This week, we can celebrate the reelection of a president who is a friend to science, a president who has learned (we hope) about the tough balance between principal and compromise, a president who must now continue fight with the fervor he showed in the last weeks of the campaign for a progressive future for America. Celebrate we should, but we must also harness the passion and concern for our country’s future that this close election kindled in our political souls and not allow it to dissipate into apathy, because there is crucial work for us to do as citizen scientists in the months ahead.
The compromise produced after the debt-ceiling wrangling of last summer only succeeded in delaying a serious fiscal reckoning. For the last year, the crisis seemed to recede in the face of electoral politics, but now the “fiscal cliff” is almost upon us. On November 2, the president of the Society for Neuroscience, Larry Swanson, emailed the SfN’s membership this call to action (emphasis added):
Dear Fellow SfN Member,
I am writing to you personally because, regardless of the results of the upcoming election, the U.S. research community must mobilize quickly to oppose huge planned cuts in research funding. These cuts would set back the scientific momentum we have all worked so hard to achieve and result in as many as 25 percent fewer grants from NIH and NSF next year. Presently, the cuts will happen if nothing is done in Washington to change course.
I urge you to be very active in SfN advocacy activities in the next several weeks - it is vital. The Washington budget situation is not fully within our control, but without the voice of scientists - in large numbers and repeated waves - there is little hope that NIH and NSF will be spared these cuts. Unless Congress acts before the end of the year, these massive cuts to biomedical research (and virtually every other federal program), called "sequestration," will go into effect January 2, 2013. Billions of dollars will be sliced from NIH, NSF, and other federal research programs.
To learn more about this issue, visit SfN.org/sequestration.
Larry Swanson, President
Society for Neuroscience
1121 14th St NW, Suite 1010
Washington, DC 20005
Despite the fact that Republicans on Capitol Hill are currently dabbling in conciliatory language, this fight will likely still be a tough one. Careful reading of Speaker Boehner's seemingly friendly post-election speech on Wednesday suggests he still believes in a form of compromise that entails the Democrats in Congress acquiescing to Republican demands. Although he allowed in his speech that the Republican House may be open to a compromise solution to the fiscal debate that includes “new revenue” in addition to the cuts to federal programs that Republicans have demanded, he defined new revenue as “the byproduct of a growing economy, energized by a simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code, with fewer loopholes, and lower rates for all,” according to the Washington Post. That is, he is willing to include new revenue as long as it comes from cutting taxes, which is not really revenue at all!
All this is to say that this fight is only beginning, and it will be a difficult one for a lame-duck Congress. Please consider adding your voice to demand that the government produce a reasonable resolution to the crisis before we suffer the potentially disastrous effects of sequestration in January!