Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How to lose the future

Taken as a percentage of GDP, investment in research by the United States is at the lowest level in decades.  Other nations such as Finland and Israel, known for their innovative and entrepreneurial economies, spend far more than the United States.  Cuts in research spending won't hurt us now - they will hurt us in a decade or two.  The time lag between benefit and cost makes such cuts a tempting political target. Enter the Ryan plan, which plans to cut "non-defense" research spending to trim our budget.

We're in a tough time economically, and our deficit is absolutely out of control.  If someone was making the case to me that we just can't afford to increase R&D spending until our fiscal future is secure, I don't think I would find that argument unreasonable, although I wouldn't agree with it. What I do find to be unreasonable is the Republican insistence that the military needs to be spared all forms of spending cuts.  It is the epitome of short sighted to cut general research spending in order to maintain our high current levels of military spending.

Mitt Romney plan will cut research spending, but he has promised to increase military spending (for what threat are our current forces insufficient, I wonder).  Barack Obama has stated he will not spare the military from a greater plan to fix our budgetary crisis, but has nevertheless urged increased spending on research and development.  Americans have been given a choice this election.  They can think about the present, or they can think about the future.  The central theme of pretty much every history book I've read ever, is that great national powers which maintain high levels of military spending to the detriment of other areas of the economy quickly cease to be great powers. 

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