Monday, March 05, 2018

Trump’s Know-Nothing Science Budget

The GOP and evangelical Christians have a common requirement to further their toxic agendas: ignorant, objective truth denying followers. A heavy dose of racially and homophobic bigotry and a belief in conspiracy theories, of course are similarly helpful ingredients.  Hence why knowledge and scientific knowledge of almost any sort is the enemy of fundamentalists and evangelicals and the political party that they now largely control.  Evolution is denied, climate change is denied, objective facts and figures are replaced with untrue "alternate facts," etc.   Indeed, anything that challenges the political and religious orthodoxy of these people is denied and attacked.  Donald Trump, the leading purveyor of alternate facts - read lies - is aiding in the effort by proposing dangerous and potentially deadly cuts i, science funding.  A piece in the New Yorker looks at Donald Trump's dangerous budget cuts to science and medical research.  Here are excerpts: 
Donald Trump’s disregard for science has never been much of a secret. Well before he became President, he tweeted that light bulbs can cause cancer, that wind farms are unhealthy, that fracking “poses ZERO health risks,” and that Ebola “is much easier to transmit” than the government lets on. As a candidate, he regularly called global warming a hoax, repeated the false notion that vaccines can cause autism, and stated confidently that spraying hair spray in one’s apartment does not harm the ozone layer. . . . He avoids exercise, proudly fears germs, and, in Mike Pence, has chosen a Vice-President who, when pointedly asked, won’t say whether he believes in evolution.
It’s been downhill ever since. Under Trump, the United States has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement, and the phrases “climate change” and “evidence-based” have been scrubbed from federal Web sites—in the very same year that three once-in-a-century hurricanes and two major drought-fuelled wildfires ravaged parts of the nation. . . . . the Environmental Protection Agency has banned E.P.A.-funded scientists, but not industry representatives, from serving on its advisory boards; and the Centers for Disease Control, facing steep budget cuts, will soon all but shut down a vital program that helps more than three dozen developing countries detect and control the spread of infectious diseases.
Trump’s newly proposed federal budget for 2019 continues the assault on knowledge and reason. Funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the E.P.A. would each be cut by eighteen per cent or more, compared with the final 2017 budget, which was drafted by the Obama Administration and amended by Trump.
The National Institute of Mental Health would see its budget slashed by thirty per cent, despite Trump’s recent avowals that better mental-health treatment is the solution to gun violence. NASA’s budget would stay roughly the same, but a number of important Earth-science missions would be eliminated, and Trump would attempt to defund and privatize the International Space Station by 2025.
The few increases, to the budgets of the Energy and Interior Departments, are designed to fund fossil-fuel research, offshore drilling, and surface mining. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management and the Oil Spill Research Program would be cut by at least fifteen per cent; Interior’s Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses earnings from offshore oil and gas drilling to protect and restore federal public lands, would be cut by two-thirds; and research on clean energy would be cut by more than seventy per cent.
Other cuts would simply obfuscate. The 2019 proposal, like the 2018 budget, eliminates five satellite missions that study aspects of Earth’s surface and atmosphere—carbon-dioxide levels, the reflectivity of clouds and snow—specifically in order to monitor the dynamics of climate. According to Trump’s moral calculus, it is better to know nothing than to learn something that may conflict with what you think you know. Even the education departments of NASA and NOAA would be cut; should those agencies actually learn something, they’ll have a harder time sharing the information.
Thirteen months into his first term, key posts at numerous federal agencies remain unfilled, including the administrator positions for NASA and NOAA. The Department of the Interior lacks eleven of its seventeen senior officials, and Trump has yet to propose nominees for six of them, including the directors of the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Needless to say, it’s easier to ransack a store when no one is officially minding it.
And many of the candidates whom Trump has nominated for science-oriented roles are woefully underqualified.
It feels almost quaint to talk of “truth” and “facts” anymore, but, as an endeavor, science at least strives to honestly approach them. Which is why it’s all the more dispiriting that, for a full year now, Trump has operated without a Presidential science adviser—the longest the Oval Office has gone without one since the position was created, decades ago.onald 
[Trump] trusts no one; he can’t abide to read even his intelligence reports. Science thrives on curiosity, investigation, vigorous discourse, and flexibility of thought. Donald Trump is a party of one, interested solely in hearing the sound of his own voice, regardless of the veracity of what it has to say. For now, the interim science adviser is Michael Kratsios, the deputy assistant in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Kratsios, who is thirty-one, worked previously as chief of staff to Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire and Trump supporter, and has a bachelor’s degree in political science—the only kind of science, perhaps, that Trump can understand.

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