Monday, August 15, 2022
Aug. 15, 2022

Linkedin Pinterest

McFeatters: America is losing its scientific edge


Once the most technologically advanced and scientifically active country in the world, the United States is losing its edge.

Let us count the ways.

The position of science adviser to the president remains empty. Thousands of science jobs are not filled. Donald Trump is not only uninterested in science, he is hostile to scientific policy as a factor in decisions.

The administration’s decision to raise tariffs on imported solar panels is the latest in a series of short-sighted actions with long-lasting ramifications.

Solar power is becoming economically viable. This has enabled utilities to buy solar power, has resulted in solar farms and is helping the country reach its goal of energy independence and nonpolluting energy.

Imported panels are cheaper than those made in America. But jobs are being created in more numbers through those cheaper panels than if all panels were U.S.-made. Ultimately, the impact of new tariffs on solar panels will be harmful.

By pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Trump has ceded trade growth and dominance in the vital Pacific Rim to China, ensuring that China is becoming the new superpower.

Trump pulled the U.S. out of the climate change accord; the country now stands alone in the world in denying the science of what could be the most devastating impact on Earth in civilized times. Extreme droughts, fires, mudslides, blizzards, heat waves, floods and all manner of environmental catastrophes will increase. But the world no longer looks to the U.S. to lead.

By telling Congress that he wants the 800,000 Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who have been in this country since they were children — out of the country unless he gets his $20 billion wall, Trump is denying us the benefit of a generation of people with desirable scientific and technological skills. By definition, Dreamers are achievers who have not committed any crime and are either studying or have jobs that contribute to society.

Instead of inviting the world’s best and brightest who study in American universities to stay and contribute to the growth of this country, they are being sent home, taking their knowledge and skills with them. The message has gone out: Lady Liberty is no longer welcoming immigrants.

When Trump released his first proposed budget, he slashed billions of dollars from science and research programs, including billions from the popular National Institutes of Health. Congress balked. But thousands of scientists say their research is no longer being funded.

Such things as Trump’s reduced spending on the national parks have led to a 4 percent drop in the number of foreign tourists coming to visit the United States, taking away 40,000 American jobs and costing the economy billions of dollars.

Despite the dangerous opioid crisis, the White House stopped a program to evaluate “evidence-based” treatments for substance abuse.

In the past year Trump has made clear his priorities and interests. Science and technology are not among them.

Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Email:

Support local journalism

Your tax-deductible donation to The Columbian’s Community Funded Journalism program will contribute to better local reporting on key issues, including homelessness, housing, transportation and the environment. Reporters will focus on narrative, investigative and data-driven storytelling.

Local journalism needs your help. It’s an essential part of a healthy community and a healthy democracy.

Community Funded Journalism logo