USA: Be Depressed June 2, 2008Posted by gordonwatts in politics, science.
I like the USA. I like living here in the South of France for a year, but my home is back in the USA. That is why it is so depressing to read a talk like this (ppt, pdf). That is a talk by Breese Quinn (Prof. at U. Miss) summarizing “National Academies Convocation on Rising Above the Gathering Storm. Two Years Later: Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future.” This was a follow up to the original Gathering Storm report which documented how advances in Science and Technology helped the USA gain the upper economic hand and how we are now loosing those advantages – in many cases through our own lack of attention.
Breese starts off with a great slide with the following on it:
- Largest IPO in history
- New research University with 10 billion endowment (point out it took MIT 142 years to get there)
- 200,000 students to study abroad most on gov’t scholarships
- Gov’t investment in non-defense R&D set to increase by 25% over next few years
- Multi-year initiative to make country global nano-tech hub
- High level commission conducting follow up to the original Gathering Storm report with the objective of job creation.
Of course, none of these happened in the USA. In order, China, Saudi Arabia, China, UK, India, and Australia.
His page 5 is particularly nasty. I had no idea that the R&D federal tax break had been allowed to expire. What was the white house and congress thinking? Is there really a second side to that story? Another one good for a chuckle was that US companies spend 3x more on litigation then on research (what is it in other countries?).
I also liked one of the panel summaries: Lots has happened in other countries (300K downloads of the Gathering Storm report outside the USA), but here we are fat-dumb-and-happy and fighting election cycles with sound bites.
So. How do we fix it? Lobbying congress seems only marginally effective (if even that). Clearly we have to keep it up, however, if we aren’t to loose ground. Why haven’t business’ screamed bloody murder about the R&D tax cut being removed? Big companies like Exxon, Microsoft, Google, etc., have huge research budgets, don’t they?
I realize I’m an “insider”, and of course I think everyone should think the way I do. None-the-less – it still baffles me that this sort of thing is allowed to continue. Read the talk. It is worth it, and it will take about 10 minutes to scan through it.