Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has introduced a bill that would chop a half trillion dollars out of the federal budget. And although Paul was trained as an ophthalmologist, his axe doesn’t show any mercy to science.
For example, Paul would slash funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 28 percent and for the National Institutes of Health by 37 percent. (An ounce of prevention might be worth a pound of cure but I guess we’re not paying for either one.)
The National Science Foundation would lose 62 percent of its budget because Paul argues that private industry and the states, not the federal government, should be paying for research. But there’s no evidence that industry wants to foot that bill, and the states are already financially strapped.
Spending on science is usually seen as an investment in our future prosperity and health. The 2006 National Academies report "Rising above the Gathering Storm" noted that estimates of the return on that public investment have commonly ranged between 20 and 40 percent annually. With the U.S. facing tougher economic competition, cutting back on science is a bad bet, and it’s a pity that an ophthalmologist like Paul doesn’t see it.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]