Trump’s Proposed 2020 Budget Takes Aim at Science (Again)

March 14, 2019 | 3:25 pm
Kathleen Rest
Former Executive Director

Earlier this week, President Trump unveiled his proposed budget for 2020, calling it a “Budget for a Better America.”

Better for whom?

Even a quick and high-level look at the spending increases and spending cuts in the proposal demonstrates that the Trump administration is out of touch with the American people. The president’s budget calls for dramatic increases in new defense spending ($750 billion!) and—wait for it—$8.6 billion for his wall along the border with Mexico.

It’s the domestic programs that take the hit. The budget slashes programs that provide health care, food, and housing assistance to our nation’s families. It proposes reductions in tax credits that help keep working families out of poverty.

Predictably, the president’s budget once again takes aim at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), proposing a 31 percent cut in the agency charged with ensuring safeguards critical to our nation’s health—clean air, clean water, and chemical safety, along with disaster preparedness and response.

The president’s budget also signals his clear antipathy towards action on climate change, with a host of cuts to climate research, adaptation, and even energy efficiency and renewable energy. These include:

  • Completely eliminating the EPA’s Global Climate Change Research Office
  • Cutting the Climate Adaptation Science Center in the Department of the Interior by nearly 50 percent
  • Completely eliminating Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) (energy innovation be damned!)
  • A whopping 70 percent decrease in funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy. (In contrast, DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy Research & Development would get an additional $6o million.)
  • Elimination of the Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Stewardship Program, which helps farmers adopt sustainable agriculture practices that can help them adapt to a changing climate
  • Elimination of two planned Earth science missions at NASA aimed at understanding climate systems
  • Elimination of the tax credit to decrease the cost of an electric vehicle

A “Better America” runs on science

Science. It creates knowledge. It spurs innovation. It identifies and anticipates problems and risks. It trains and mentors the next generation of STEM professionals for critical roles in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It creates jobs. It fuels our nation’s competitiveness. But all this seems to be lost on the Trump administration as it chips away at the federal science budget.

The president’s budget calls for cuts to science agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and even the National Science Foundation, which is the mainstay of grant-making for tens of thousands of scientists across the country.  This is shockingly short-sighted, with long-term implications for our nation’s scientific enterprise.

You be the judge. Would President Trump’s budget result in a better America? Better for the health, safety, and livelihoods of the American people? Or perhaps it’s simply better for a select group of special friends and special interests.

Good news

There is a silver lining here. The president’s budget is simply a wish list. Congress controls the purse, and over the next months, appropriators in both the Senate and the House of Representatives will decide what gets funded and where to spend taxpayer dollars. Last year, Congress restored many of the president’s proposed cuts to science agencies and actually boosted research funding in some cases.

It’s not too early to let your congressional representatives know what you, as a constituent, think makes for a better America—what government safeguards, programs, and services are important to you and integral to the health and safety of our families and communities.

At UCS, we will be watching the budget process unfold and look forward to working with Congress to fund the government in a way that really will make for a better America.