Coming into American election season, the jingo-ism about how anti-science conservatives (wink, wink, any Republican campaigning against President Obama in 2012) are has been out in full force among mainstream science media writers. Like good Oprah viewers, science blogging has dutifully done their part to promote the latest faux elitism. But one writer in mainstream science media has gotten contrarian and has deviated from the program by calling out the president for some voodoo math.
Well, Jeffrey Mervis at Science calls it New Math, not voodoo math, a playful tweak of 1960s-era holdover beliefs from 1920s-era education reforms designed to choose intellectual elites with more accuracy and better know who to force into manual labor jobs. In that case by redoing math for no reason anyone can fathom and teaching kids about set theory and diagrams.
Mervis was wondering why the President claimed at a luncheon for the American Society of Newspaper Editors(1) that raising taxes on the rich would help cure diseases. Specifically
This new House Republican budget, however, breaks our bipartisan agreement and proposes massive new cuts in annual domestic spending. Exactly the area where we’ve already cut the most. And I want to actually go through what it would mean for our country if these cuts were to be spread out evenly. So bear with me. I want to go through this because I don’t think people fully appreciate the nature of this budget.Obviously you don't have to cut budgets evenly, that is nonsensical - Senator Bob Byrd of West Virginia got billions of dollars more for his state than it ever contributed in taxes. If we are concerned about science funding, for example, we don't cut it at all, or at least get rid of non-science junk that is funded as science, like 'studies' of Farmville and studies that wondered if dating sites changed when Obama got elected.
The year after next, nearly 10 million college students would see their financial aid cut by an average of more than $1,000 each. There would be 1,600 fewer medical grants. Research grants for things likes Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS. There would be 4,000 fewer scientific research grants, eliminating support for 48,000 researchers, students and teachers.
Which president has edited science reports that made conclusions he didn't like, buried studies that deviated from his oil agenda and refused to fund biology programs he has a moral objection to, Obama or Bush? If you said both, you are correct. Credit: DigitalJournal.com
But Pres. Obama got more specific. Specific enough that Mervis got on the phone with the White House to ask about it.
Meanwhile, these proposed tax breaks would come on top of more than a trillion dollars in tax giveaways for people making more than $250,000 a year. That’s an average of at least $150,000 for every millionaire in this country, $150,000. Let’s just step back for a second and look at what $150,000 pays for. A year’s worth of prescription drug coverage for a seniors citizen, plus a new school computer lab, plus a year of medical care for a returning veteran, plus a medical research grant for a chronic disease, plus a year’s salary for a firefighter or a police officer, plus a tax credit to make a year of college more affordable, plus a year’s worth of financial aid, $150,000 could pay for all of these things combined.What science is getting done for $150K minus a new computer lab, a year of medicare, a cop's salary and a student loan? Good luck finding that researcher. The average annual size of an NIH grant last year was $448,914, Science notes. It turns out, according to a press official who requested anonymity, that the president meant R03 money, capped at $50,000 a year and that can do nothing but help a researcher collect preliminary data for an R01 proposal. There's no disease getting tackled in there.
The Science piece is wonderfully understated in its chiding:
Insider is still puzzled, however, by why Obama included the phrase "chronic disease." NIH's description of the R03 grant says it is typically used to support pilot or feasibility studies; secondary analyses of existing data; small, self-contained research projects; and development of research methodologies. There's no mention of chronic diseases.Well, it's campaign season. Accepting science gets thrown out the window when the election begins - and the scientization of politics will also get into full gear.
The president, in his criticisms of the House budget plan, also cleverly invoked Social Darwinism in making his case against keeping taxes low for businesses. The President's speechwriters seem to know their history; Social Darwinism and its biological twin, Eugenics, were progressive efforts of the early 20th century so he has to know accusing conservatives of that will tweak them. Now he just needs to recognize there are only five conservatives in Congress.
Obama's New Math on Medical Research by Jeffrey Mervis, Science
Transcript of President Barack Obama’s speech on the Republican budget plan at ASNE
Published: April 3 - Washington Post
(1) He gets a strange fact wrong in his speech. While Abraham Lincoln was technically the first president of the re-formed Republican party in 1860, Thomas Jefferson was the first Republican president, founding it in 1791 with James Madison.; as everyone knows, he was opposed to big government and the opposing party then were the Federalists.