Mark Wilson: About the new manager |

Mark Wilson: About the new manager

Most working Americans have at some point run into a new manager who doesn’t know his ankle from his elbow but is determined to make his mark by telling everyone else what they’re doing wrong.

He doesn’t know where supplies are kept or the most efficient way to complete the work. He runs roughshod over productive relationships that workers have forged with one another and with clients. He ignores long-standing employees with a deep knowledge of the business because he’s sure he knows better. So the best employees leave, institutional knowledge disappears, clients go elsewhere, morale plummets and the business suffers.

This is the situation we’re experiencing now in our federal government. Mr. Trump and many members of his administration came into office with little to no knowledge of how government functions or of what their role in it is supposed to be. Others arrived with a stated intent to either eliminate the office they are supposed to direct or to undermine it. As a result, many excellent government employees who have loyally served through multiple administrations have either been dismissed or have left because they can no longer do their jobs. Well into Mr. Trump’s first year, the federal government continues to limp along, with many critical positions left unfilled and many others filled by unqualified people.

This inability to understand the value of hiring, retaining and learning from knowledgeable, experienced employees clearly shows in Mr. Trump’s proposed budget — particularly in the area of science. Scientific research builds upon previous research. It benefits from well-trained, experienced individuals with deep knowledge of their subject, its history and the long-term plans for achieving goals beneficial to U.S. citizens.

Federal funding of scientific research not only benefits Americans personally, through advanced medical treatments and innovative technologies, it also bolsters our economy and provides jobs.

For decades, U.S. federal research funding has enabled the development of technologies that are then commercialized by private American companies; sometimes leading to entirely new industries. The development of the Internet, for example, was heavily supported through government research. In 2016, the top 10 U.S. internet companies alone boasted revenues of more than $310 billion, and that sector now provides millions of American jobs. Government funding for the Human Genome Project, through the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy, enabled researchers to sequence the human genome, which led to an entirely new branch of medicine. Reliable, consistent federal research funding ensures that the U.S. continues to lead the world in technological development by providing foundational research that private companies cannot or will not conduct, and by tying that research to American companies’ entrepreneurial efforts.

For scientific research to be effective, however, and to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted, its funding must be stable. Imagine if funding for Internet development or genome research had been zeroed out under a new administration. Projects would have stopped, researchers would have moved on and rather than realizing that work’s benefits, we would talk about money wasted with no results — not because the research wasn’t promising, but because our leaders lacked the vision to dedicate the funding.

Mr. Trump’s budget exemplifies that lack of vision. The United States has pioneered many renewable technologies and has invested heavily in their development, but at a time when nearly every country is moving toward renewable energy and the fastest-growing U.S. job is wind-turbine technician, he seeks to reduce the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy budget by 47 percent below fiscal year 2017 levels. Conversely, China is investing $400 billion in renewables over three years. Which economy is likely to solidify its leadership in the future energy sector?

Sadly, the Trump budget provides no funds whatsoever for six manufacturing institutes that focus on lowering costs, increasing efficiency and developing materials and technologies to keep American manufacturers competitive in a global marketplace. This includes an institute seeking to manufacture new skin for soldiers scarred from combat and produce life-saving organs for Americans unable to get a transplant. His budget also contains no funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), which promotes and funds research and development of advanced energy technologies. The projects it has supported have attracted more than $450 million in private capital.

Federal funding of scientific research not only benefits Americans personally through advanced medical treatments and innovative technologies, but it also bolsters our economy and provides jobs. Little support can be expected from a man who demonstrates no understanding of science and its impacts, but we can hope that Congress, which holds the purse strings, will rework this myopic budget to ensure the United States’ continued scientific leadership.

Mark Wilson lives in Nevada City.

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