The Debt Bill: Bad for America and Science

Sometime later today President Obama will sign a bill to raise the debt ceiling, preventing America from defaulting, which would have been a disaster.

However, the bill is in it of itself a disaster and a failure on the part of President Obama, someone who in general that I strongly support.

What does all this mean?

The debt bill is in almost every respect a victory for Republicans, who created this debt ceiling crisis by refusing to raise the debt limit and holding America’s future hostage to their demands. That’s sad but what is sadder is that Obama and the Democrats caved and they caved big time. In this “compromise” basically Democrats got nothing. With the election coming next year, Obama was more focused on re-election than on what he believed. He could have simply raised the debt ceiling as  President and avoided this circus.

Republicans forced dramatic cuts in spending by successfully bullying Democrats.

While I am not a proponent of running large deficits, the cuts extracted by the Republicans will hurt the economic recovery and significantly reduce the quality of life of the poorest Americans as well as the middle class.

Another likely victim will be science in America. Given the level of cuts it will almost be unavoidable that NIH and NSF and other federal science agencies will be cut starting in 2012 and then in the future (coming after cuts this current year), unless future Congresses undo this legislation. This is a particularly sensitive time for science in America given the already very difficult funding situation at NIH and NSF. Funding of research by other agencies such as DoD are also possibly going to be hurt.  The net result is a further weakening of America’s position as a leader in science and I would argue a weakening of our national security, an issue supposedly of great import to Republicans.

Overall this is a very bad day for America. We can “thank” Republicans for putting politics ahead of America’s best interest and we can “thank” Obama and the Democrats for not having the courage to stand up for what they believe.