BREAKING: Republicans derail the COMPETES act

By Phil Plait | May 19, 2010 7:25 pm

In a 261-148 vote that went almost exactly along party lines, the America COMPETES act was defeated. Over $40 billion dollars was designated in that bill to go toward science and technology innovation, and to provide a lot of jobs to meet our nation’s needs for the future.

As I wrote earlier, Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) added language to the bill basically forcing Democrats to withdraw — by adding a provision that punishes people who used government computers to view pornography. The Democrats backed down, putting the bill back in Committee, which accepted the new language and further compromised with the Republicans by cutting back funding from five years down to three… which was on top of already cutting back spending about 10%. The cutback by two years dropped the funding from about $85B down to $47B, but apparently even that wasn’t enough.

Every Democrat in the House voted for the bill, but only 15 Republicans (fewer than 10%) joined them. The bill got a simple majority, but needed to get a 2/3 majority to pass — that was a gamble by the Democrats; it was the only way to bring it to a vote without having the Republicans change the language yet again. After acquiescing to the demands of the Republicans I imagine it seemed like a fair bet.

It wasn’t. And the Republicans defeated an important and necessary authorization of funding.

Lest you think I’m not being fair, here is a quote from the House Science Committee page:

Over 750 organizations endorsed reauthorization of COMPETES, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, the Council on Competitiveness, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the National Venture Capital Association, TechAmerica, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the American Chemical Society, and others, including nearly 100 universities and colleges.

There is still some hope, though. According to the AP (via Talking Points Memo):

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement that he was "extremely disappointed Republicans continued to play political games, voting against a job-creating measure that had bipartisan support." He said he planned to bring the bill back to the floor soon under normal rules requiring only a majority for passage.

I am not sure how that can be done once a measure has been voted down, and unfortunately Congressional offices on the east coast are closed as I write this. I’ll see if I can find out more on Thursday (unless someone knows how and can comment below).

I have friends who were (are? I can still hope it’s "are") depending on this funding to continue to educate the next generation of scientists. I certainly hope the House Democrats find a way to get this bill back to the Floor, get it passed so that funding is reauthorized, and in this way make sure our country has a chance to continue to stand tall in the world when it comes to our scientific capabilities.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics

Comments (93)

  1. While I take everything at HuffPo with a grain of salt (you gotta on any charged site don’t you?), I found this one “interesting”. Maybe they realize that the GOP is the last place to expect funding: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/10/only-six-percent-of-scien_n_229382.html

  2. And that’s what happens when you place your political party and partisan mudslinging above the needs of your country…

    It’s amazing that the same people who accused anyone who would question the decision they made as a majority in the government of undermining America is doing exactly that just to be spiteful. I guess if they’re not in charge, the nation can’t be allowed to stay ahead in R&D and education. Even if the act in question was originally passed by Republicans as well.

  3. A couple of things to point out: The original bill was a part of President Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative. So, blaming Republicans for not playing ball is fine, as it’s true, but let’s remember where this very important bit of funding came from in the first place: Republicans.

    Republicans are apparently upset that none of their suggested amendments were incorporated into the bill, not just the pornography thing.

    At least, the above are true according to this article: http://theenergycollective.com/TheEnergyCollective/66180

    I think if the bill is reintroduced for a simple majority vote, there will be a chance to introduce those amendments, though I’m not sure. I agree this is important funding. Let’s hope both parties can come to mutually agreeable terms.

  4. David Turing

    Is this really surprising to anyone? The Republicans are an anti-science pro religion party.

  5. Joe

    Phil. We are trillions of dollars in debt. The dollar is teetering on the edge of collapse, with the euro soon to follow (or possibly preceding). The jobs from the first stimulus package are due to expire within a few years. Our education system is one of the worst in the world (and not through any lack of funding!), and 40 billion dollars is supposed to boost our science. Save your energy and stop being upset about this.

    With the exception of the space program (started, if you remember, by an international competition on the grounds of national security), and the atom bomb (also a military enterprise), every single major scientific advancement has come from private enterprise. I seriously doubt that your colleagues that you brought up as anecdotal proof of the great need for this legislation cannot survive without this 40 billion dollars, which I’m SURE would be put to its absolute most efficient use, since it’s coming from the government and all.

    While I don’t doubt that this is pure political posturing (if the balance of power were reversed, the Repubs would be all for this, and the Dems would be kicking and screaming), I’m glad to see that the supposed “small government” party is putting its foot down on needless spending. Our country truly CANNOT afford any more.

  6. AR

    Good. Any cut in government spending is a good thing, especially in a time of economic hard ship.

    Of course, people will say that $40 billion is nothing compared to the utterly worthless stuff already being bought with taxes, but on that I refer to Secretary Gates:

    “One of the members of Congress, I’m told, said, ‘Well, why is $3 billion for the alternative engine such a big deal when we’ve got a trillion-dollar deficit?’ I would submit that’s one of the reasons we have a trillion-dollar deficit, is that kind of thinking.”

  7. Much as I appreciate science and see its importance, if I were a senator or congressman I’d vote against absolutely anything that spends money anywhere on anything. Our country is falling apart due to overspending and we can’t afford to spend 40 billion, much as we may want to.

    Anyway, private industry does better than the government, which would almost surely squander the money on grants to idiotic proposals, as it usually does.

    Cutting spending needs to be NUMBER 1 or we will not “create jobs” we will lose them even faster.

    We’re like an overloaded zeppelin that is about to crash for lack of lift. It’s time to start panicking and throwing everything overboard that is not nailed down. It’s our only hope to lighten the load enough that we won’t crash and burn.

    Sad, really, but spending is for when your debt is not growing five times as fast as your GDP. There’s a word for that – suicide.

  8. Keith

    My question is why would a provision punishing people for using government computers to view pornography actually cost votes? Seems logical to me…

  9. Chris Barnhart (#3): Yes, as I point out in the previous article about this, it was a Bush initiative. But it was passed in a Democratically controlled Congress.

    Joe (#5) and Steve Packard (#7): I appreciate the situation we are in. However, if we eat our seed corn we won’t survive. We’re still spending millions of dollars an hour in the Middle East, and still wasting lots of money on things that don’t need it. We need this.

    AR (#6): I won’t even bother debunking your statement, as it’s trivially easy. No wait, here’s one: let’s take all the spending we do on the military away from it, today. Any less spending is good, right?

  10. George Burkhard

    Why is it that no one seems to understand that canceling all programs to save money in the short term is not the way to get us out of a budget crisis long term? We need to remain competitive in a global economy, one that is driven almost completely by scientific advancement. All of those technological advancements were NOT developed privately, I don’t know where Joe got that idea from. Almost all basic research that provides the basis for advanced technologies is done in research institutions (which receieve government funding and whose researchers get grants from the government) and in national labs. You can thank government funding for every transistor, fiber optic, laser, LCD display, LEDs, organic semiconductors, etc that you use every day and that made this economy as strong as it is. Sure, private companies perfected the production of these things once they were discovered but the basic science is done in academic institutions and national labs. Private companies do not pay theorists to come up with general relativity so that we can have GPS in our cars.

  11. AR

    Sounds good to me.

    Even if you don’t want to go that far, though, as per the article I quoted Secretary Gates from, America IS currently in the unusual situation that giving the military everything it wanted would result in a reduction in military spending. Congress is pushing forward military projects that even the DoD asserts to be wasteful.

    Why would one expect science spending to be any different?

  12. AR

    Also, I wonder why we should be so jingoistic about just who discovers stuff. Why is it to troublesome for you to accept a world in which India is a technological leader? Do you feel guilty every time you apply the Copernican principle because Copernicus was from the Kingdom of Poland?

  13. Hasty

    Wait, whats all this talk about spending money? I thought this was about porn?
    /s

  14. Astrofiend

    Yes – America, like many other countries in the world at the moment, needs to make cutbacks. What would be refreshing to see is a government that had the balls to pull some of those savings from ridiculous my-schlong-is-bigger-than-yours military expenditure and pointless ongoing warfare. Saddam would literally be pissing himself laughing right now if there were such thing as an afterlife.

    Why is your country beholden to hicks with small d__s who are single-handedly sinking your country with their BS ‘peace through superior fire power’ mantra?

    Where would you rather cut back – 40B on a positive measure to improve your country and to go some way to regain its position at the forefront of science and tech, or buttloads more cash to fund DARPA pipe-dreams?

  15. Astrofiend

    Ah – beat me to the punch Phil.

  16. Phil: Sorry I missed the previous article. While it did pass a Democratically controlled congress first time round, it passed unanimously, so clearly Republican congressmen supported it to a wo/man. (You may have pointed that out, too. It’s not that I’m not interested in reading your previous article; it’s that I’m also doing laundry.)

    As a fiscal conservative and a former student of science, I can see both sides of this one. I do think government spending and oversight has totally run amok, but I also see a need to spend “smart,” and this is one instance I feel might be smart. I’m all for private sector funding and initiatives, but I think this legislation has done some good.

    I wonder if this current move to stall/stop refunding is in response to the “no more spending at all (except for the military)” movement in this country. Moderate Republicans are suddenly finding themselves in danger of losing their jobs by extreme fiscal conservatives.

    At any rate, I’ll be interested to know what happens to this bill. Thanks for keeping us informed, Phil.

  17. Joe

    Yes, but to act like if we don’t pass this science in the U.S. is doomed is more than a little melodramatic. I would LOVE to see our current foreign affairs terminated and focus more on defense and prevention than nation-building, trust me. But to say that we’re spending copious amounts of money on military so it’s okay to dole out 40 billion on science funding is silly. Don’t use the assumption that we all must be Republicans (I’m not) too so we’re pro-war to further your claims that this funding is so critical. It’s really not. What IS critical is that we stop spending period.

  18. Why would one expect science spending to be any different?

    Hmm, yes, that’s why you hear about NASA, the NIH, and the NSF griping about all the unwanted excess money Congress demands they spend.

  19. Astrofiend

    11. AR Says:
    May 19th, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    As I see it, there’s no problem with other countries advancing their capabilities, or surpassing that of my country or yours. Good on ‘em.

    But don’t you want to live in a country where either you or your children have access to the finest education, among the best universities in the world, the pick of the job opportunities and the ability to be inspired by corporations, institutions, agencies and people that they have access to, that exist in their own country and where they can visit or interact and not have to fly half way around the world to do so?

    It’s about living in a country where you can go and see a space shuttle or indeed ANY rocket take off, a country that spawned silicon valley and the greatest technological revolution in history. You in America have direct access to these amazing agencies and people. Kids can look at them and realistically think ‘one day I could work in that building’.

    It’s not jingoistic or racist or anything like that to desire to live in a country where these sort of opportunities exist.

  20. I’m reading these comments and trying to reconcile the statements that ‘private enterprise’ is better (and that government spending brought about the GFC). Correct me if I’m wrong, but it was private enterprises in the form of AIG and Fanny May, etc, that caused the GFC because of irresponsibly overextending loans.

    As for ‘with a few exceptions’ government spending doesn’t reap rewards – in the US alone, the aeronautics industry would be a shadow of itself without military and NASA spending. The internet – the global cashcow – was created by ARPA, a government agency. Even where private enterprise has been the source of innovation, it has mostly been done because of government subsidies and incentives.

    This is not to mention all of the technologies that have trickled out of government spending – things like global communications networks and global positioning. Television and simple phone communications developments were pushed forward by government backed organisations like the BBC and British Telecom (admittedly, it is doing well since it was privatised).

    Here in Australia, private enterprise has been prevaricating on a national high-speed communications network and fibre to the home for years – now the government is finally stepping in and putting in the infrastructure to provide an enabling technology which will reap much more than it will sow.

    The benefits from that $40 billion that will now not be spent by the US government were immeasurable and would have enabled a flow of money through contractors and workers. Now, there will be nothing.

  21. CoolHandl

    “With the exception of the space program (started, if you remember, by an international competition on the grounds of national security), and the atom bomb (also a military enterprise), every single major scientific advancement has come from private enterprise.”

    How would one assess the accuracy of this?

    It is common these days to throw out sweeping statements like that and treat them as if they were fact. I don’t know if this statement is true or not. Technically, it only takes one counterexample to make it false, but I suspect any such effort would be met with a moving goalpost, such as changing the definition of “major advancement”. Could we get a list? There is also the problem of scope. Over what period of time? Is that US only or worldwide.

    Come to think of it, a “major advancement” is never a singular or isolated “eureka” event, so how would one even characterize what constitutes such a thing, let alone figure out whether it was public sector or private?

  22. IBY

    @Steve Packard
    Yeah, and private companies never squanders money at all. *sarcasm*

    So I don’t get it. When there is something useful like this bill that would be of great benefit in the long run, people like you are against it. Especially since it would create jobs, which is a pretty important part of the economy. Honestly, is it really a recovery when there is no jobs? By the way, like another commenter mentioned in a previous post, look up paradox of thrift: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/07/the-paradox-of-thrift-for-real/

  23. Joe

    Horus:

    Your confusion about the current financial crisis is understandable, considering the headlines this past year. In reality, the housing meltdown was caused by a little piece of legislation signed into law by Jimmy Carter in the 70s, MANDATING loans to be given to basically whoever asked for them on the pretense of controlling racism in the home market. That act was expanded upon by every president since with the exception of Reagan. Obviously it’s a little deeper than that, but this “false demand” for housing expanded, created a bubble, and burst in 2007. I find it interesting that you cite Fannie May since it’s a quasi-government enterprise created to sustain this artificial housing bubble. The free market did indeed cause this crisis- by government mandate.

    I recommend reading “Free To Choose” by Milton Friedman, cited by TIME, Economist, and Forbes to be the premiere economist of the last century. He’s very down to earth and easy to understand, and basically outlines why the free market works.

  24. Sean

    Actually, I remember reading somewhere that the majority of scientific research in the US is done by public institutions (such as public universities) and as such is very dependent on public funding. Even “private” scientific research is often subsidized with public funding.

    I’ll see if I can dig up the article…

  25. “Much as I appreciate science and see its importance, if I were a senator or congressman I’d vote against absolutely anything that spends money anywhere on anything.”

    Ok Steve, let’s say you’re a lawmaker.

    Start with cutting your own salary, your staff expenses, your housing allowances, then move on to shutting down well… the entire government. Everything from roads to military, to firefighters, to police, to schools.

    As you said, you’d vote against absolutely anything that spends even a penny and all those spending bills that fund government projects are up for renewal throughout the year. So go ahead and shut down all federal spending since we all know that ridiculous, knee-jerk hyperbole is the best way to solve problems.

    By the way, what’s the nation’s two biggest expenses? Military and social security. What has been the biggest driver in increased spending over the last six years? Military and bailouts. So maybe, just maybe, you the hypothetical lawmaker would actually target spending cuts to places where we shouldn’t be spending money than demonstrating exactly the kind of abject fiscal incompetence and knee jerk hysteria that’s wrecking the government today?

  26. Dave English

    Unfortunatley, we have a spending problem rather than a revenue problem. This has a long history from Jimmy Carter’s administration that brought us to this point with housing laws passed by Democrats that encouraged selling to less than qualified persons, enforced with vigor by Janet Reno in the ’90s, until it became an epidemic of pure fraud by 2000. Several attempts by Republicans to change the house loan practices were blocked by Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank. Then certain Wall Street firms got into the gravy train of easy money, aggravating the financial balances. A few years later it all started falling apart. When big government stepped in to the rescue, even they didn’t have enough money to solve the problem so we are adding more debt then ever before trying to fix problems caused by stupid liberal Democrat laws. That’s why so many important programs are in danger of being cut. Send complaints to Sen. Dodd, Jimmy Carter, Janet Reno, Rep. Frank and some Wall Street firms.Good luck withyour jobs.

  27. Joe

    Proponents of this bill: “We’re spending money on military so we should spend money on everything else!”

    *exasperation*

    Sean:

    So according to your article, the telephone, vaccines, automobiles, the personal computer, etc…. were all publicly funded? Interesting…

  28. Ema Nymton

    Wow, Joe.

    You really are very dumb, aren’t you?

  29. Autumn

    Joe, I feel that you’re being a little disingenuous.
    While the fair housing acts did free up a lot of loans for those who would not have gotten them otherwise, it was less a matter of “mandate” than of an industry itching to move into new markets. The “fairness” and “encouragement” were simply industry-supported relaxations of government limits on whom loans could be made to. The risk was known to the lenders, and eagerly taken on, as the benefits of the huge new market outweighed the risk.
    In the new century, as technology made more complex transactions feasible, the lenders demanded that they be able to take on ever-riskier debt, as there now existed new ways to transfer the debt around.
    This isn’t to say that capitalism is bad, or even that the mortgage industry overstepped the bounds of decency; as a shareholder, I expect a corporation to use any legal means to expand its profits. The problem was no one in government doing their job of regulating the marketplace.

    Oh, and without public (and private) funds, R and D ceases to happen, as it is not good business to spend money unless one knows what will result.

  30. Theobroma Cacao

    Joe(#5): “every single major scientific advancement has come from private enterprise.”

    Um. Are you calling university research labs ‘private enterprise’, not to mention the work done at the various national labs? I’ll admit I’ve gotten a bit weary of the beatification of ‘private enterprise’. I’d suggest more basic (as opposed to applied) scientific advancement comes out of publicly funded research than privately funded research.

    However, that aside, the defeat of America COMPETES isn’t about not spending money. It’s about short-sighted political posturing in preparation for the upcoming elections. In the grand scheme of things, $40B for a program that creates jobs and facilitates further advancement (which also creates jobs) would be far better than buying more hardware that the military doesn’t want (just to pick one example).

  31. Sean

    Joe, lots of people have been turned down for loans. People *used* to be turned down for things like having poor credit, not having a large enough down payment, etc. But it was *DE-regulation* during the Bush years that allowed the financial industry to turn the housing market into a house of cards and then take the rest of the economy with it when that house of cards fell over.

  32. Joe

    Ema: Yep. So dumb, in fact, that I troll other people’s comments by throwing around insults while contributing absolutely nothing to the logical conversation going on.

    Autumn:

    I partially agree with what you’re saying, and I file that under my “it’s deeper than that” comment above. However, President Clinton did pass legislation (with bipartisan support) that penalized mortgage corporations for not giving out loans to minorities, under certain circumstances, regardless of whether they could pay them or not. This is what really caused the explosion in bad loans since around 93-94.

    Also, as evidenced by all the bailouts, most noticeably Bush’s TARP legislation, mortgage companies know perfectly well it’s bad (fatal, even) business to expand their markets into bad loan country. While they did eagerly lobby for some of these regulations, nobody was a fan of the rigid standards set by the Clinton administration. You’re right that the market overstepped as new technology came into play, but in an unregulated market those firms would have been allowed to fail.

    And for your last statement, universities get a lot of the R and D money from private fund-raising. I’m totally ignorant as to the economics behind this, but I suspect Friedman would say that in a free-er market where R and D groups aren’t so dependent on public funding, this kind of private funding would be a lot more widespread. That’s just speculation though.

  33. Marcus

    Joe: What about radar, the internet, GPS, nuclear power, most of the research on subatomic particle physics and astrophysics (the very small and the very big)… I think you may be a little bit off on your estimate about the source of most scientific advancement. And a decent number of the private enterprise inventions came from organizations like Bell Labs – organizations which pretty much depended on their parent organization having monopoly power.

    Now, getting inventions to market – I’ll grant that private enterprise has done a pretty good job of that. But basic science? Without the NSF, national labs, and other government approaches, I don’t think our scientific enterprise would be anywhere close to where it is today. The problem is that basic science is a perfect example of positive externalities, with not so much private benefit on market timescales. I’m pretty sure that Friedman understands market limitations quite well, and would appreciate the beneficial role of government in basic research.

    I recommend reading books like the Free Market Innovation Machine (Baumol) to understand the different roles that different actors play in this process.

    -Marcus

  34. Sean

    Joe: a lot of technology development was spurred by the government.

    The internet? A government research project, then intended to be a Department of Defense computer network resistant to nuclear attack. The World Wide Web (HTML, hyperlinks, web browsers, etc.)? Invented at CERN (admittedly not a *US* government institution, but rather one paid for by various governments).

    The US space program drove a lot of technological development. While a lot of it was done by private contractors, it was done at the behest of, and paid for by, the US government. The giant, warehouse-sized computers of the late 50s and early 60s weren’t going to fit inside a spacecraft, and NASA’s need for smaller, faster computers helped create a lot of demand for research into smaller components.

    Do you know why there is competition between AMD and Intel for Intel-compatible computer processors? Because the government demanded it. NASA wanted to use Intel processors for certain things, but didn’t feel Intel was a large enough company at the time to be able to guarantee a stable future supply. They told Intel that if Intel wanted the contract they’d have to come up with a second supplier; this forced Intel to license the x86 architecture to AMD (who was already a well-established semiconductor manufacturer), and led to the cross-licensing deal that AMD and Intel have now.

    Pretty much all US-based space exploration is paid for by the US government. While that may change soon regarding manned low-earth-orbit stuff, private corporations won’t be sponsoring probes to Saturn or space telescopes any time soon.

    As to public universities, a huge portion of their research money comes from public grants. In fact, one of the criteria professors are judged on when under consideration for tenure is the professor’s ability to bring in research grants.

    And a lot of the technology we use every day started off as a university research project.

    Sun Microsystems’ founders helped develop modern ethernet networking while at Stanford (Sun used to be SUN and stood for Stanford University Network). Google was a university research project as well.

  35. Theobroma Cacao

    Joe: you seem to have bought into the Republican talking points about the Community Reinvestment Act. Do some research outside of the right wing analyses. While the CRA did enable some folks to purchases their homes when they weren’t really able to afford it, it is worth noting that the CRA doesn’t apply to most of the sub-prime loans. Independent mortgage companies, which are not covered by CRA, made high-priced loans at more than twice the rate of the banks and thrifts. Guess which mortgage companies the vast majority of the defaults are coming from?

    And as for private R and D versus public, it might be worthwhile looking at what became of AT&T Bell Labs.

  36. Autumn

    Joe,
    Thanks for the replies. Your initial comment may have lit a few fuses, but I agree with your point about the bi-partisan responsibility for the housing bubble.
    Your larger point, that government shouldn’t fund basic research, is the one that I find indefensible.
    There is simply no good economic reason for a company to spend money on pure research. It is not a profitable enterprise. Government spending on research frees up private capital to innovate on established research and bring it to market.
    The gains for both sides are positive: the company can use its specific resources to do what it does best–sell a product, while the tax-payer sees his or her money go to efforts that are relatively cheaply accomplished, but which have long-term upsides that the private sector can capitalize on.
    40 Billion bucks worth of win-win.

  37. Joe:
    “every single major scientific advancement has come from private enterprise”

    this statement can’t even be promoted to being wrong. Luckily I dont have to go into it much as a multitude of examples have been supplied already.

    You are confusing “major scientific advancement” and “major market introduction”. Stop it. It’s a typical libertarian conflation.

  38. ethanol

    Looks like my own democratic house representative voted for the motion to recommit, and will be getting an unpleasant letter shortly. Here’s the voting roll if anyone’s interested http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll270.xml see if you can find yours!

  39. Helioprogenus

    Phil, I may sound like a cynic here, but why should the government care whether they fund science education or not? It’s not like the future of science and technology in America is built on the education of our youth, but on the backs of immigrants. The rats in congress are relying on immigrants who’ve had their own country expend the resources to educate them. All that’s needed in the future is to identify the skilled science and technology fields needed and tap the rich pool. It’s simple economics. I obviously don’t agree with it, but unfortunately, this is the system we have.

  40. As Lord Kelvin said, we already know everything.

  41. Ema Nymton

    Gee, Joe. With you contributing, the conversation is not, at all, logical.

  42. Duane

    A question: do you realize that a significant percentage of children born today will live long enough to see the dawn of the 22nd century? Does this give anyone a reason to pause and reflect on the world they will inherit?

    Silly question; of course it does.

  43. Ian

    Looking to private industry for basic research without some sort of public funding is just silly these days. From what I’m seeing here that doesn’t even factor into the actual news story, but it makes for a more interesting discussion than “Oh my goodness, the career politicians and lawyers decided that science spending wasn’t really that necessary.” It’s like saying the DMV is a cold unfeeling place where they take bad photos.

  44. Your Name Here

    Everyone who lives in America (Australia FTW): don’t vote Republican next election!

  45. Luis

    Joe:

    Milton Friedman? Seriously? The same Milton Friedman whose economic advice in the 1970s threw an economically-thriving Chile into a holy-mother-of-christ-level crisis that only stopped getting worse when Pinochet refused to listen to him any more? The same Milton Friedman whose proteges happily privatized the hell out of South America, leading millions of people into poverty and misery? The same Milton Friedman who, after Katrina hit, wrote a NYT op-ed which was basically a big f*** you to the people who had lost everything?

    You gotta be f***ing kidding me.

  46. Grand Lunar

    If there was ever a time we needed technological innovation, I’d say that time is now.
    And it angers me to see this political game going on, with the bill being shot down as a result of stupidity.

    I believe the word ought to get out and people ought to be out and about protesting this. We’ve got to improve ourselves.

  47. Katharine

    Can we defund the military instead?

  48. fred edison

    #4 David said it correctly. Impossibly simple and brimming with confident ignorance is how they like their politics, which is in no way, required to accurately reflect the pressing issues of this country or address the impinging realities of this world. IOW, tell them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.

    The normally wrong Right strikes for dumbing down America, once again. And I’m pleased once more that I didn’t vote for any of them.

  49. Peter

    A pity you Americans that you have to cope with free market/anti-gov fundamentalists such as Joe. Insane fundamentalists, that´s what they are.

  50. yaos

    Just think, when election time roles around you’ll see “democrats refused to pass an important bill to create jobs” ads from the same people that voted no.

  51. Mike Mullen

    You can add the microwave oven to the list of items that wouldn’t exist without government funding. At the heart of everyone of them is a cavity mmagnetron, developed in WWII as part of Britain’s radar research. A protype magnetron dispatched to the USA in 1940 was once described as; ‘the most valuable cargo ever brought to our shores’.

  52. John Keller

    I not defending the Republicans here, but why with large majorities in both houses of Congress and a Democratic President are bills like this (or any for that matter) just passed without the help/advice/consultation of the Republicans. Democrats you are the majority party, use your powers.

  53. John Keller

    #49 Mike, the microwave was developed by aliens and not the federal government. I saw that in a documentary called the Men in Black.

    I would say this, the US government is terrible at developing new technology; however, US government funding has helped us advance technologically.

  54. Kevin

    Mr. Plait, this is at least your second article on this topic where the blame is focused exclusively on the Republican party, with particular focus on one person. Lets be clear: Representative Hall did not force a single Democrat to vote against this bill. What Representative Hall did was reprehensible, but quite common for a politician. The Democratic Representatives voted against this for the same reason Representative Hall modified the bill: to get re-elected, to show their voters they make choices in line with their beliefs! If the noble Democrats were so concerned about science funding (and they aren’t), they would have voted for this bill. We need to stop bickering about which is the best party(#47), and vote for the folks who will do a good job, be that person red or blue. Personally, I wouldn’t vote for Hall or any of the democrats who jumped ship. These folks are happy to convince you the other color is wholly unworthy, and we need to be careful.

  55. Adam_Y

    “Yep. So dumb, in fact, that I troll other people’s comments by throwing around insults while contributing absolutely nothing to the logical conversation going on.. ”
    When you say extremely moronic and idiotic things calling a spade a spade is totally apt. Joe private industry will never provide the necessary capabilities to make the jumps in science. Its simply not feasible from a capitalistic standpoint to build the synchrotron (Read: Particle accelerator) necessary to do research in almost every single field of science and some of the humanities.

  56. Bluegrass Geek

    Helioprogenus Says:
    May 19th, 2010 at 10:19 pm
    Phil, I may sound like a cynic here, but why should the government care whether they fund science education or not? It’s not like the future of science and technology in America is built on the education of our youth, but on the backs of immigrants. The rats in congress are relying on immigrants who’ve had their own country expend the resources to educate them. All that’s needed in the future is to identify the skilled science and technology fields needed and tap the rich pool. It’s simple economics. I obviously don’t agree with it, but unfortunately, this is the system we have.

    helio, you’re operating under the misconception that these folks stay in the US. A vast majority of them are not immigrants, but here on an education/work visa, and stay in the country long enough to finish their education, pay off their loans, & then return to their home countries. Your method would just keep letting the blood flow, until we were solely dependent on people who float in for a few years and then leave.

    Better to actually promote education in our own country and raise people who will stay here and become long-term experts, than to rely on newly trained folks who leave every few years.

  57. Bluegrass Geek

    Kevin Says:
    May 20th, 2010 at 7:05 am
    Mr. Plait, this is at least your second article on this topic where the blame is focused exclusively on the Republican party, with particular focus on one person. Lets be clear: Representative Hall did not force a single Democrat to vote against this bill. What Representative Hall did was reprehensible, but quite common for a politician. The Democratic Representatives voted against this for the same reason Representative Hall modified the bill: to get re-elected, to show their voters they make choices in line with their beliefs! If the noble Democrats were so concerned about science funding (and they aren’t), they would have voted for this bill. We need to stop bickering about which is the best party(#47), and vote for the folks who will do a good job, be that person red or blue. Personally, I wouldn’t vote for Hall or any of the democrats who jumped ship. These folks are happy to convince you the other color is wholly unworthy, and we need to be careful.

    That’s a nice sentiment, but wholly naive. You said it yourself, this was a reprehensible, but common tactic. Yet, you blame the Democrats for not committing political suicide. Face it, people are not going to vote on the person who sticks to their guns, they’re going to vote for the person who is the most convincing in political commercials come election season. And you know damn well the Republicans would have pushed the “they voted for PORN!” angle when that election came up. Your method just rewards the Republicans, who would then continue to NOT fund science when they got elected into office.

  58. John Kotcher

    Okie dokie folks, given the predictable blogospheric responses that are coming out of this bit of news about the COMPETES Act–with science advocates lamenting the Republican obstruction, and others making comparisons to Republican attitudes toward defense spending–it seems apropos to point people to Dan Sarewitz’s commentary from Issues in Science and Technology last summer. I’ve quoted the most relevant text below, but the entire essay is well worth a read for anyone who wants to better understand how we got to the current political context and it’s consequences: http://www.issues.org/25.4/sarewitz.html

    “Perhaps the best way to understand what seems to be happening to science as a political symbol for Democrats is to consider, in contrast, the value of “national defense” as a political symbol for Republicans. President Bush made powerful use of the idea that Republicans are more concerned about national security, and more able to protect it, than are Democrats, both in justifying his prosecution of the war in Iraq and in attacking John Kerry during the 2004 election campaign. In the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan made devastatingly effective use of the notion that President Carter was soft on defense, and a signal priority for the Reagan administration from its earliest days was to greatly increase expenditures on the military, just as President Obama is now doing for science.

    Because “national security” and, it now turns out, “science” are tropes that resonate powerfully with significant parts of the voting public, they make highly potent political symbols—not just for communicating values, but also for distinguishing one’s self from the opposition. These sorts of symbols are particularly effective as political tools because they are difficult to co-opt by the other side. It is harder for a Democrat than for a Republican to sound sincere when arguing for a strong national defense. As a matter of ideology, Democrats are often skeptical about the extent to which new weapons systems or new military adventures truly advance the cause of national security or human well-being. And similarly, it is harder for a Republican than a Democrat to sound sincere when arguing for the importance of science. Scientific results are commonly used to bolster arguments for government regulatory programs and policies, and as a matter of ideology Republicans are often skeptical about the ability of government to wisely design and implement such policies or about their actual benefits to society.

    Neither of these ideological proclivities amounts to being, respectively, “soft on defense” or “anti-science,” but each provides a nucleus of plausible validity to such accusations. Trying to go against this grain—as when Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential candidate, sought to burnish his defense credentials by riding around in a tank, or when George Bush repeatedly claimed that he would make decisions about climate change and the environment on the basis of “sound science”—inevitably carry with them the aura of insincerity, of protesting a bit too much.

    And so perhaps we have now discovered the rightful place of science: not on a pedestal, not impossibly insulated from politics and disputes about morality, but nestled within the bosom of the Democratic Party. Is this a good place for science to be? For the short term, increased budgets and increased influence for the scientific-technological elite will surely be good for the scientific enterprise itself. Serious attention to global environmental threats, to national energy security, to the complex difficulties of fostering technological innovation whose economic outcomes are not largely captured by the wealthy, are salutary priorities of the Obama administration and welcome correctives to the priorities of his predecessor.

    But ownership of a powerful symbol can give rise to demagoguery and self-delusion. President Bush overplayed the national defense card in pursuit of an ideological vision that backfired with terrible consequences in Iraq. In turn, a scientific-technological elite unchecked by healthy skepticism and political pluralism may well indulge in its own excesses. Cults of expertise helped bring us the Vietnam War and the current economic meltdown. Uncritical belief in and promotion of the redemptive power of scientific and technological advance is implicated in some of the most difficult challenges facing humans today. In science, Democrats appear to have discovered a surprisingly potent political weapon. Let us hope they wield it with wisdom and humility.”

  59. #57, I think you just backed up Kevin’s point.

    In any case, what’s not been said enough is, that we don’t have the money to pay for it. Period. The more debt we ring up, the more money will taken from our children in the form of higher taxes and higher interest rates. Everyone has their cause that they think is necessary for the country to get better, and it’s always X amount which is nothing compared to what we spend on Y.

    Enough already. I think any good that might come out of COMPETES will be destroyed by the financial mess we’ll be in if we don’t learn to spend within our means.

  60. JJ

    @Joe #5, I couldn’t agree more. The only reason Republicans voted this down is because we simply have no more money to spend. They introduced the bill in the first place and brainwashing people that Republicans are anti-science is just that, political brainwashing. Stop the political spin people, get the facts. Science will not die if they don’t get government money immediately. All of private and local/state government enterprises are hurting right now with layoffs, furloughs, spending cuts, etc. What makes you think science funding is exempt from being cut? Common sense people, we have no more money! What’s truly scary are the idiots that continue to push for more government spending.

  61. James H.

    Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. I read that somewhere…anyhow,

    This entire situation reminds me very much of 1993. It was an election year, and the congresscritters were getting themselves aligned to do what they do best: Get re-elected. As such, they voted that year to kill the SSC, the Superconducting Supercollider Project, after spending over 2 billion to get it started, and tunnel 14 miles of the 55 mile tunnel. They did this for only one reason: To be able to say “Look at the spending cuts I voted for! Re-elect me!”

    When the election was over, the next year funding was reallocated for high energy physics…in Europe. So the money was spent anyway, it just didn’t pay for the politicians to keep funding it here because it didn’t benefit them in their re-election campaigns. Scientists were also somewhat at fault in that matter too. They really didn’t do a good job of selling it to the public, but with the current state of science education in this country (I know, I’m in the classroom!!!), it was extremely hard to “dumb it down” so that the layman could understand what it was all about. I don’t see that as getting better, but worse. So now, 17 years later, we have the LHC instead of the SSC, and instead of leading, we are following.

    I swear that I am not a conspiracy theorist, but it just seems to me that all decisions made at the highest levels of government, both federal and local, seem to be made to dumb down the electorate in regards to science so that people are more easily manipulated.

    Ok that was my two cents worth. We now return to local programming….

  62. RM

    In other breaking news…our country is already BROKE.

    While it would have been nice for China to have funded this bill, as they are funding all our other deficit spending bills, we simply can’t afford it.

    Sorry to break the news to you kids.

    Sincerely,
    Your Dad

  63. David D.

    BA says:
    let’s take all the spending we do on the military away from it, today.

    Wow–why that would solve all of our problems, right? Bad military! I will assume that you are just being snarky.

    But since Bush super-glued the on/off switch when he left office, I guess President Obama can’t get anything done (is Gitmo still open? How many troops in Iraq now?–wasn’t all of this supposed to be taken care of?

  64. Bluegrass Geek

    Shane P. Brady Says:
    May 20th, 2010 at 8:16 am
    #57, I think you just backed up Kevin’s point.
    In any case, what’s not been said enough is, that we don’t have the money to pay for it. Period. The more debt we ring up, the more money will taken from our children in the form of higher taxes and higher interest rates. Everyone has their cause that they think is necessary for the country to get better, and it’s always X amount which is nothing compared to what we spend on Y.
    Enough already. I think any good that might come out of COMPETES will be destroyed by the financial mess we’ll be in if we don’t learn to spend within our means.

    How in the world did what I said back up Kevin’s point?

    Second, we can’t just stop funding everything. You don’t put money in a piggy bank to get out of a recession; there’s an old saying, “You have to spend money to make money.” In this case, spending provides for education, jobs and research which will pay off in the long term. These cuts are short term benefits at the expense of the country’s future.

    It’s that short-sightedness that irks me. The folks who applaud any random cut to spending aren’t helping things. This isn’t your house budget, this is national economics. The way to having a budget surplus is to bring the economy back into profitability, not to stagnate by hoarding your money under your mattress.

  65. Helioprogenus

    @Bluegrass Geek

    There’s truth in what you say, but short term economics dictate the immigrant solution. Let’s be honest here, and identify our form of economics for what it is…nearsighted profit. Science and technology should ideally be cultivated from within, with a strong drive and development of youth towards a return on investment. Yet, with the economic module that the congressional rats use, they probably take into account the amount of skilled immigrants that must be retained for the system to maintain itself and prevent collapse. Yet, just the same ,we’re skimming the future for all it’s worth.

    There’s an added cost to educating from within that’s a threat to the way of life of these oppressive rats. If we educate as many youths as possible in science and technology, they may actually start to think more critically, and perhaps, question government policies. They may shirk the status quo, and develop a new system that’s provides more opportunities to a great number of people. The sudden thought of a democracy where its population is educated is scary for these bastards. Further, with immigrants, they’re just happy with their earning potential, and won’t bite the hand that feeds them. They’ll be much more loyal to the establishment than ones from within the system.

  66. adam

    I think this post is a major misrepresentation of the Republican position. I don’t consider myself to be a Republican, but I am fiscally conservative and I am highly skeptical of federal government spending outside of the military (“raising an army”) and patrolling the border. What we’re seeing here is a reaction to years and years of terrible fiscal policies on the part of both parties. It’s a motion of no-confidence. Republicans, purely out of self-interest, are finally starting to realize that policies of out of control government spending and expansion are going to get them killed in elections. This is a response to that. And yes, it comes at a cost to basic science research. It’s a casualty of years of horrible, horrible decisions from Washington on down.

    It’s not Republicans being anti-science. It’s their way of trying survive an ever-growing tidal wave of discontent from the public towards the federal government. Democrats want to spend more money we don’t have? The Republicans will avoid being party to it, no pun intended. And you know they’ll make it as partisan as possible. They’ll do their best to make it look like the Democrats want to keep up the deficit spending while they themselves are pulling back. Don’t make this about “ignorant” conservatives vs. “intelligent” liberals. It’s dirty politics in a messy, shitty economy.

  67. Doug Little

    I am highly skeptical of federal government spending outside of the military

    Now that is a moronic statement!

  68. adam

    Now that is a moronic statement!

    Criticism without substance. How surprising.

  69. Scott B

    57. Bluegrass Geek

    “Face it, people are not going to vote on the person who sticks to their guns, they’re going to vote for the person who is the most convincing in political commercials come election season.”

    Sadly, your right here. We might want to start taking some of the blame ourselves as a people rather than whining about which party did what. We are still a republic and the government we have now is merely a reflection of our people. Right now, we’re a people that doesn’t look much past the last piece of propaganda we heard on TV.

  70. Cheyenne

    The primary results clearly put the Republicans on edge. Too bad this bill wasn’t voted on a month ago. Still an optimist about this though. Some form of this will be passed. Although who knows when…

  71. Matt T

    @AR (12)
    Jingoistic? Why is scientific advancement a zero-sum game?

    @Joe (27)
    Proponents of this bill: “We’re spending money on military so we should spend money on everything else!”
    Um, that’s a nice strawman you have there. Or maybe: “The govt spends money on many things, often in massive quantities compared to what’s being discussed here. Ergo, it is ingenuous at best (and disingenuous at worst) to automatically decry this particular proposal in the name of controlling spending.” Nobody’s suggesting that we must fund everything. Or even that total spending must increase.

    And preemptive strawman strike: neither does supporting science funding require a belief that the military should be completely unfunded either. Some people are capable of understanding the need to balance and prioritize competing interests.

  72. Doug Little

    so adam,

    You trust the government is spending your tax dollars wisely when it comes to military expenditure but don’t trust it when it is spending money on everything else?

    OR

    Do you mean that the government should only spend money on the military and nothing else?

  73. adam

    @Doug

    Your powers of logical inference have failed you here.

    You trust the government is spending your tax dollars wisely when it comes to military expenditure but don’t trust it when it is spending money on everything else?

    I said I was “highly skeptical” of government spending outside of the military. The qualification simply implied that, in general, I am more skeptical of non-military, non-border-securing government spending. Nothing about my comment can logically be construed to indicate that I am not in any way skeptical of military and border spending…

    Do you mean that the government should only spend money on the military and nothing else?

    … or that I am in some way stonewalling the idea of other kinds of government spending.

    My default position with regards to government spending is strong skepticism, but I react with less mistrust towards a few specific types of spending.

    So I fail to see what is moronic about such a statement.

  74. Actually spending went up with Bush so did tax cuts. So He spent more and brought in less for the government, something tells me this has something to do with the mess the world is in.

  75. Doug Little

    The qualification simply implied that, in general, I am more skeptical of non-military spending

    If you implied that then you are the one with the logical fail. If you said what you think you implied then there wouldn’t be the confusion.

    OK then why are you less skeptical of military spending and highly skeptical of everything else? Why do you trust the government more when it comes to military spending and less for everything else.

    but I react with less mistrust towards a few specific types of spending.

    You only mentioned one, not a few.

  76. JJ

    This is the most ridiculous exchange currently taking place.

  77. disgruntled with the GOP

    AS usual, GOPpers show us how much they love America.

    Not.

    Everything wrong today is brought to you by the GOP in the guise of “cutting taxes” yet they find ways to reward their rich friends while cutting research, education, and shoving religion down our throats.

    Time to call this what it is: treason.

  78. BluegrassGeek

    Helioprogenus Says:
    May 20th, 2010 at 11:36 am
    @Bluegrass Geek
    There’s truth in what you say, but short-term economics dictate the immigrant solution. Let’s be honest here, and identify our form of economics for what it is…nearsighted profit. Science and technology should ideally be cultivated from within, with a strong drive and development of youth towards a return on investment. Yet, with the economic module that the congressional rats use, they probably take into account the amount of skilled immigrants that must be retained for the system to maintain itself and prevent collapse. Yet, just the same ,we’re skimming the future for all it’s worth.
    There’s an added cost to educating from within that’s a threat to the way of life of these oppressive rats. If we educate as many youths as possible in science and technology, they may actually start to think more critically, and perhaps, question government policies. They may shirk the status quo, and develop a new system that’s provides more opportunities to a great number of people. The sudden thought of a democracy where its population is educated is scary for these bastards. Further, with immigrants, they’re just happy with their earning potential, and won’t bite the hand that feeds them. They’ll be much more loyal to the establishment than ones from within the system.

    … that’s one hell of an unfounded conspiracy theory you’ve got there. And your penchant for calling people “rats” is… odd.

    Plus, you keep saying “immigrants” yet you’re talking about people who leave after their education. Immigrants stay here. It’s the folks on education & work visas that leave once they’ve earned enough cash.

  79. Helioprogenus

    @BluegrassGeek

    Although many of the students and skilled workers who come to the US arrive on a temporary basis, there are still quite a few who are retained after their arrival. These immigrants, the ones that stay, are everywhere. I’ve had many science professors who’ve come under similar circumstances. My father arrived here in the late 70′s as a physicist from Armenia (at the time, part of the Soviet Union), and like many from his day, stayed.

    As far as calling people in congress rats, I’m doing a severe disservice to rodents by equating them to these scientifically illiterate morons who attempt to push legislation that they don’t quite understand. All of them would fail at an 8th grade science exam. This is a very scary thought. The fact that our policies are dictated by such types is deplorable.

    I may sound like I’m enforcing a conspiracy theory when I state that there’s an active move to suppress the populace, but for our type of democracy to function, where there’s a social pyramid and hierarchy….on the backs of 95% of Americans supporting the top 5%, well that’s just simple economics. Congress does not support the interests of Americans on an individual level, but the corporate and industry interests foremost. It is for these reasons for example, that we’ve handled oil companies with kid gloves, treat Saudi Arabia as an ally, regardless of human rights practices, whilst vilifying Venezuela for nationalizing their oil companies, and trying to keep their profits internal. My anger at congress is due in large part at the lack of meaningful legislation that would secure the quality of life for Americans at an individual level.

  80. Pi-needles

    @6. AR Says:

    Any cut in government spending is a good thing, especially in a time of economic hard ship.

    We’re in a time of economic tough boat? ;-)

    (Yeah, shouldn’t pick on typos, for pity’s sake I make enough myself but just too tempting.)

    *Any* cuts?

    So stop paying police salaries and firefighters wages and stop paying schoolteachers and employing all CIA / DEA / FBI agents and cut all social welfare checks and all military expenditure and so on & so on .. :roll:

    [Thanks FSM AR is NOT the US president.]

    Science needs to be funded properly if we’re to have any chance of a reasonable future. Period.

    Abstract scientific research that often seems highly obscure and unlikely to result in anything can – indeed almost always does – result in practical applications that benefit everyone.

    There is a quote about a scientist – I forget exactly who (Enrico Fermi maybe?) – who was challenged by a politician : “What use is your project going to be?”

    There are two stories about how that scientists answered that (on 2 occassions perhaps?) :

    1. “What use is a new-born baby?”
    &
    2. “I don’t know but I bet that ten years from now you’ll be taxing it!” ;-)

  81. Messier Tidy Upper

    @28. Ema Nymton Says:

    Wow, Joe. You really are very dumb, aren’t you?

    Ema, that’s really not helping or making a positive contribution. Even if Joe *is* being stupid it is better to point out & explain WHYyou think his comment was stupid rather than resorting to name-calling and abuse.

    Calling other commenters “stupid” or suchlike without backing it up with some good reason to think so is something that makes *you* yourself look .. very dumb. :-(

    It’s not the first time you’ve done this either. Please be aware that you aren’t doing yourself or your side of the argument any favours the way you are currently posting.

    NB. Yeah, I’m not perfect myself I know & I’m just trying to help here. I even agree with you just not your chosen tactic.

  82. Jeff

    AR has clearly never taken Econ101. It may seem counter-intuitive, but when economic times are hard, the government should *ramp up* spending and cut taxes. This helps create jobs, puts more money into the system for people to purchase goods and businesses to invest, etc. Once the economy is thriving again, the government should cut back on spending and raise taxes to pay off debt it accumulated. This is a key function of government economic power. If the government cuts back on spending during economic hardship, it will prolong the duration and make it worse. Once the economy is thriving, people and businesses can afford the tax increases necessary and private enterprise can handle more of the job-creation necessary to put the budgets back in balance. Part of what got us into this mess was unrestrained spending by the GOP and the Bush administration (the budget surplus Clinton left us with would have significantly reduced the national debt if it had been maintained during the Bush era).

  83. The Panic Man

    There’s no reasoning with the cult of government-hate. Why bother? Like they say, don’t wrestle with a pig – you just get dirty and the pig likes it.

  84. Xray

    JJ says: Common sense people, we have no more money! What’s truly scary are the idiots that continue to push for more government spending.

    It is very unfortunate that this line of “thinking” is taken as correct by so many people, and the GOP and Fox News keeping egging it on. I hear this one, too: My family has to balance its budget; so should Uncle Sam.” What nonsense. And such economic experts will be voting in droves this November.

    We’ve done this before. Yes, let the banks fail. And as the recession deepens, cut gov’t spending in order to offset the reduced inflow of taxes. We did this in 1930. It’s called Hooverism. JJ and his tea-bagger friends are trying to repeat history. I guess they’d like another Great Depression.

  85. AR

    No, Jeff, Keynesianism is not the solution to the very mess it got us into.

    I know that anyone into physics is going to be used to the idea of true things being counter-intuitive, but economics is ultimately the study of human behavior, which, unlike high energy physics and general relativity, our brains did in fact evolve to deal with. In fact, social competition is the ultimate driving force for an evolutionary arms race for intelligence, so you could say that intuiting human behavior is what most of our advanced capabilities are for. As such, it should be expected that sometimes things that are counter-intuitive in economics are counter-intuitive because they are stupid, and Keynesian economics is the ultimate example.

    You don’t have to rely on your intuition, though, because the idea that you can spend your way to wealth is easily shown to be wrong logically, as well. The holes in the theory are numerous enough to write books on, as indeed have been written, but for starters, the theory ignores that if everybody did start saving “excessively” (as though there are never actually times when the wise move is to wait and see), it would drive down interest rates and naturally make borrowing to invest more attractive and further savings less attractive. Further, any drop in total demand would tend to drop prices, making it increasingly tempting for people who have simply hoarded cash to buy things. The so-called “deflationary spiral” is averted by the simple fact that people do have to eat, at the very least, and so cannot hoard everything indefinable, and the equally simple fact that, all else being equal, people prefer to consume now rather than latter, which puts a limit to how long a person will wait for things to get cheaper.

    There are numerous methods that make any mass drop in demand self-correcting without government invention. What government invention does do, however, is often to prop up the very mal-invested businesses structures that led to the drop in the first place, preventing any real recovery for the sake of short-term satisfaction of the urge to DO SOMETHING that so pervades political discourse.

  86. AR

    We’ve done this before. Yes, let the banks fail. And as the recession deepens, cut gov’t spending in order to offset the reduced inflow of taxes. We did this in 1930. It’s called Hooverism. JJ and his tea-bagger friends are trying to repeat history. I guess they’d like another Great Depression.

    That is completely wrong. What happened during the Great Depressions is the exact opposite of what you’re describing. Hoover tried every form of intervention you could ask for, and we got the Great Depression.

    You ever hear about the Depression of 1920? No. At that time there was a stock crash even worse than the one that kicked off the Great Depression, but because wages were allowed to fall and taxes and expenditures were both reduced, the situation was resolved within a year.

    Then, in 1929, there was another crash and Hoover started the New Deal. The results of that are well known.

  87. Xray

    I agree with Jeff. AR has clearly never taken Econ 101. I’d say he’s apparently watched too much Glen Beck.
    The 1920 crash was a little blip compared with 1929-1933 when Hoover was in office. Take a look at the history of the DowJones prices (you can find it on wikipedia).
    AR’s history is also completely wrong: “Hoover started the New Deal.” Wow. In fact, Andrew Mellon, Hoover’s secretary of Treasury, is famous for his tea-bagger approach to the 1929-30 crisis. “Purge the rotten banks; liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate” and “People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people.” (Sound familiar?) He & Hoover cut federal spending. That Republican policy turned a stock market drop into a global and deep depression. That is Hooverism. And although AR is clueless, the New Deal was FDR’s program, started in 1933. Only then did the country start a slow, still-painful climb out of the ruin, a ruin far worsened by the bad economic policy of 1929-1932, a policy that tea-baggers apparently wish to return to.

  88. AR

    Again, it is you who are clueless. The Federal Reserve added $300 million to banks reserves within the week following the crash, and thru that and various other actions increased deposits by $1.8 billion, which at the time was a 10% increase in the money supply within one week. It also lowered its discount rate from 6% to 4.5%. This completely averted the needed liquidation that you claim was allowed to take place.

    If you want all the details of how much Hoover increased spending and intervention, policies which were merely intensified by FDR and which prolonged the recovery for another decade, I’d recommend America’s Great Depression, by Murray Rothbard, available in .pdf here.

  89. Xray

    Actually, I’d suggest you read a 6th-grade history book. At least then you’d know that the New Deal was FDR’s program, not Hoover’s.

  90. As I wrote earlier, Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) added language to the bill basically forcing Democrats to withdraw — by adding a provision that punishes people who used government computers to view pornography.

    I don’t get it. You must have missed something, Phil. I don’t see any reason to outlaw pornography, but I do see a problem with using government computers to do stuff which is in no way connected to the work for which the computers were bought (not just pornography, but many other things as well). THIS forced the Democrats to withdraw? “We’ll fund science only if the computers bought with that funding can be used to view pornography.” ??? I don’t get it.

  91. Buzz Parsec

    Phillip, I don’t fully understand it, but the Repubs added the anti-porn provision to the bill in such a way as to force the Democrats to either vote *against* the anti-porn bit (thus opening themselves up to charges of being soft on porn), or to vote against the bill as a whole, thus voting against jobs and a program they wanted. Enough of the Dems capitulated. Of course, viewing porn on government-funded computers is already illegal.

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