Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Presidential Primaries and Astronomy

Tomorrow, the 2008 presidential races kick into overdrive with the Iowa Caucus, followed shortly thereafter by a flurry of primaries and caucuses. It's interesting to watch, as I don't recall ever seeing this wide open of a race in both parties. And, I live in a state that doesn't vote until everything may well be decided, so I haven't been bombarded with television advertisements.

Anyway, some people have asked me who I think would be best for space and astronomy. I don't really know who might be most inclined to increase funding, but I also know that, in our political system, even a president who wants to greatly increase funding for astronomy and science has to deal with Congress and budget realities, so whatever a candidate promises doesn't really matter.

Really, the best thing for science research funding is a healthy economy. A healthy economy means higher tax revenues for the government, which means more money to give out (I'm assuming we at least try to balance our budget here, which tends to be a bad assumption in federal budgets). Second, science funding is helped by relative peace. An active war drains the budget (again, assuming it is paid for in cash and not on bonds).

Finally, the president needs to be either neutral or positive on science funding. This is usually not an issue, though there are a few candidates out there who probably would request reduced science budgets.

In the federal budget process, most astronomy is funded through the National Science Foundation, with some from NASA. But astronomy lives and dies on the National Science Foundation budget, which also supports most other non-health related science research.

So, if you want your vote to support science, vote for a candidate you think will revitalize the economy and reduce our foreign military needs. Whether this is best done by ending the war, bringing in more partners, or somehow otherwise stabilizing the Middle East is influenced by your personal opinion.

In short, astronomy prospers when you do, so choose who you think will be the best overall president!

1 comment:

  1. How about Dr. Alan Stern for trying
    to rein in NASA overspending (ref.:
    TNYT Science Times art. last Tues.)?!
    However, I wonder if he'd rein in his, as well as Dr. Dan Durda's,
    Vulcanoid research!