Congressmen are inarticulate, caustic and obtuse. It’s their job, you understand. At least, the job we give them. The voter’s interpretation of what to expect of federal legislators has been set adrift from their own interests. We’ll gladly elect killers and thieves so long as they pay lip service to a few key sentiments to soothe our skepticism.
As economic and environmental issues loom larger every day, we’ve got to call in the pros, people with real substantive knowledge and expertise. Yet, these people are far from Capitol Hill. Scientists shouldn’t be advising Congress by dropping ‘urgent‘ warnings that interns just run through the shredder. Scientists should be Congress.
The overwhelming majority of our elected representatives are selfish, unlikable and can’t dance. And what would you expect? They’re lawyers. Since 1960, lawyers have outnumbered doctors and scientists in Congress by 40 to 1. This has got to change.
A lawyer’s job, in a cosmic sense, is to distort reality. They’re paid big money to make an innocent man look guilty or a guilty one innocent, weaving confusion into persuasion through the magic of legalese. By contrast, doctors save lives. Scientists create knowledge. And we elected WHO? Granted, very few Ph.D.s ran for office, but they’d be much more motivated to run if there were public sentiment on their side. Maybe they’re too comfortable in their jobs. If that’s the case, they should know that as much money as there is in medical or physical science, there’s certainly a lot more in screwing the taxpayer.
American politicians currently have very, very few useful skills. Posturing, speechmaking, signing things, waiting 3 hours in makeup and making sure to tell dirty jokes where there aren’t wiretaps are their primary duties. We should be asking them for more.
Political negligence of science can broach “irresponsible“ to “bat-shit.” “Loco” Nancy Reagan relied on the readings of an astrologer, Joan Quigley, to dictate her husband’s schedule of public appearances. To hint at the impact that goat-sacrifice and stargazing may have had on Reagan’s policies, Nancy Reagan made a ton of people uncomfortable at a publisher’s luncheon in 1987. “This morning I had planned to clear up U.S.-Soviet differences on intermediate-range nuclear missiles,” she said, “but I decided to clean out Ronnie’s sock drawer instead.“ Science, save us.
Should more Ph.D.s get elected, this would mean substantial change to many current policies. Ethanol subsidizing, for one, would never be on the table. Scientists would understand that the conversion of food crops into fuel has more than doubled global prices of grain and feed and that if we combusted 100% of U.S. grain, only 15% of demand would be satisfied. Health care would be much more efficiently managed by doctors with experience and know-how to implement coverage and estimate cost and benefit.
We do have federal scientific agencies like the EPA and the FDA, but the funding and purpose of these programs are entirely at the discretion of non-scientific lawmakers. Reform and regulation is in trouble, then, but research has been completely shafted.
The National Science Foundation and National Institute for Health are historically under funded. Every year, the biggest national entities for scientific research routinely receive less than $40 billion. This is about 1 percent of the money we devote to the Department of Defense, that is, the science of blowing people up better. These two institutions got their stimulus slashed by $3.1 billion in the Democratic Senate’s cowardly attempts at appeasing the bitter antiscientific GOP.
Specifically, we should be looking at getting biologists into Congress. The four scientists we have elected have been three nuclear physicists and one non-doctoral chemist. Sure, smashing particles together is tons of (expensive) fun, but unless sustainable food starts flying out of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, physics is a curiosity that doesn’t directly serve the people. Biology and environmental science are of much more use to contemporary issues of sustainable development and ensuring the provision of fundamental resources. It’s also a massive emphasis here at Davis.
With frightened eyes meeting new headlines of “crisis“ and “recession“ every day, it offers no solace whatever to know who we charged with defending our welfare. While force-feeding cash to corrupt financial giants, our legislators stop to haggle, piss and moan about giving a smaller amount to social services and job creation. They even overlooked an easier, populistic and honest way to resolve loan defaults and toxic assets: bail out the consumers, then let us pay our own debt off. That way, no fakery. But no. Good social economists would never let this happen. Congress in its present incarnation is not our friend.
So what to do, then? The next Congressional elections are in a good two years, so we’ve got time on our hands to plan a move. Encourage your favorite professors and doctors to consider running for state Senate. It’s far-fetched that they’d enter the arena, but if they hear it enough, they may commit. There’s also a much more direct way you can start a scientific revolution: study hard.
CHEYA CARY wants you to listen to “God’s Away On Business,“ by Tom Waits. Just do it. He’s reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.