Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:
If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
Cortaro, AZ 85652
Back in October 2010, just days before the mid-term elections, I wrote the following:
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that, come Tuesday, the Republicans take both houses, in a stunning landslide not seen in more than a century. Let’s also assume that the changes in Congress are going to point decidedly away from the recent liberal policies of large government (by both parties). Instead, every indication suggests that the new Congress will lean heavily towards a return to the principles of small government, low taxes, and less regulation.
These assumptions are not unreasonable. Not only do the polls indicate that one or both of the houses of Congress will switch from Democratic to Republican control, the numerous and unexpected primary upsets of established incumbents from both parties — as well the many protests over the past year by large numbers of ordinary citizens — make it clear that the public is not interested in half measures. Come January, the tone and direction of Congress is going to undergo a shocking change.
Anyway, based on these assumptions, we should then expect next year’s Congress to propose unprecedented cuts to the federal budget, including the elimination of many hallowed programs. The recent calls to defund NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcastings are only one example.
When Congress attempts this, however, the vested interests that have depended on this funding for decades are not going to take the cuts lightly. Or to put it more bluntly, they are going to squeal like pigs, throwing temper tantrums so loud and insane that they will make the complaints of a typical three-year-old seem truly statesman-like. And they will do so in the hope that they will garner sympathy and support from the general voting public, thereby making the cuts difficult to carry out.
The real question then is not whether the new Congress will propose the cuts required to bring the federal government under control, but whether they, as well as the public, will have the courage to follow through, to defy the howls from these spoiled brats, and do what must be done.
The legislative situation with NASA over the summer and fall might give us a hint about whether the next Congress will have the courage to make the cuts that are necessary. In this case Obama actually proposed doing something close to what conservatives have dreamed of for decades: take NASA (and the government) out of the business of building rockets and spacecraft and pass it over to the private sector.
Moreover, despite the strong dislike the right has for Obama and his leftist policies, many conservative pundits both inside and outside of the space activist community publicly supported the President in this effort.
Nonetheless, these policies were not accepted by Congress. Instead, the legislative body passed an authorization bill that requires NASA to build a new heavy-lift rocket and the manned capsule to go with it. Congress did this partly for national security reasons, but mostly because they wanted to protect the jobs in Houston, Florida, and elsewhere that NASA provides, and thus bring home the bacon to their constituents. And they did this because those constituents had squealed at them about the threatened loss of funding.
In other words, elected officials from both parties had teamed up to authorize this pork-laden program in order to keep the pigs quiet. In other words, NASA’s legislative history this past year does not give us an encouraging view of the future. It appears that Congress will give us the same-old same-old, when asked.
More than six years have passed, and my analysis of the situation in 2010 appears almost perfect. While the Republicans did not win both houses of Congress in 2010, they did in 2014. Despite these victories from voters who clearly wanted them to cut back on the power of government, they did exactly what I expected, based on their actions in connection with NASA and SLS: maintain the pork and chicken out whenever challenged by Obama, the Democrats, the press (I repeat myself), and too many spoiled members of the general public.
After the 2016 elections, things have moved even more to the right. The Republicans not only control both houses of Congress, they have a Republican president (though a very unpredictable one) and the leftwing mainstream press has been discredited and no longer monopolizes the distribution of information. What will happen in the coming years?
For one thing, we can surely expect the squealing of pigs to continue. Below is only a small sampling of recent articles describing the response by the press, scientists, and many leftwing politicians (from both parties) to Trump’s election and his picks in connection with climate research:
- DOE Refuses To Name Employees Who Worked On Global Warming Programs
- Press encouraged to turn up heat on Trump
- Christie Whitman slams Trump’s EPA chief pick
- Rick Perry has never seen eye to eye with California. As Trump’s pick for Energy secretary, that’s unlikely to change
- Former Nasa chief scientist says access to federal data is critical
- UN Chief: Abandoning Paris Climate Deal Will ‘Condemn Future Generations to Untold Suffering’
- Robert Reich: The First 100 Day Resistance Agenda
The first link above is referring specifically to a 74 page list of questions submitted to the Department of Energy by the Trump transition team, designed quite intentionally to provide the information they need to take over the running of the Department, which by law Trump now controls. Unlike the mainstream Democratic press, which focused on only one question (which asked for the names of those DOE employees who have attended a variety of recent climate meetings), the entire list of questions is analyzed in detail at this link. As the author there concludes:
My first take from all of this is that there will be a top-to-bottom shakeup of the DOE, with deadwood cut, permitting carefully reassessed, positions eliminated, labs merged, the EIA charged with giving real numbers, nuclear strengthened, and the climate nonsense moved way down the list.
My second take from all of this is that the people who made the memo are very good at their job. They’ve asked all of the right questions and then some.
However, I don’t find in this anything to support the claim that the new Administration is looking to hold up a list of scientists for opprobrium, or that they plan to interfere in the scientific process. As with every incoming Administration, they DO plan to refocus and redirect the overall future course of the agency, which will inescapably mean that the scientific studies will move in a different direction.
Finally, folks, lets get real. Every Administration has chosen the scientists it want to be studying things, and has told them what the Administration wants them to study. If these DOE scientists don’t want to be re-directed to study different things, this is not an infringement of their scientific freedom. Instead, it is part of the price you pay for being the government’s scientist—just as in any other field of endeavor you do what is directed by the people who sign your paycheck.
Overall, I gotta say … it’s about time, and it couldn’t happen to a better agency,
The other links I provide above outline more of the upcoming leftwing/Democratic campaign. They are going to squeal like pigs, and they are going to do it like never before.
The fundamental question remains: What will Trump and Congress do in response? In 2010 the evidence suggested the Republicans would fold like a deck of cards. This proved true. Now, however, the Congress is even more conservative, and the new president is not a member of the Washington elite political class.
Donald Trump’s roots might still be that of a liberal Democrat, but he is also a tough businessman trained in the real world battles of private enterprise. His cabinet picks, favoring businessmen like himself, suggest that he means business. He will ignore the squeals and do what he thinks is right. While it is likely that I, as a free market conservative who wants the federal government to shrink, will not like many of his decisions, it does seem clear that in at least one area, climate research and regulation, Trump is moving in the right direction. He very clearly plans to cleanse the federal government of the environmental activism that has poisoned climate research for the past two decades.
If things go as indicated by his cabinet picks, Trump will move to shift climate research from NASA to NOAA, an action that will allow him to put new people in charge of the research. The change will also allow him to adjust budgets, cutting where he thinks necessary. At the same time he will move to reshape the EPA, and the Energy, Interior, and Commerce departments. The leftwing politcalization of these agencies will end, even if it means the firing of a lot of people.
If Trump moves to do this with courage, his leadership will stiffen the spines of the Republican wimps in Congress. We already have an indication of this: Mitch McConnell is getting ready to unravel Obama’s coal rules. The signs definitely suggest that Trump and Congress will at least initially show backbone and treat the squealing for what it is, a temper tantrum by spoiled three-year-olds who have gotten used to getting their way all the time.
Well, it is time that they no longer got their way. The federal government under the leadership of these three-year-olds has become an abject failure, bankrupting the country while squelching freedom. It is time someone else’s ideas were given a chance. To this, I say to Trump, “Go for it!”