The Sequester is no way to enhance innovation…or the economy…

We are now entering the sixth year of a depression.  Personally, I  stopped calling it the Great Recession about six months ago because I believe in calling things what they are.    And now, those who work in STEM fields have yet another black swan to deal with – “The Great Sequester”.

Well, so much for theories….the Great Sequester goes into effect. 

They said it would never happen…because no one would let it happen.  But now our government, seemingly incapable of any reasonable negotiations  has allowed the “Great Sequester” to go into effect.

For those who have forgotten (and if you have, I don’t blame you)  the Sequester was the brainchild of our first fiscal cliff which was about five cliffs ago.  To derail that first fiscal cliff and to prevent world-wide economic chaos, our fearless leaders agreed to raise the debt ceiling by kicking the budgetary can down the road.  They created the “Great  Sequester” – a poison pill of automatic budget cuts that was so politically treacherous, no one would ever let them go into effect…or so the theory went.

So what of  basic research?

High technology industries  and innovation require ground-breaking research.  Research that takes years to complete and goes down many blind alleys before anyone hits on something that remotely smells of a profit.  That’s the way of research.  It isn’t as simple as someone going into their garage and through unique ingenuity emerging a few years later with the next internet.  Such discoveries are made on the shoulders of previous generations that slogged away for years in obscurity.  The ground-breaking, profitable and sexy discovery is impossible without the slog….

Unfortunately, after years of death by a 1000 cuts basic scientific research is getting hit again, this time with a meat clever. When add up the sequester cuts to basic research they amount to $3.6 billion or about a 7.8% cut to an already seriously compromised budget.

According to Research!America the cuts will come from the following sources.


  • NIH      $2.4 billion
  • CDC    $445 million
  • AHRQ  $29 million
  • FDA     $191 million
  • NSF     $538 million

 The future depends on what we do today…

Biomedical research is taking the biggest hit of all. In a field that has been hit by a blood-bath of outsourcing in industry and budget cuts in the public sector, there will be more and more scientists left adrift with a finely honed skill set that is absolutely useless to them.  That’s a fine example to give our young people who are eager to explore these marvelous fields that can move the country forward while leaving them on a soup line.

Further, in an era where we need MORE innovation to generate new technologies that have the capacity to  pull us out of this DEPRESSION, this is taking a giant leap into an abyss.

To see what has happened to research funding in the United States since the beginning of the Bush era, this video featuring  Neil deGrasse Tyson is very informative.

Note also that in the video, the continent of Africa is shown to contribute almost nothing to basic R&D in any field…You see how well thats working out for them…and you have a birds eye view as to what happens when  R&D suffers decades of neglect.

© 2013 RGHicks – – All rights reserved.

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