HusbandX left a career in biology (n part) because there was no way to make a living in it, for him. It wasn't consistent, and the "fun" (as in, research) jobs just didn't pay enough. We have plenty of friends who've stuck it out, but most of them are constantly fighting for what little funding they have. A few have "non-traditional" jobs, such as living on an atoll out in the Pacific doing bird research for six months at a time. Or going to Antarctica and working at McMurdo for six months. Then having to find something new when they're done. Or working in fisheries stuff, and then working as a fisherman/woman during the summers to make ends meet.
And I worked for a research university which was constantly dealing with cutbacks from the (Republican) state legislature because those poor oil companies just needed another tax break. Boo-hoo.
So. I think a large part of the problem is that so many people don't realize just how little our government actually spends on research. They'll hear about some study that they think was "stupid" (most likely because it was dumbed down by someone in the press who didn't actually understand it) and assume that a) the research was useless and b) the researchers made tons of money by studying something so asinine. So they assume that the government is wasting all this money on research for what makes dogs fart or some other ridiculous issue (again, that would be how the layman's article presented it, not what was actually being researched) instead of helping them, the good and wonderful taxpayer whose precious money is being wasted. And it adds to their sense of persecution, because the government can afford to pay scientists who want to study such silly things by taking from the good and wonderful taxpayer's pocket? When you add in the fact that most people don't actually know any research scientists and you can actually understand that if that's all they hear about "research", then of course they'd think it's a giant waste of money.
They don't realize that the giant waste of money is all the time researchers spend fighting over the scraps of funding they get now. They don't realize that the giant waste is sending some of our brightest scientists off to other countries because they can't make a decent living doing what they love here. They don't realize that funding for R&D is crucial for how this country will move forward, because they don't understand how it affects their lives. They think "private industry" will fill in, without ever stopping to think that maybe private industry is really only interested in things that will turn a profit. They're not in it for the good of humanity, they're in it for personal gain. Sure, they'll cure cancer if they can, but only so they can turn around and make billions on the cure. That is the point at which the government should step in and say, you know, maybe trying to find a cure for cancer without making tons of money off people's desperation would be a good thing.
Even if it leads to a bunch of failures, which most of the time it doesn't. Because how can you fail when your premise is an open-ended question? "I want to learn how we evolved lungs." Individual experiments can and will fail, but you're still furthering research. It's never "failure" when viewed from that standpoint.
Eventually, however, the research will get big enough that private industry will step in. We know how lungs evolved, so now we can 3D print new lungs for those who need them! Private industry wins! And they never credit all the government funded research that came before theirs, which formed the basis and without which they couldn't have done anything. So then laymen like pooplips never hear about the role government research played, and continue in their happy belief that government money into research is "wasted".