…it is astonishing that Mr. Romney talks about economic growth while planning deep cuts in investment in science, technology and education. They are among the discretionary items for which spending could be cut 22 percent or more under the Republican budget plan…
…the plan, which Mr. Romney has endorsed, could cut overall nondefense science, engineering, biomedical and technology research by a quarter over the next decade, and energy research by two-thirds.
Mr. Romney seems to have lost sight of the critical role of research investments not only in developing new medicines and cleaner energy sources but also in creating higher-skilled jobs.
The private sector can’t do it alone. We rely on companies to translate scientific discoveries into products. But federal investment in research and development, especially basic research, is critical to their success. Just look at Google, which was started by two graduate students working on a project supported by the National Science Foundation and today employs 54,000 people.
Richard K. Templeton, chief executive of Texas Instruments, put it this way in 2009: “Research conducted at universities and national labs underpins the new innovations that drive economic growth.”
Note also how federal support leverages up private investment:
…In 2010, the federal government invested about $26.6 billion in N.I.H. research; those investments led to $69 billion in economic activity and supported 485,000 jobs across the country…
Moreover, the $3.8 billion taxpayers invested in the Human Genome Project between 1988 and 2003 helped create and drive $796 billion in economic activity by industries that now depend on the advances achieved in genetics…
So science investments not only created jobs in new industries of the time, like the Internet and nanotechnology, but also the rising tax revenues that made budget surpluses possible.
One could easily trace this history back to advances in machine tools, transistor technology, lasers, GPS, and much more. In fact, it’s actually hard to find a job-and-growth-creating innovation that did not involve some government support (this book provides an excellent history in support of that claim). Yet, as the figure below reveals, federally supported R&D has been stagnant as a share of GDP for decades.