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Stimulus 2.0

In Policy on February 11, 2009 at 12:23 pm

The Senate passed the stimulus bill yesterday, 61 to 37. After hashing out the differences between the House and Senate versions, Congress is expected to send a final version to the President by the end of the week.

Via ProPublica, here’s table of how the changes stack up. The largest cuts in the Senate version is in the state fiscal stabilization fund to be used for education and for cash-strapped states’ budgets. As for science and technology: it actually comes out ahead in the Senate version, as a whole, but some areas lose.

Fossil energy research gains 4.6 billion,
renewable energy research gains 2.5 billion,
NSF loses 1.8 billion,
NIH loses 1 billion,
DOE research loses 2 billion,
University research facilities lose 1.5 billion,
biomedical research gains 9 billion,
NASA gains 700 million,
NOAA gains 400 milion,
CDC loses 1.1 billion.

It’s not great, particularly if you’re in basic research, or work or study at a university. Education also receives significant cuts.

My thought on the stimulus (with Alice Rivlin, Bill Clinton’s budget director) is that it’s full of long term projects that don’t belong in a stimulus, and “Such a long-term investment program should not be put together hastily and lumped in with the anti-recession package.” (Econ geek note: you don’t have to be of the Fama/Cochrane school, “Government spending by definition crowds out all investment, and fiscal stimulus is a logical impossibility” to believe that this particular recovery package is flawed. I actually think Krugman’s argument makes a lot of sense.)

Most science spending (though not all; consider equipment replacement) is long-term investment, and so will come too late to stimulate. So from a macro perspective, it’s probably one of those items that shouldn’t be in the bill. But, like all other groups with an interest in federal funding, scientists can fairly worry that if we don’t get a boost now, we never will. I’m hoping, with my usual goofy optimism, that Congress will demonstrate that it takes scientific research seriously as a public good.

For the true wonks: all the changes between the House and Senate version, via TPM.

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