A new report shows how millions of Americans have been hurt by spending cuts to programs that rely on discretionary federal funding, from scientific research to national parks.

“Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer, and Less Secure” goes sector by sector, from education to environment to public health, telling the stories of those who’ve been impacted most by Washington’s failure to protect the programs that keep us healthy, safe, and educated. NDD United, an alliance of more than 3,200 national, state, and local organizations working to stop more harsh cuts to core government functions, produced the report. The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a member of the alliance and sponsored the report.

“With this report, NDD United shows us how the dysfunctional and disruptive cuts of sequester have real impacts in real communities with real consequences in people’s day-to-day lives,” said Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “It’s time to find the sensible center and move forward with an agreement that cancels sequester for the next two years with a balanced approach while we negotiate a long-term solution to our deficit and debt.”

The report features the stories of those who’ve been doing more with less for years, but now face the risk that continued cuts will significantly prevent them from providing needed services:

  • Federal agencies have closed long-term sampling sites used to monitor greenhouse gases and other chemicals in the atmosphere and stream gauges used to predict floods and droughts.
  • Dwindling federal funding for research is creating an “innovation deficit” in our economy, according to Eli Capilouto, President of the University of Kentucky. “And, because our ability to grow our way to recovery is contingent upon new discoveries, we are setting ourselves up to fail.”
  • Pat O’Shea, University of Maryland vice president and chief research officer, said universities were already witnessing an across-the-board brain drain, with top researchers fleeing to more accommodating pastures. “It is not just junior faculty, it is senior faculty,” O’Shea said. “It is something that we never saw before.”

Since fiscal year 2010, federal investment in science has fallen, in nominal and inflation adjusted dollars, with total funding suffering a nearly 20 percent reduction in purchasing power in only three years. Science represented about 1.6 percent of all federal spending in fiscal year 2013. The trend will likely continue downward. Under sequestration, discretionary programs—including both defense and nondefense programs—will face more than $700 billion in cuts over the next eight years if lawmakers do not act to replace sequestration with a more meaningful and comprehensive deficit reduction strategy.

“Faces of Austerity” is available online at www.nddunited.org.


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