Pledges $3.4 Billion for Research into Pulley, Inclined Plane
February 6, 2003
By David Albrecht
- "In his State of the Union Address, President Bush issued
a call for massively increased federal funding into research
on two of the six simple machines first described by the Greek
scientist Archimedes and other ancient scholars.
"I also want to propose increasing funding for science important
to our national security," Bush said last Tuesday night. "It
is vital that America, in this time of trial and war, not
abandon critical high-tech research. To that end, I am proposing
devoting $3.4 billion over the next ten years to fully developing
and deploying two key technologies - the pulley and the inclined
plane. This will decrease our dependency on imported simple
machines, and will strengthen our industrial base, while creating
thousands of good jobs."
The president stressed that these technologies were long-term
solutions to problems of mass, motion and inertia, and would
not be available immediately. But there was no mistaking his
enthusiasm for their potential. "These environmentally friendly
technologies offer America opportunities that we must not
miss. A child born today could someday drive their SUV up
a ramp - a ramp - into a parking garage! And that same child
could use a simple assembly of ropes and wheels to remove
the engine from that SUV - if they had to! The only byproduct
would be a little sweat."
The president also proposed substantial tax breaks for individuals
and small businesses investing in these new technologies.
Some critics have charged in recent years that the Bush administration
has been hostile to basic scientific research. The past two
years have seen substantial cuts or flat funding for the Centers
for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration and
the National Institutes of Health. Others believe that the
president has stacked government advisory panels with political
supporters of his administration, rather than with the best-qualified
But Tuesday's announcement has, to some degree, stolen the
thunder of Bush's critics. "It's a brilliant political move,"
said NPR political correspondent Cokie Roberts. "He's taken
the charge that he's anti-science and anti-environment and
turned it to his own advantage." Roberts then hurriedly excused
herself from the House chamber, stating that she had "soiled
herself" in her excitement at being in the same room as the
The initial congressional response was heartening, as members
of both parties leaped to their feet and applauded the plan.
After the speech, Republicans were generally enthusiastic,
Democrats somewhat more guarded. Senate Majority Leader Bill
Frist (R-Tenn). praised the Bush proposal: "This is a long-term,
visionary concept, and I think it's a big step in the right
direction. Someday, I hope to be able to walk into any hardware
store and buy a pulley to pick up heavy things."
Others were less sanguine about the potential costs and ultimate
prospects of the Bush proposal. Iowa Democratic Senator Tom
Harkin questioned whether this was nothing more than a pork-barrel
giveaway to industry. "Besides," Harkin said, "this
is really nothing new. We've already heard a lot of talk about
fuel cells, which have been around since the 1960s, and we've
heard a lot of talk about hybrid cars, which were first built
about 100 years ago. Now the president is talking about pulleys
and inclined planes. Why is his discovery of these ancient
concepts suddenly significant?"
Harkin, however, had to hastily break off his remarks in
the face of a Congressional Taunting. The senior Democrat
on the Senate Agriculture Committee was taunted by Oklahoma
Senator James Inhofe (R) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
(R-Texas), who together described him as "un-American", "unpatriotic",
"liar, liar, pants on fire" and "Ol' Poopy-Butt Harkin". Inhofe
then challenged Harkin to a duel.
The duel, initially scheduled for dawn on February 9th on
the steps of the Capitol Building, has been tentatively rescheduled
for dawn on February 20th, once hearings on the pending Energy
Bill are completed. The duel will be fought with Senator Inhofe's
favorite weapons, primitive hand-axes made of flint.