As US government offices and research facilities across the country remain shuttered and services delayed or interrupted, the partial government shutdown that has resulted in 800,000 federal workers being furloughed or forced to work without pay has accomplished one thing – it has set a new record for how long the President and Congress have failed to govern the country.
The costs associated with the shutdown continue to grow. Beyond the pain inflicted on federal workers, contractors, and grantees, economists now estimate that the shutdown is having real and significant negative effects on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Kevin Hassett, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, now estimates that the shutdown will reduce quarterly economic growth by 0.13 percentage point each week. Hassett doubled his forecast after initially underestimating the economic impact of the shutdown. To put things into perspective, the economic growth in the first quarter of 2018 was 2.2 percent. Other economists also predict losses in the first quarter of 2019, including New York Federal Reserve President John Williams, who thinks the shutdown could cut quarterly U.S. economic growth by 1 percentage point.
The budget impasse is a threat to science, with shuttered federal agencies unable to award grants until they are funded again. Research conducted by a significant number of federal agencies has also come to a halt or is significantly limited. Currently, the shutdown directly affects the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Smithsonian Institution, State Department, Census Bureau, United States Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, among others.
AIBS: Support Science, Fund the Government
The American Institute of Biological Sciences, on January 18, 2019, issued a statement expressing concern for those being impacted by the government shutdown and for the long-term impacts of the shutdown.
The statement reads:
The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) wants federal employees, including thousands of scientists, being hurt by the continuing political impasse and failure to fund the federal government to know that they are not forgotten. Not forgotten also are the countless individuals being harmed because contracts are not being funded and new grants are not being awarded to carry forward research and science education programs.
AIBS President, Dr. Charles B. Fenster, emphasized that we all know dedicated scientists who work for the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, United States Geological Survey, National Park Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, State Department, Census Bureau, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “I encourage all of us to keep our colleagues in our thoughts and to reach out to them as they continue to endure this unwarranted penalty,” said Fenster.
“This shutdown is irresponsible and it is doing real harm to people, the economy, and science,” said Dr. Robert Gropp, AIBS Executive Director. “It is past time to open the government. Political fights over a wall can be conducted without destroying the morale of public servants, threatening people's well-being, and damaging the economy. It is reprehensible to demand that federal workers be called to work without pay simply to mask the real negative impacts of this failure to govern.”
As described in a 2016 AIBS report, the “Federal government is the main supporter of basic research in the United States, providing more than half of funding.” More than 80,000 patents were awarded in a ten-year period based on the results of research originally sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Over the past 50 years, roughly half of the economic growth at private businesses has been due to advances in knowledge resulting from research and development.
The statement is also available here: https://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20190118_aibs_statement.html