Friday, August 30, 2013

The Reverse New Deal: Discourage Science

(WPA poster promoting science, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

During the New Deal era, the federal government promoted science, research, and education in a number of ways. For example, WPA artists created promotional posters, unemployed Americans were hired to assist in various research efforts, and free science classes were offered. 

(WPA poster advertising free classes for adults, including science. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Today, unfortunately, the story is quite different. Thanks to federal budget cuts, scientists are spending more time writing grant applications but receiving less funding. Many are even contemplating moving overseas, where their research will be better appreciated (see "Nearly 20 percent of scientists contemplate moving overseas due in  part to sequestration").

(A building at Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland, built by the WPA during the 1930s. Decades of research at Patuxent Research Refuge have led to important discoveries such as the effect of stray lead shot on waterfowl and the effect of the pesticide DDT on bird eggs. It is not a stretch to say that New Deal funding helped facilitate the rescue of our national symbol, the Bald Eagle. Photo by Brent McKee.)    

Today, our federal political system has become so dysfunctional, and we've become so obsessed with coddling the super-rich (in the hopes that they will trickle their prosperity down upon us) that we're even cutting funding for cancer research. Meanwhile, banks are reporting record profits, the 1% are the only ones benefiting from increased economic productivity, and tax evasion & tax avoidance are running rampant. We've finally reached the point where the fortunes of the few are more important than life itself--even the lives of those fortunate few, who may benefit from cancer research themselves. What an amazing phenomenon to watch. 

Welcome to the Reverse New Deal: Where selfishness, greed, and profit push aside knowledge, discovery, and national health.

(A WPA poster promoting cancer awareness, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) 

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