Of Particular Significance

Help! I’m a Hostage! (D – 7)

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

ON 10/10/2013

Maybe you think this shutdown isn’t all that bad?  Perhaps you’re not talking to scientists, or thinking about their role in society. The effects of the government shutdown continue to ripple outward.  Scientific research doesn’t cope well with shutdowns.


In many fields, the research has to be maintained continuously; if you shut it down, even for a short period, all your work is wasted.  For instance, if you’re working in biology, all your stuff dies.   Back to square one, if you can afford it.  Or if you’re following an evolving story season by season, missing a season can mean you don’t have good data and you can’t draw any conclusions.  Guess you won’t get that Ph. D. after all; time to go find another line of work, after thanking taxpayers for paying for your now wasted education.  And if something exciting and once-in-a-lifetime happens in the sky, we may not have our telescopes up and running to observe it.  Oh well, what’s another 150 years?


Does this affect non-scientists?  Of course it does.   If  a serious disease breaks out, where is the Center for Disease Control to notice it and keep track of it?  Who is monitoring our food supply?  Do we really think that unscrupulous food producers, here and abroad, won’t take advantage of the fact that the Food and Drug Administration isn’t doing its testing?  What about hackers from hostile nations; are they on shutdown?  If this doesn’t frighten you, I don’t know what will…


And what about the sick who would normally be able to benefit from programs run by the National Institutes of Health?  Imagine you had a sick relative who was not yet “in imminent danger of dying”:


The most hideous part of all of this is that some of our best scientists are actually forbidden, by law, from doing science until this is over.  And meanwhile their chores pile up — they can’t work on those either — which will also get in the way of doing science when they return.


Coming after a recession and a sequester (which were enough to wipe out my own research program), and with no end in sight, one wonders whether the nation will lose an entire generation of young scientists.  You know, young people with little kids and a mortgage do have to get paid on time; do they dare work in a government-related institution if they’re going to be furloughed every year or two?  And certainly, if you are a young scientist born in another country who is considering whether to take a job offer in the United States compared to remaining in or returning to your own country, you are certainly going to have increasingly serious worries about whether it’s a good career choice.  We are risking our ability to bring the best young talent from around the world to work in our laboratories and universities.  Not to mention that if you are a foreign scientist, you may not think it so wise to collaborate with American scientists, whose funding might not arrive or who might be forced to stop work.  American scientists may find it increasingly difficult to participate in both small-scale and large-scale international projects.

And this is just a shutdown!  Heaven forbid we should keep threatening to go into something resembling default!  Just when we were starting to get out of the recession, the deficit was coming down, and we had a serious chance to deal with our long-term fiscal challenges, now we’re going to make things worse again?!

This is a self-imposed and increasingly serious mess.  Our country stands for the rights of all, and those rights should be defended.  But no group, even a large one, and certainly not one with a very small, wealthy core (that’s right, $235 million in donations over just one year — just think of all the medical and other scientific research that could have funded), has the right to threaten the rest of us with economic ruin, and risk our hard work and our livelihoods.  Every citizen with an interest in and an understanding of science, business and politics has the responsibility to stand up and be counted.  So please, consider writing and calling your own Congresspeople (find them here), and also the people outside your district who are holding us hostage.  And then write and call them tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next.

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63 Responses

  1. More borrowing for my children to pay off! Fantastic news.

    Sequester and shut downs are obviously not a good way to do things, and we don’t want to go anywhere near default… but ultimately borrowing needs to stop somewhere, forcing other (future) people to pay for things you want is immoral. This mess is what happens when politicians can’t do their job, both in congress and in the WH.

  2. NY Times, Thursday, October 17, 2013 12:40 AM EDT
    ***President Obama Signs Bill Ending Government Shutdown and Raising Debt Limit

    President Obama signed the bill passed Wednesday night by Congress to end the government shutdown and raise the debt limit.

    After Congress passed the measure, the director of the Office of Budget and Management said that government employees should expect to return to work Thursday morning.***

    1. The Republican failed to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that was enacted by the 111th USA congress, in spite of government shut-down and threat of default they brandished. There are implications some of which could be rectified e.g. billions of dollar lost as well as credibility of the US government. I think having a resolute president, is advantageous for regaining credibility.

  3. You should all read my comment above – you’re all hypocrites. Obama and the Democrats have destroyed hundreds of jobs in industries they don’t approve of, and Obamacare has destroyed my previously successful medical practice which is now bankrupt. None of you cared about my rights when Obama, Pelosi and Reid used every dirty trick in the book to destroy me. A pox on all of you. Whiners and hypocrites.

  4. This country is becoming more of a Corpracy than a Democracy or Republic, where big money interests finance election campaigns and ultimately control Capitol Hill. What’s good for Corporations will become the people’s downfall.

  5. It is a nice example of what happens if you build socialism in a democratic country for too long. The fact that it’s still democratic is the only reason why things are not even worse. But that may come unless you learn from mistakes of those who already were through that all – former communist/socialist countries.
    I was so happy when my country joined the democratic club 24 years ago. Ever since I can watch the whole “western” world slowly sinking to the same sludge in which we were for so many years. I just hope there will be enough people who notice that these are signs of things getting really serious.

    1. Not one thing you said makes sense.
      This problem was caused by the strengthening of democratic systems without foresight. (Namely that agreement between representatives must happen and can not be over ruled.)

      Its a systemic issue and had little to do with how socialist the government is, hence the fact its virtually impossible for this to occur across the globe even throughout Europe where most governments are far more socialist.

      You also cant compare socialist elements of democratic governments to failed communist regimes. They are entirely distinct political systems and ideologies.

      Whats more the major failing for those living in the western world in the recent years was an economic crash largely caused by deregulation…

  6. Obama rejected the short-term debt increase limit being proposed by the Republicans to stave off default. The rejection is understandable, but couldn’t he initiate drastic moves? Could he accuse the Republicans of global economic sabotage among other charges in the International Court? Could he declare state of national emergency and consequently be a dictator for the time being while justice run its course? Perhaps a nobel peace laureate will make a fine dictator?

    It seems democracy as we know it is not good anymore. Politicians are allowed to mess the economy not only on national level but internationally as well, distracting lives of millions. That looks insane to me, can we the people demand everyone in the congress to submit themselves to sanity examination? That is if everyone believes that psychiatry is science and psychiatrists are qualified to declare who are insane and who are not. Just my thoughts.

    1. I had read in the newyork times that Obama rejected again the proposal of the republicans, and then..
      ***NY Times, Tuesday, October 15, 2013 11:38 AM EDT
      House Republicans’ Fiscal Plan Collapses

      House Republican leaders struggled on Tuesday to craft a new proposal to re-open the government and alter parts of the president’s health care law after a plan presented behind closed doors to the Republican rank-and-file failed to attract enough support immediately to pass.

      After more than two hours, Republican leaders walked back from a plan that had emerged this morning. Speaker John A. Boehner told reporters there are “no decisions about what exactly we will do.”

      “We’re trying to find a way forward in a bipartisan way that would continue to provide fairness to the American people under Obamacare,” he said, but acknowledged “there are a lot of opinions” among his fractious troops.***

  7. Prof Strassler, how precisely did the sequester and recession destroy your research program? I ask because I am surrounded by people telling me that theorists don’t need money…..

    1. Well, rumor has it that even theorists need to eat and feed their families. But even if you could convince some smart postdocs to go on a diet, let their loved ones starve, and work for free in the interest of science, you still have the significant expenses of running a university department, hosting or attending conferences, inviting scholars, etc.

  8. Well, it clearly highlights our dependence upon central government and central planning. I have been affected, as all basic research has, by the global recession and its consequences. We bite the bullet and get on with it. Fortunately, there is no limitation upon thinking. There is the pain of the extra distraction, the impact upon the others in our lives, and the funding that drives communications.

    For experimental science the disruption is profound. But in this regard I blame the scientific institutions more than the government – we should never have allowed our dependency to get on short fuses of this kind.

    And despite what you say about the legal requirements. My guess is that, first, no scientist worth his or her salt will allow this disruption to impact their research and any research that is so impacted was probably funded for the wrong reasons anyway. Just my guess …

    1. Given the complaints I hear from excellent scientists in several different fields, I cannot agree with your last paragraph. My friends who work on the Ice Cube experiment, for instance, cannot go there to work. http://profmattstrassler.com/2013/05/16/possible-important-discovery-at-icecube/ How can that reflect their not being worth their salt? Sure, it would be great if the Koch brothers would fund their research instead of the Tea Party, so that then we wouldn’t have to worry about the government being there to make research possible. Of course, what’s happening to Blackberry, whose founder was the originator and original funder of the Perimeter Institute in Canada, shows the flaw in the logic of those who say scientific research should be funded by private companies…

      1. I remember a speech by Alan Greenspan a dozen years ago where he extolled the American market/capitalist system and listed a bunch of ‘inventions’ it had given us. Among them were the transistor, the computer, the internet, the airline industry and several others I know longer recall.

        The only problem is that every invention he listed was the result of either direct government research or government funded research. Not a single example was created by private enterprise with private dollars. It was precisely this type of scenario that caused Noam Chomsky to call the American system ‘Socializing Risk and Privatizing Profit.”

        Research in pure science may not have an economic reward. Or the reward may be decades down the road. Especially in the modern business climate where companies monitor their stock prices minute-by-minute, expecting private firms to pick up the research funding is akin to believing in Santa Claus. If we, as a society, won’t fund it – then it likely won’t be funded at all. Or, as Matt has pointed out, it will be funded by some other country and we’ll become a backwater for leading edge science.

      2. Clearly it is not a minor transformation of the system that is required. The Perimeter Institute may suffer, indeed, the benefactor of the Power Institute at MIT was wiped out by the Madoff thing. It’s difficult when the underpinning of the whole system needs revision, I would not say the these troubles suggest that such private funding of science is misguided – rather that a more wide sweeping change is needed.

  9. The Koch Bros. will make sure the T Party doesn’t get too far out of bounds. In a shut down their companies will get hurt as well.

  10. Matt, this is moderated cultural debate with hidden effects on steroids. I felt a little put off Levin on talk radio roasted our (tea party like or leaning) Wisconsin state senator on the radio last night. But Lubos on the blogspot The Reference Frame has done quite a rant on you, something to do with citizen scientist inputs and global warming. Perhaps, as the debates are said to in effect lower our ability to reason clearly… was Einstein wrong in thinking “economics is harder than physics?” Only yesterday in a book on the LHC from someone at Fermilab I read that we have to do such research internationally for it to be affordable on a large scale. Guess this is no longer true… and for the comments here from Spain and Greece the USA system, if not gone too far, is a federal one over the states… that is an advantage compared to the EU for a lot of things shut down do not affect what our state has tried to put in place in relation to current federal mandates.

  11. I just thought I would add that the idea that a default is imminent due to the current level of debt is absurd. Interest as a percent of GDP is around 1.5%, about as low as it has ever been since the end of WWII. Our current tax rates are as low as they have ever been, so its not like we are helpless to do anything. Government science spending, if anything, has failed to keep up with its historical levels (Individual research grant awards levels are as low as they have ever been). While one can always postulate a “phantom menace” lurking in the future, there is no evidence that any phantom menace actually exists other than the Tea Party idea of a harmless default. For those who think they can predict the future, let me remind you that I was using a slide rule in my science classes in high school in the mid 1970’s. How many of you could have predicted then what is commonplace today.
    Finally, this topic is absolutely relevant to this blog since scientific research in the USA is largely supported by the government. Our elevated position in the world and our high standard of living has as much to do with the fact that the USA has been a driver of scientific advancement as with our military power. Why do you think China has been sending its best and brightest to the USA for the last 40 years. Finally, one could effectively argue that Reagan ended the cold war without firing a shot by convincing Soviet Union that it couldn’t keep up with our science.

    1. >While one can always postulate a “phantom menace”
      >lurking in the future, there is no evidence that any phantom menace

      You can’t possibly believe that. This is the situation from the past 50 years:


      Project that forward another 50. Within the next 10 years, we will be spending more on interest than defense.

      Why do you think interest rates are so low? What happened to interest rates last month when the Fed said it MIGHT begin to slow down QE just a bit?

      Do you actually believe we can continue like this?

      1. 1) Graphs that plot percentages of different things are meaningless for your argument. Of course entitlements have risen faster than GDP since 1960, everyone knows about the baby boom. Also, you seem to have forgotten that there are both revenues and expenses involved in these programs. During the entire time of your plot, entitlement programs have been a net positive for the government., despite what you might conclude from reading your graph.
        2) The government shut down has done nothing to entitlement programs. So it is pointless to shut down the government to solve a possible entitlement problem issue.
        3) Everyone has known about the baby boom generation for 50+ years, so there is no surprise that they are retiring now. There is no sudden surprise here. The idea that the only solution to these potential issues is shutdown or default is crazy.

  12. I suppose if you don’t like working for the government due to occasional government shutdowns, you might be well-advised to work for private industry, instead.

    1. And that’s what many people will do. As a result, much of the really important scientific work that private industry NEVER does — the kind of forefront research that lays the groundwork for the private industry of the next few decades — won’t be done in the United States. In short, your point is correct, but extremely short-sighted; it is not in the country’s interest that most smart science people come to that conclusion.

    1. The comments section of this blog is expected to be a forum for balanced political discourse. Still I must say I find it concerning if you cannot see the serious and fundamental bias in the linked article.

      1. The comments section of this blog is expected to be a forum for discourse on particle physics. If I wanted Yet Another Poli-Sci Discussion, there are a hundred thousand other blog sites I could visit.

        1. This is a website about science. Science is a part of society; society’s future is crucial for science, and science’s future is crucial for modern society. To ignore the linkages and interdependence is to be an proverbial ostrich. I am a citizen and my livelihood, work and savings are at stake in this debate.

  13. Ok, so what do you propose? To just keep borrowing as long as it it possible and to hell with future generations? I think any short term benefit to science from that course of action would be far outweighed by the fallout from the inevitable economic collapse that would hit once creditors money finally run out.

    1. I propose what they’re finally starting to talk about: a gradual effort to reform the entitlement system, with a raising of the age for social security benefits and improvements (not cut-backs) to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare, even though it is barely recognizable as his original proposal) so that it saves the medical system more money. I think draconian action, such as sequesters and default threats and shutdowns, are stupid and counter-productive; they damage the economy and increase the deficit in the short- and perhaps long-term. A real default would make things potentially a hundred times worse; we can only solve our problems in good economic times, not in depressions and deep recessions.

      1. The problem with raising the age for Social Security and/or Medicare is that among the people who need those programs most life expectancy has not risen nearly as much as in the population at large; so, you end up significantly cutting out the people who really need the program. (With Medicare, you would also end up cutting out the people who are cheapest to cover.)

      2. >I propose what they’re finally starting to talk about: a gradual
        >effort to reform the entitlement system

        Matt, just why do you think the President is NOW starting to talk about it? Consider:

        2009: The president didn’t want to address the problem, he even ignored his own commission on the subject.
        2010: Nothing from the President.
        2011: Very close to a deal after the Republicans balked at raising the debt ceiling. A deal was finalized, the President walked away after agreeing.
        2012: The President slams Ryan’s budget (which was scored by CBO and found to lead to balance). He proposes NOHTING except the status quo as an alternative.
        2013: The President says he will talk again after the Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling.

        Now do you believe the President would be talking about making needed change where it not for the debt ceiling issue? Let’s see your evidence.

        From his actions, there is no reason to think he would. So if you do want him to do what you propose, you should thank Boehner for forcing the issue.

      3. Obamacare is a disaster. All the media and Democrats do is lie. Hospitals and doctors are already going out of business. I know. I was a successful physician, and then Obama got elected. So you can whine all you want Matt, but I’m done. You’re a great teacher, but you can’t see past your own biases. You and all your academic whiner friends here on this post whining about your mortgages and rights and the future etc.., etc…didn’t give a damn when the Democrat party destroyed my future and livelihood. I can always get food stamps I guess. You academics are the most spoiled and childish tantruming class ever. I hope you all crash and burn.

  14. As a Canadian.. we just find it mind-boggling that the US government is broken to the point where something like this is even possible. Our already low opinion of America is falling even further.

  15. >Heaven forbid we should keep threatening to go into
    >something resembling default!

    Matt, every proposal out there involves the eventual default of the US Federal Government. The President is perfectly happy to have us default, just not on his watch. Republicans would like to default now.

    Given that:
    1. The sooner we do it, the less pain and long term damage.
    2. Politicians will not act without a crisis

    I say do it now.

    Seriously, what do you think we shold do when we hit the REAL debt ceiling (nobody will loan us any more $$)? You need to think of the long term here.

    1. To go into default when the U.S. is just coming out of a very deep recession, and when large parts of the world are in serious economic trouble, is begging for a deep, international, long-lasting depression. Anyone who thinks NOW is a good time for default is nuts.

      On top of this, default is NOT assured, nor is it wise. We agree social programs must be cut. And the dollar will have to be devalued to avoid default, which will mean moderately high inflation for a while. But default, and permanent loss of confidence, will increase our interest payments!!! and worsen the economy so we have less revenue!!! It is the *worst* possible way to deal with the deficit, because it makes it immediately much, much worse.

      1. Who said now was a good time? It is simply a better time than waiting for the REAL debt ceiling. Think it’s bad now? Just wait for what we are headed for.

        If we do it now, a 5% tax increase, 5% spending cut, some moderate entitlement reforms and the problem is pretty much solved. Follow the President’s plan and default in 10-20 years and we ARE looking at a depression that will last a generation. I have children and grandchildren, I’d much rather do it now. I care about science and would like my grandkids to be able to be scientists. Under the current path, there will be no funding for science for them.

        BTW, default IS assured. The President has demonstrated several times he will not reform entitlements. In 09 he appointed a commission (Simpson/Bowles) that told him to reform entitlements. He ignored it and tossed the report in the trash. In 2011, as a result of the last debt ceiling crisis, he came within inches of making a start and needed change. He couldn’t bring himself to do it in spite of the crisis.

        So when, without a crisis, is he going to make the change?

        1. Someguy – It sounds like you’ve been reading too much Wall Street Journal – or listening to Austrian/libertarian/insane economists. Look, these people have been completely wrong on everything related to economics since I graduated High School back in the 1970’s. Social Security and Medicaid are going bankrupt ‘tomorrow’ and have been for 40 years. Funny how no one ever talks about the Defense Department going bankrupt!

          Remember Reaganomics? The Laffer Curve? Supply-Side economics? Voodoo economics? How about Clinton’s 1993 budget? Not one Republican voted for it. They claimed it would cause double digit interest rates, double digit inflation, double-digit unemployment, and explode the deficit. Eight years later we were running a budget surplus.

          And what exactly did the GOP do with that budget surplus when Dubya took office in 2000? They squandered it. Suddenly surpluses were *bad* for the country, so they gave it all away in tax breaks to the wealthy – or gifts to industry.

          With the ARRA stimulus package we saw the same type of ridiculous economic predictions. HYPERINFLATION! Interest rates through the roof!!! Yeah, how’s that working out for ya?

          Right now we’re running *below* the level necessary to keep debt to GDP constant. Got that? BELOW the spending level necessary to keep debt to GDP constant. We could INCREASE spending by 1% of GDP and be at a constant level. These are pretty basic numbers that anyone with access to government statistics and the ability to use a calculator can figure out.

          And of course we could always raise taxes (OMG, the audacity). You, know, on the people who have reaped the rewards bestowed on them by their bought and paid for politicians.

          If you can point to an economist who has been more right than wrong on the big policy issues over the past 20 to 30 years I’ll lay 100:1 odds he doesn’t appear often in the WSJ or wear a Republican party lapel pin. And he sure as heck ain’t no libertarian.


          1. Laboratory experiments in economics are very difficult to perform. The stimulus package was as close to a test of economic theory as we’ll find. One group predicted inflation and interest rates would rapidly rise. Others, Keynesians, said, “Naw, not likely.”

            In science you take a hypothesis, test it, and *discard* it when it’s proven wrong. Have any of these economists admitted their entire understanding of economics is flawed? If you can’t even get the most basic functions of the economy correct (interest rates and inflation), then why should we believe them on anything remotely more complicated? This followed in the immediate aftermath of the complete *collapse* of markets. Markets were not only unable to set the ‘best’ price – they couldn’t set *any* price on the trillions of dollars in paper sloshing around Wall Street. If the Federal Reserve hadn’t stepped in where would we be today? Markets failed. Conservative economists have been shown to be charlatans. And yet we still have to listen to them (and their blinkered followers) bleat on.

            It gets tiresome.

  16. What our politicians are putting the country through right now is pretty pathetic. Personally I find both sides disingenuous.

    Suddenly the republicans are concerned for the little guy – while I appreciate their ‘concern’ for individuals having to make medical payments while the president cut a year break for large corporations (employing over 50 people) it is really not their style. So too is their professed desire that ‘ObamaCare’ be applied to the congress – who are they kidding?

    Suddenly the democrats are warning us of the dire consequences of going over budget! You phonies can’t have it both ways. You don’t take the National Debt seriously, so long as you can continue to print money we don’t have (the FED is printing money we don’t have to the tune of 85 Billion per Month) – driving up every the price of everything, like food and fuel, that are conveniently not taken into account in their calculations for the rate of inflation. But now that we are once again coming up against the Debt Limit it’s the end of the world and we need to take it very seriously – who are they kidding?

    Of course the deficit fell – as percent of GDP – because among other things, the sequester kicked in driving down (thoughtlessly, but nonetheless – driving down) Government spending – not because the economy has started to boom! Come on Matt, if the deficit were really down in the way most people view being down, we wouldn’t be bumping up against the Debt Limit.

    All these thieving idiots (both Republicans and Democrats) better start working together and better stop playing politics or they really will bring the country to its knees.

    1. You seem to be totally misunderstanding the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is a statutory limit the total amount of outstanding debt the US can be carrying. It is completely disconnected from the budgetary process. (In fact, I tend to think that having a debt limit structured this way is one of the stupidest policies the US government has.) So, the Democrats are not talking about going over budget. They’re talking about losing the ability to pay money we’ve already promised to pay.

      Also, it’s not just the deficit has fallen as a fraction of GDP. It is down on absolute terms. Not even adjusting for inflation, the deficit for fiscal year 2009 (which we were about 4 months into when Obama took office) was a little over $1.4 trillion. The deficit in fiscal 2013 (which just ended 10 days ago) was just under $760 billion.

      1. The debt limit is a legislative mechanism to limit the amount of national debt. I agree completely that going into default is not wise and I desperately hope the idiots avoid it. However I disagree that having a debt limit is “one of the stupidest policies the US government has”. It would be of very little use if the president and congress did their jobs, however in the current situation I think it is a necessary evil that at least forces a discussion of the national debt and current levels of spending relative to revenues which otherwise clearly wouldn’t even take place.

        However, I will concede that thus far, all that ever seems to happen is a dangerous game of chicken between the democrats and republicans that, at times (like now), brings us perilously close to the edge – only to kick the can down the road – without any serious discussions taking place – but only a mindless sequester which has hurt many of the wrong people… I must admit I underestimated their level of stubborn arrogance and stupidity when even under the threat of sequester, which both sides supposedly found unbearable, did not force reasonable discussion and compromise.

        I see that we have a miscommunication of terms. This is my fault. Yes, the deficit – the amount of money that the government had to barrow this YEAR is less than it had to barrow last YEAR. I have to assume that this is what you mean when you say that the deficit fell in ‘absolute’ terms – even though it is merely relative to the previous year.

        If I print a trillion dollars of money that I don’t have last year, but I ‘only’ print a ½ trillion dollars of money I don’t have this year, then according to your definition the deficit fell in ‘absolute’ terms. In my post I was talking in somewhat broader terms – but how were you to know that? So let’s try it this way:

        When the president took office in 2009 the National Debt was ~ 11 Trillion and now it is ~17 Trillion, so the government has spent ~6 trillion in 5 years or ~1.2 Trillion more a year than it has taken in.

        So while saying the president has cut the deficit is technically true (he spent less this year than he did last year) it is, in my opinion, disingenuous.

        1. I didn’t mean that measures to restrict total debt are stupid. I meant specifically that having a debt ceiling that is totally disconnected from the budgetary process (and isn’t pegged at least to inflation) is incredibly stupid and will inevitably lead to these games of chicken rather than actually encouraging fiscal responsibility.

          As for the issue of the size of deficits, the deficit is defined is the annual difference between expenditures and revenues. You seem to be talking about increases in total debt, not deficits. Also, it’s not the president who sets either spending levels or tax rates; so, to credit or blame Obama solely for the state of the budget or the debt is really not correct.

    2. There is no equivalence here. Both parties are not at fault. Senate Democrats have tried to go to conference committee 19 times this year and have been rebuffed by the GOP. In the hours before the shutdown the House Rules Committee changed the House rules to prevent any member from using parliamentary procedures to bring a ‘clean’ bill to the floor. This shutdown has been planned by the GOP for months. Remember, Michelle Bachman (R-MN), on the day of the shutdown said, out loud, for the record, not sarcastically or under any form of coercion, “We’re very excited. It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.”

      Anyone that thinks this is a dysfunctional congress is seriously deluded. It’s not the congress, it’s Republicans. This is what the GOP has been planning all along. Their miscalculation was in thinking that the Democrats would give in to their extortion demands one more time.

  17. I live in Argentina, and my country has already broken so many rules in the last decades, including a few defaults, so, we are not an example to follow.

    Having said that, in the last decade, my country is in an era of re-emergence of science as an area of special interest to the government, with the government funding many different lines of research in biology, medicine, nanotechnology, peaceful applications of nuclear research, climate change and weather research, including the development of research satellites.

    Since the second half of the 1960s, and mostly due to both political and financial reasons, my country has suffered from a tremendous brain drain of intellectuals, mostly scientists and engineers.

    Since 2002, the government has invested in the repatriation of many scientists, who are invited back to continue their research here, with proper budgets for their projects.

    I have a critical view of the current government in many areas, but I praise what the government has done for science in general for the last decade.

    Kind regards, GEN

  18. I live in Italy: public debt at 130% of GDP (in Italy we say “PIL”). In such a situation (e.g. 45% average taxation), science as a whole system can no longer exists. But, maybe innovation from science is the only hope. Italian politicians do not understand.

  19. I’m having a hard time understanding the motivation of the very rich of a certain extreme right wing ideology who already have most of the money in the World and who are actively sabotaging the Democratic process, imperfect as it already is. More money? Global domination? The Politicians primarily responsible are just pieces on the board. I think historical president would suggest this is about the time a revolution usually happens.

  20. Well, living in Greece , this is everyday reality to us..
    It’s a pity that the plague spreads outwards like that.
    Hope that US will get over it soon..

  21. This not the ordinary stuff included in your posts, but considering the current circumstances, it is a very important comment to be made.

    Democracy in America has been taken hostage, and the ramson note has already been sent, to the amount of the annual budget of the Federal Government for the fiscal year 2013 – 2014.

    Kind regards, GEN

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