Monday, August 11, 2008

More Newt Science Fiction on R&D Funding

I really don’t understand why our corporate media believes that Newt Gingrich has, over time, somehow become this great thinker and visionary (I mean, I partly do, but I partly don’t also). To me that’s kind of like believing that, if you need elocution lessons, you should contact Elmer Fudd (but then again, I’m just a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, so what do I know?).

This misplaced hero worship is on display again here at (where else?) the Murdoch Street Journal, where Baby Newton Leroy tells us (in answering the question of how you would spend $10 billion of American resources “to improve the state of the world”)…

New technologies have been improving life for virtually all of known history (think of fire or the wheel as examples of early technological breakthroughs). Given the inefficiency and slowness of bureaucracies with a four-year time horizon and a limited amount of money, I would favor the use of large tax-free prizes.

Prizes are powerful because they send signals to everyone that they can compete. Furthermore they are payable on achievement rather than on application.
Oh, great…so, we’re not going to fund a project so it would come to fruition, but we will expect it to happen anyway as if by magic and THEN pay out the funds?

Wow, I never would have thought of that…

Well, for Newt’s information, many other countries around the world have used their “bureaucracies” (read: government) to assist private development initiatives in a wide array of scientific projects.

This tells us that Gordon Brown (as chancellor before he became prime minister) proposed a 10-year plan in July 2004 for research and development funding between private and public entities. And this tells us that Canada’s federal government supports the development and commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, products and services.

And it’s not as it we’re “asleep at the switch” totally in this country on government R&D funding, despite Bushco’s notorious opposition to science as a whole. This tells us about the Federal Demonstration Partnership, which “is a cooperative initiative among 10 federal agencies and 98 institutional recipients of federal funds…”

(I haven’t been able to find out much on the FDP, though this article tells us that it fell under the supervision of John Marburger in 2002, though the chair for the FDP is now Dr. Susan Sedwick.)

But getting back to Newt, it really is no surprise that he opposes government funding of R&D in emerging technologies because, when he was Speaker of the House in 1995 (as noted here)…

…Gingrich and his Republican colleagues pushing through a broad program of (budget) austerity that, though it preserve(d) most of the basic research programs now in place, (put) them on a strict diet. As this issue went to press, most basic research institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health, which sponsors biological and medical research, were slated for cost-of-living increases at best, while others, such as the National Science Foundation, were expected to have to make do on slightly less.

The Republicans are expected to continue chipping away at spending on science in 1996. If Congress makes good on its resolution to balance the budget, it will have to cut science and technology spending by 3 3 percent (I assume that’s 3.3 with a typo) over the next seven years, according to estimates by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Stagnation could be the result, as young scientists find it increasingly difficult to win funding. From their viewpoint, American science could be racing toward the millennium on a diet of cold gruel.
Oh, and by the way, Newt, I’m still waiting to find out the latest on that space-based air traffic control system you said you wanted to develop here.

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