The Cold Wind of Sequestration


Princeton Alumni Weekly

Even as winter loosens its grip, Princeton is bracing for the chilling effects of sequestration—the major across-the-board cuts, chiefly affecting federal discretionary spending, that took effect March 1. A device designed to force much-needed agreement on federal deficit reduction measures has now become a bludgeon, subjecting both civilian and defense programs to indiscriminate reductions of roughly one trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Not only does this approach unfairly target areas of spending that constitute only a third or so of the federal budget, it also fails to differentiate between programs we can reasonably curtail or eliminate and those that are essential to our nation’s future. Among the latter are investments in higher education and fundamental research. I say this not because I lead a university, but because these investments immeasurably strengthened America’s social and economic fabric in the second half of the 20th century and, to a large extent, will determine whether we continue to prosper under the far more competitive conditions of the 21st.

Hunter Rawlings *70, president of the Association of American Universities, put it well when he testified on Capitol Hill in February. “These investments produce the educated people and the ideas that lead to new products, new businesses, and entire new industries, as well as to the jobs that go with them. . . . More than half of economic growth since World War II has resulted from technological advances, almost none of which would have been possible without federally funded innovations.” In other words, there are many paths to deficit reduction, but hobbling a major engine of economic progress is not one of them.

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