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AWIS in Action! February 2013 - PHD Comics
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AWIS In Action!

 Advocacy & Public Policy Newsletter   ~   February 2013
In This Issue
 
Cliffs, Ceilings, and Other Crises
 
Lately, government appears to be going from one manufactured crisis to the next. This chronic cry that the sky is falling makes it challenging for those of us in advocacy to generate any meaningful interest amongst our membership because people are burned out and indifferent to fear-mongering that appears to be politics as usual. A study in The Hill, a DC newspaper, found that only 36% of voters outside the Beltway know what sequestration means. In brief, it is draconian cuts to programs both sides of the aisle hold dear so, in theory, Democrats and Republicans in Congress would be forced to negotiate and compromise. Efforts by lawmakers to get back to the table and find a better solution than the across the board cuts, which will kick in next week if no further resolution is found, seem to have stalled. And now, politicians on both sides seem to be focusing their efforts on how best to deflect the blame rather than to do what is best for the country.
 
So what is the problem? First off, across the board cuts don’t leave room for more sensible planning. As it impacts the sciences, it will mean 8% cuts, or roughly $2.5 billion cut from the NIH budget and $1.5 billion from NASA. It also means $600 million from the NSF, $400 million from Department of Energy research, and over $300 million from the FDA. And that’s just the impact to science. It also means layoffs or unpaid leave for millions of employees. The Pentagon plans to furlough 800,000 employees if sequestration happens. It will also affect public school teachers, first responders such as firefighters and police officers, food safety inspectors, air traffic controllers, FBI agents, border control, airport security, to name a few who help keep us safe and invest in our future. Another problem is that while members of Congress do not want to compromise, they also don’t want to be held responsible for cuts back in their home districts. Therefore, they are seeking to defray the cuts to federal programs in their own backyards without trying to solve the problem for the nation. Lastly, entitlement programs are exempt from sequestration but are a large source of the deficit. Neither side wants to risk losing public support by bringing that up so that elephant in the room continues to go unmentioned. However, ignoring that problem won’t make it go away. As sequestration looms, attention is shifting to the next showdown which will occur before March 27th when a government shutdown will happen if other budget resolutions are not reached. Then again, government shutdowns have a better success rate when it comes to getting the attention of taxpayers.
 
For our part, we at AWIS have been trying for nearly a year now to bring attention to this issue by encouraging you to reach out to Congress and tell them to compromise, by sharing sign-on letters, by sharing stories of others who reached out to their members of Congress and their strategy for doing so, by creating an advocacy web-tutorial to help you get started. Most recently we’ve been working with Jorge Cham at PHD Comics to get the word out. This is a significant fight because federal funding for science in this country is currently stagnant, meaning it will be harder for those coming up the pipeline to get grants to start their own lab, and that hurts everyone in science. And when people fight for increasingly smaller pieces of a pie, concerns about equity tend to go out the window. Regardless of who winds up getting more of the blame, it is hard to see how any side thinks it can claim "victory” when hard working Americans from all walks of life will lose their jobs in a time of chronic economic uncertainty.
 
 
In This Issue
  
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