Thank heaven for RINOs.
Never thought I'd say that. Never. But it's true today.
Continuing to watch as Congress "works" on math and science legislation. In the Senate, Coburn of Oklahoma is doing something hopelessly dumb. He's trying to pass amendments to cut out various research functions of the government. And most R senators are blindly following him, because the votes are almost exactly party-line. Luckily, the RINOs are either smarter, or else just naturally follow the D party line, so that the Coburn amendments have failed.
Research, especially agricultural research, provides an easy, ah, bulls-eye for the 'pork-busters'. It's easy to laugh at wheat diseases, cow farts or bee food research. It's not so easy to fight a wheat fungus
(which is zooming around the world right now, destroying entire crops) or to figure out why beehives are dying (which is happening right now) when you've knocked out your own ag research facilities.
One of Coburn's proposed cuts was the Advanced Technology Program at NIST, which offers partial grants for a lot of commercial research that wouldn't otherwise be done, because small companies have to please their stockholders and lawyers first. Several of ATP's grants are done on a competitive-prize basis.Here's a sampling
of research assisted by the ATP. It includes new manufacturing methods, improvements in surveillance, replacements for petroleum, cheaper ways to cultivate stem cells, improved medical record-keeping, and lots of other stuff ... none of it on the grand scale of Fire or Wheels or Telephones, but much of it related to national security against bioterrorism.
Can you imagine a politician in the middle of WW2 cutting funds for radar development, synthetic rubber, or the mysterious and wildly wasteful Manhattan Project? Coburn would have attempted it, and he would have been remembered to this day as a traitor.
One untrainable idiot is bad enough, but Why O Why do nearly all the R senators wish to join him in the historical junkyard? I truly, genuinely, non-rhetorically, sadly, DO NOT UNDERSTAND.
More generally, I think the pork-busters see the trees and miss the forest. By cutting out lots of small and silly-sounding items, they eliminate some genuine services that won't be replaced by the private sector; and by assuaging the voter's desire to see efficiency, they make it much easier to pass huge and serious-sounding appropriations. In other words, by saving a few millions, they make it easier to waste trillions.
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Later: Come to think of it, C. Northcote Parkinson discussed this point. His observation was somewhat different, perhaps because he was talking about sane
legislatures like city councils. He said: Legislators handle budget items in three different ways. Small items like a new typewriter for the mayor's secretary are instantly approved because the legislators (quite properly) feel it's ridiculous to spend more time on debate than the item is worth. Huge items like a new electric power plant are instantly approved because the legislators don't want to show off their total ignorance of the subject. It's the middle-sized items, like a new fire-engine, that get serious debate, because they are both "worthy" and understandable.