Once Again, The Trump Administration Takes The Ax To Science Funding

It’s a day that ends with “-y”, so you know the Trump Administration will propose something horrible. Today, it’s massive cuts in the discretionary budget–which includes science (boldface mine):

The deficit would also persist despite the administration’s plans for steep cuts in discretionary programs outside of the Defense Department. In an op-ed last month, Acting Budget Director Russ Vought said the administration will seek a 5 percent cut to all other federal agencies.

But his piece left unclear whether those cuts would be based off current spending levels or some other amount. The administration official said the 5 percent cut would be calculated from the cap on spending for this fiscal year.

The spending limit — also known as the sequester — is part of the Budget Control Act. According to the official, the spending reductions in Trump’s budget will allow them to hit the sequester levels for fiscal year 2020. If Congress does not vote to lift the spending caps, the sequester will automatically take effect.

In his op-ed, Vought said the White House will preserve defense funding by funneling money into an account for overseas contingency operations, which is not covered by the spending caps. The new money is expected to total close to $174 billion — more than double the current tally, according to sources.

As best as I’m able to tell, it looks like the proposed NIH budget would be cut by over $4 billion, to about $33 billion and change (pdf; p. 437 – 438; page numbers refer to pdf page, not document page). AHRQ would be moved into NIH, and have its budget cut by around 25 percent. NSF would also see about a 25% cut (p. 1096).

Admittedly, Congress never liked any of Il Trumpe’s deep cuts–or any cuts–to science funding. With Democrats in control of the House, it’s probably dead on arrival. What’s galling are the values on display: tax cuts for the rich, combined with a carve out for war spending. Given that the ‘overseas contingency operations’ account would be double what we actually spend overseas, it’s a slush fund, and one more way Congress could abdicate its responsibility to oversee spending.

Like I said, it won’t happen, but this Republican administration is awful. While we’re here, how about we also get some Democrats on record about where they stand on artificially imposed austerity through the Budget Control Act? Letting it expire a quiet death in 2021 would be a good thing.

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