomey
U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania



My reply, unedited:



Some math:
$1 trillion deficit = $1000 billion.
Total requested funding of 3 major science agencies for FY 2013 (NIH, NSF, NASA) = approximately $56 billion
56/1000 = Science funding accounts for 5.6% of the total deficit.
Let’s be austere and cut 50% of this spending, or a total of 2.8% of the deficit! We’ve saved ourselves 28 billion dollars!
Of course, as a result, half the science labs in the US fold in the coming years. Maybe some of the top scientists may relocate to the UK, China, or Germany, where governments are investing in science, resulting in the direct loss of jobs in the US (not just the scientists, but their labs, techs, grad students, etc.); but maybe not. Maybe they just stop contributing to science.
Science which promotes economic growth at a faster rate than the influx of labor and capital. Science which promotes economic growth at a faster rate not for the US any longer but for its global competitors. And that $28 billion we saved by slicing basic science research? That money would have been made up, by some estimates, twice over.

Scientific funding creates good jobs. Families USA has estimated that each $1 billion of NIH research grant funding creates more than 15,000 jobs with an average wage of $52,000 a year and generates $2.21 billion of new business activity.


See, this is not a simple economic equation. It requires foresight, smart investment. Consider a family struggling to pay for its lifestyle, and incurring massive debt. Don’t buy the fanciest, most expensive alarm system money can buy, but slash out the money Mom and Dad need to pay for gas to get to work, or the kids need to get to school. There will be nothing left to protect.
Oh, and that math at the top of this letter – slicing education money is a good way to ensure no one catches up with your bogus arguments. Of course, that’s a separate issue.