Joe Biden once said, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
President Trump has just shown us his budget. Here is what he values: large tax cuts—mostly for the wealthy—and a buildup of the military and homeland security.
Here is what he does not value: the Medicaid program that allows our poorest citizens to get basic health care; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), a highly cost-effective program with a demonstrated record of success in alleviating hunger and poverty in rural and urban communities alike; and student loans and grants, that allow for some upward mobility.
He also does not value science. His budget not only eviscerates funding for basic research (e.g., an $86 billion over ten years cut to the National Institute of Health), but also funding for the science that government scientists conduct, or government agencies fund, to inform and improve public policy. Just look at this pattern:
Eviscerating Science at the EPA
The proposed budget cuts the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by more than 30 percent overall, returning the agency to staffing levels not seen since the Ford administration. The budget takes particular aim at the EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD), and its many national laboratories. ORD is the science research arm of the EPA, responsible for advising EPA policymakers on safe levels of air and water pollutants, the fate and transport of hazardous waste once it is released into the environment, safe disposal of chemicals, and many other critical matters.
This program also responds to emergencies. ORD was called in recently, for example, to help Toledo, Ohio cope with massive algae blooms in Lake Erie. Trump proposes to cut ORD by over 50 percent. This will simply eviscerate the EPA’s ability to use the best science to protect public health and the environment.
Slashing renewable energy research at DOE
Some of the deepest cuts in Trump’s proposed budget at the Department of Energy (DOE) take aim at clean energy research and development. For example, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would be slashed by 69 percent, including cutting more than half the budget of the renewable energy technology offices that have played a critical role in the precipitous drop in costs of renewable energy such as wind and solar.
The budget also eliminates one of DOE’s crown jewels: the ARPA-E program, which fills a crucial void by providing start-up funding for transformative,= but high-risk technologies. This is particularly important as private venture capital has “all but stopped funding ‘deep technology’ companies,” according to recent Brookings Institution study.
Not surprisingly, ARPA-E has bipartisan support, and corporate luminaries such as Bill Gates and Jeffrey Immelt have called for doubling its funding to $1 billion per year as a key way to develop low cost solutions for greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a clean energy economy.
Zeroing out ARPA-E and cutting other clean energy research and development programs will stall vital progress in developing new technologies to lower global warming emissions and will further erode our economic leadership in clean energy.
Weakening emergency preparedness at NOAA
The budget proposes to eliminate funding for several National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant and education programs, including Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, Coastal Zone Management Grants, the Office of Education, and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. These programs are critical in helping us adapt to a changing environment.
Their elimination will cripple scientific research as well as emergency preparedness, disaster risk reduction, and national security. Programs like Sea Grant, for example, enable universities to conduct research that helps states prepare for coastal flooding.
Canceling vital earth monitoring at NASA
The budget proposes to terminate five Earth Science Mission programs that have furthered knowledge of biological, physical, chemical and extraterrestrial processes: Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI), PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments, and CLARREO Pathfinder.
These five NASA Missions are vital tools for improving our ability to predict everything from agricultural commodity yields to water management and infrastructure management. They have furthered knowledge of biological, physical, chemical and extraterrestrial processes. They have resulted in safeguards that protect our waters and prevent people from eating toxic shellfish, improved aviation safety, and provided essential information about unhealthy air quality.
They have also tested equipment essential for successful satellite launches and provided information about climate measures that inform decision-making with broad economic impacts, including vegetation changes and have provided precise measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Starving agricultural research and conservation at USDA
The US Department of Agriculture would take a 21 percent hit overall. With deep cuts to key research and conservation programs, the budget would undermine the ability of farmers to sustain their land and their livelihoods for the future. The budget slashes tens of millions of dollars from cutting-edge agricultural research programs, effectively denying farmers the science they need to be productive and profitable and to adapt to the harsh realities of a changing climate.
Significant changes to programs that encourage conservation on farmlands would similarly put farmers at a disadvantage and leave the nation’s waters and other critical natural resources more at risk from farm pollution.
Scientists must step up!
Fortunately, Congress, not the President, will ultimately decide what to fund and at what levels. If recent history is any guide, Congress will not attach much weight to President Trump’s misguided budget proposal.
But we must not take anything for granted. This summer, activists from all across the country will likely attend town hall meetings with their congressional representatives. I expect we will hear powerful, heart-rending testimony against the Trump budget’s cynical and vicious attempt to shred the social safety net. But the proposed cuts to science also demand a rallying cry in response, from scientists and from all who value our ability to make public decisions based on the best available evidence.
Now is the time to make our voices heard.
To learn more about how you can effectively stand up for science and influence congress on the budget, check out our recently posted toolkit.